The New UN Disability Rights Convention: Building Support in the United States for Ratification and Implementation

Welcome and Introduction

Captioner: Natalie C. Ennis, CSR-CA, RPR / CI and CT


ERIN SCHEICK: Good morning. If you could all find your seats, we would like to get started. We have a very full program today.

Good morning, friends, colleagues, and guests. It will surely be a historic and lively discussion today about the recently drafted U.N. Convention.

Nearly a year ago, I heard about the Convention for the first time as Eric Rosenthal was interviewed about the new drafting. At the time, I felt the Human Rights Brief could sponsor a short panel event about the Convention and the ratification of the Convention.

Nine months later and a dozen or so meetings and planning sessions later, we have organized a panel with nearly 140 attendees, an international webcast, and more than 20 prominent speakers from the disability rights field. This is not without some difficulty, though. Despite months of planning, we still have and will try to anticipate a lot of accessibility concerns. We still have, you know, some concerns that things may be difficult to kind of maneuver around this facility. We have volunteers available all day to help keep things running smoothly. Please feel free to ask myself or anyone else for directions to anything in the building.

We're also going to be experimenting with the webcast today so that people can participate from afar.

I want to thank quickly a number of individuals who have worked hard to make this day come together. First, we wanted to thank Eric Rosenthal of Mental Disability Rights International, who has been instrumental, as well as John Lancaster and Arlene Kanter, who have provided finance support and programmatic support today. And finally Amir Tejani who has really worked endlessly to coordinate this event and make sure it could come to fruition.

Finally, I would like to -

INTERPRETER: The interpreters can't hear you at all over here.

ERIN SCHEICK: Now can you hear me?

INTERPRETER: Where are the speakers?

ERIN SCHEICK: I'll try again to speak louder. Wait a second? Okay.

HADAR HARRIS: This is part of bearing with us. We need to make some adjustments so that the ASL interpreters can be picked up by the webcast. We will have many people actually viewing this conference by webcast today. So bear with us for one second.

And, Erin, you have to speak slowly - one of your great challenges.

ERIN SCHEICK: Okay. I'm going to continue. I would like to introduce Dean Claudio Grossman, a professor of law and scholar for humanitarian law here at Washington College of Law. He's a member of the commission's control of Interpol files, and he also serves as the President of the College of the Americas. He was a member of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and is the author of numerous publications regarding international law and human rights, and is also the recipient of numerous awards in those fields. Dean Grossman.

(Applause.)

CLAUDIO GROSSMAN: Thank you. Good morning to all of you. On behalf of American University Washington College of Law, I would like to welcome all of you to this special conference on "The New U.N. Disability Rights Convention: Building Support in the U.S. for Ratification and Implementation."

This is a very timely Convention as it was opened for signature less than two weeks ago, March 30, 2007. The Convention seeks to remedy the shortcomings of the human rights system regarding the rights of people with disabilities. It's a very important step in the development of the realization of the International Bill of Rights. This was developed to protect the fundamental rights of individuals. It has developed also the human rights movement into a language of freedom and language of individuals wanting to develop themselves.

Our school here at the Washington College of Law is a fitting place to have this discussion, given our school has demonstrated a commitment to the rights of people with disabilities. Our school has been engaged in a variety of initiatives to promote human rights. This school has the Center for Human Rights, an Academy of Human Rights, it has different programs to promote gender, and it is also the site for projects of impact litigation, pursuing cases for the purposes of promoting values of due process and democracy all over the world.

Our school has developed a Disability Rights Law Clinic, which was established in the fall of 2005 under the leadership of Professor Robert Dinerstein, who is here today in the audience. He will be a guest speaker later. The clinic gives students an opportunity to work in disability law with people with mental and physical disabilities. There are a wide variety of issues, such as special litigation with the Americans with Disabilities Act and others. Students learn confidence working on issues of disabilities, improving access for students with disabilities and so on. As we're talking about huge endeavors such as the ratification of statutes, we need to anticipate and bring together possibilities for our students. Our institution is committed to assisting students with disabilities to ensure they can get the most out of their law school experience. We have still a lot to learn. We have not accomplished everything. We're here also to learn from the conference to more fully better our work mission.

