Thursday, May 8, 2014

The CRPD and Six Degrees of Separation, Take 2

This is the sample exchange I promised several blog posts ago. You might be able to use it when you reach the person who knows the senator, who has not taken a position yet on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Hopefully your contact will be able to convince the senator to support the CRPD.

It may take one, two or several phone calls or other types of contact to identify a person, who knows a particular senator well AND is comfortable/willing to talk to the senator about the CRPD. Be patient .


Introduction -- I am ( insert your name). I was given your name by (insert the name of the person who gave you this contact).

Why you are calling -- I am looking for someone who knows Senator (insert Senator's name) well and I hope you are that person.


Background -- (Insert something about yourself, where you work or the fact that you are an advocate for people with disabilities). I would greatly appreciate it if you would reach out to (insert Senator's name) and encourage him to support ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, also called the CRPD.

The Senate almost passed the CRPD in December 2012, but it fell five votes short. Right now many of us are working to identify people like you who will help us. We need at least six votes more this time around. We anticipate the possibility of Senate action on the CRPD sometime this summer.

(f you get this far, you have a chance.)


CRPD Talking Points:  

1.  The CRPD is a UN disability rights treaty that was adopted by the UN General Assembly in December 2006. Over 140 countries have already ratified this treaty. The president has signed the treaty for the U.S., but the Senate has not yet taken action on ratification. Only the Senate is required to vote on it, not the House of Representatives.

2.  The CRPD is like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). It prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability. It requires that people with disabilities, in any country which ratifies the treaty, have the same rights and opportunities available to them that are available to other people in that country.

3.  If ratification occurs in the U.S., no U.S. laws would need to be changed and no new costs would be generated.

4.  Ratification is supported by over 800 organizations, many businesses, veterans, and millions of people with disabilities, their families and friends. 

5.  Benefits if the Senate ratifies the CRPD:  If the U.S. ratifies the CRPD, experts from the U.S. will have the opportunity to sit on committees that set standards on things like accessibility in the environment and assistive technology. Experts from the U.S. will have the opportunity to provide products, services, technical assistance and training to other countries who want to learn how to comply with the CRPD. People with disabilities from the U.S. will have an easier time working and traveling abroad. If they encounter barriers related to disability they can notify the U.S. government and the U.S. government can take action to encourage the country involved to make necessary changes consistent with the CRPD. 

6.  Negative consequences if the Senate does not ratify the CRPD:  Other countries, which have ratified the CRPD, will be able to influence standard setting and seize business opportunities that should have gone to U.S. companies and experts. People with disabilities, living and/or traveling overseas, when they are aware of or encounter disability-related barriers or discrimination, will have no mechanism to request or bring about desired change.

7.  Objections to the CRPD:  The strongest objections to ratification of the disability rights treaty are concerns about parents' rights, U.S. sovereignty and access to reproductive healthcare services. 

8.  The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has draft language for a resolution on the disability rights treaty to address each of these concerns. The chairman of the committee, Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, is the person to talk to about the effects of this draft language and to discuss options for making it clearer.


Contact Senator (insert name) and ask if the senator would consider supporting the CRPD, given the wide range of benefits that would subsequently occur. (Be willing to email the eight talking points, you just shared, to the person.)


Assure the person to whom you are speaking that you are willing to provide additional information if he/she needs it.

End of conversation -- Thank the person for his/her time. Provide him/her with all of your contact information. Arrange a specific time to follow up with the person after he/she had spoken to the senator.

We have six weeks until the 24th anniversary of the ADA. Let's use this time to find these very important people and ask them to help us get the votes we need to ensure ratification by July 26, 2014.

Thank you.
Common Grounder

Monday, May 5, 2014

The CRPD and the Heritage Foundation

On May 2, 2014 the Daily News Journal ( posted a piece by the Heritage Foundation on what should be the foreign policy top priorities of the U.S. for 2014. ( Putting aside the fact that we are five months into the year 2014, is it possible that Heritage’s top five could actually help make the case for Senate ratification of the CRPD?

