The United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities is a response to an overlooked development challenge: approximately 10% of the world’s population are persons with disabilities (over 650 million persons), and although pre-existing human rights conventions offer considerable potential to promote and protect the rights of persons with disabilities, this potential was not being tapped. Persons with disabilities continued being denied their human rights and were kept on the margins of society in all parts of the world. The Convention therefore sets out the legal obligations on States to promote and protect the rights of persons with disabilities. It does not create new rights, and instead aims to promote, 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
The Convention marks a ‘paradigm shift’ in attitudes and approaches to persons with disabilities.
Persons with disabilities are not viewed as “objects” of charity, medical treatment and social protection; rather as “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.
The Convention gives universal recognition to the dignity of persons with disabilities, but does not explicitly define disability, other than to state:
“Disability is an evolving concept, and that disability results from the interaction between persons with impairments and attitudinal and environmental barriers that hinders full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.”
The CRPD provides accepted global legal standards on disability rights; clarifies the content of human rights principles and their application to the situation of persons with disabilities; provides an authoritative and global reference point for domestic laws and policies; provides effective mechanisms for monitoring, including supervision by a body of experts and reporting on implementation by governments and NGOs; provides a standard of assessment and achievement; and establishes a framework for international cooperation .
A country that ratifies the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities agrees to be legally bound to treat persons with disabilities as subjects of the law with clearly defined rights as any other person. Ratifying countries will have to adapt their domestic legislation to the international standards laid out in the treaty.