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Rights of people with disabilities

International agreements promoting the rights of persons with disabilities


Hand of a boy in a wheelchair.

Disability was long considered a problem that affected the individual and was predominantly medical in nature. In­ter­national policymakers rarely addressed the rights of disabled people as equal citizens. It is only in the past few years that political debate has begun to give more consideration to the concerns of people with disabilities.

UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

In December 2006, the UN General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). The Convention entered into force in May 2008. For Germany it became binding under in­ter­national law in March 2009.

The Convention aims to ensure that people with disabilities enjoy equal opportunities and are able to participate in social life in their coun­tries. It thus reflects the shift from an approach that focuses on the medical and charitable perspective to one centred around self-determination and realising human rights.

Millennium De­vel­op­ment Goals

Neither the Millennium Declaration, nor the Millennium De­vel­op­ment Goals (MDGs) make explicit reference to people with disabilities.

In a resolution adopted in December 2009, the UN General Assembly therefore calls on the Member States, in­ter­national and regional organisations, financial institutions, the private sector and civil society to step up their efforts to ensure that the MDGs can be implemented for people with disabilities. The Outcome Document adopted at the MDG summit in autumn 2010 also urged that more be done to give disabled people access to job opportunities and social services.

European Union

The European Union declared 2003 the "European Year of People with Disabilities". The activities undertaken during that year led to the “EU Guidance Note on Disability and De­vel­op­ment”, which was presented in 2004.

In a resolution adopted in 2006, the European Parliament called on the EU Commission to expand its de­vel­op­ment policy work for people with disabilities. One of the requirements was that the Commission should draw up a detailed action plan to ensure that the guidance note was translated into practice. In addition, a study by the EU Commission presented in November 2010 came to the conclusion that de­vel­op­ment policymakers needed additional knowledge and practical guidance in order to implement the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities successfully.

The European Commission also published a strategy, entitled European Disability Strategy 2010–2020, in November 2010.

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