Academic journal article Proceedings of the Annual Meeting-American Society of International Law

Remarks by Akiko Ito

Academic journal article Proceedings of the Annual Meeting-American Society of International Law

Remarks by Akiko Ito

Article excerpt

My name is Akiko Ito, and I am Chief of the Secretariat for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities at the United Nations Department for Economic and Social Affairs (also known as DESA). DESA works to support the development pillars of the United Nations--peace and security, and human rights.


Our starting point is the commitment of the United Nations to the advancement of the rights of women and of persons with disabilities. This commitment is deeply rooted in the UN Charter, which calls for progress in economic and social development, and promotion of human rights for a peaceful and prosperous world. (1)

Over the past decades, we have seen great advances through global movements of women and persons with disabilities. Perhaps I do not need to mention to this audience the history of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), (2) or of the world conferences on women held in Beijing, Copenhagen, Mexico, and Nairobi. I believe that we all share the history of the global women's rights movement as an integral part of our movement toward gender equality and women's empowerment.

Over the past decades, we have also seen great advances brought about with the advocacy of movements and organizations of persons with disabilities. As a result, we have today the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), adopted in 2006, (3) which is the first human rights treaty setting out a comprehensive normative framework for the protection and promotion of the rights of persons with disabilities in all aspects of society and development.

The drafting process for the CRPD, which benefited from substantial participation and leadership of persons with disabilities, was indeed about interpreting from the disability perspective the universal human rights enshrined in existing conventions and other norms and standards. It was an extraordinary opportunity for learning from and for all stakeholders, and is recorded as one of the most successful treaty conclusions in the history of the United Nations.

The Convention has enjoyed great support. There are today 111 states parties to the CRPD, sixty-three of which have also ratified its Optional Protocol.


The CRPD specifically stipulates the rights of women and girls with disabilities. In spite of this, women with disabilities often remain excluded from their communities due to multiple forms of discrimination and lack of access to political, economic, and social structures and decisionmaking processes.

Woman with disabilities may face additional layers of discrimination based on other aspects of their identity, such as being a member of a racial minority or their indigenous status. In this regard, it is worth noting that the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, adopted by the General Assembly in 2007, (4) also specifically addresses the rights of indigenous peoples, including women and girls, with disabilities.

The theme of our panel today is of critical importance because evidence suggests that women with disabilities experience disproportionately high rates of violence. In his 2006 In-Depth Study on All Forms of Violence Against Women, for example, the Secretary-General observed that surveys conducted in Europe, North America, and Australia have shown that over half of women with disabilities have experienced physical abuse, compared to one-third of non-disabled women. (5)

The question I'd like to address today is about the role of the United Nations in promoting the human rights of women with disabilities, and in combating violence against women with disabilities.


In accordance with a series of resolutions adopted by the General Assembly, (6) DESA, through the work of the Secretariat for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities of the Division for Social Policy and Development, has prioritized the mainstreaming of disability in the United Nations agenda, and within its multi-dimensional efforts, DESA strives to include the perspective of women with disabilities. …

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