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Robert Martin, self-advocate, makes history with election to United Nations Committee

June 21, 2016 - - Global Inclusion

Robert Martin, one of the founding members of the self-advocacy movement for people with intellectual disabilities in New Zealand and Life Member of People First New Zealand, has become the first person with an intellectual disability to be elected to serve on the United Nation's committee responsible for monitoring the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

This election makes Robert the first person with an intellectual disability to have a seat on any UN Committee in history.

Robert was among nine new members elected to the committee June 14th, 2016 at the 9th Conference of State Parties at the United Nations headquarters in New York City. He will serve a three-year term. The Committee is the body of independent experts that monitors implementation of the UN Convention's goals.

Winning his seat with 101 votes out of a possible 160, Robert told reporters after the vote, "Now the hard work begins. It is a great day for people with intellectual disabilities around the world. I hope my participation on the Committee will set the pathway for others to follow in the future."

And as New Zealand Disability Rights Commissioner Paul Gibson said upon hearing the news, Robert hasn't just smashed through a glass ceiling, "he's smashed through the ceiling and walls of institutions that locked him away for most of his early years".

Robert is a leader in New Zealand's disability community and is a professional evaluator of disability support services funded by the NZ government. A biography of Robert, Becoming a Person, recounts how he suffered physical, emotional and sexual abuse during a childhood spent in large institutions and foster homes. He now lives in his own home in a small town in New Zealand with his wife Lynda and has become an advocate for the right of people with disabilities to live independently.

CACL offers our warm congratulations to Robert on his election to the UN's Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and shares with our international partners in the celebration of this historical moment!