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Landmark victory in human rights battle as EU concludes UN convention on the rights of persons with disabilities

Brussels, 5 January 2011 /// The European Union  formally concluded the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on 23 December 2010, becoming the first intergovernmental group to sign on to any human rights treaty. The European disability movement has been working hard to make sure the EU conclude the Convention by the end of 2010. The European Disability Forum and Autism-Europe welcome this development, which is a significant landmark and will help improve the lives of 80 million persons with disabilities – amongst them, persons with autism – in Europe.

The disability movement welcomes the historic ratification

This represents a major policy shift toward enforcing human rights for all Europeans and putting disability on top of the human rights agenda.

The disability movement acknowledges the key role of the Belgian Presidency that committed to concluding the UN Convention and succeeded in doing so.

The next steps to ensure the success of the implementation

First, the UN Convention asserts that every state party of the Convention has to establish a focal point for the coordination of implementation. At European level, a concrete action that the human rights activists call for as a next step is the designation of the office of the European Commission’s Secretary General to make sure disability is mainstreamed everywhere.

The European disability movement calls on the incoming Hungarian Presidency to actively work towards the implementation in the first months of 2011. This necessary step will improve the lives of millions of European citizens with disabilities.

Secondly, the European disability movement is stressing the importance of the involvement of the civil society organisations in the implementation of the treaty. 

How does it bind the Members States and the EU?

All the institutions of the European Union will now have to endorse the values of the Convention in all policies under their competence ensuring mainstreaming of disability: from transport to employment and from information and communication technologies to development cooperation. It also means that they have to adjust the accessibility of their own buildings, their own employment and communications policy.