Answering the Call on the Disability Treaty

November 22, 2013| by Chris Whatley, UNA-USA Executive Director

Over the long arc of its history, our Association has been about action.  Whether it was providing volunteers to staff the public affairs arm of the new UN headquarters in the 1950’s or our ongoing effort to provide UNDP with grassroots input on the Post-2015 development agenda, when called to action by UN leaders, our members rise to the challenge.  In asking for our support for the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD), U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power has issued just such a call to action to UNA-USA. 

Ambassador Power spoke passionately about the importance of the UN Disability Treaty at UNA’s Global Leadership Dinner on November 6 and thanked UNA for our support to date.  However, just this week she reached out to us again to ask us to use our network of grassroots UN supporters to spread the word on the importance of this vital treaty.    

The Disability Treaty has received overwhelming support from a diverse coalition including human rights supporters, veterans groups, and the US. Chamber of Commerce.  It would ensure that the rights and reasonable accommodations that American already enjoy at home through the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) will be enjoyed around the world.   The treaty fell five votes short of ratification last year, but the Senate is taking it up again now and may hold another vote as early as the end of this year.

To answer this new call to action, I’m asking every Chapter and Campus Advocate group that hosts a Human Rights Day event this December to include a component dedicated to the UN Disability Treaty.  By using the 40+ events UNA holds around the country on Human Rights Day to highlight the treaty we can ensure that a clear UNA voice rings out in favor of human rights and the dignity of all people.  I also encourage all UNA members to make their individual voices heard by emailing your Senators.

As Secretary Kerry told the Senate this week while testifying on the Treaty, “We have the opportunity to change lives for the better for a lot of people in the world. That’s what America’s all about.” I couldn’t agree more — and I know you’ll agree that it’s what UNA is all about too.