The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Making the Convention Real and Meaningful for people with intellectual disabilities and their families

Presented by Anna MacQuarrie

Canada Ratifies March 11, 2010

What is the CRPD

  • In 50 articles, the CRPD clearly articulates what existing human rights mean within a disability context and establishes reporting and monitoring procedures for States Parties.
  • Has an Optional Protocol (OP) which provides for a complaints mechanism. The OP allows groups and individuals, after having exhausted all national resources, to have the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities consider a claim that a State Party has violated the provisions in the CRPD.
  • Does NOT establish new rights
  • It’s purpose is: To promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities, and to promote respect for their inherent dignity

Why a Convention?

  • Global Context of Disability

Global Context of Disability

  •  There are at least 650 million people with disabilities living in the world.
  • Approximately 400 million of whom live in a developing country
  • If they all lived together in the same place, they would make up the third largest country in the world.
  • A country around the size of the European Union.
  • It would be the least educated country; with the highest rate of infant mortality; few employment opportunities and restricted access to democratic processes.Without doubt, it would be the poorest country in the world. 400 Million R (

We Know That

  • Of the estimated 650 million persons living with a disability in the world today 130 million have an intellectual disability
  • If one includes families, there are approximately 2 billion persons who are directly affected by disability in the world, representing almost a third of the population.
  • 80% persons with disabilities live in developing countries
  • An estimated 80% of persons with disabilities are unemployed.
  • Less than 2% of children with disabilities in developing countries are attending school
  • While people with disabilities, make up about 10% of the world's population, they make up 20% of those living in poverty.
  • This means an estimated 26 million people with an intellectual disability living on less than $1/day.

Why a UN Convention?

  • Understand disability differently
  • Understand rights differently
  • Existing human rights documents were not making a real difference for people with disabilities and their families

A Convention of Many “Firsts”

  •  First human rights treaty of the 21st Century;
  • Fastest negotiated human rights Convention in UN history
  • First time in history civil society actively participated in the development and negotiation of the text;
  • First human rights Convention with an explicit social development dimension;
  • With 82 signatories on March 30, 2007, it has the highest number of signatories in history to a UN Convention.
  • First time Canada signs a convention on opening day

A Different Convention

  • Participatory
  • Informed by Self Advocates
  • Informed by Families

New Understanding

  • Understands disability as a set of barriers, convention firmly rooted in this perspective and seen as a tool to drive this shift.
  • Understands that rights are made real in our communities not in isolation
  • Explicit social development dimension.
  • Provides a road map to help governments make a difference

New Approach = Results

  • Not just a listing of human rights talks about the supports people need to make their rights real
  • No new rights but does have new concepts
  • Supported decision making
  • RIGHT to live in the community; choose where and with whom one lives
  • Supported not just in Geneva but new York too 

Why the CRPD is Important

  • It says people that the rights of people with disabilities have not been respected
  • It explains how rights must be protected
  • It tells government how to support those rights
  • It says the UN will make sure governments respect the Convention

What Ratification means

  • Legally binding on Canada to not contradict anything in the CRPD
  • Have to report on progress
  • Can be part of international committee monitoring the CRPD

Canada’s Reservation

  • “Canada recognizes that persons with disabilities are presumed to have legal capacity on an equal basis with others in all aspects of their lives. Canada declares its understanding that Article 12 permits supported and substitute decision-making arrangements in appropriate circumstances and in accordance with the law.
  • To the extent that Article 12 may be interpreted as requiring the elimination of all substitute decision-making arrangements, Canada reserves the right to continue their use in appropriate circumstances and subject to appropriate and effective safeguards. With respect to Article 12(4), Canada reserves the right not to subject all such measures to regular review by an independent authority, where such measures are already subject to review or appeal.



Change Agent or Status Quo?

  • Change won’t happen overnight but CRPD can make a difference
  • Provides a framework for change
  • Informed by the voice of families and self-advocates
  • Engages our voice – not just lawyers, governments
  • A valuable information and legal tool
  • Nothing About Us Without Us 2.0

What we need to make the CRPD Real

  • Dialogue – Between governments, civil society and the disability community are essential for developing a shared understanding of the CRPD
  • Focal Point – It is critical that the CRPD have a publicly accessible focal point in Government and that a consultation mechanism be established.
  • Resourced Plan for Implementation – To effectively implement the CRPD, an appropriately resourced plan should be developed in collaboration with the consultation mechanism to guide implementation.
  • Submission of NGO Reports – All States Parties are required to report to the Committee; Civil society can submit reports as well.



What it means to us

  • A tool
  • information tool, advocacy tool, litigation tool, give meaning to the words
  • An accountability mechanism ⇒Participate in monitoring
  • Opportunity to share/learn good practice ⇒ E.g. Canada, Hungary, India, Ethiopia, Colombia, Czech Republic, Mexico, Lebanon, Zanzibar, Salamanca, Berlin




  • Support innovative practices
  • Support to monitoring and reporting at the national level
  • Analysis, development of litigation strategies; and monitoring across key issue areas
  • Development of tools and resources to support implementation
  • International teams: Convention Action Teams

What Can I Do?

  • Support innovative practices
  • Support to monitoring and reporting at the national level
  • Analysis, development of litigation strategies; and monitoring across key issue areas
  • Development of tools and resources to support implementation
  • International teams: Convention Action Teams

Key Questions for Canada

  • Does the Government of Canada have a timeframe for ratification of the OP?
  • How will the Government of Canada work with people with disabilities, families and civil society to create an implementation action plan?
  • What resources will the Government of Canada put in place to make implementation a reality?
  • How will the Government of Canada work with Provincial/Territorial and Aboriginal governments on implementation?
  • Will the Government of Canada establish a CRPD working group with representation from governments and civil society?
  • Will Canada nominate a person to the Committee of Experts

The CRPD Update


►144 CRPD
► 88 Optional Protocol

►85 CRPD
►52 Optional Protocol
  • Conference of States Parties September 2010
  • Committee of Experts (12) October 2009 – expanding in September 2010
  • Bureau: President: Mexico; Vice-Presidents: Hungary, Jordan, New Zealand and South Africa
  • Elected Members of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: Bangladesh, Qatar, Hungary, Spain, Slovenia, China, Jordan, Australia, Chile, Ecuador, Tunisia, Kenya

Learn More

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