Sovereignty is a principle that means a nation has control over its own affairs, how its people are governed. The U.S. is a representative democracy. U.S. citizens elect their representatives to Congress and Congress makes the laws. The President, through the Executive Branch, implements them. The federal courts make sure that federal laws, passed by Congress, are consistent with other laws, passed by Congress, and our Constitution.
When the President sends a ratification package on an international treaty to the Senate, the President describes how the treaty is consistent with U.S. laws and the Constitution. In the case of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) package, the President included specific clarifications related to how the U.S. will interpret treaty language. These clarifications were in the form of three reservations, four understandings, and one declaration (called RUDs for short). In any case if the Senate decides RUDs are not sufficiently clear or that more RUDs are needed, it can amend any ratification package. Whatever the Senate passes, by a yes-vote of at least 67 Senators, becomes the “supreme law of the land” according to our Constitution.
Some are concerned that if the CRPD is ratified that the U.N. will have the power to tell the U.S. how it does things with regard to people with disabilities. Those worried fear that a U.N. committee, set up to evaluate how each nation is responding to the CRPD, will write a report judging the U.S. And, whatever is in the report, the U.S. will have to do. Well, the fact is, these reports are not binding. That means a nation may write a response to a report, but nothing in the report forces any action whatsoever.
Another concern about U.N. interference is that a person in the U.S. could go to court and use language in the treaty to demand something. This will not happen. The CRPD package sent to the Senate includes this Declaration:
Non self-executing. The United States declares that the provisions of the convention are not self-executing, and thus would not be directly enforced by U.S. courts or of itself give rise to individually enforceable rights.
We are in good shape. The U.N. is not going to dictate how the U.S. conducts its affairs with regard to people with disabilities – only the Constitution, U.S. laws, and the ratification package and RUDs contained in it, affect what the U.S. Government does – not a U.N. committee.
After reading this, if you still have concerns, I suggest you reach out to a bipartisan pair or group of Senators to develop amendments to strengthen the sovereignty protection now in the CRPD ratification package.