The UN Development Programme (UNDP) applauds the progress Cambodia has made towards ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty, with the Kingdom taking a major step towards becoming a member of the treaty on World Braille Day this year.

The Marrakesh Treaty is an international legal instrument which makes it easier for blind, visually impaired and print-disabled people to access works protected by copyright.

For this year's World Braille Day observation on January 4, UNDP said Cambodia has been making significant progress on the Marrakesh Treaty, which was included in the draft law to amend the Law on Copyright and Related Rights.

“This draft law is in line with the Marrakesh Treaty and is currently under examination by the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts. After passing this amendment documentation, Cambodia will be closer to ratifying the Marrakesh Treaty. We will push for the inclusion of the Marrakesh Treaty in the draft law, as well as in Cambodia’s National Disability Strategic Plan 2019-2023,” it said.

UNDP added that it will continue to support the ratification and implementation of the treaty by establishing a technical working group in charge of the matter in coordination with the culture ministry, which is responsible for enforcing the Law on Copyright and Related Rights, along with additional collaboration with the Disability Action Council.

Vin Vichet, director of the local NGO Blind New Generation, said he was not familiar with the contents of the Marrakesh Treaty, and that it remains difficult for any visually impaired person to locate anything to read in braille in most libraries in the country.

“We do have difficulty obtaining braille documents because they are not widely available and cannot be found in bookstores and libraries, so we do not have the documents for reading like the general population,” he said.

He added that the blind could not access information easily because most bookstores and libraries built their collections or inventories without taking into account the needs of the blind, and that this is precisely what cost them opportunities to participate in education, work, politics, business and culture.

Back in 2013, Cambodia was one of just two ASEAN countries to sign the treaty, on June 28. Officials said that goes to demonstrate Cambodia’s strong commitment to advancing disability rights both nationally and internationally.

Ratifying the treaty is a necessary step before Cambodia can formally join it, and that is precisely what its inclusion in the draft law would accomplish should it stay in the final version of the text that is to be voted on by the National Assembly and promulgated by the King.