Chapter Four: Becoming a party to the Convention and the Optional Protocol – Relevance of the Convention to non-parties


Ideally, States should ratify the Convention and Optional Protocol to ensure optimal protection of the rights of persons with disabilities in their territory. But even when a State is not a party to the Convention and Optional Protocol, the provisions of the Convention may still be relevant. The adoption of the Convention without a vote by the United Nations General Assembly indicates that the international community acknowledges the need to promote and protect the rights of persons with disabilities. At the very least, the Convention thus carries moral authority and can be used to guide States and even prompt reform where there might not be sufficient political will to do so. When a Government decides to undertake law reform, parliamentarians can employ the Convention as an internationally recognized standard against which national legislation and policies can be reviewed. The Convention can also be used as a model to follow when drafting new legislation. 

States still have obligations under other international human rights treaties and under general international law to promote and protect human rights, including the rights of persons with disabilities. For example, all States have ratified at least one core human rights treaty, which means that all States have agreed to prohibit discrimination, including against persons with disabilities. Similarly, States have obligations to respect customary international human rights law and peremptory norms of international law, such as the prohibition of torture.

The contents of this chapter were adapted from chapter 3 of the “Treaty Handbook,” United Nations Office of Legal Affairs, available at:




How I can help ensure that my Government signs and ratifies, or accedes to,  the Convention and the Optional Protocol

  • Check whether your Government has the intention of signing and ratifying the Convention and the Optional Protocol. 
  • If not, use parliamentary procedure to determine the reasons for such inaction and encourage the Government to start the signing and ratification process without delay. For example, put an oral or written question to your Government to determine its intention to ratify or the reasons for any Government inaction.
  • Consider your right to submit a private member’s bill on the matter.
  • Encourage parliamentary debate on the question.
  • Mobilize public opinion through public-awareness campaigns and disseminate information promoting ratification of the Convention and Optional Protocol.
  • If a signing procedure is under way, check whether the Government intends to make reservations to the Convention or Optional Protocol and, if so, determine whether the reservations are necessary and compatible with the object and purpose of the Convention or Optional Protocol. If you conclude that they are groundless, take action to ensure that the Government reverses its position.
  • If ratification has taken place, check whether any reservations made by your Government are in force and whether they are still necessary. If you conclude that they are not, take action for their withdrawal.
  • Make sure that public officials, State agents and the general public are aware that the State has ratified or acceded to the Convention and Optional Protocol.
  • If your country has ratified or acceded to the Convention but has not yet ratified the Optional Protocol, determine why this is the case and take action to ensure that obstacles to ratifying the Optional Protocol are removed or remedied and encourage prompt ratification of the Optional Protocol.


 Next – Chapter Five: National legislation and the Convention – Incorporating the Convention into domestic law

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