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Support UK ratification of the UN disabilities convention and follow-up
On the eve of the London 2012 Paralympic Games, UNA-UK's Executive Director has written to the Minister for Disabled People to express the Association's hope that the Games would deliver a real legacy for the 10 million persons with disabilities in the UK. He also urged the UK to reconsider the reservations it has made to the CRPD.
UNA-UK is currently preparing a set of recommendations following the UK's second Universal Periodic Review at the UN Human Rights Council. Recommendations will include a review, with a view to withdrawing, the three remaining reservations to the CRPD and strengthening data collection to aid with monitoring of hate crimes.
UNA-UK is delighted that, following the development of a proportionate system of review to address safeguards in the collection of social security benefit, the UK withdrew its reservation to Article 12.
UNA-UK has released a set of recommendations following the UK's Universal Periodic Review at the UN Human Rights Council. One of the recommendations involves reviewing, with a view to withdrawing, the four reservations made to the CRPD.
UNA-UK was delighted that on 9 June 2009, the UK ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and its Optional Protocol.
We continue to lobby the government to drop the four reservations it made to the Convention:
When the UK ratified the Convention it entered a reservation against Article12 because the existing social security benefit appointee system lacked appropriate safeguards in the arrangements to enable the appointment of a person to collect and claim benefits on behalf of someone else.
UNA-UK recognises the merits of reviewing current arrangements and hopes that the UK will be able to withdraw this reservation once complete.
The UK has made a reservation to this article, on liberty of movement and nationality, on the grounds that it clarified that the Convention does not create new or additional rights to enter or remain in the UK.
UNA-UK believes that the widely-accepted legal interpretation of the Convention is that it creates no such rights and that accordingly, the UK should drop this reservation and make instead an interpretive declaration along the lines of that made by Australia.
The UK has entered a reservation to this article as well as an interpretive declaration. These convey the UK's position that disabled people have the right to education on an equal basis, that parents should continue to have access to places for their children and mainstream and special schools, and that there may be circumstances in which a disabled child's educational needs can best be met through specialist provision outside their local community.
UNA-UK agrees that the provision of choice is important and welcomes the government's commitment to delevoping an inclusive education system. But we believe that a reservation is not necessary to achieve this. A number of countries with similar approaches to education, such as Germany and New Zealand, have not made reservations as they believe Article 24 creates an obligation to progressively realise an inclusive system. Progressive realisation is a well-established concept in the implementation of economic, social and cultural rights.
The UK's reservation to this article relates to exemptions relating to service in the armed forces.
UNA-UK does not believe a continued blanket exemption of the armed forces from the Disability Discrimination Act, which underlies its proposed reservation, is necessary. In 2005, such exemptions were lifted from the police and fire services with no negative impact on the ability of these services to use appropriate, objective and necessary job criteria.
In 2009, UK ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) was a key focus for UNA-UK.
On 13 December 2006, UNA-UK welcomed the adoption of the Convention.
Around 10% of the world's population - some 650 million people - live with a disability, the vast majority in developing countries. In these countries, disability is often closely linked to poverty, lack of education and access to treatment for preventable diseases. But all over the world, disabled people face barriers to employment, education and full participation in all aspects of life, and suffer discrimination and harrassment. According to the UN, only 45 countries have disability-specific laws in place.
The Convention builds on decades of work, by the UN and campaigners, to change attitudes and approaches to disabled people. It comprises 50 articles which seek to give meaning to the following principles:
- Respect for inherent dignity and individual autonomy
- Non-discrimination, accessibility and equality of opportunity (incl. between men and women)
- Full and effective participation and inclusion in society;
- Respect for difference and acceptance of disabled people as part of human diversity
- Respect for the evolving capacities of children with disabilities and respect for the right of children with disabilities to preserve their identitiesing set out in 50 articles (e.g. ‘Women with disabilities’, ‘Accessibility’ and ‘Equal recognition before the law’)
A UN commmittee will monitor its implementation by states, and an optional protocol to the treaty provides - if also ratified by countries - for individual complaints and communications.
The Convention was adopted on 13 December 2006 and opened for signature on 30 March 2007. It was one of the first treaties to be passed by the UN Human Rights Council and the first comprehensive human rights treaty of the 21st century. It also attracted the highest number of signatories ever on its opening day, with 82 signatories and one ratification. After its 20th ratification, the Convention entered into force on 3 May 2008.
The UK played a key role in securing the Convention and was one of the first states to sign it. However, it is yet to ratify the treaty and campaigners have expressed concerns about proposed reservations to the treaty.
UNA-UK’s Executive Director Sam Daws has written to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and the Minister for Disabled People to urge the UK to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Over 10 million people in the UK will benefit from the protections offered by the convention.
The CRPD does not create new rights but ensures that people with disabilities enjoy the same rights as everyone else. It covers a number of areas in which disabled people have not traditionally enjoyed their rights, notably education, employment, health, political participation, access to justice, accessibility and mobility in society.
British efforts at the UN were instrumental in establishing this human rights treaty, and the UK was one of the first countries to sign it. But campaigners have expressed concern over the delay in ratification and the reservations to it that the government has indicated it might make.
The government has said it will ratify the treaty in spring 2009. UNA-UK believes that the UK should ratify the convention immediately and without any reservations.
Click here to visit UN Enable, the Secretariat for the CRPD.
UNA-UK is calling on its members to write to their MPs, on the basis of the above letter, to urge the UK government to ratify the Convention without delay and without reservations.
Statement by Lord Hannay of Chiswick, Chair of UNA-UK at the Equality & Human Rights Commission parliamentary seminar to mark the ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities - 9 June 2009
I am delighted to be here in my capacity as Chair of UNA-UK to celebrate the important and auspicious occasion of the ratification by the UK of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. UNA-UK championed this treaty and lobbied for early ratification.
The UK was one of the first countries to sign the convention, and it is good to see that the UK is now ratifying it reasonably promptly. All too often, countries - the UK included - do not follow-up signature of such treaties with ratification. An urgent example of this is the Convention on Cluster Munitions, agreed in Dublin in May 2008.
The disability convention and other UN human rights treaties such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child are fine examples of the UN’s indispensability. These treaties do not just help to protect human rights in one or two countries, they establish international standards and norms. Of course we need to apply these provisions in the UK but many countries need them even more, and are further away from meeting these standards than we are. By signing and ratifying the convention the UK is helping by setting an example.
For that same reason we must sound one discordant note. There are - not for the first time - too many UK reservations on specific provisions of this convention. Some of these are in my view excessively pernickety e.g. the reservations on immigration and schooling. My hope is that the government will review the reservations regularly and withdraw them as soon as possible, as we have done on other occasions, with other conventions.
This convention marks another step along the long road to a rules-based system of international cooperation. We may sometimes feel that the world is a pretty disordered place, but countries like the UK can demonstrate that it is gradually becoming less so.
UNA-UK Chair Lord Hannay contributed to a debate on Disabled People: UN Convention.