Development and human rights for all

Chapter Four: Becoming a party to the Convention and the Optional Protocol


Types of declarations to the Convention and Optional Protocol

Under the Convention, States may make declarations only in the form of interpretive declarations. Under the Optional Protocol, States may make interpretative declarations and optional declarations.

  • Interpretative declarations

A State or regional integration organization may also make a statement about its understanding of a matter contained in or the interpretation of a particular provision in a treaty. Such statements are called “declarations” or “interpretative declarations.” Unlike reservations, these declarations do not purport to exclude or modify the legal effects of a treaty. The purpose of declarations is to clarify the meaning of certain provisions or of the entire treaty.

  • Optional declarations

An additional form of declaration is permissible under the Optional Protocol. The Optional Protocol establishes two procedures: a system permitting individuals to petition the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, alleging a breach of the Convention (individual communications procedure), and a system permitting the Committee to undertake inquiries when it receives reliable information indicating grave or systematic violations of the rights in the Convention by a State party (inquiry procedure). States and regional integration organizations ratifying the Optional Protocol may, at the time of signing, ratification or accession, declare that they do not recognize the competence of the Committee relating to the inquiry procedures.


Making declarations to the Convention

Declarations are usually deposited at the time of signing or at the time the instrument of ratification, formal confirmation or accession is deposited.

Interpretative declarations do not have a legal effect similar to reservations and so do not require a signature by a formal authority, as long as it clearly emanates from the State concerned. Nevertheless, it is preferable that such a declaration is signed by the Head of State, Head of Government or Minister for Foreign Affairs, or a person having powers for that purpose issued by one of those authorities.

Since optional declarations affect the legal obligations on the State or regional integration organization making them, they must be signed by the Head of State, Head of Government or Minister for Foreign Affairs, or by a person having full powers for that purpose issued by one of those authorities.

Once the United Nations Secretary-General receives the declaration, he/she communicates the text of the declaration to all States concerned, including by e-mail, allowing those States to reach their own conclusions about the status of the declaration.

A declaration that amounts to a reservation and is incompatible with the object and purpose of the Convention or the Optional Protocol is not permitted. If such a case arises, a State may notify the United Nations Secretary-General about an objection. The Secretary-General circulates any objection received. Objections to declarations generally focus on whether the statement is merely an interpretative declaration or is, in fact, a true reservation that would modify the legal effects of the treaty. An objecting State sometimes requests that the declaring State “clarify” its intention. In that case, if the declaring State agrees that it has formulated a reservation instead of a declaration, it may withdraw its reservation or confirm that its statement is only a declaration.

As with reservations, it is possible to modify or withdraw declarations.


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