Interactive Dialogue on enhancing awareness and understanding of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
March Session of the Human Rights Council
Statement by Mark Cassayre
Acting Political Counselor of the United States of America
Geneva, 6 March 2009
Thank you, Mr. President.
The United States is pleased to participate in this important dialogue on enhancing awareness and understanding of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and thanks the Office of the
High Commissioner for Human Rights for preparing this thoughtful thematic study.
President Obama encapsulated the starting point for U.S. policy on the human rights of persons with disabilities at home and around the world when he stated: “We must build a world free of unnecessary barriers, stereotypes, and discrimination…. policies must be developed, attitudes must be shaped, and buildings and organizations must be designed to ensure that everyone has a chance to get the education they need and live independently as full citizens in their communities.”
The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is an important treaty. The United States is in the early process of looking at a number of treaties to which it is not currently party. Part of this process involves a careful review of the treaty in question and domestic law in the United States to understand the extent to which treaty obligations could be implemented under existing law. We look forward to conducting such a review. Listening to, and learning from, the thoughtful presentations and observations made by this panel today will be very helpful as my government goes forward on this issue.
The United States has a long record of actively supporting the rights of persons with disabilities at home and around the world. As recently as 2008, amendments to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 were enacted that expanded and clarified the definition of “disability” and ensured that more people enjoy the protections guaranteed under this historic legislation.
Internationally, we believe there is much to be gained from exchange and information sharing on best practices with regard to inclusion and access for persons with disabilities. There are many examples of individuals with disabilities who have participated in U.S. government grant programs and who have drawn on these experiences to initiate programs in their own countries to further the rights and opportunities of persons with disabilities.
We highlight just one example on the benefits of such a project. An innovative project funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development identified five countries in which on-going elections were taking place and worked on giving people with disabilities a voice, making polling stations accessible, and having people with disabilities become election monitors, increasing their political participation and including their voices in the political arena.
There are many other positive practices and models that can be cited from the United States and from countries around the world. The United States looks forward to working with this body and UN Member States to improve the human rights and dignity of persons with disabilities globally.