[AI] Landmark treaty

Rajesh Asudani rajeshasudani at rbi.org.in
Wed May 21 01:16:20 EDT 2008


The recent entry into force of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which was adopted on December 13, 2006 and opened
for signature on March 30, 2007, is certainly a landmark event. The international treaty is seen as marking a "paradigm shift" - from a charity-based approach,
which views persons with disabilities as "objects" of charity, medical treatment, and protection, to a rights-based approach of seeing them as "subjects"
capable of claiming their rights and making their own decisions on the basis of free and informed consent. The importance of this legally binding instrument
also derives from the sheer scale of coverage. An estimated 10 per cent of the world population, which means 650 million people, are affected by physical,
sensory, or mental impairments and remain on the margins of society; and two billion more are directly affected by the impact of disability. The convention,
which reaffirms the gamut of rights enshrined in existing international charters and is the first human rights treaty regional integration organisations
have been invited to sign and ratify along with individual countries, is a tacit recognition that enforcement of these rights has been far from satisfactory.

An estimated 80 per cent of people with disabilities live in developed countries. What is more, there is a well-established correlation between poverty
and disability: the poor among those with disabilities constitute a disproportionate 20 per cent of the world's population that subsists on less than a
dollar a day. A potentially far-reaching benefit of the new approach is that, with disability proclaimed to be a mainstream issue, the status of such persons
will be reflected in national assessments of development and poverty reduction strategies and corresponding international frameworks, as in the case of
gender and HIV/AIDS mainstreaming performances. The Optional Protocol to the convention provides for its effective monitoring through individual petitions
when other avenues are exhausted, and a designated committee. As of May 15, 2008, the convention had won 129 signatures and 26 ratifications, and the optional
protocol 71 signatures and 16 ratifications. Bangladesh was the only SAARC country to have ratified both convention and additional protocol. India ratified
the convention on October 1, 2007 but is yet to ratify the optional protocol. There is no good reason for a country that has adopted a fairly radical Right
to Information law to hold back on the additional protocol, which puts the emphasis on monitoring and guaranteed enforcement of the rights of persons with
disabilities.

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