The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has taken bold action on behalf of persons with disabilities everywhere, voting to approve a treaty that would protect their fundamental rights in international law. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), which may be taken up by the Senate as early as this week, calls upon countries to ensure equal treatment and equal access to justice, health care, education, and employment for persons with disabilities.
There are seven landmark UN human rights treaties that protect the rights of women, children, migrant workers, and others, but until CRPD was created in 2008, no specific global treaty existed to address the needs of persons with disabilities — the world’s largest minority. It is also the first universal human rights treaty that includes sexual and reproductive health.
In response to the Committee’s action and the Senate’s awaited action, Timothy E. Wirth, president of the United Nations Foundation and the Better World Fund, made the following statement:
“Under the leadership of Senator John Kerry (D-MA), the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has done a service not only for persons with disabilities everywhere, but for all Americans who fundamentally value equality and justice. Further, thanks to the work of Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Richard Durbin (D-IL), and Robert Casey (D-PA), the measure accomplishes this while also fully protecting the rights of women. Now it’s up to the full Senate to follow their lead.
“Many countries still do not have laws on disability, including laws that would protect against discrimination. But this Convention sets a standard, one that closely mirrors our own standards here in the U.S., which will prompt governments worldwide to create legislation or improve upon current laws.
“According to the World Health Organization, worldwide, roughly 1 billion people have disabilities or have family members with disabilities. What’s more, 80 percent of persons with disabilities live in developing nations that are the least equipped to address their needs. Consequently, roughly one in seven face increased risk of poverty, reduced access to education and health care, discrimination, and social isolation. And as the global population continues to grow and people live longer, thanks to medical advances, many of us will live with a disability for about eight years of our lives. This UN Convention empowers individuals with disabilities and their loved ones to do something truly unprecedented: hold their governments accountable. This is critical for meeting our global development goals.
“Not only a reflection of what the UN does best—safeguarding human rights for all people—the CRPD is also a tribute to America’s own cutting-edge disability rights statutes. In fact, the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act largely inspired the treaty. Although ratifying the Convention does not require the U.S. to change its own domestic laws, it would go a long way towards cementing America’s reputation as a global leader on this issue. Further, it would give us a global platform to encourage other countries to follow suit and ensure equality for people with disabilities.
“We now look to the full Senate to take the next step and stand up for the equality and dignity of people with disabilities worldwide, just as Congress did for Americans more than 20 years ago with the ADA. It is the right thing to do.”
About The United Nations Foundation
The United Nations Foundation builds public-private partnerships to address the world’s most pressing problems, and broadens support for the United Nations through advocacy and public outreach. Through innovative campaigns and initiatives, the Foundation connects people, ideas, and resources to help the UN solve global problems. The Foundation was created in 1998 as a U.S. public charity by entrepreneur and philanthropist Ted Turner and now is supported by global corporations, foundations, governments, and individuals. For more information, visit www.unfoundation.org.
About the Better World Campaign
The Better World Campaign (BWC), an initiative of the Better World Fund, works to strengthen the relationship between the United States and the United Nations. It encourages U.S. leadership to enhance the UN’s ability to carry out its invaluable international work on behalf of peace, progress, freedom, and justice. For more information, visit www.betterworldcampaign.org.