Face of the day

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Robert Martin makes history with his appointment to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Photo / Stuart Munro

Today’s face of the day, Robert Martin, was our face of the day back in 2014  when his biography had just been released.

History was made on Wednesday this week when Robert was notified that he has been elected to the UN Committee for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; the first learning-disabled person ever to be elected to a UN committee.

Whanganui man Robert Martin has been elected to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities at UN headquarters in New York.

New Zealand Disabilities Rights Commissioner, Paul Gibson, announced the appointment this morning, hailing it as a “world first”.

“Robert’s election is a milestone achievement for all people with disabilities, he is the first person with a learning disability to stand for and be elected to a UN Committee,” Mr Gibson said.

“Robert Martin 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. Every New Zealander can be proud of his incredible achievement today.”

A prominent disability rights advocate, Robert was nominated by the New Zealand government to the Committee that is comprised of 18 independent disability experts.

The panel monitors how well countries are implementing the Convention on the rights of Persons with Disabilities. Eighteen candidates from around the world are vying for nine positions.

Mr Martin was diagnosed with brain damage after a difficult birth and spent his first 15 years in institutions. He currently lives in Whanganui with his wife and is an IHC board member and involved with Sommerville Disability Support Services and the Balance Whanganui mental health trust.

On the national and international scene, he’s involved with the Human Rights Commission, Inclusion International and People First.

He will hold the committee post from 2017 until 2020 and travel to Switzerland twice a year, as well visiting other countries to speak and learn about their policies for people with disabilities.


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