August 1, 2002
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.
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?
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
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
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
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
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.