August 15, 2008

EQUAL RIGHTS OF PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES STRENGTHENED BY A NEW UN TREATY

Pursuant to the information published in the recent issue of the Equal Rights Trust newsletter (the Equal Rights Trust is an independent international organisation whose purpose is to combat discrimination and promote equality as a fundamental human right and a basic principle of social justice), the CEE Trust would like to report on the following:

"On Thursday 3 April 2008, Ecuador became the twentieth country to ratify the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This ratification means that the Convention along with its Optional Protocol, permitting individual communications to the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, will enter into force on 3 May 2008.

The Convention was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 13 December 2006 and has, to date, 126 signatories. As explained by the Secretariat for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities:

"The Convention marks a ‘paradigm shift' in attitudes and approaches to persons with disabilities. It takes to a new height the movement from viewing persons with disabilities as ‘objects' of charity, medical treatment and social protection towards viewing persons with disabilities as "subjects" with rights, who are capable of claiming those rights and making decisions for their lives based on their free and informed consent as well as being active members of society."

The Convention contains a comprehensive and progressive approach to guaranteeing the equal rights of persons with disabilities. This is affirmed in Article 1 which sets out that:

"The purpose of the present Convention is to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities, and to promote respect for their inherent dignity."

The Convention strengthens international equality law by, amongst other things, providing definitions of ‘discrimination on the basis of disability' and ‘reasonable accommodation'. The progressive and comprehensive approach is further demonstrated through the explicit stipulation in the definition of ‘discrimination on the basis of disability' that the denial of reasonable accommodation can constitute discrimination. The Convention develops the equal rights of persons with disabilities specifically, and the right to equality generally, by incorporating a social development perspective. The Convention does this through recognizing the importance of international cooperation (Article 32) and the need to support national implementation efforts through, for example, statistics and data collection (Article 31) or monitoring (Article 33).

Welcoming the news of Ecuador's ratification, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour urged all governments to follow the example of the first twenty states by signing and ratifying the Convention."

To view the full text of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities click here.

To view the full text of the Convention's Optional Protocol click here.

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