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July 17, 2012

Disability Treaty Makes Progress

Waterstone SJ blog Picture.jpgBy Associate Dean Michael Waterstone

Last week, the United States Senate held an important hearing on the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (UNCRPD). The UNCRPD was adopted in December 2006, making it the fastest negotiated human rights treaty in UN history. There are currently 153 signatories to the Convention (with 117 countries having ratified) and 90 signatories to the Optional Protocol (with 66 countries having ratified). President Obama signed the treaty shortly after entering office, and this hearing is the first significant step toward ratification. An account of the hearing by Professor Gerard Quinn (one of the intellectual founders of international disability law) can be found here.

Loyola has been an important center of developing knowledge about the Convention. In March of 2010, we had the privilege of hosting a symposium entitled "The Significance of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities." We were able to bring together a unique collection of participants from all over the world. We were fortunate to have influential academics, key policymakers, individuals who were active in the negotiations and officials who will be responsible for implementing and monitoring the UNCRPD in countries throughout the world. Consistent with the mantra "Nothing about us without us," many of our participants were people with disabilities or individuals with family members who have disabilities. Our speakers performed the crucial function of telling and dissecting the story of the Convention's origins, navigating through the UN processes, eventual adoption and entry into force, and the beginning work of implementation and enforcement. They also offered candid assessments of the Convention's ability to create change, and its successes and shortcomings as an international human rights instrument. You can find the papers from this symposium, which have been widely cited and influential in policy development, here.