Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Today, 30 days after the minimal 20th ratification, it marks birth of the first Human Rights Convention of the 21st century. This convention will come into force on 31 May 2008. What is this Convention about in a nutshell?

“The Convention marks a “paradigm shift” in attitudes and approaches to persons with disabilities. It takes to a new height the movement from viewing persons with disabilities as “objects” of charity, medical treatment and social protection towards viewing persons with disabilities as “subjects” with rights, who are capable of claiming those rights and making decisions for their lives based on their free and informed consent as well as being active members of society.”

True to its spirit of avoiding binding commitment to international agreements spun off from the Declaration of Human Rights, Singapore has not ratified this convention yet. In fact, our government has only 2 ratifications (or more accurately accessions) in the list of 16 agreements in the International Convenant of Civil and Political Rights. These two are the Convention on the Rights of the Child and Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. The mindset of our government is that it is better to avoid any legal obligations in signing such international agreements, rather than to sign them and then break the commitments.

I am no UN realpolitik expert, but I’m sure there is a way out of this yes or no approach – what about the use of Reservations when ratifying a Convention? Is that a feasible get-out-of-fix card?


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