Brussels, 30 November 2009
Council decides on the European Community becoming a party to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD)
On 26 November 2009 the Council paved the way for the conclusion, by the European Community (EC), of the 2006 UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). The Convention is the first international legally binding instrument establishing minimum standards for the protection and safeguarding of a full range of civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights of persons with disabilities around the world. It is also the first comprehensive human rights convention to which the EC is becoming a party.
Just ahead of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (3 December), and in accordance with the explicit request from the European Parliament, the Council decided to give the green light for the European Community to conclude the UN Convention that aims to ensure that people with disabilities can enjoy all human rights and fundamental freedoms on an equal basis with others. The Decision was taken on the basis of a Commission proposal of 29 August 2008.
On this occasion, Vladimir Špidla, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities said: "This decision is a real milestone for the European Union, as its commitment to promote and protect the rights of persons with disabilities is now reinforced by its agreement to become party to this important international Treaty. In partnership with Member States and with persons with disabilities, we will work hard to ensure its effective implementation throughout the EU."
In this context the Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy, Benita Ferrero-Waldner said: “Worldwide, persons with disabilities still experience discrimination, stigmatisation, social exclusion and violation of their rights. This UN Convention is filling an important protection gap in international human rights law as it recognises disability as a human rights issue and a matter of law instead of a mere welfare matter. Today’s decision on the conclusion of the UN Convention is an important step in the EU’s continuous efforts to protect and promote the rights of persons with disabilities worldwide".
The Council Decision will later be followed by the deposit with the UN of the instrument of formal confirmation when all Member States have completed the ratification of the UNCRPD. 12 Member States have already ratified the Convention. The conclusion by the EC will take effect once the instrument has been deposited.
The European Commission is t herefore calling on the remaining Member States to speed up their ratification processes. At the same time the Commission is working on a range of implementation measures, including the preparation of a new European Disability Strategy 2010-2020.
Outside the EU, the European Commission continues its efforts to protect and promote the rights of disabled p ersons, not least by the systematic inclusion of persons with disabilities in EU development co-operation. Since 2000, the European Commission has funded over 280 projects targeting persons with disabilities in 69 countries.
The annual Conference of 3 and 4 December t o mark the European Day of People with Disabilities, organised by the Commission in close co-operation with the European Disability Forum (EDF), will provide another opportunity to promote a better understanding of the UNCRPD, this year with a special focus on issues related to independent living.
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