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WHY WE WISH TO ADOPT A LEGALLY BINDING INSTRUMENT AND WHAT KINDS OF LEGAL INSTRUMENTS TO CONSIDER

Statement by

Minister Counsellor Marianne Løwenhaupt Hoffmann
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
on behalf of the European Union

 

NEW YORK
August 1, 2002

Mr. Chairman,

I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union on why we wish to adopt a legally binding instrument, and on what kinds of legal instruments to consider. The Central and Eastern European countries associated with European Union - [...] - and the associated countries [...] and [...] have expressed their wish to align themselves with this statement.

Mr. Chairman,

We truly appreciate your efforts as well as those of the members of the bureau to make sure that the four matters of principle raised in our statement yesterday will be duly addressed. We look forward to a fruitful exchange of views regarding all four issues.

We fully support the idea put forward by several delegations that such matters should be addressed also in the format of panel discussions. All views of experts in the field must be heard and all experiences be harvested.

We hope that the ideas put forward in our Position Paper, which is available as an official document today, will contribute to our common endeavours to establish the best possible protection of human rights of persons with disabilities.

Why a Legally Binding Instrument?

Mr. Chairman,

Concerning the question "why a legally binding instrument should be adopted", the European Union takes the view that such an instrument is justified for the following reasons.

It assumes that a legal instrument would not primarily create new international legal standards. Rather, it assumes that it will mainly take the existing general international human rights standards in the six core UN human rights treaties as its main departure point.  It further assumes that such an instrument would add real value to this general corpus of human rights law by making it more directly and visibly relevant in the context of disability.

First of all, the European Union takes the view that such an instrument could considerably raise the visibility of disability as a human rights issue. The very drafting process itself could contribute to raising visibility of disability as a human rights issue. Now it would appear that the relevant jurisprudence is fragmented and not as coherent as it might be on the question of disability as a human rights issue across all six core UN human rights instruments.  A composite or thematic instrument could help to put beyond doubt the core thesis of the modern disability movement, namely that disability is first and foremost a human rights issue.

Secondly, the European Union sees the elaboration of a legally binding instrument as an important complement to the six core treaties and should not undermine existing standards and monitoring mechanisms.

We are conscious that strides have been made over the years to ensure that disability receives the attention it deserves under the monitoring mechanisms of the six core human rights treaties.  The process of steadily mainstreaming disability as a human rights issue under each of the six core human rights instruments is underway already. Yet more can and should be done to mainstream disability into these monitoring mechanisms.

A single composite or thematic instrument could considerably move forward this process of mainstreaming disability under the six core treaties.  The European Union takes the view that an appropriate monitoring mechanism could enable one body to focus on disability and thus develop an expertise and insight that could be usefully used by the other six monitoring mechanisms. The European Union takes the view that the multiplier effect of creating a space for this expertise to develop would have great potential.

Thirdly, a legally binding instrument could serve to deepen and broaden understanding by States Parties regarding disability as a human rights issue with regard to their exact legal obligations towards persons with disabilities under international law.  Such clarity as to State obligations could help to focus the minds of States on disability as a human rights issue and materially help them to formulate appropriate national strategies.

Moreover, such an instrument could help to serve the purpose of ensuring reasonable coherence between States Parties with respect to their overall national strategies.

Finally, the European Union is only too well aware that, while all the six core human rights treaties have real relevance in the context of disability, most of this relevance remains relatively underdeveloped.

Which Kind of Legal Instrument.

With respect to the shape and content of a legal instrument, the European Union is conscious that a wide variety of options exist.

One option would be to elaborate an instrument focusing on general or transcendent principles that are particularly relevant in the context of disability such as equality and non-discrimination.  Such an instrument could draw out the relevance of equality and non-discrimination in the context of disability with respect to all or selected human rights that are particularly relevant.

A second option would be to elaborate a general human rights treaty containing both sets of rights, or relevant rights from both sets (civil and political and economic, social and cultural), and to draw out their specific relevance and application in the context of disability.

A third option would be to elaborate a more narrowly crafted instrument focusing on one or the other sets of rights (civil and political or economic, social and cultural) and to make them relevant and applicable in the context of disability.

A fourth option would entail the elaboration of an instrument containing broad or general principles in the context of disability.

Yet another option might entail elaborating Optional Protocols to the existing core human rights treaties.

The European Union looks forward to discussing the above options and would invite experts to express themselves regarding advantages and disadvantages on relating to these.

The initial preference of the European Union, with respect to the shape and content of a legal instrument, would be for one containing general principles including mainly equality and non-discrimination with respect to human rights in the context of disability.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

 

 

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