In First, Israeli Woman Elected to UN Committee on Rights of Persons with Disabilities

1 December, 2020   |   2 months ago

Odelia Fitoussi was elected Monday to represent Israel on the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), a development lauded by Jerusalem as an unprecedented achievement.

Fitoussi, who was born with muscular dystrophy (SMA2), will become the first Israeli elected to serve on this prestigious committee, which is among the most sought-after UN expert committees.

The CRPD is the leading UN body responsible for formulating a global policy for the 182 signatory states to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

In the election held at the UN headquarters in New York, representatives from 27 countries competed for nine slots on the committee. Israel won in the first round, receiving support from 109 countries.

Israel’s ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan, congratulated Fitousi on her victory, saying she “had brought immense pride” to Israel in one of the most important issues and that her selection had “moved him greatly.”

“It represents a true triumph of the human spirit,” said Erdan. “Israel’s extensive experience in the field of rights for people with disabilities will contribute greatly to the committee’s activities and will have a positive influence on the lives of many around the world. I am sure that Odelia will be an excellent ambassador and achieve great things.”

Over the past year, Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Israel’s Mission to the United Nations have led a diplomatic effort in capitals around the world and in New York with UN member states to mobilize support for Fitoussi’s candidacy.

Fitoussi herself met with more than 100 diplomats from around the globe. Erdan discussed her candidacy in his meetings with other UN ambassadors and even succeeded in garnering support from representatives of some Arab countries, which usually refrain from supporting Israeli candidates in UN bodies.

Fitoussi said she feels “privileged to be a member of the CRPD, the place where Israel was a partner in creating a new language for people with disabilities, a language of rights, of pride in who you are, in our uniqueness as people with disabilities who enrich society with all the good we have built.”

Fitoussi, 43, is a resident of Bat Yam who chose to dedicate her life to fighting for the rights of people with disabilities. She works as an art therapist with children and has pushed for greater inclusion of teachers with disabilities in the education system and to implement the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Israel.

The Geneva-based CRPD is responsible for monitoring and examining the activities of signatory states to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its implementation to improve the lives of people with disabilities around the world.

The UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities has been ratified by 182 countries. Israel was one of the leading nations that took part in drafting the convention, joining it in 2012.

Since then, Israel has been active in many legislative and social initiatives for people with disabilities. It is responsible for implementing and overseeing the “Commission for Equality of Persons with Disabilities.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Fitoussi to congratulate her for this important achievement and said that he appreciates her ability and talents, which led to her election to a significant and important position in the international arena. He wished her success and said that all of Israel is proud of her.