The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and Optional Protocol

The UN’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol entered into force in Finland on 10 June 2016.

The Convention aims to:

  • ensure full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for persons with disabilities
  • promote and protect these rights and freedoms
  • promote the respect of human dignity of persons with disabilities.

Contents of the Convention

The Convention comprises 50 articles. There are cross-cutting articles which are provisions concerning

  • the purpose of the Convention
  • general principles and obligations
  • equality and non-discrimination
  • women and children with disabilities
  • awareness raising
  • accessibility
  • important definitions for the Convention.

This should be taken into account when interpreting the contents of all the articles.

The other articles in the Convention contain important provisions regarding national measures to promote the Convention as well as provisions about international cooperation, national monitoring systems, the Convention’s international monitoring system and meetings of the parties.

According to the Convention, persons with disabilities include those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which, in interaction with various barriers, may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.

The Convention will raise awareness of the rights of persons with disabilities which will improve their opportunities to participate in society. Raising awareness will influence the position of the individual through changing attitudes. The Convention will also raise the awareness of persons with disabilities of their rights.

The Convention emphasises the participation of persons with disabilities and organisations representing them on all decision making that affects them. The Convention guarantees the right of a person with disabilities to live independently as part of the community. Universal services must be accessible to persons with disabilities. Individual specialist services must also be accessible if necessary.

The Convention emphasises the importance of reasonable accommodation to ensure the rights of persons with disabilities are respected. Denial of reasonable accommodation is discrimination.

National implementation and monitoring of the Convention

The Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health are the national focal points for implementation of the Convention. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health has established a national coordination system, the National Council on Disability. The role of the Council is to ease national implementation of the Convention within government.

The duties of the autonomous and independent structure as referred to in the Convention, will be carried out by the Parliamentary Ombudsman, the Human Rights Centre and its Human Rights Delegation which form a national human rights institution. The role of this institution is to promote, protect and monitor the implementation of the Convention.

Implementation of the Convention is monitored nationally by the parties delivering reports periodically to the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The first report is to be submitted two years after the Convention comes into force. From then on reporting is to be every fourth year. Civil society has the opportunity to deliver its parallel report to the Committee. The Committee will consider the report and deliver its conclusions and recommendations relating to it.

This monitoring will complement the Optional Protocol which enables an individual or group to submit an appeal to the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities regarding a breach of his or her rights recognised under the Convention. The Optional Protocol also provides an investigation procedure into series and systematic breaches on the initiative of the Committee.