UNITED NATIONS — The UN General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the first human rights treaty of the 21st century, here Dec. 13.

Outgoing UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said through a spokesperson that the day was a dawn of “an era in which disabled people will no longer have to endure the discriminatory practices and attitudes that have been permitted to prevail for all too long.”

Annan added that the treaty, “the most rapidly negotiated treaty on human rights in the history of international law,” was pushed forward by disabled people themselves.

The treaty, which defines disabled people as those with “long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments,” will go into effect as soon as 20 state parties ratify it. The treaty has 50 articles covering virtually all aspects of human rights.

There have been separate, somewhat opposing camps internationally in promoting human rights. “Country-specific resolutions,” most notably favored by the United States and Europe, single out certain states and examine their human rights records. Multilateral treaties provide a different approach: Nations are convinced to sign them and to ratify them. States are then required, by their own agreement, to abide by international human rights law.

dmargolis @ pww.org