UN Convention

UN Convention Campaign Briefing

The UK Government has not yet ratified the Convention 

In 2006 the United Nations created a major new piece of International law to protect the rights of disabled people – the ‘UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities’.

The UK Government signed the Convention at the first opportunity on 30th March 2007. This indicates their intention to take steps to be bound by the treaty at a later date.

However, they have still not ‘ratified’ the Convention and looks like they might try to enter ‘reservations’.

Why do ratification and reservations matter?

‘Ratification’ is a concrete action taken by a State that means it undertakes the legal rights and obligations contained in the Convention.

‘Reservations’ made by a state when signing or ratifying the Convention are statements which exclude or modify the legal effect of some of the provisions of the Convention with respect to that State.

Why do potential reservations matter so much?

By ratifying the convention on the Rights of Disabled People with reservations the UK government would be declaring its willingness to accept less than the agreed international standard for the protection of the human rights of disabled people in the UK.

If the UK enters a reservation to one or more parts of the Convention, the Convention protecting the human rights of disabled people will not apply in its entirety to the UK.

This would significantly undermine the value of the convention as a tool for protecting the rights of people with disabilities.

What is the value of the full ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Disabled People?
The Convention would increase the protection of the human rights of disabled people.

When a state like the UK ratifies the Convention they undertake to promote and ensure human rights and fundamental freedoms for all disabled people, without discrimination of any kind.  The state must put in place any necessary laws, regulations and ways of working to ensure the implementation of people’s rights under the Convention in a practical way.

Below are some of the key points from the Convention.  Reservation would undermine the protection of many of these rights for disabled people in the UK.

•    It has the social model definition of disability

•    It covers all disabled people, regardless of impairment, age or gender

•    It emphasises and confirms our right to life, equality, integrity, freedom and security

•    It confirms our rights to justice and equality in law

•    It protects us from torture, degrading and inhuman treatment and gives us freedom from exploitation, violence and abuse

•    It says that all people have capacity, and the rights to full and independent support to ensure that capacity

•    It specifically mentions the right to Independent Living, community support, including personal mobility and the right not to be put into an institution against our wishes

•    It gives the right to fully supported, inclusive education

•    It gives the right to full environmental access, freedom of expression and fully accessible information

•    It gives the right to liberty and nationality

•    It gives respect for privacy, the home and family

•    It gives the right to highest possible standard of health and protects against denial of health care – including food and fluids

•    It gives the right to housing and rehabilitation, work and employment and an adequate standard of living and social protection

•    It promotes participation in political, public and cultural life, recreation, leisure and sport

•    It puts a duty on governments to raise awareness on disability issues

•    And it says how we can all co-operate together around the world.

The Convention will be a highly effective lobbying tool if it is ratified in full.

It is the first human rights instrument to be absolutely clear about disabled people’s right to be treated as full and equal human beings.  Although disabled people should be considered as fully human under the pre-existing conventions, we were not specifically mentioned (except in the Convention on the Rights of the Child) and therefore ignored.

It can be used at all levels as further evidence that disabled people must be included in the rights agenda – and shows exactly what that means for local and national statutory authorities.

It can be used for responses to local and national policies that affect disabled people.

Local authorities, government departments, NHS Trusts, and all public bodies can adopt it as part of their Disability Equality Schemes and as the basis of their Disability Equality duty.

It can be used as evidence to prove a violation in any case taken in relation to either the DDA or the Human Rights Act – and, for instance, in arguments with the Crown Prosecution Service it they consider it impossible to take a case because of the level of someone’s impairment.
A training tool
Because the Convention goes into the details of what makes effective human rights protection for disabled people, it is an excellent support to training both non-disabled and disabled people in our rights and equality.

Disability pride
For the first time, an international document has clearly spelt out our humanity and recognises, officially, that disability is a social response not a personal fault.

Like all UN human rights instruments, the Convention on the Rights of disabled people is not just a legal tool.  It also sets an international cross-cultural moral standard for the treatment of disabled people.  It effectively articulates a moral code of behaviour by which states, governments, public bodies and all human beings should follow toward disabled people.

Background to the Convention on the Rights of Disabled People
December 2001 – Resolution passed in UN General Assembly starting work on a Convention on the Rights of Disabled People.

2002–2006 – Ad Hoc Committees worked on the Convention with a Coalition of disabled people, which called itself the International Disability Coalition (IDC) and had a group which ensured a wider debate on issues.

December 2006 – UN Convention adopted by the UN General Assembly

March 2007 - 270 – 81 states officially signed the Convention

February 2008 - 125 states have signed the Convention and of those 17 have ratified it.

How the Convention works

Once 20 member states of the UN have ratified the Convention, a Monitoring Committee will be set up. The Committee will be selected from nominations from each member state. There is a set of strict rules by which these people should be elected.

Nominations from member states have to produce a report to the monitoring Committee on how they are implementing the Convention and what progress they are making. The first report has to be in two years after the Convention comes into force. Most importantly – NGO’s can submit alternative reports to the Committee.

Each country must set up a framework, including DPO’s and other independent organisations, to promote, protect and monitor implementation of the Convention.  In the UK, the government has asked the EHRC to lead on this.

As with all the UN human rights conventions and treaties, there is no legal enforcement – just the public naming and shaming after any comments from the Committee.

If a member state signs the ‘Optional Protocol’ to the Convention that means that an individual in that country may take a complaint to the Committee, if they have been through every legal process in their own country.  The Committee will only comment on their case, there is no mechanism for compensation.  The UK has not signed the Optional Protocol.

What does the Convention on the Rights of Disabled People say?

You can find a full copy of the Convention, latest news, background information and some additional relevant documents on www.un.org.enable/convention.

How to join the Campaign
If you would like to join the UN Convention Campaign Coalition, and your organisation is not already a member, please contact Rachel Hurst at DAA on Rachel.daa@btinternet.com or 01666 837 671 for details.

To download the UN Convention Campaign Briefing click on one of the links below.

UN Convention Campaign Briefing WORD

UN Convention Campaign Briefing RTF

UN Convention Campaign Briefing PDF