The Equality and Human Rights Commission has warned that delays to the ratification of a United Nations disability rights charter could jeopardise the UK’s reputation as an international disability rights leader.
The watchdog today followed parliament’s joint committee on human rights in criticising the government’s delay in ratifying the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and a “lack of transparency” over the ratification process.
The UK signed up to the convention in March 2007 but ratification has been put back until this spring due to attempts by a number of government departments to opt-out of certain aspects of the charter.
Today, EHRC commissioner Baroness Jane Campbell wrote to secretaries of state at the departments concerned – children’s secretary Ed Balls, work and pensions secretary James Purnell, home secretary Jacqui Smith and defence secretary John Hutton.
They are proposing “reservations” from the convention on education, benefits appointees, immigration and military service. However, the commission said many of the precise details of the reservations and the government’s justification for them were unknown, while the government had not consulted publicly on them.
Campbell urged the secretaries of state to publish the details and justifications for all proposed reservations and any interpretative declarations – under which signatory countries specify how they understand elements of the convention – and called for a public consultation.
Reputation at risk
She said: “I know that you will understand why any perceived resistance to openness and consultation on the matter of ratifying the convention would risk damaging the government’s reputation in the area of disability rights where it should otherwise be extremely proud of its achievements.”