I would like to briefly mention that today's event is part of the school's annual academic group with the founders of our law school. Women were not allowed into the study of the law and into the practice of the profession at the time the law school was started. Our founding persons believed it was essential in the legal system to achieve gender equality. There is a powerful message in the way in which our founding mothers imagined and developed the law school and their belief in the value of the rule of law to realize important aspirations. We offer approximately 60 engaging programs in a wide variety of topics like human rights, international trade, gender, health, among others. There is hardly an issue in society that lacks a legal component. We have seen as part of our education mission to provide a space where we cannot trace the issues facing society so that those in academia can increase their knowledge.

Today's event is a result of the collaboration of many organizations. In the past, students were isolated, doing research in libraries and so forth and so on. Technology has dramatically changed the way in which education research is imparted. We see part of our mission to connect with organizations that also perform important societal goals. This conference is also the result of that commitment. We look at strategies to work with groups in our society with the mission that we all have in the framework of freedom and diversity.

I would like to recognize those involved with this event. Let me start with our students, as well as the center for human rights. Many of the initiatives in this law school has been the result of student initiatives. Their commitment bodes well for the practice of the profession. We see sometimes cynical statements about individuals not committed with the important values of society. More than 60% of the law students coming here are studying law because they believe they can contribute to a better world through the study of the law.

Now, we don't do an exit poll to see how many remain after being exposed to three years of law study, but I would like to say, their example is crucial also for the teachers and members of this community, showing that the education process is not a one-way street. We learn creatively.

I would like to thank the director of the institute for human rights who has started the important initiative in the area of human rights to impart values to society.

The Human Rights Brief has constantly provided quality leader analysis and issues on the cutting edge of disability issues. It is in more than 90 countries. What they're doing is truly excellent.

I also would like to extend my gratitude to those who contributed to organizing the conference, Eric Rosenthal, who is an old friend of the law school. He was housed in the law school for a number of years until he felt he could do even more outside the law school. And the impact of what he has done has been amazing. We look forward to working with him. The Center for International Law and Commerce, the U.S. International Council on Disabilities, and finally, our facilities here. I would also like to thank our distinguished panel for their contribution to this important dialogue. We have not only one but two keynote speakers today.

It is now my pleasure to introduce our first speaker, John Lancaster, President of the United States International Council on Disabilities and Executive Director of National Council on Independent Living. He has had a career working on issues related to integration and empowerment of people with disabilities. He has recently returned from Hanoi, providing advice and technical assistance on programs for government relations with people with disabilities. He has also served as executive director for a group working with people with mental disabilities.

Without further delay, please join me in welcoming him to the college.

(Applause.)

JOHN LANCASTER: Thank you, Dean Grossman.

HADAR HARRIS: Bear with us for one more minute while we try to improve the sound. Your voice echoes like the sound of God throughout the room.

JOHN LANCASTER: Well, that's an awesome thought. Try again? Is that better?

All right. Good morning.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Good morning.

JOHN LANCASTER: Thank you, Dean Grossman and thank you for providing this fine facility and this cool but wonderful spring day. We're appreciative of having a good location for this, and we want to thank yourself and American University's Washington College of Law for the hospitality in making us feel welcome and accommodated and included here at the Washington College of Law. So thank you.

And I also want to take a minute to thank the people who have put this together. Eric Rosenthal and I and the other board members at United States International Council on Disability decided quite some time ago, shortly after the general assembly passed out the Convention, that we really need to do a conference on this here in Washington to start introducing this Convention more thoroughly to the disability community in this country and to get much more active participation of the disability community in this Convention, its implementation, its inclusion in international development issues, and hopefully for ultimate ratification by the United States. And Eric had some initial conversations with Erin Scheick over here at the American University's Washington College of Law, and they were already planning something. So we asked if we couldn't just join forces, and we have done so. I just want to say that Erin and Lauren and some others here have really done some outstanding work in putting this thing together. It's been a pleasure to be affiliated and work with them on it.

I also have to say that my good friend and head of MDRI, Eric Rosenthal, has done just an outstanding job on pulling this day together, particularly in pulling together many of the panelists and making sure that they are going to participate and be here. So I can't thank Eric enough for what he's done in terms of this day. And the great support that we've gotten from Arlene Kanter, who was involved in very early conversations about this as well, and who has supported the effort both financially and with thought and other efforts. So we really appreciate the contribution that Syracuse University's College of Law and in particular their Disability Law and Policy Program that they have up there at Syracuse University.

