Frequently Asked Questions

The New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO is committed to the promotion of human rights and recognises that the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is a key instrument requiring governments to ensure disabled people enjoy rights on an equal basis with others.

1.      What are human rights?
2.      What is a human rights convention?
3.      How was the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities developed?
  1. What happens when countries sign conventions?
5.      What is the purpose of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities?
6.      What are the key principles of the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities?
7.      What is the Optional Protocol?
8.      When did the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities come into effect?
9.      Why is the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities important?
10.How will the Convention be monitored?
11.Other links
 
 
1.      What are human rights?
 
A more explicit statement to be inserted about the view and role of the National Commission on Human Rights.
 
Human rights are about the way people live together. They belong to everyone because we are human. We cannot give them up or have them taken away. They apply to everyone, whatever their race, gender, religion or disability. Everyone should be treated with respect and dignity simply because they are human. 
 
For more information on human rights in New Zealand go the this webpage on the Human Rights Commission website
 
 
For more information on UNESCO’s work promoting human rights go to this webpage on the UNESCO website
 
 
2.      What is a human rights convention?
 
A human rights convention is a written agreement between countries to obey the same law about an issue. Conventions, sometimes called treaties, covenants, international agreements or legal instruments tell governments what to do to make sure all people can enjoy their rights. 
 
The Universal Declaration on Human Rights was adopted by the United Nations in 1948. It is the first international document setting out rights that all people have. Since then, several other human rights conventions have been developed that expand on the human rights in the Universal Declaration.
 
Two of these conventions are called covenants and cover broad human rights issues:
·      The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
·      The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
 
The two Covenants above and the Universal Declaration together these three documents are known as the International Bill of Rights.
 
 
Other human rights conventions have been developed over the years. These other human rights conventions focus on particular issues and groups. These additional conventions include:
·    the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (1981)
·    the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1990)
 
For information on the international human rights conventions New Zealand has signed refer to this webpage on the Human Rights Commission website:
 
For information on the New Zealand government’s human rights obligations go this webpage on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade website:
 
3.      How was the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities developed?
 
The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was developed at the United Nations and followed a unique process.
 
Formal meetings at the UN headquarters in New York included non-government organizations (NGOs), human rights groups and disability organizations and national human rights institutions. All of these groups worked closely alongside governments in formal discussions and to agree on the words of the Convention. Disabled people and disability-led groups said “nothing about us, without us”. 
 
New Zealand worked very hard to ensure the participation of disabled NGOs in discussions at the UN. From 2005, the Ad Hoc Committee overseeing the Convention development was chaired by New Zealander Don McKay. He had earlier chaired a working group that drafted the text of the Convention. This group allowed government representatives and disabled people to work together on equal terms. Government representatives learned about disability issues which had a positive effect on negotiations.
 
  1. What happens when countries sign conventions?
Once the content of a Convention is agreed on, it is sent to the UN General Assembly to debate whether to adopt the Convention.  If the convention is adopted governments decide whether to sign and ratify the convention.  When a government signs a convention they make a commitment to follow the principles and ideas in the convention.  To ratify a convention governments take steps to officially accept the convention as part of their country’s legal system.  When a government ratifies a convention it means that they agree to make sure the rights in the convention are used in policy and practice in their country.
 
For more information on New Zealand’s involvement in the development of the Convention, go to this webpage on the Office of Disability Issues website
 
5.      What is the purpose of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities?
 
The Convention states that its purpose is to promote, protect and ensure the enjoyment of all human rights by disabled people and to respect their dignity.
 
People covered by the Convention include those with short-term and long-term impairments, such as physical, intellectual, mental, or sensory impairments. It does not consider disability as a medical condition. Disability is seen as the result of an unwelcoming environment that impedes the ability of people with impairments living their lives as other people can. 
 
Governments may need to change rules, attitudes and buildings to allow disabled people to fully participate in society.
 
Below is a resource for teaching disabled people and groups about the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities http://www1.umn.edu/humanrts/edumat/hreduseries/TB6/html/Contents%20of%20%22Human%20Rights.%20YES!%22.html
 
 
6.      What are the key principles of the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities?
The key principles of the Convention are:
  1. Respect for inherent dignity, individual autonomy including the freedom to make one’s own choices, and independence of persons;
  2. Non-discrimination;
  3. Full and effective participation and inclusion in society;
  4. Respect for difference and acceptance of persons with disabilities as part of human diversity and humanity;
  5. Equality of opportunity;
  6. Accessibility;
  7. Equality between men and women;
  8. Respect for the evolving capacities of children with disabilities and respect for the right of children with disabilities to preserve their identities.
 
To read the full text of the Convention go to this UN webpage
 
 
To read a plain english version of the website go to this website
 
 
To listen to an audio version of the convention, go to this webpage on the ODI website
 
 
To watch a NZ Sign language version of the Convention, go to this webpage on the ODI website
 
 
 
7.      What is the Optional Protocol?
 
The Optional Protocol of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was developed alongside the Convention. This is a separate document that explains how disabled people and their organizations can make complaints to the UN. Disabled people or organizations can make complaints to the UN if their country has signed and ratified the Optional Protocol. Countries can sign and ratify the Convention and not sign or ratifying the Optional Protocol. New Zealand has signed and ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, but has not signed the Optional Protocol.
 
New Zealand has ratified the Convention, but has not signed the Optional Protocol. 
 
8.      When did the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities come into effect?
 
The UN General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol on 13 December 2006. It came into force and gained full legal status in May 2008.  
 
New Zealand signed the Convention on [INSERT DATE] and ratified the Convention on 26 September 2008 and it came into effect in New Zealand on 26 October 2008.
 
A full list of countries that have signed and ratified the convention and optional protocol can be found on this webpage on the UN enable website http://www.un.org/disabilities/countries
 
9.      Why is the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities important?
 
The Convention is important because it reflects a change in thinking about disability. It requires government to respect the rights of disabled people and to ensure that disabled people can participate fully in all areas of life. 
 
Disability has previously been seen as a health, charity, or social welfare concern. The focus was on what was ‘wrong’ with the body or behaviour of the disabled person. The Convention recognises that disability is part of human diversity and disabled people have the same human rights as everyone.   This recognition begins to address the human rights of disabled people in government policy and practise by identifying that disabled people should enjoy human rights on an equal basis with others.
 
 
10.How will the Convention be monitored?
 
Countries that have ratified a UN Convention must make sure that the Convention is implemented. Each State that has signed the Convention  must report every four years on the rights of persons with disabilities. States will need to show how they are following the principles and protecting and promoting the rights of disabled people. They will also need to demonstrate how they are involving disabled people’s organisations in monitoring.
 
 
11.Other links
To refer to the statement made by the DPA the collective voice of people with disability go to their webpage
 
To read more about how the convention affects the lives of disability advocates refer to the Human Rights Commission webpage
 
Website for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
 
UN Committee on the Rights of People with Disabilities
 
This information has been prepared by the New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO - Te Kōmihana Matua o Aotearoa mō UNESCO in consultation with Wendi Wicks, independent contractor, and Robyn Hunt, Human Rights Commissioner. Members of the disability community were also consulted during the development of this resource.