The Bush Administration continued its opposition last week to the UN Convention on Persons with Disabilities that was signed March 30 by 81 UN Member States and the European Community. The administration maintains that the rights of people with disabilities should be protected by the statutes of individual nations rather than by international law.
“What the Convention endeavours to do is to elaborate in detail the rights of persons with disabilities and set out a code of implementation,” said Don MacKay, who chaired the committee that negotiated the treaty.
Countries that sign the Convention agree to adopt policies, laws, and administrative measures that secure the rights of people with disabilities and eliminate discriminatory laws, regulations, customs, and practices.
The Convention’s initial 81 supporters set a record for the greatest number of first-day signers. Forty-four nations signed onto the Convention’s Optional Protocol, which sets up an expert committee on the rights of persons with disabilities to which individuals can appeal when they exhaust their nations’ avenues of legal recourse.
The convention outlaws discrimination against persons with disabilities in all areas of life, including employment, education, health services, transportation and access to justice.
In a New York Times op-ed piece, former Attorney General Richard Thornburgh and Alan Reich, who are vice chairman and chairman of the World Committee on Disability, argue that existing national laws are inadequate to insure the civil rights of the world’s 650 million people with disabilities.
“Here is a remarkable opportunity to share America’s national experience with our global partners — to export the innovative concepts of the ADA the Americans with Disabilities Act through the United Nations and to offer our expertise in an area of the law where we excel in legal precept and in practical application,” they wrote. “If the United States directs a change in course and joins in this enlightened effort to advance the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities, we will seize a chance to show the world the best of America.”
The administration pledged to support the UN’s efforts on behalf of people with disabilities, it maintained that it would not sign any document that could be legally binding.