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Anti-Business and Anti-Freedom: The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

In the American Spectator, CEI Vice President for Strategy Iain Murray and Geoffrey McLatchey explain why the Senate should be skeptical of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which fell six votes short of the 67 needed for ratification last December.  As they note, "the treaty would enable an enormous increase in the potential power of UN bureaucrats over the American people and undermine national sovereignty."  Moreover, although "CRPD proponents argue that it merely reiterates existing U.S. disability law," this is simply false, based on the treaty's plain language.

It also delegates authority to a UN committee, they note, resulting in a "loss of U.S. sovereignty." UN committees like to define free speech as discrimination against minority groups in violation of international treaties, making it dangerous to ratify such treaties.  For example, the  U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has ruled Germany violated international law by not prosecuting a former legislator for remarks to a scholarly journal about Turkish-immigrant welfare recipients that were deemed racially offensive. The UN committee ruled Germany's failure to prosecute the speaker violated the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

As Murray and McLatchey point out, "Under CRPD Article 34, U.S. policy would be subject to the 'Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities,' a U.N.-appointed panel consisting of 12 'experts.' The history of other UN bodies [such as] the Human Rights Council — which includes countries with a long history of human rights abuses and hostility toward the United States — is not encouraging. And the Convention’s vague language — such as defining disabilities as 'an evolving concept' — suggests the Committee will have ample opportunity to redefine terms to America’s disadvantage."

Subjecting American policies to the UN is a bad idea, especially given many UN officials' anti-American ideologies. Such hostility is illustrated by the disturbing remarks blaming America for the Boston terrorist bombing by “Richard A. Falk, the U.N. ‘human rights’ official and Princeton professor. . . .Commenting on the Boston bombing, Falk wrote, “Should we not all be meditating on W.H. Auden’s haunting line: ‘Those to whom evil is done/do evil in return’?” “The American global domination project is bound to generate all kinds of resistance in the post-colonial world.”

As Murray and McLatchey note, "The CRPD also requires the United States to set up a propaganda agency. Yes, you read that right. Article 8 states that signatories must take “immediate and effective measures…to raise awareness throughout society, including at the family level, regarding persons with disabilities, and to foster respect for the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities.” It becomes the federal government’s duty to “combat stereotypes… in all areas of life” by “initiating and maintaining effective public awareness campaigns.”

We previously explained how the CRPD could harm small business and civil liberties at this link.  Cato Institute legal analyst Walter Olson highlighted troublesome provisions in the treaty in an article in The Daily Caller, and a followup analysis at Cato at Liberty.  As Olson pointed out, other mandates in the treaty that go beyond current U.S. law include costly “requirements for ‘guides, readers and professional sign language interpreters" for facilities that currently don't require them.  As I previously noted, this would appear to partly override the Supreme Court's decision in Southeastern Community College v. Davis (1979) limiting the degree of accommodation that can be imposed. They also seem to impose new insurance mandates that call into question fundamental actuarial principles used by prudent insurers.