New Handbook on Disability Rights

Posted on 21 October 2007. Filed under: Announcements, Human Rights, News, Resources | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |


Press Release

OHCHR, IPU, and UNDESA launch handbook for the new Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities

Geneva, 8 October 2007

The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), and the United Nations Department for Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) recently launched a handbook on the newly adopted Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol, aimed at raising the awareness of this new legal instrument among parliamentarians. The handbook will particularly enable legislators to become more familiar with the Convention and provide them with the tools to facilitate its ratification and subsequent implementation.

Persons with disabilities – some 650 million worldwide – remain amongst the most marginalized in every society. While the international human rights framework has changed lives everywhere, persons with disabilities have not reaped the same benefits. To fill this gap, the United Nations General Assembly adopted in December 2006 the new Convention and its accompanying Optional Protocol.

“Parliaments and parliamentarians have a key role to play in promoting and protecting human rights. This Handbook is our contribution to help bring down barriers, remove prejudices, and outlaw discrimination in the area of disability. We stand behind the new Convention as an important tool to help persons with disabilities achieve the transition from exclusion to equality”, said the IPU Secretary General, Mr. Anders B. Johnsson.

“The Convention, the first human rights treaty of the new century, marks a historic step in ensuring that disabled persons enjoy full participation in society and can contribute to the community to their full potential. I hope that the Handbook, in addition to raising awareness, will foster the speedy ratification of the Convention so to end the protection vacuum that has, in practice, affected persons with disabilities”, said Louise Arbour, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

“The Convention has enormous potential to advance the great goals of human rights and development for all. It provides a framework where all stakeholders can work together to create policy and practices that lead to societies where persons with disabilities are fully appreciated, acknowledged, and encouraged to flourish. Parliamentarians have a crucial role to perform in this effort, hence the launch of this Handbook”, added Mr. Sha Zukang, UN Under-Secretary General for Economic and Social Affairs.

The English version of the Handbook was launched October 8, 2007, before some 600 legislators attending the 117th IPU Assembly in Geneva. French, Spanish, and Arabic translations were launched in spring 2008. The Handbook will also be available online on the websites of IPU, OHCHR and UNDESA.

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) will enter into force after twenty ratifications are received. As of today, 117 countries have signed the Convention and 7 have ratified it. In addition, 67 countries have signed, and 3 countries ratified, the optional protocol. The CRPD prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities, with specific provisions related to rehabilitation, habilitation, education, employment, health and access to information, public facilities and services. The Optional Protocol addresses how individuals or groups can seek redress for violations of the CRPD once national remedies are exhausted. The original text of the CRPD is available in English, Spanish, French, Arabic, Russian, or Chinese. The plain-language version of the CRPD is available at

Advocates are able to use a pair of guidebooks from Disabled People International to help them persuade their governments to sign, ratify, and fully implement the CRPD. The guidebooks–a ratification toolkit and an implementation toolkit–are available in English, Spanish, or French at

Established in 1889 and with its Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, the IPU – the oldest multilateral political organization in the world – currently brings together 147 affiliated parliaments and seven associated regional assemblies. The world organization of parliaments has an Office in New York, which acts as its Permanent Observer to the United Nations.

The Office of the High Commissioner is the principal United Nations department responsible for United Nations human rights activities. It is mandated to promote and protect all civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.

The main development department of the United Nations, the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) works on a wide range of economic, social and environmental issues, with the core mission of promoting development for all.

Contacts : IPU: Ms. Luisa Ballin, IPU Information Officer. Tel.: +41 22 919 41 16, e-mail: or IPU website:

OHCHR: Mr. Yvon Edoumou, Information Officer. Tel. +41 22 917 9383; e-mail: OHCHR website:;

UN: Mr. Edoardo Bellando, Information Officer. Tel. +1 212 963 8275; e-mail: UN website:

Most of the text for this announcement is taken from a press release. We Can Do modified this press release particularly to add background information on the convention and to add links to the handbook and other useful information, as well as to alter verb tense as relevant. It was edited in June 2008 to note the availability of Spanish, French, and Arabic translations.

Also see a subsequent United Nations story from after the launch.

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