Opponents of ratification put forth two arguments that do not hold up. First, they say if we are not committed to complying with everything literally in the CRPD, U.S. ratification is meaningless and empty. Second, they say by allowing reservations, understandings, and declarations (RUDs) to accompany ratification of the CRPD, we violate the purpose and effect of the CRPD, which would be illegal. These two arguments are related, of course. The opponents want to stop and defeat ratification of the CRPD. However, these arguments defy logic and reflect a fundamental misunderstanding of how treaties are constructed and how countries view the ratification process.
There are three types of articles in the CRPD. The first several articles in the CRPD express the general framework of the treaty. That is the CRPD is a non-discrimination treaty related to disabilities. That means nations, which elect to sign and ratify it, promise not to discriminate against people with disabilities. The next group of articles address specific contexts or special groups; such things as -- education, employment, women, children, technology, political participation, and many others. These lay out the substantive parameters or scope of what is covered in the CRPD. They also lay out the limits on the coverage expected. The last group of articles deal with accountability and the need for nations to help each other meet treaty obligations. So, it is important to consider the whole treaty, not just pieces of it or certain words, to make a point, and possibly, misinform or alarm people.
Many countries included RUDs with their ratification to explain how they will achieve the purpose and effect of the CRPD, not to avoid or violate its provisions. That is what the U.S. Senate will do, as it did last December.
What we need to do now, as Senators Corker and McCain urged in the November 5th hearing, is sit down and draft RUDs together, which address outstanding concerns. We are almost there. Our Constitution, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the Rehabilitation Act and other disability-related laws will strongly, clearly, and unequivocally achieve the purpose and effect of the CRPD. People in good faith can resolve the few outstanding issues.