Heritage:  The United States faces mounting challenges abroad in 2014. With weak leadership from the White House over the past five years, the U.S. has been confronted and all too often sidelined by America’s adversaries and strategic competitors. The Obama Administration’s “leading from behind” strategy has been a spectacular failure that has led to confusion among traditional U.S. allies while emboldening the enemies of freedom.

CG:  I’ll concede that “leading from behind” was a poor choice of words that has become an over-used talking point by some, but “confusion among traditional U.S. allies” has some traction. If the Senate ratified the CRPD, the confusion among allies would be lessened, and probably will be accompanied by a sigh of relief!

Heritage:  In 2014, the U.S. should be willing to stand up to those who threaten its interests while it stands with those who share its values and goals. Foremost among those values are the principles of sovereignty and self-determination, which must be as central to U.S. foreign policy as they are sacred to its system of government.

CG: “In 2014, the U.S. should be willing to stand up to those who threaten its interests while it stands with those who share its values and goals.” Amen to that statement, especially that last clause. The CRPD contains the values and goals expressed in the U.S. Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Americans with Disabilities Act.

“Foremost among those values are the principles of sovereignty and self-determination, which must be as central to U.S. foreign policy as they are sacred to its system of government.” Conservative legal scholars in November 2013 told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee how to preserve U.S. sovereignty and self-determination in reservations, understandings, and declarations that could be put in the resolution on the CRPD.

The Heritage Foundation offered these top five foreign policy priorities for the Administration and Congress in 2014:

Heritage: 1. Halt the rise of a nuclear-armed Iran. In 2014, Washington should strengthen, not weaken, sanctions against Tehran while deploying a comprehensive missile defense system to defend the U.S. and key allies from the growing Iranian threat.

CG:  What would happen if we said to Iran after the Senate ratifies the CRPD – As a ratifier of the CRPD like Iran (Iran ratified the CRPD on 10/23/2009) the U.S. is willing to help Iran tackle its accessibility challenges in the built environment, technology, and policies so that Iranians with disabilities could more fully participate in Iranian civil society? At a minimum, Iranian attention would be diverted from the current tensions. This diversion could have positive, sustainable consequences that spill over to other foreign relations arenas.

Heritage:  2. Defend U.S. sovereignty and reform the treaty process. The administration backs a series of treaties—such as the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty, and the Law of the Sea Treaty—that would do nothing to advance U.S. national interests but would be detrimental to U.S. sovereignty by subjecting the U.S. to the unprincipled and deeply political judgment of foreign sources of authority.

CG:  Evidently Heritage is not concerned about sovereignty when it comes to Senate ratification of fish treaties, which it did very recently. I guess sovereignty only concerns Heritage if it deals with things on the water, associated with human rights, or connected to a trade advantage – a concern that is voiced when there's a political point to be made, perhaps? Consistency be damned.

Heritage:  3. Bolster allies and economic freedom in the Middle East. While the Obama Administration has rushed to engage adversaries such as Iran and Syria, longtime allies such as Israel, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia have chafed at what they regard as Washington’s neglect of their core security interests.

CG:  One of the core interests connected to security of any country is the sense of participation in community life felt by all segments of society. The U.S. could respond to the Heritage point by exporting its disabilities rights and accessibility expertise to all of the countries Heritage references – Iran, Syria (ratified the CRPD, July 10, 2009), Egypt (ratified the CRPD, April 14, 2008), Israel (ratified the CRPD, Sept. 28, 2012), and Saudi Arabia (ratified the CRPD, Jun. 24, 2009). This would be easier to do after the Senate ratifies the CRPD. Who knows, if we did that, peace and a sense of safety and partnership could spring up in many places. U.S. status, influence, and reach could be strengthened. Bruised relationships could be transformed.

