Government’s ratification of UN convention is “critical milestone”


The UK’s ratification of a UN convention enshrining the rights of disabled people is “a critical milestone” in the struggle for equality, despite the government’s decision to opt out of parts of the treaty, say campaigners.
The government ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on 8 June, but with “reservations” in four areas: education, immigration, defence and benefits.
The UK’s four equality and human rights commissions, which are responsible for independent monitoring of the convention in the UK, called on government departments to promise to review their reservations in June 2010, as the Home Office has done.
But they said ratification could still boost disabled people’s rights in areas such as access to healthcare for people with learning difficulties, protection from disablist violence, poverty, education and employment.
Diane Mulligan, a member of the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s (EHRC) disability committee, told a seminar hosted by MP Andrew Dismore that ratification was “a critical milestone”, but attention must now turn to implementation.
Speaking on behalf of EHRC commissioner Baroness (Jane) Campbell, Mulligan warned that there was “no room for complacency” and the convention should not be allowed to “sit on a shelf gathering dust”.
Julie Newman, acting chair of the UK’s Disabled People’s Council (UKDPC), said her organisation was “marking the event and not celebrating it” and called for “ratification without reservation”.
She said “effective implementation and monitoring” was vital, as was accessible information about the convention and what it means for disabled people.
UKDPC hopes to play a key role in monitoring implementation, acting as a “conduit” for the views of disabled people’s organisations, as called for in the convention. It is hoping for government funding to allow it to lead in this area, with support from RADAR, Scope and Mencap.
Jonathan Shaw, minister for disabled people, told the seminar that the convention was “a very significant landmark” that showed the government’s commitment to equality for disabled people by 2025.
He said the Office for Disability Issues would work with disabled people to “learn more” about what they expected from the convention.
And he said the government would keep the reservations under “periodic review”, but could not promise that any department apart from the Home Office would review its reservations as soon as next year.

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