Disability and rehabilitation

Entry into force of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Statement by Dr Ala Din Alwan, WHO Assistant Director-General for Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health

WHO is pleased to join the UN family in celebrating the entry into force of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Convention is the first comprehensive human rights treaty of the 21st century and the first legally binding international instrument on disability.

An estimated 10% of the world's population is living with some form of disability. The number of people with disabilities is growing due to various factors including population growth, ageing and medical advances which preserve and prolong life. The most common disabilities are associated with chronic conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer; injuries at home, work and on the road; violence; AIDS; malnutrition; infectious diseases; and other causes often related to poverty.

Stigma and discrimination against people with disabilities remain common in all societies. Women with disabilities often experience double discrimination - as women and as people with disabilities.

In framing disability as a human rights issue, the Convention seeks to address these challenges to ensure the full participation of people with disabilities in the social, economic and cultural lives of their communities and societies. States which have ratified the Convention are legally bound to this task.

WHO continues to support its Member States to develop policies and programmes which help improve the lives of people with disabilities, including through community-based rehabilitation. WHO is also working - in close consultation with organizations of people with disabilities - to ensure that the Organization reflects the spirit of the Convention by designing and implementing programmes and projects taking into account the needs of people with disabilities and continuously improving access to its information, employment and premises.

A recently created Task Force on Disability will oversee WHO's efforts in this area.

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities provides a moral compass for action at national and international levels. It also underpins WHO's work with the World Bank and a large number of stakeholders on the World Report on Disability and Rehabilitation forthcoming in 2009. The World Report will provide the best available scientific evidence on what works in improving the lives of people with disabilities.

We all have reason to celebrate the Convention, which promotes respect for the inherent dignity of all people with disabilities and fosters inclusive societies which are beneficial for everyone.

For more information, please contact:
Laura Sminkey
Communications Officer
WHO Department of Violence and Injury Prevention and Disability
Telephone: + 41 22 791 4547
Mobile: + 41 79 249 3520
Email: sminkeyl@who.int