We also want to thank the World Institute on Disability, the American Association of People with Disabilities, and particularly the National Organization on Disabilities for their support as well. We've put together I think a good, comprehensive day, and I look forward to it. And it is an exciting day, because we're here to work together and to talk and discuss and to strategize about what I think without a doubt is the most remarkable, most significant law and policy development related to people with disabilities that the world has seen to date.

This thing is big, potentially. And I say potentially. It could just be words on a nice piece of paper and not much more if we don't get involved. And when I say "we," people who care about this issue and in particular, people with disabilities themselves. The difference that this treaty can make, especially in developing nations where people with disabilities are very often forgotten, out of sight, out of mind, most impoverished at all, the difference that this Convention can ultimately make is huge. As Dean Grossman mentioned, I had the honor of working overseas for four years in Vietnam from the years 2000 to 2004. I had spent five years before that traveling back and forth working on a joint project with the old president's committee on people with disabilities in the Clinton administration, as well as the Vietnamese government. We were able to do some fairly significant things there in terms of starting a disability movement in Vietnam that really has some potential and is growing and is now vibrant to make some pretty important law and policy changes in that country that are starting to move the agenda for inclusion and empowerment and economic inclusion of people with disabilities forward in a rather significant way. And that didn't happen because of USAID or any involvement I and a few others may have had over there; that happened for two reasons, in my opinion: One, because people with disabilities there in Vietnam were starting to become empowered and were approaching their government, both at the local and national level, to start to make things happen. The second thing that spurred things along was the first decade of disabled persons in that region associated with the U.N. Economic and Social Commission for the U.S. and Asia Region. And the goals and objectives they established have now gone into a second decade. Those goals and objectives gave impetus to the nations in that region to start addressing these issues and to do something if they wanted to look like good national citizens, if you will, state citizens, on the world stage, and particularly the regional stage. This spurred Vietnam when combined with the activism of their own people to start addressing this issue. If not for those two things coming together, it probably would not have happened yet over there. So the importance of something like this Convention is huge. It cannot be minimized. It has to be supported. It has to be thoroughly and effectively implemented.

For the U.S., we're not signing on to this thing right now. One has to ask why. What do we possibly have to lose by signing this Convention? I say absolutely nothing. Some people say, well, it doesn't really establish standards. You know, it's kind of general. There's no real enforcement mechanisms. Well, if that's the case, it ought to be a piece of cake for to us sign on; we already have standards. We already have the ADA and many other fine civil rights laws related to people with disabilities. What possibly can we lose other than face and reputation by failing to sign it?

So, I ask, why are we passing up this opportunity where our country would thoroughly benefit? This is an area where out of our experience, in starting down this journey, and having somewhat of an effective system of law and policy set in place and the start of true inclusion and economic empowerment of people with disabilities and equal opportunity, I say that there's a lot for us to be gaining by signing this. Number one, it gives you an area where we can exert positive and productive and peaceful leadership in the world for once. Something besides a power grab for oil or more iPods and tennis shoes for people who probably can't afford them anyway or forcing our democracy down somebody's throat. Instead of that, why not offer them an example of what democracy can done when extended to everybody? So I say for number one, there's one area where we could truly benefit. A second area where we could truly benefit would be here at home. Hopefully by signing it, it would spur us to do a little monitoring of ourselves, a little self assessment. Look, okay, we've had this ADA since 1990. Where are we? Has the employment rate of people with disabilities here in this country improved? If not, why not? What do we need to do? So monitoring. Assessment. Maybe the government here would actually get the idea, well, maybe we could set some goals and objectives around, say, employment of people with disabilities. And to see if we couldn't start making a real difference. So I would say there's things that we could get from this Convention that might spur us into doing a better job right here in our own country vis a vis people with disabilities.

I for one, as an American who served this country in Vietnam, during that war, was really embarrassed when I had the privilege and the honor to be able to sit on the floor of the General Assembly Hall on March 30th and watch 80 nations come up and sign this Convention and get it kicked off and also the European community. And even countries that weren't signing it, like Vietnam, and Japan and some others who did not sign that day, at least they had the honor and the respect of the other nations of the world and of people with disabilities themselves to at least have had the delegates from their missions sitting there in the hall that day. The United States desk sat empty, thumbing our nose, if you will, in some kind of arrogance to the world.

