In a move praised by disability advocates, the Venezuelan government signed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities at the United Nations on Tuesday.
Signed by over 150 countries, Article 1 of the convention states that the document's purpose is to “promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities, and to promote respect for their inherent dignity”.
Drafted in 2006, the convention first came into effect in 2008, making it the first new UN human rights convention of the 21st Century.
After signing the convention and its Optional Protocol in New York during the 68th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), yesterday Venezuelan ambassador Samuel Moncada stated the decision was an expression of the government's “great commitment to social inclusion and respect for the rights of people with disabilities”.
“The signing of this document is a cornerstone in the social and revolutionary project that Venezuela is going through, in support and defence of the fundamental rights of the people with disabilities,” he stated according to a government press release.
Moncada was accompanied by the President of Venezuela's National Council for Persons with Disabilities (Conapdis) Edward Araujo, who stated that Venezuela is making progress in “leaps and bounds in the integration of persons with disabilities”.
“Thanks to the legacy left to us by Commandante Hugo Chavez, Venezuela is working example of social inclusion and struggle,” Araujo stated.
Under late former president Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan government overhauled national legislation related to the rights of the disabled.
“Venezuela has created legal instruments which protect people with disabilities,” Moncada stated, pointing to the Law for People with Disabilities as an example.
Under the law, public and private employers are legally required to reserve at least 5% of jobs for employees with disabilities. The law also requires media outlets and public transport to be disability friendly.
In 2007 the law came into effect, after being passed by the National Assembly the previous year. In July of this year, Araujo announced that 120,000 Venezuelans had been certified to have disabilities recognised under the new legislation, making them eligible for social benefits such as preferential healthcare and free local public transport.
During his speech, Moncada also argued that education has become more accessible to Venezuelans with disabilities. “In the past, many children could not attend school because the country did not have adequate infrastructure to take care of them, due to their disabilities,” he stated.
“However, in recent years, the revolutionary government of Venezuela has delivered 400 purpose-built public school classrooms designed to accommodate the disabled. These classrooms have allowed more than 3,800 children with disabilities to attend school,” Moncada said.
The 68th UNGA Session
Along with signing the convention, Moncada is set to meet with some of the 23 delegates of the Africa-South America Forum later in the week. The forum is geared towards supporting increased trade and cooperation between the two continents.
However, this week's talks at the UN are expected to be dominated by the ongoing crisis in Syria.
Today, President Nicolas Maduro canceled his trip to New York, after visiting China earlier this week. Ahead of his visit, the Bolivarian government reportedly requested UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon provide “guarantees” that the Venezuelan delegation will be “respected”. Last week, the government accused Washington of denying Maduro passage through United States airspace, something which the State Department has denied.