“Before this convention, disability was often regarded as a disease or illness, but now we have realized that disability is an interaction between a certain condition and society. Society must help to eliminate disabilities through accessibility, non-discrimination and protecting and enforcing the same rights to everyone.“
– Vice chair of the Ad Hoc Committee
What is a human rights convention?
A convention, or treaty, is a legally binding document between 2 or more countries. A human rights convention is a treaty that deals specifically with human rights. The International convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities is a “thematic treaty”, meaning that it defines the human rights of a particular demographic (in this case, the human rights of people with disabilities).
Is “signing” a convention the same thing as “ratifying” it?
No. A country that signs the Convention becomes a signatory, and a country that ratifies the convention becomes a States Party. Becoming a signatory qualifies the state (nation) to proceed toward ratification, and establishes an obligation to refrain from any acts that violate the principles of the Convention. Becoming a states party (ratifying nation) means that the country agrees to be legally bound by the treaty. If a nation both signs and ratifies at the same time, it is said to “ascend”.
What happens if a country decides not to sign or ratify a convention?
First, a convention must be “adopted,” which means it becomes open for countries to sign. It is then up to each country to decide whether it chooses to sign or ratify the convention. Like most conventions, the CRPD requires that at least 20 countries ratify it before it can “enter into force.” To “enter into force” means a treaty becomes active, and the ratifying countries are required to implement it.
Once the Convention becomes international law, the core concept of equal rights for people with disability will become the norm. As has occurred with other treaties, this new recognition of basic human rights will begin to be incorporated into the national laws of nations which don’t ratify the Convention. This will benefit people with disabilities who live in those nations, and may spur additional nations to opt for ratification in the coming years as their laws begin to include the rights guaranteed under the Convention.
We have many other international human rights treaties. Why aren’t those enough to protect the rights of people with disabilities, too?
Unfortunately most of the existing human rights treaties don’t mention people with disabilities. Also, when governments monitor other treaties to ensure that they are properly implemented, they often do not report information about how these treaties affect people with disabilities. Furthermore, the few older human rights instruments that do mention people with disabilities do not address their right to participate fully in society. Over time, the international disability community came to realize that governments needed guidance in applying human rights to people with disabilities.
In the United States, we already have the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). So why do we also need to sign and ratify the CRPD?
Although the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has been very important to the daily lives of many Americans with disabilities, it does not, and cannot, fully cover all the basic human rights to which people with disabilities are entitled. The CRPD would supplement the power of the ADA to ensure that people with disabilities have stronger access to all the same human rights to which all people are entitled. Also, if the United States signs and ratifies the CRPD, it would help send a strong message to other countries that we, too, support human rights for people with disabilities. This may help inspire more countries to ratify the CRPD so that more people with disabilities around the world can enjoy its protections.
What rights does the CRPD cover?
The right to legal capacity (to make one’s own decisions)
The right to liberty
The right to live in the community
The right to respect for physical & mental integrity
The right to freedom from torture, violent exploitation and abuse
The right to healthcare and to free and informed consent in health services
The right to education
The right to vote and to participate in public & cultural life
The right to work, and to an adequate standard of living
The right to privacy
The right to habilitation & rehabilitation
The right to receive information in accessible formats
The right to marry and to divorce, and to share equally in child custody
The right to procreate, & the right to obtain contraception
The right to sign contracts, and own and inherit property
The right to accessible public transit and public accommodations
How did the UN CRPD come about?
Early 1970’s: The process of bringing the Convention into being began and has included pwd’s from all over the world.
2004: The draft text was completed
2007/Jan.: Negotiations completed and the Convention was adopted.
2007/March: 81 countries became signatories during the signing ceremony at the UN Convention Center in NYC.
2008/May 3: The Convention enters into force. Countries ratifying the convention are now legally obligated to obey it.
Today: More than 140 countries have become signatories and more than 65 countries have ratified it.
More than 80 of these countries have also become signatories to the Optional Protocol and more than 40 of them have ratified it.