Leading blindness charity Sightsavers International has has welcomed the coming into force of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Negotiated by disabled people and their governments from all over the world, the Convention has been hailed by UN officials as “one of the fastest to come into force” and is the first international human rights treaty of the 21st century.
It’s estimated that there at least 650 million persons with disabilities worldwide, of whom 80% live in the developing world. The Convention will be a powerful tool to eradicate the obstacles faced by people with disabilities: discrimination, segregation, economic marginalization and lack of opportunities for participation in social, political and economic decision-making processes.
According to Diane Mulligan, Sightsavers’ expert on social inclusion issues: “The UN Convention coming into force is an historic moment in time for human rights as, by ratifying the treaty, countries are under a legal obligation to create a fully inclusive society for all. It’s our sincere hope that this will really start to end discrimination and the exclusion of disabled people everywhere.”
Sightsavers programmes, focusing on the inclusion of blind and visually impaired people in developing countries, address wider disability issues raised by the UN Convention. For example, Sightsavers works to ensure that blind and visually impaired people have equal access to the range of health services provided to others.
The charity also campaigns for access to education for all blind and visually impaired children in the developing world. Over a third of the 72 million children currently out of school in the developing world have a disability. This fuels a cycle of illiteracy and poverty, leaving people who are disabled as one of the most vulnerable and excluded groups in the world.
The UN Convention has been ratified in a number of countries in which Sightsavers works. These include Bangladesh, India, Mali, Jamaica and South Africa. Sightsavers, together with UK and EU partners, is advocating for ratification and full implementation of the UN Convention by all member states.
There are 45 million blind people in the world. 75% of all blindness can be prevented or cured.
Since 1950, Sightsavers has restored sight to more than 5.65 million people and treated over 100 million more.