So I look forward to coming up with plans for implementation in how we can support those 80 nations and the ones who will follow in signing on and ratifying this important Convention. How can we support them in implementation, share with them what we've learned through implementing our own ADA? I look forward to discussing today how we can infuse the principles that are contained in this Convention into the whole international development process worldwide, the activities that are funded through structures like The World Bank and the development agencies of many countries like our USAID and the Danish and Japanese organizations that fund international efforts. I look forward to discussing how we can infuse these principles into those. And I look forward to seeing what strategies we can come up with to seeking ratification by the United States to this important, important Convention.

So again, as one of the organizers of this day, I want to thank the people who really did the work here, and that's Eric Rosenthal and Erin Scheick and the people here at the Washington College of Law. This is going to be a good day. We thank you all for attending.

And now, with great pleasure, I get to introduce a good friend of mine and a leader in our movement here in the United States, someone who has served our country both effectively in government in the environmental protection agency, in other arenas, as well as in the private sector. He currently serves as the President and CEO on the National Organization on Disability. He's been personally a tremendous support to myself and to the National Council on Independent Living and also our efforts with USICD. I want to introduce Michael Deland. Mike?

(Applause.)

MICHAEL DELAND: John, thank you for that all too generous introduction, when my only role today is to make another introduction. But I would like to join in thanking our hosts here at American University, the dean and all of those who have worked so hard on this conference. I think in my law school days many years ago, we tended to be much more inwardly focused and did not, to my knowledge, put on conferences anywhere of this magnitude. So you are all to be commended, as is John Lancaster and Eric Rosenthal, Tara Melish, and others who have spent so much time organizing what clearly is going to be a productive day.

My role today is the distinct privilege of introducing one of America's finest public servants, one who is also America's foremost advocate for those of us with disabilities. He is the father of the young man with an intellectual disability, former governor of Pennsylvania, vice chairman of our international arm of the World Committee on Disability. In circles such as this, he is also known as the husband of one Jenny Thornburgh. He also is a sports aficionado. Any of his teams on a given day command his attention. All of these characteristics are embodied in our keynote speaker today, governor - and I tend to refer to him as governor general, thinking of his other title - Dick Thornburgh.

(Applause.)

In thinking of the passage within the ADA, then attorney general Dick Thornburgh was at the forefront. And I might just quickly add, in the passage of that watershed civil rights legislation, it was truly a bipartisan effort. Those of us who have to deal with the rancor on the Hill, Capitol Hill, today, need only to think back to that era and strive to recapture again when you had Dick Thornburgh working side by side with Senator Harkin, former President Bush's general counsel, very much in the mix of that day-to-day, as was the then Vice President George Bush and ultimately President George Bush, who signed with great pride the Americans with Disabilities Act into law in July on that wonderful, glorious day on the south lawn of the White House in 1990.

So we have to commend our speaker today for his efforts in that legislation which positioned America as the leader in civil rights for people with disabilities. And it is ironic, as John has said, that our country is not now taking the lead on the U.N. Convention. But we have, in our speaker today, a tireless advocate to persuade our government to do the right thing. And I might also add that we have in the back of the room Mary Dolan, who is our vice president, my trusted adviser, and director of the World Committee on Disability, who has worked behind the scenes, out front, on this issue for some time. I would also be amiss to not acknowledge Yoshiko Dart, who is here today, carrying on the work of her late husband, who we all know, Justin, who was the leader of the Americans with Disabilities Act. His wife is now on the forefront of this issue.

Without further ado, it's a real privilege, a pleasure of mine, to introduce the leader who is in the forefront of this challenge we now have, and I am delighted to say, a close friend, governor general Dick Thornburgh.

(Applause.)

DICK THORNBURGH: Thank you, Mike.

Good morning to you all. It is a distinct pleasure for me to join this important and indeed historic occasion. The adoption of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is a great accomplishment for the international community and a great source of hope for people with disabilities everywhere. It's been my privilege to be involved with the disability movement for many years, and to work for the inclusion of people with disabilities in all aspects of public life.

I'm also, as Mike mentioned, the father of a man with intellectual disability, my son Peter, who is in the audience today, coming to check up on his dad. Work is really a family affair, as my wife Jenny has served for many years as vice president of the National Organization on Disability and is the founder and director on the NOD Program on Religion and Disability.

I have long been proud of our country's leadership in creating opportunities for people with disabilities as full members of our society with rights equal to all. I am here to state my unequivocal support for the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

(Applause.)

