EU ratification of UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

10 January 2011, Budapest. The Mental Disability Advocacy Center (MDAC) welcomes the European Union’s 23 December 2010 ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This step binds the EU institutions – the Commission, Parliament, Council and Court of Justice – to uphold the rights of persons with disabilities. 

Together with the adoption of the European Union (EU) Disability Strategy 2010-2020 launched on 15 November 2010, the EU’s ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) represents a significant commitment to raising awareness of the human rights violations experienced by persons with disabilities, mainstreaming disability rights across all areas of EU competency and taking concrete steps towards ensuring that the rights of persons with disabilities are respected, protected and fulfilled. 

The EU’s ratification is, however, only a first step. MDAC recommends the following actions as a matter of urgency: 

1. Eleven Member States have not yet ratified the CRPD (Bulgaria, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Ireland, Luxemburg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland and Romania). Following its own ratification, the EU needs to ensure a European synthesis of human rights protection. Hungary was the first EU Member State to ratify the CRPD and currently holds the rotating Presidency of the European Council. MDAC encourages the Hungarian government to use this mandate to ensure the EU Disability High Level Group (senior civil servants responsible for domestic disability policy) prioritises ratification of the CRPD and its Optional Protocol by all Member States. 

2. The European Commission should assign a monitoring framework to promote and protect the rights of people with disabilities across the EU institutions, and to monitor the EU’s compliance with the CRPD, in accordance with Article 33(2) of the CRPD. There should be a transparent process involving broad civil society consultation in establishing such a framework. Any monitoring framework should be independent from the Commission and other EU institutions, be adequately resourced, and include civil society as required by Article 33(3) of the CRPD.  

3. The European Commission should initiate a comprehensive and ongoing evaluation of compliance with respect to existing EU law and practice, and produce a publicly-available base-line report. This can be used by the independent monitoring framework, civil society and the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, to measure progress towards full CRPD implementation.  

4. To embed the CRPD’s prohibition of disability discrimination within EU law, the European Council (the Member States themselves) should continue efforts to finalize a comprehensive horizontal non-discrimination directive. Such a law would prohibit discrimination on grounds of religion or belief, age, disability or sexual orientation, whether direct or indirect, and whether based on real or presumed criteria. The directive would go beyond areas of employment to cover access to goods and services such as banking, education, transport, housing and health – which are all areas covered by the CRPD. Any such directive must specify, as the CRPD does, that a denial of reasonable accommodation to persons with disabilities constitutes discrimination.  

5. The EU and its Member States contribute significantly to international aid and development financing. Article 32 of the CRPD requires such programmes to be “inclusive of and accessible to persons with disabilities”. MDAC urges European Commission services responsible for foreign affairs, development aid, and neighbourhood policies, to take action. They should provide funding for civil society organisations in low and middle income countries to advocate for the abolition of mental health laws sanctioning the unlawful detention, ill-treatment and disenfranchisement of people with psycho-social or intellectual disabilities. Such efforts outside the EU should be matched with similar actions within each EU Member State. 

6. The EU should ratify the Optional Protocol to the CRPD, which would enable victims of alleged EU non-compliance to take their complaint to the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

For more information, contact Ngila Bevan, MDAC Legal Officer,, tel. +361 413 2730. For full disclosure, MDAC’s Senior Advocacy Officer, Gábor Gombos is a Member of the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, serving a two-year term starting 1 January 2011.