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Explanation of Position on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Agenda Item 67(b), in the General Assembly

Ambassador Richard T. Miller, U.S. Representative to the UN Economic and Social Council
New York City
December 13, 2006


The United States welcomes the adoption by the General Assembly of the International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The United States was pleased to participate actively in the Ad Hoc Committee, including through providing technical assistance on our national law and policy related to disabilities and information about our foreign assistance programs in this area. We also held side events on matters of interest and regularly briefed the NGO community on our activities.

We congratulate and warmly thank all those involved in this monumental and historic process, including the Ad Hoc Committee chairpersons Ambassador MacKay of New Zealand and Ambassador Gallegos of Ecuador, their respective staffs, bureau members, the Secretariat, and members of civil society.

Our nation's commitment to the rights and dignities of persons with disabilities is embodied in our vast array of strong national laws, notably the historic Americans with Disabilities Act. The United States has shown strong leadership in combating discrimination and inequality on the basis of disability. In 2001 President Bush announced the New Freedom Initiative, designed to expand the potential for persons with disabilities to access technologies, education, workplace, and home ownership opportunities.

The United States believes that the most effective way for states to improve the real world situation of persons with disabilities from a legal perspective is to strengthen their domestic legal frameworks related to non-discrimination and equality. This approach is rooted in our own national experience with legislation such as the Americans with Disabilities Act. We hope that the Convention will assist states in this process at the national level.

There is much to be proud of in this Convention. It is based on respect for the inherent dignity and worth of all persons with disabilities. It contains strong provisions on a variety of important issues, including political participation, access to justice, accessibility, health, the crucial role of family, and end of life issues.

The Convention is firmly rooted in the principles of equality and non-discrimination. As the Chairperson and many other delegations, including the United States, have noted on countless occasions over the course of negotiations, the treaty reinforces existing rights and is aimed at assuring that persons with disabilities will be treated on an equal basis with others.

This approach was reflected in oral statements and in various places in the written travaux preparatoires, including in a footnote to the draft text of Article 25 that appeared in the report of the Seventh Ad Hoc Committee.

In this regard, the United States understands that the phrase "reproductive health" in Article 25(a) of the draft Convention does not include abortion, and its use in that Article does not create any abortion rights, and cannot be interpreted to constitute support, endorsement, or promotion of abortion. We stated this understanding at the time of adoption of the Convention in the Ad Hoc Committee, and note that no other delegation suggested a different understanding of this term.

We would also like to comment on preambular paragraph (u) of the Convention.

The United States called for a separate vote on this paragraph and voted against it because we saw it as an attempt to politicize what had otherwise been a very productive and focused negotiation process.

We were also concerned that the reference in this human rights convention to armed conflict and foreign occupation, which are governed by international humanitarian law and not human rights law, would create unnecessary legal confusion and thus potentially undermine the extensive protections already available under international humanitarian law to protected persons in those situations. The United States wishes to note for the official record its continued concerns related to this preambular paragraph in the Convention. We note that these concerns also apply to Article 11, which deals with situations of armed conflict.

My delegation reiterates its congratulations to all involved in this very significant process.

Thank you.

Released on December 13, 2006

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