The International Day of Disabled Persons -  December 3

The International Day of Disabled Persons, which is held every year on 3 December, aims to promote an understanding of disability issues and mobilise support for the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities. The 2007 theme was 'Decent work for persons with disabilities.'

Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities - the first major human rights treaty of the 21st century

This year's International Day of Disabled Persons had special significance as a new international Convention for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2006, has become the fastest ever signed Convention, with 118 signatures so far.

Two countries - Spain and South Africa - took the opportunity of the International Day to ratify the new Convention; Bangladesh also ratified last week.

However, the Convention has yet to come into force as only 10 countries - Bangladesh, Croatia, Cuba, Gabon, Hungary, India, Jamaica, Panama, South Africa and Spain - out of a required 20 have ratified the Convention.

Children with disabilities

Some 150-200 million out of two billion children worldwide - or ten per cent of children - live with disabilities. Children with disabilities experience widespread violations of their rights, many of which are common to those faced by adults - poverty, social exclusion, lack of accessible environments, violence.

They face abuses including abandonment as babies, institutionalisation, exclusion from education, lack of birth registration, lack of respect for their evolving capacities, inappropriate child protection systems. Estimates indicate that over 90 per cent of all children with disabilities are unlikely to receive any formal education.

Children and the new Convention

The new Convention marks a shift from seeing children with disabilities as objects of charity, and addressing their 'special needs' - the approach set out in Article 23 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child - to subjects of rights.

All the Articles in the text apply to children with disabilities; in addition, Article 7 sets out specific obligations to ensure children with disabilities enjoy of all human rights and fundamental freedoms on an equal basis with other children, to ensure that the best interests of the child is a primary consideration, and to provide disability and age appropriate assistance to ensure that children with disabilities are able to realise the right to their express views on all matters of concern to them and have them taken seriously in accordance with age and maturity.

More .. Gerison Lansdown's paper: The New Disability Convention and the Protection of Children.

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