The adoption of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), as well as an Optional Protocol, on 13 December 2006 was a landmark in a number of respects. It became the first disability-specific human rights treaty and was negotiated in a shorter time than any other human rights convention in the history of international law. Moreover, it has attracted swift ratification by States, second only to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The CRPD was opened for signature on 30 March 2007 and entered into force on 3 May 2008.
While strategic frameworks like the Biwako Millennium Framework for Action continue to play an important role in highlighting disability issues, prior to the adoption of the CRPD, there was no legally binding international instrument that provided a comprehensive approach to respect, protect and fulfil the rights of persons with disabilities.
An increasing number of countries in the Asian and Pacific region have signed and even ratified the CRPD, demonstrating commitment to this important international instrument. It is expected that many more countries in the region will demonstrate such commitment in the near future.
In order to attain greater progress in realizing the rights of persons with disabilities, it is important that national legislation is harmonized with the CRPD. With this in mind, in June 2009, ESCAP and OHCHR convened an “Expert Group Meeting (EGM) on Harmonization of National Legislation with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Asia and the Pacific”. In addition, a series of consultants were commissioned to write papers discussing the challenges and opportunities countries across the region face in this context.
The papers, including the report of the EGM, act as a valuable resource, as they provide useful insights for governments and other stakeholders working to harmonize national legislation with the CRPD. The papers give an indication of the many pertinent issues that need to be addressed in that regard. They also discuss progress made and suggest recommendations for further action, so that persons with disabilities may enjoy full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.