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The UN Disability Convention: Historic Process, Strong Prospects, and Why the U.S. Should Ratify

Tara J. Melish

SUNY Buffalo Law School

Human Rights Brief, Vol. 14, No. 2, 2007

On December 13, 2006, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously adopted the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Convention is historic and path-breaking on several levels, both in protection terms for the world's 650 million persons with disabilities who may now draw upon its provisions in defense of their internationally-protected rights, and in relation to the unprecedented level of civil society input and engagement in the negotiation process. This sustained and constructive engagement has given rise to a dynamic process of dialogue, cooperation, and mutual trust that will fuel monitoring and implementation work, at national and international levels alike, long into the future.

This Article describes both the negotiating process that gave rise to the treaty and the major themes and motivating tenets that underlie its substantive provisions. In so doing, it draws attention to the two overarching paradigm shifts ushered into international human rights law by the Disability Convention. These critical paradigm shifts are foundational to the Convention and the dynamic processes that brought it to life. Provided they continue to be actively and constructively embraced in the implementation phase, they will prove decisive in ensuring that the supervisory and subsidiary framework of international human rights law can successfully be engaged to effect real, meaningful, and enduring change for the day-to-day realities of persons with disabilities in all countries and regions of the world.

The prospects for this are encouraging. The Convention received a record number of signatures on its opening date - eighty-four - and is expected to enter into force more rapidly than any other universal human rights treaty in history. In the face of such broad global support, the decision of the United States not to pursue ratification is highly troubling. The Article concludes that the U.S. position, particularly in light of the nation's strong historic commitment to disability rights, is unjustified and warrants reversal.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 14

Keywords: disability, human rights, international law, treaties

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Date posted: June 28, 2007  

Suggested Citation

Melish, Tara J., The UN Disability Convention: Historic Process, Strong Prospects, and Why the U.S. Should Ratify. Human Rights Brief, Vol. 14, No. 2, 2007. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=997141

Contact Information

Tara J. Melish (Contact Author)
SUNY Buffalo Law School ( email )
School of Law
525 O'Brian Hall
Buffalo, NY 14260-1100
United States
(716) 645-2257 (Phone)

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