The United Nations has taken an important and long overdue step toward bringing the over 650 million people with disabilities in the world into the mainstream of the human rights system. I applaud the disability community for its tireless effort in what must have seemed an up hill battle for international recognition of this important issue. The Convention represents important principles that all Americans hold dear: Basic recognition and equal protection of every person under the law, nondiscrimination, the fundamental importance of independent living, and the right to make basic choices about our lives. We pioneered these basic principles into American law. We in the United States have demonstrated that people with disabilities can participate fully in our democracy. We have demonstrated that society is better off when people with disabilities are included fully in every aspect of our life. Protection of disability rights is fundamentally American. The United States should live up to its leadership role in recognizing these basic principles by signing and ratifying this Convention.

(Applause.)

During the time that I was attorney general and the point person for President George H. W. Bush's administration on the passage of the ADA, I acknowledged that no piece of legislation could alone change the longstanding misperceptions that many people have about disabilities, misperceptions based largely on stereotype, ignorance, and fear of what is different. Any reshaping of attitudes would be the gradual result not of the words or ideas in the law, but of bringing people with disabilities from the margins of society into the mainstream of American life. In our schools and workplaces, on busses and trains, in our courthouses, theaters, and congregations, where they not only have an absolute right to be, but where we have an obligation as human beings to welcome them.

The passage of the ADA was difficult. Those of us who wanted to see it happen were given countless reasons why it couldn't be done. We were told that the climate in Congress wasn't right. It would too expensive. Too complicated. Ineffective. Impossible to enforce. Even that the country in general just wasn't ready for it. So we discussed, debated, argued, researched, analyzed, negotiated, and finally passed the most progressive disability legislation that the world has ever seen. This legislation with innovative concepts such as reasonable accommodation has changed America. It has really made us more representative, more democratic, and more free by ending the unchecked exclusion of 54 million Americans with disabilities from our daily lives.

That's not to say we don't have a long way to go. The ADA isn't perfect, and people with disabilities in America today continue to face serious challenges. Still, we have made remarkable progress that is not only celebrated here at home but also recognized abroad. Because of our adoption of the ADA and other disability rights legislation, the United States is viewed internationally as the pioneer for disability rights. Disability activists from other countries have taken the ADA to their governments and said, look, this is how it should be done; we need to do this here in our country. And governments around the world have responded.

As one who worked hard to gain protection of these rights in the United States, I am very proud to see how these basic principles have now been established as a part of international law through the adoption of the U.N. Disability Rights Convention. As we overcame so many barriers through the enactment of the ADA, I am confident we can establish an even greater coalition to bring about support for the U.N. Disability Rights Convention.

I have great admiration for the many government representatives and disability be activists who worked long hours at the U.N. to draft this excellent Convention. I know many of you here have organized this conference and were intimately involved in the drafting. Today's conference is a valuable opportunity to learn from many of those involved in the developing of the Convention and to examine the challenges of implementation. As we work together to gain support for the Convention, we must recognize that the challenges we face are intimately linked with the very circumstances of economic, social, and political marginalization that affects people with disabilities around the world. Despite our progress at home and the progress it has inspired in other countries, disability as a global issue remains near the bottom of the list as far as priorities for many governments and societies go. People with disabilities are among the poorest, least educated, and most abused people on earth. We also must keep in mind that the Convention can be a strong tool as well as an inspiration for civil society around the world. NGOs and advocates will have a new legal framework within which to push for reform based on legal obligations. One example is the World Committee on Disability. Henceforth, will use this as the basis for their FDR award. The winning nation will be selected based on its adoption and implementation of the U.N. Convention.

Before I close, let me address the painful and I must admit somewhat puzzling question of the seeming reluctance of our own government to assume a lead role in this international effort. Let's look at some of the questions and concerns that have been raised about this Convention. To begin with, it has been argued that disability rights are more appropriately addressed as a domestic concern given the complexity of the issues involved. In other words, this isn't really an appropriate subject for international protection. Certainly good domestic legislation would be an ideal solution, but you since most countries don't already have such protection, it doesn't seem reasonable to expect this to change dramatically without international pressure. The fact is, for many countries, international conventions have already served as a catalyst for the development of important domestic protection in many other areas. As a practical matter, the United States will have much more authority to speak out about these and other forms of discrimination against people with disabilities worldwide if we agree to abide by some international scrutiny at home. We already have laws in place that are consistent with the U.N. Disability Rights Convention. But it is correctly noted that in ratifying the Convention, the United States agrees to report regularly to an international oversight body. We have nothing to hide. We can only gain from participating in the process of international review.

