Power Grid Blog
The CRPD Counts in the World
January 28, 2013 | Julie Arostegui
On December 4, 2012 the United States Senate failed to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), the international human rights treaty that guarantees equality, freedom, and opportunity for people with disabilities around the globe. The U.S. was a leader during negotiations of the treaty in 2006, under President Bush, and President Obama signed the treaty in 2009. The CRPD enjoyed strong bipartisan support until the end, when a few right wing activists let fear of the United Nations and other misunderstandings of the treaty trump basic human dignity.
At the very time that the CPRD was defeated in the Senate, I was in Africa, specifically Uganda and Rwanda, two countries that know very well about issues of sovereignty, conflict, and disability. What struck me was how much the CRPD mattered there. These countries do not view human rights treaties as documents that they sign onto merely as a formality; nor do they view being part of an international community as a threat. To these countries that suffered colonization until recently, having status as independent states that can be part of international bodies and sign important treaties in their own right is a privilege and one that they utilize proudly. And the CRPD matters to them. They take it seriously. People talk about it. They want it to be implemented. There is discussion of it in the media, amongst advocacy groups, and in calls for proposals to work on its implementation. It means something.
The CRPD should mean something in the United States too. It will not require any changes to legislation, nor any additional funding, but will provide us an important tool for global advocacy. Those who argue that we will be ceding our sovereignty to the United Nations just don’t understand how the United Nations works. Because of our adoption of the ADA and other disability rights legislation, the United States is viewed internationally as a pioneering role model for disability rights. We were a leader in negotiating the treaty. Our past two presidents have supported it. The world supports it. To date, 127 countries have ratified the CRPD. Let us not be left behind. Let us continue to be a global leader on disability rights. I hope that, someday soon, I can feel that it matters in our country just as I have felt that it matters in others.