The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) was agreed in December 2006 and came into force on 3 May 2008. The Convention builds on existing international human rights instruments to "promote, protect and ensure the full enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities". The UK was closely involved in negotiating and agreeing the UNCRPD and was one of its first signatories.
We see clear benefits in UK ratification, particularly because it sends a strong signal that the Government takes equality and the protection of human rights for people with disabilities seriously. Although we have applauded the Government's commitment to the UNCRPD we make a number of specific criticisms in this Report:
- The Government intended to ratify by the end of 2008 but missed its deadline.
- A number of reservations and interpretative declarations - which would limit the effect of the UNCRPD in the UK - are under discussion within Government. These emerged at a relatively late stage and the Government has chosen not to publish draft texts. We doubt whether any of the proposed reservations and interpretative declarations are necessary and compatible with the Convention, but we have been unable to reach a final conclusion because of the absence of published drafts.
- It is not clear whether anyone within Government has challenged the necessity of the proposed reservations and interpretative declarations or their compatibility with the UNCRPD.
- There has also been insufficient consultation with disabled people and their organisations about the proposed reservations and interpretative declarations.
We call on the Government to publish the draft texts of the proposed reservations and interpretative declarations and to consult disabled people and their organisations about whether they are necessary and compatible with the Convention. We suggest that the Government can do this and still meet its new target of ratification by Spring 2009. The UK should ratify the UNCPRD as soon as possible. If the Government considers that reservations or interpretative declarations are necessary they should be fully explained and justified, to allow for effective scrutiny.
We also recommend that the UK should sign and ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention which would provide for a right of individual petition to the UN committee which monitors the UNCRPD.