Moreover, we should not be so proud as to think we can't learn from other countries about how to meet the challenge of providing better opportunities for people in this country with disabilities. Some looked at the final text of the Convention and found it lacking in strict and enforceable provisions. Some say it lacks the detail in the ADA. We must keep in mind that a human rights convention is a legal instrument that must apply consistently around the world in countries rich and poor, in countries with widely varying legal systems, in many countries where full participation for people with disabilities may be radically new and untested. The flexibility of this Convention is its strength, not its weakness. It lays down the core values and principles essential to ending discrimination against people with disabilities in any society. It provides governments with guidance and direction now lacking under general provisions of international law. Article 9, for example, requires governments to take appropriate measures to ensure that persons with disabilities have access on an equal basis with others to the physical environment to transportation, to information and communication, and to other facilities and services open or provided to the public both in urban and rural areas. That's about as broad as it can get, folks. Article 24 requires governments to provide an inclusive education system at all levels, enable acing people with disabilities to participate effectively in a free society. This Convention provides governments with the core minimum standards needed to make essential reforms without locking different countries into one approach or another. The Convention creates a committee on the rights of persons with disabilities that will issue general recommendations about how to bring about full compliance with the Convention. Through this process, this process of interpretation, governments at every level of economic and social development can receive guidance about steps they can take to bring about enforcement of the Convention.

Finally, some have said that because of America's comprehensive domestic protections, a treaty on disability would have no relevance in our own country. We are indeed the most progressive country in the world when it comes to the domestic protection of disability rights. The universality of rights and fundamental freedoms as expressed in the decoration of independence is the foundation upon which our society is based. Respect for human rights is also a part of our foreign policy. Precisely because we recognize that stability and economic freedom presupposes a social order based on the rights of its citizens. It would seem natural, therefore, for the United States to assume a leading role, not even a passive one, in the effort to recognize and enforce an international treaty of this kind. Ratification of the disability rights Convention is an opportunity to export to the world the very best we have to offer. This is a chance to use our rich national experience in disability rights, which has gained us the respect of the world community, to extend the principles embodied in the ADA to hundreds of millions of people with disabilities worldwide who today have no domestic protection. This is worthy of our leadership. We have everything to gain and nothing to lose by playing the role that the world expects of us.

Just like the ADA, this Convention will not provide an instant legal solution which can effect immediate changes and attitudes in cultural perceptions, nor can it dispel the ignorance of people against persons with disabilities. What it will do is put disability on the radar screen of governments and societies as a legitimate human rights issue to which they must pay heed. It will provide guidance and standards and create legal obligations for governments who respect the rights of this sizable population. Its concern was a powerful advocacy tool to promote the inclusion and opportunities for all.

While we celebrate the achievement of the Convention, let us also keep our eye on the enormous challenges that lie ahead. We who are gathered here today are faced with this very important task. It is up to all of us to make sure that every American learns about this Convention. My hope that the organized community of people with disabilities will once again lead the charge to gain support for adoption and ratification of this Convention in the United States. We already gained support from our leaders. Now they must hear from you. They must know how much you value this Convention, how much potential it has to improve America's standing, and how essential it is to us to maintain U.S. leadership in the international disability movement. No national movement happens without careful planning. It is your charge here today to make sure that you do not leave without concrete plans for gaining support for this Convention. Change will be gradual. Perhaps painfully slow. But this is the best first step we can take toward promoting change on a global scale. Our commitment to leadership on disability rights should not end at the water's edge. This Convention can help to focus world attention on the more than 650 million people worldwide whose rights have been ignored for much too long.

Let's be about the business of placing the United States once again proudly in the forefront of efforts to see that those rights are honored and I implemented, now and forever more. Thank you very much for letting me come.

(Applause.)

ERIC ROSENTHAL: Thank you for those very inspiring words. That brings it all home, most important, the challenge of this conference, for us to come forward with concrete steps. I think that is the most important thing we can do today. I hope your stamina is long, because the last session of this conference is dedicated to an open discussion of strategy, what we are going to do.

We're already running short on time, so without a break, I would ask the panelists from the next workshop to come to the floor and let's get the discussion going on the history and background and substance of the Convention.