Post Date: September 18, 2006

A United Nations ad hoc committee has recently adopted the first treaty draft of the 21st century that recognizes the rights of disabled persons. Instrumental in reaching this disability milestone were international human rights experts, former visiting professor Michael Stein ’88, and Gerard Quinn LL.M.’85 S.J.D.’89. Working in conjunction with Stein and Quinn on the treaty and related issues, were HLS Vice Dean Bill Alford ’77 and Professor Ryan Goodman.

The pursuit of innovative treaty measures that recognize the various challenges the disabled face has been ongoing for more than four years, and eight ad hoc U.N. sessions.

During a critical stage in the negotiations last December, the group organized a conference at HLS that brought in experts from around the world to discuss human rights focused on the issue of disabilities. Working with three different HLS programs, they provided a unique discussion forum where international experts were able to openly and objectively voice their opinions.

As a result of the HLS efforts — and others who fought for disability rights — the approved treaty draft will go before the 192-nation General Assembly for a final vote next month. The convention would likely take effect in 2008 or 2009, and while it does not create new rights, it does prohibit discrimination against persons with disabilities in all areas of life, including civil rights, access to justice and the right to education, health services and transportation. When implemented, the new treaty will ultimately affect more than 600 million people worldwide who suffer from disabilities.

Click here for additional information regarding the UN disability treaty.