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U.S. Disgrace at UN Convention Signing Ceremony - No Pity: A Community for People with Disabilities [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
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U.S. Disgrace at UN Convention Signing Ceremony [Apr. 4th, 2007|07:12 am]
No Pity: A Community for People with Disabilities



I got this via the Justice For All mailing list, run by the American Association of People with Disabilities. It's from the head of the National Council on Independent Living.

Last Friday, as President of the United States International Council on Disability (USICD) and Executive Director of NCIL, I had the honor to represent both organizations at the United Nations as a witness to the initial signing of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

As I sat in the observers' area on the floor of the UN's General Assembly Hall, delegates from 80 nations and the European Community took their turn at the official signing table to commit their country to the human and civil rights of people with disabilities.

At several points, my eyes welled with tears. They should have been tears of joy and pride as an American, as a citizen in the country that had created this world-wide movement for the rights and empowerment of people with disabilities. Instead, they were tears of shame and embarrassment in being an American.

I do not relate these feelings to you, my friends and colleagues in the Independent Living Movement, lightly or as a passive observer. Almost 40 years ago, I acquired my spinal cord injury as a Marine Platoon Commander in combat just east of Hue City, Viet Nam. I had become a Marine out of a Kennedy era inspired desire to defend my country and the principles for which we stand "that all men are created equal -- with certain unalienable rights -- Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness." Following law school, I dedicated my career to these principles as they pertain to people with disabilities.

I was proud to work with many great Americans, many with disabilities, as part of a great movement for the rights, empowerment and independent living for all. The United States for many years took the world-wide lead with passage of Title V of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and then the Americans with Disabilities Act and many other great laws ensuring the rights and inclusion of people with disabilities.

From 1995 to 2004, I traveled many times to and then lived for four years in Viet Nam. There, I assisted Vietnamese with disabilities and their Government in establishing similar principles, laws and policies within the context of their political system. I had always been proud of my efforts in this movement and especially of my country's world leadership. For the last six years, that National pride has given way to shame, embarrassment and anger; it culminated for me emotionally last Friday during the Convention Signing Ceremony.

The UN General Assembly Hall was full; the observer galleries were packed with disabled advocates from around the world; and delegations from UN member nations huddled behind their respective desks and country signs. After initial speeches, one-by-one in alphabetical order, the delegations from the various signing nations filed to the ceremonial table to sign the treaty books.

In some cases, it was that country's ambassador to the UN. In the case of Ecuador, Vice President Lenin Moreno Garces, a wheelchair user, signed. Even the countries, who were not signing at least had representatives from their UN Mission present and sitting at their country table out of respect for the UN processes and the historic importance of the occasion all but the United States.

For the past several years of UN discussion, debate and negotiations that led to this historic day, the United States had been generally not present. When towards the end we did begin to participate, it was generally contrary and negative in nature. And then, on this truly historic day when we could have resumed continued leadership for rights for people with disabilities, the United States thumbed our noses in insolent arrogance at the United Nations, the signing countries, and the six hundred fifty million disabled people of the world.

Our country did not even have the courage to seat a representative from our Mission to the UN at our country table or to make any sort of official comment or explanation as to why the Country of the ADA was not signing on to the Convention. I was not proud to be an American. I was ashamed of my country and of myself for letting it happen.

Please join me in recommitting ourselves as advocates and leaders to human rights, empowerment and independent living for all peoples of the world. Write your Senators and President Bush today urging that the US sign and ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

John A. Lancaster, April 2, 2007.


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[User Picture]From: kynn
2007-04-04 02:43 pm (UTC)
Feel free, all I did was copy it from the email! (and add a few paragraph breaks for readability)
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[User Picture]From: zandperl
2007-04-04 02:52 pm (UTC)
Thank you for this information. I have forward it to my school's coordinator for disability services.
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[User Picture]From: wakeelf
2007-04-04 03:15 pm (UTC)
How frustrating and sad. I am going to post this on my blog if you don't mind.
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[User Picture]From: kynn
2007-04-04 04:07 pm (UTC)
I don't mind at all, go ahead.
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[User Picture]From: moontoad
2007-04-04 04:19 pm (UTC)
The thing is, these conventions really don't mean a whole lot. Saudi Arabia signed the one about the Rights of Women. We all know how women are treated there. So did Pakistan, and that isn't much better. Chances are, they wanted some things that were unconstitutional and that's why it wasn't signed. The US hasn't ratified the Rights of Women, either though they signed it in 1980


And, really. What good are international treaties for rights fighting discrimination when so many countries sign with reservations that makes the treaty essentially meaningless? Looking at the Rights of Women treaty, you can see how many countries on that list that signed it and ratified it but are obviously not against discrimination of women.

Theoretically, all UN members have a duty to combat genocide. But the UN and UN members have done little about it since the convention existed.

Questions I'd ask: Who signed with reservations? And do those reservations amount to the disabled having less rights than they do in the US under US law?
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[User Picture]From: sweet_byrd
2007-04-04 04:23 pm (UTC)
You know, not signing isn't so much the issue here (while I disagree with it, that fact in and of itself isn't necessarily personally insulting) -- it is the snub to the treaty and the UN itself by not even deigning to show up! Of course, I oughtn't be surprised by that childish show of spiteful contempt, given that this administration appointed John Bolton as ambassador to the UN.
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[User Picture]From: rainbow_goddess
2007-04-04 04:35 pm (UTC)
I just this minute received this email bulleting:

"On Friday, March 30th, at 9:00 am the Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister
of Foreign Affairs and Minister of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities
Agency, signaled Canada's intention to be a signatory to the United
Nation's Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Ottawa.
Later that morning in New York the Canadian Ambassador, John McNee,
attended the official ceremony of the Signing of the Convention on behalf
of Canada."

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From: (Anonymous)
2007-04-07 02:50 pm (UTC)
Although it is shameful of the USA not to sign, it probably makes little difference as all the UN is now is a well-paid talking shop for career politicians.

Little they do make a difference and they are never strong when they need to be.

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