European Community ratifies the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
In the final week of November 2009, the EC has ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). The CRPD is the first international treaty of the 21st century and it is a result of five years of negotiations with strong involvement from the disability movement. Since its entry into international law on May 3rd 2008, it continues to be ratified across the globe. To-date, the CRPD has 143 signatories and 74 ratifications.
What will the EU’s ratification mean for its disabled citizens? Its ratification gives the 65 million disabled people living in Europe hope that the EU recognises disability as a human rights issue. At EU level, the CRPD obliges it State Parties to revise existing legislation, policies and programmes to ensure they are in compliance with the Conventions provisions. The thirty or more articles of the CRPD cover all area’s of life ranging from access to education, employment, independent living and development cooperation. Ratifying the CRPD means that the EU across its institutions and programmes will have to work towards progressing inclusion for disabled people in the areas listed above and many more.
On a member state level, 12 countries so far have ratified the Convention (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Portugal, and the UK). Yannis Vardakastanis, President of the Brussels-based European Disability Forum, stressed: “The European Union has not only achieved a major step in its history, but it is also sending a positive signal to its Member States that haven’t ratified the Convention yet.”
While the CRPD’s ratification was welcomed by many disability groups in the EU, there was also disappointment with regard to; the delay in ratifying the Optional Protocol (which enables complainants to communicate directly with the Conventions committee regarding violations by a state of provisions of CRPD) and the reservation of the Council to exclude the employment of disabled people in the armed forces.
Ireland signed the Convention in March 2007, however as of yet has given no definite timetable for its ratification. It is time now for our government to consider joining alongside its fellow EU member states and ratify the Convention to ensure continued protection of the rights for its 393,786 disabled citizens.