The UN and Persons with Disabilities

Photo by Harsh Jhaveri
Photo by Harsh Jhaveri

On 13 December 2006, the General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol (A/RES/61/106). This first human rights treaty of the 21st century was negotiated with the active and constructive participation of NGOs. The convention speaks throughout of “persons with disabilities” instead of “disabled persons,” thus emphasizing that persons with disabilities are first and foremost “persons” - persons who have the characteristic of having a disability. 

The convention has enjoyed widespread support from the beginning and entered into force in less than 18 months, on 3 May 2008. Today, more than 50% of the UN Member-States are a party to the treaty. For more information, please visit the website of United Nations Enable which is the official website of the Secretariat for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Every year, the UN commemorates the International Day of Persons with Disabilities on 3 December. The theme for 2011 is Together for a better world for all: Including persons with disabilities in development.” 

Commemorating this special day is a chance to raise greater awareness of the human rights of persons with disabilities, be it their social, cultural and economic rights, or their civil and political rights. For those who wish, December 3 could also be an excellent occasion to take concrete action, for example by organizing a public gathering or discussion forum. Another way of advocating for persons with disabilities would be to take action to further implement international norms and standards designed to protect this vulnerable group of persons.


Cecile Meijer, rscj
November 2011