On Wednesday, December 13, members of the HLS community and representatives of international disability rights organizations scored a major victory when the UN General Assembly adopted the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the first human rights treaty of the 21st century to promote and protect the rights of the disabled.

Many human rights advocates were involved in helping draft the historic treaty and in pushing for its adoption, including HLS Professors William Alford ’77, Ryan Goodman, Visiting Scholar Michael Stein ’88 and former Visiting Fellow Gerard Quinn LL.M. ’85, S.J.D. ’89. In December 2005, they hosted a conference of experts from around the globe to discuss disability rights and bring large-scale exposure to the matter.

According to UN Deputy Secretary-General Mark Malloch Brown, the new Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was the most rapidly negotiated human rights treaty in the history of international law. The convention will require ratifying nations “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.” The convention also requires governments to fight stereotypes of people with disabilities, and to promote awareness of the capabilities of those who are disabled.

On February 16-17, 2007, HLS’s Human Rights Program, International Legal Studies Program, and East Asian Legal Studies will host a “National Human Rights Institutions Conference on Implementing the UN’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.” The conference hopes to unite representatives from national human rights commissions from around the world.