Friday, September 6, 2013

Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and Reports

Some opponents of ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) fear that the UN, through a committee and reports, will have the power to interfere with how we govern ourselves and tell parents how they must educate their children.  The words in the CRPD do not support such fears.
Articles 34 through 39 of the CRPD establish a committee to report on and describe reporting obligations of countries that have ratified the CRPD. The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is made up of 18 members, nominated by countries that have ratified the CRPD. The 18 members are elected by secret ballot and serve terms of no more than four years, but may be reelected once. Since the U.S. has not ratified the CRPD, it cannot yet nominate someone to be on the committee.

The members of the Committee must be experts in the areas covered by the CRPD. Paragraphs 3 and 4 of Article 34 give guidance on this.
3. The members of the Committee shall serve in their personal capacity and shall be of high moral standing and recognized competence and experience in the field covered by the present Convention. When nominating their candidates, States Parties [i.e., countries] are invited to give due consideration to the provision set out in article 4, paragraph 3, of the present Convention [i.e., In the development and implementation of legislation and policies to implement the present Convention, and in other decision-making processes concerning issues relating to persons with disabilities, States Parties shall closely consult with and actively involve persons with disabilities, including children with disabilities, through their representative organizations.].

4. The members of the Committee shall be elected by States Parties, consideration being given to equitable geographical distribution, representation of the different forms of civilization and of the principal legal systems, balanced gender representation and participation of experts with disabilities.

Countries that have ratified the CRPD must submit an initial report, covering two years, on their efforts to respond to the CRPD. After that, each country that has ratified the CRPD must submit a report to the committee every four years. The committee may issue suggestions or recommendations to any country about its report.

There are no enforcement powers in the CRPD if any country, which has ratified the CRPD, fails to submit a report to the committee. There is no obligation to take action on any recommendation or suggestion from the committee.

The committee must submit a report to the General Assembly of the UN every two years concerning these country reports. This is an exchange of information, nothing more. Of course, by disseminating information about how well or how poorly a country is responding to the CRPD, it is hoped that countries will learn from each other, and where warranted, take steps in the right direction. This is nothing new.

In fact for the last 36 years the Department of State has issued reports to Congress on how well other countries are doing with regard to human rights practices. In Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2012 in the Preface Secretary Kerry said –

The United States stands with people and governments that aspire to freedom and democracy, mindful from our own experience that the work of building a more perfect union – a sustainable and durable democracy – will never be complete. As part of this commitment, we advocate around the world for governments to adopt policies and practices that respect human rights regardless of ethnicity, religion, gender, race, sexual orientation, or disability; that allow for and honor the results of free and fair elections; that ensure safe and healthy workplaces; and that respect peaceful protests and other forms of dissent. The United States continues to speak out unequivocally on behalf of the fundamental dignity and equality of all persons. [See more at:]

So reports are a statement of how things are. They are an attempt to nudge others to do things in a way that fosters equality for all. That’s a good thing. It would not hurt for the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to read a U.S. report and then make suggestions and recommendations. We might learn something.

Thank you.
Common Grounder

Sunday, September 1, 2013

My Seven Steps in the Message to My Senators

1. Reason for message and credentials or interest. I urge Senate ratification of the United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). I was a member of the U.S. delegation when the CRPD was being drafted.

2. Rationale. Why must we work so hard to achieve something that is so right? The answer is clear. It matters so much. It will reinstate U.S. leadership on human rights.  It will reestablish our credibility. It will change the world.

3. Background on CRPD. On December 4, 2012, Senate ratification of the CRPD was derailed by a vote of 61 to 38.

Major points of opposition then and now are these:
  • ·       U.S. sovereignty would be weakened
  •      Decisions about the education and treatment of children with disabilities would be taken away from parents and assumed by the UN
  •      New rights to abortion would be created
  •      The claim that Americans with disabilities would benefit from more accessibility abroad is absurd

4. Importance, resources, sense of momentum – who cares. I have blogged on each of these points at I have joined friends and created a Facebook page committed to ratification of the CRPD ( Since its launch on August 9, 2013 it has acquired 2k+ likes and has had over 1,000 people a day talking about the information available through the page.

5. Why the CRPD is reasonable. I recognize that ratification of any international treaty is a serious matter. I also recognize that an international treaty addressing disability rights could be viewed as an intrusion into domestic policy. However, I counter that the words in the CRPD are carefully crafted. The words lay out what a country must do. The words do not lay out how a country does it. The strength, in the wording of what must happen and the flexibility in how it may happen, has caused 150+ countries to sign the CRPD (including the U.S.), and 130+ countries to ratify it.

6. What the Senator can do. I urge you to seek out colleagues in both parties. Find those who are willing to draft clarifications through bipartisan efforts in the Senate resolution on the CRPD. If you do, the result will be, not just the necessary 67 votes, but full Senate consensus on a resolution to ratify the CRPD.

7. What result I would like to see. During my professional career over a 19-year period I participated in the drafting of disability-related legislation for both House and Senate Committees. I saw what bipartisan cooperation could achieve. I would like to see the power of bipartisan partnership exercised in the case of the CRPD.

Thank you.
Patricia A. Morrissey, Ph.D.
Former Commissioner, Administration on Developmental Disabilities
U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services

Thank you.
Common Grounder