Heritage:  4. Weaken the European project and strengthen the transatlantic alliance. A robust transatlantic alliance remains crucial to U.S. strategic interests, as the ongoing NATO-led operation in Afghanistan continues to demonstrate.

CG: The only way to strengthen something is by weakening something else? I think not. By ratifying the treaty, by emphasizing disability rights, the U.S. could inspire other countries to revisit common ground and reinvigorate cooperation by joining hands to implement the CRPD fully, creatively around the globe.

Heritage:  5. Reprioritize relations with key Asian democracies. The administration’s rhetoric about a U.S. “pivot” to Asia has been the worst of all worlds. Widely accepted as reality abroad, it has disillusioned American allies, but since it has not been backed up by any policy changes, it is nothing more than words. China’s aggressive moves have led to nervousness in many Asian nations that are traditionally close to the U.S., but the U.S. has failed to demonstrate steadfast leadership in response.

The U.S. should re-emphasize the value of its relationships with close allies such as Japan and South Korea.

CG:  It’s time we all start thinking out of the box. Many things are reduced to sound bites and talking points. We need to start thinking about the connections or potential connections between and among things. Fully embracing the CRPD by ratifying it will not weaken U.S. sovereignty. We need to recognize the CRPD as a strategic tool in our foreign relations toolbox. We cannot afford to ignore the potential benefit it will bring.

Thank you.
Common Grounder 

Sunday, May 4, 2014

If I Had Time with Senator Coats,This Is What I Would Tell Him about the CRPD

I was all set to write this post on a script we could use when implementing the "six degrees of separation" strategy I outlined my last blog post. Then, someone on the community Facebook page -- RatifyCRPD -- suggested I give an example of what I would say to Senator Coats of Indiana about the CRPD, if given the chance. So here goes --  

Senator Coats,

Thanks for being willing to hear from me.

You have a solid understanding and recognize the importance of alliances in today's world. You were ambassador to Germany. Last week you met with the Foreign Minister of Romania to discuss the conflict in Ukraine. You are calling for a stronger NATO presence in the Black Sea area. 

Serving on the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation and the Joint Economic Committee, you have a solid understanding and recognize the importance of businesses having opportunities to sell products not only in this country but abroad. 

Serving on the Senate Intelligence Committee, you are a strong voice for what it takes to keep us safe and increase the likelihood that the world will see more peace and less conflict. That is why I urge you to support the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

In this ever shrinking world the U.S. should not and does not stand alone. It is a member of many alliances. In fact, on a voice vote, the first week of this month the Senate approved four international treaties dealing with fishing. The international partnerships the U.S. seeks go well beyond fish, to security, human rights, military alliances, and other forms of economic parity.

Sixty-one Senators support the ratification of the CRPD. Please consider being the next one to do so. People with disabilities around the world know the role that the Americans with Disabilities Act played in the development of the CRPD. But now they and their governments wonder why the U.S. is reluctant to ratify the treaty. The treaty will not change U.S. law. That has been established by legal scholars. It will not cost money. 

U.S. ratification of the treaty will give the U.S. a seat at the table to make suggestions and help set standards that will favorably impact America's technology, especially assistive technology, companies. It will give America a voice in making the processes of government more accessible and fairer to people in faraway countries. When people are focused on things like rights, accessibility, opportunities, and economic development there is less likelihood that there will be violence, denial of rights, and disruption of civil society. Senate ratification of the CRPD will give the U.S. the credibility, the right, and the power to persuade others to spend time on things that matter in the long term.

You are very conscious of the standing of the U.S. in the world. You are strongly opposed to things that weaken or diminish it or cause our intentions to be misunderstood or misconstrued. Having been in, out, and back in Congress, and being the grandfather of eight children, you probably have a clearer view of the meaning of legacy, the value of taking the long view and supporting things that will have a lasting, positive impact. Ratification of the CRPD is one of those things. Please help us mobilize your Senate colleagues to ratify the disability rights treaty. It really matters and it needs to be done now. 

Thank you.

Common Grounder