Thursday, May 15, 2014

Pass The CRPD ... For Spite

Phil Pangrazio, AZ I See It, - May 14, 2014

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A few weeks ago, I noticed a new round of social media activity in support of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). The reason for the renewed activity was that the Senate had finally approved a different United Nations Treaty, on fisheries. This prompted CRPD supporters to launch a slightly tongue-in-cheek campaign asking: Why does the Senate feel it important enough to pass a treaty on fishing, but can’t see it’s way clear to pass a treaty on the rights of people with disabilities?

The "fish" formulation took off, and it's great to see mainstream newspapers, like the one linked above, using it in a renewed push to pass the CRPD on the grounds of decency and common sense.

The subtext of this, of course, is also the reason why the CRPD has failed to pass twice. It’s got almost nothing to do with disability rights. The problem is that it is a United Nations treaty, and a handful of highly ideological right-wing and religious organizations argue that the UN itself is illegitimate, powerful, and hostile to freedom and US sovereignty. Any UN treaty that fails in the Senate is a victory for these people, almost regardless of the treaty’s topic.

The fishing treaty probably passed because it’s about as niche and obscure a treaty as can be imagined, so the advocacy knives weren’t as enthusiastically out for any conservative Senators who dared to vote for it.

Take a look at this May 5 piece by two attorneys for the Home School Legal Defense Association, one of the strongest opponents of the CRPD … and and of the UN itself.

William A. Estrada, Esq., Director of Federal Relations and Cordell J. Asbenson, Congressional Action Program Director
Home School Legal Defense Association - May 5, 2014

Read the whole piece ... but here are my "favorite" quotes:
“HSLDA has fought on many occasions to stop ratification of United Nations treaties, most recently with our work to defeat the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). While there are many reasons HSLDA opposes the CRPD, one key reason is that the United Nations is openly hostile to religious freedom, the right to life, homeschool freedom, and parental rights ... ”
"The modern UN has become a powerful global player that is hostile to many freedoms that we as Americans and homeschoolers take for granted. UN treaties have become tools used by unelected, power-hungry international bureaucrats to gain control over nations and free peoples ... ”
"Protect Your Family
If you aren’t yet a member of HSLDA, consider joining today! HSLDA’s work benefits homeschooolers in the United States and around the world. We invite you to participate in our ministry to the homeschool community.”
Oh, right. Don’t forget the membership come-on at the end! Protect your family … pay us dues!

Clearly, this organization is about more than the practice and policies around home schooling. I doubt they care much about the concerns of left-wing, hippie parents who home school their kids. Their constituency appears to be right-wing religious families who feel like the world is against them, and believe that the Federal Government and the UN are agents of godless socialism. I also question whether the organization has any special insight into the unique needs of kids with disabilities … who sometimes have very specific reasons to benefit from home schooling that have nothing to do with religion, traditional values, or the meaning of national sovereignty.

All of which is to simply say that for the most part, opposition to the CRPD is bullshit. Opponents may have a slight area of actual disagreement to the treaty, insofar as its language suggests that kids with disabilities have some rights that could take precedence over what their parents want to do. It is possible to view that catastrophically, as total usurpation of parental authority. You can also view it more sensibly, as recognition that children ... even disabled children ... are human beings, and not their parents' property.

The irony is that we could have a real discussion about whether the UN has enough power and relevance do anything about disability rights around the globe, other than pass what is essentially a set of suggestions. CRPD opponents fear the awesome power of the UN, while the only real argument against the CRPD is that it’s probably too weak.

That said, I really think the Senate should pass the damned thing. For one thing, all UN treaties have ambiguous authority. That’s part of the point of the UN … it relies less on naked power and more on information, persuasion, and role-modeling. Second, it is embarrassing for the United States to be one of the few holdout countries on this, when it basically pioneered the whole concept of “disability rights laws”. Finally, at this point, I want to see the CRPD pass to spite its opponents. They are so dishonest and cynical that I want to beat them just to see them beaten.

That’s not very noble motivation, I suppose, but it’s how I feel.


For more information on the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, visit

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