Today is the first anniversary of the signing of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. New Zealand, along with 80 or so other nations signed the Convention in New York one year ago.
Signing the Convention indicates an intention to ratify only, but already there are seventeen ratifications. There needs to be twenty before the Convention becomes international law. Predictions are that the magic number will be reached some time in May.
New Zealand, like many other western democracies does not ratify Conventions until it has scrutinised legislation, policy and practice to ensure we can meet our international obligations once we have ratified. A parliamentary process including select committee must also take place.
This means New Zealand probably won’t be among the first twenty to ratify as so far we are only part way through what will be a thorough process.
It is important that disabled people understand what the Convention can mean for us. Apart from giving us and our issues voice, visibility and legitimacy, it clearly spells out our human rights in a way that moves from a medical, charity and/or welfare way of thinking to a clear human rights approach on the same basis as non-disabled people.
Ratifying countries, (and the Government has indicated it will ratify by the end of this year,) are bound by the provisions of the Convention. They are open to international scrutiny because countries must regularly report to an international committee. More importantly, disabled people and our organisations will play a critical part in national monitoring of the Convention.
There are plenty of ways of finding out about the Convention. The Office for Disability Issues, is a good place to start, the Human Rights Commission has a growing Convention section on its web site. UNESCO New Zealand will be publishing material soon. More resources are becoming available all the time plus a whole raft of international resources including the Asia Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions Human Rights YES is an education resource freely available to download and use.
Many disability NGOs are also focusing on the Convention. Ask yours or join up to find out how you can be part of the action.