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United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities RSS

Blind person © European Union/Reporters, Eric Herchaft

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is the first international legally binding instrument setting minimum standards for a range of civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights for people with disabilities around the world.

It is also the first comprehensive human rights convention to which the EU has become a party.

The Convention and its Optional Protocol were adopted on 13 December 2006 at the United Nations Headquarters, in New York. All the EU countries have signed the Convention and 23 EU countries have signed the Optional Protocol. As of June 2014, 25 EU countries have ratified the Convention, and 20 have ratified the Optional Protocol.

The EU signed the Convention on 30 March 2007. The Council adopted the Decision for the conclusion of the Convention on 26 November 2009. The Convention entered into force with respect to the EU on the 22 January 2011. The EU is bound by the Convention to the extent of its competences and these are set out in an Annex to the Council Decision.

The purpose of the Convention is to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities. It represents a significant change in approach: it treats disability as a human rights issue, rather than only as a social welfare matter. The concept of disability enshrined in the Convention refers to long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which, in interaction with various barriers, may hinder full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.

The core elements of the Convention - which combines anti-discrimination, equal opportunities, accessibility, full and effective participation and inclusion in society - are reflected in the European Disability Strategy 2010-2020. The rights recognised by the Convention cover a broad range of policies: from justice to transport, employment to information technology, or social to health policy. As a result, implementing the Convention needs to be part of a strategic approach to disability. At EU level, the European Disability Strategy provides this strategic and comprehensive framework.

Parties to the Convention need to periodically inform the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities about the measures taken to implement it.

On 5 June 2014, the Commission published the first report to the UNpdf(590 kB) Choose translations of the previous link  on how the EU is giving effect to the Convention through legislation, policy actions and funding instruments. The EU report addresses all rights and obligations enshrined in the Convention, from accessibility and non-discrimination to international cooperation and governance structures, and across a wide range of policies.

The report shows that the ratification of the Convention has tangible impacts on the ground in the EU: for example, in the area of justice, the 2013 Commission Recommendation on procedural safeguards for vulnerable people suspected or accused in criminal proceedings makes explicit reference to the Convention to ensure that the needs of persons with disabilities are properly identified and addressed during the proceedings, for instance by providing them with information concerning their procedural rights in an accessible format.

EU Member States are also to submit individual implementation reports to the UN for the matters under their competence, and a number of them have already done so.
The UN Committee, composed of independent experts, will examine the EU's as well as Member States' reports and make recommendations.

As of June 2014, 158 States had signed the Convention, 147 States ratified it. 92 had signed and 82 ratified the Optional Protocol. Further progress on signatures and ratifications can be tracked via the UN website.