The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was the fastest negotiated treaty in the history of the UN; it also had the highest number of signatories on its opening day than any previous UN treaty. It took just four years from the conception of the Convention to its adoption in 2006.
The principles upon which it is based include those of non-discrimination, respect, autonomy, independence, equality of opportunity, accessibility and the removal of barriers to full and effective participation by PwD in an inclusive society.
The swiftness with which the Convention was adopted suggests that there was a pressing global need for such a treaty, possibly coinciding with a paradigm shift from the individual model to the social model of disability as described above. The Convention emphasised the need for a global change in perspective regarding PwD; from the position of PwD being seen as ‘objects of charity, medical treatment and social protection’, to one where PwD are acknowledged as being on equal terms with the rest of humanity and afforded the status of ‘subjects with rights, who are capable of claiming those rights and making decisions for their lives based on their free and informed consent as well as being active members of society’ (i)
The Convention is unique in that it was the first international, legally binding policy instrument focusing on both development and human rights and which is both cross-disability and cross-sectoral. The purpose of the Convention is to ‘protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities, and to promote respect for their inherent dignity’ (ii).
Upon signing, member states are obliged to create and/or amend governmental policies and legislation in accordance with the treaty in such a manner as to ensure that PwD are not excluded from any aspect of society. The UK had established the Disability Discrimination Act (1995) 11 years prior to the Convention, and as such, was among the 82 initial signatories, signing the treaty on its opening day.
For more information please read my research project, Accessible London?
Image Source – http://beauvita.org/disability-rights-equal-rights-fight/