This is the last blog post in our eight-part series covering the Obama administration’s action and leadership on international human rights, focusing on international disability rights and the connection between labor and human rights. The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is up for consideration again in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, so it would be great if we could ratify this treaty this year, among other laws and treaties.
Next week, we’ll continue with our regular blog posting, covering topics such as recent human rights news, resources to help you with your activism, and notifications for upcoming human rights events in the area. As a reminder, our first St. Louis Amnesty chapter meeting of 2014 is Jan. 14. More details on the meeting when we get closer to the date, but don’t forget that our chapter is taking action this year also.
Promoting International Disability Rights
The Obama Administration is making international disability rights a key component of our international human rights policy, carrying forward our nation’s legacy of leadership as a champion for dignity, access, opportunity, and inclusion for persons with disabilities.
Institutionalizing our Support
The Obama Administration has created the new positions of Special Advisor for International Disability Rights at the State Department and Coordinator for Disability and Inclusive Development at USAID. With the leadership of these senior officials, the United States can better ensure that foreign assistance and development programs incorporate persons with disabilities, that the needs of persons with disabilities are addressed in international emergency situations, and that our public diplomacy addresses disability issues.
Ratifying the Disabilities Treaty
In 2009, during his first year in office, President Obama directed his Administration to sign the Convention the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, a treaty grounded in the same principles as the Americans with Disabilities Act and the center of gravity for efforts to expand disability rights globally. We are working to secure Senate advice and consent for ratification so that the United States can join the other 138 parties to the treaty. While our diplomats and development professionals are doing great work on disabilities issues, our status as a non-party to the Treaty means that we lose credibility and leverage in this area. By joining the Treaty, the United States will carry forward its legacy of global leadership on disability rights, enhance our ability to bring other countries up to our own high standards of access and inclusion, and help expand opportunities abroad for over 50 million Americans with disabilities – including our 5.5 million disabled veterans. Our ratification will amplify and enhance the current work of the State Department and USAID by positioning the United States to be an effective champion for the kinds of systemic reforms needed to raise standards and improve the lives of persons with disabilities globally.
Business, Labor, and Human Rights
Because the activities of businesses have impacts on the lives of millions of people around the world, the U.S. government is working with U.S. companies to help them uphold high standards and ensure their activities respect the human rights of people in the communities where they do business.
Supporting Business Activities
The United States encourages and supports the activities of business that help solve global challenges and improve the welfare of people – for example, by hosting meetings and conference calls among U.S. companies, investors, and U.S. government experts to discuss how companies can effectively address labor and human rights challenges in particular countries.
We support initiatives that harness the comparative advantages of business and government by working together – such as the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights initiative, in which the United States works with other governments, companies, and civil society organizations to promote the implementation of a set of principles that guide oil, gas, and mining companies in providing security for their operations in a manner that respects human rights.
Promoting Respect for Human Rights
We promote the rule of law, respect for human rights, and a level playing field by encouraging responsible business behavior and inviting engagement by business in venues that advance best practices. For example, as part of the easing of sanctions on Burma last year, the Department of State established reporting requirements for newly authorized U.S. investment in Burma. This reporting process will encourage responsible investment and business operations, promote inclusive economic development, and contribute to the welfare of the Burmese people.
This United States is also a strong supporter of decent work and of internationally recognized workers’ rights as a matter of both human rights and economic policy. We work through bilateral and multilateral diplomacy, trade, investment and development policy, and through human rights and technical assistance programs to help ensure that working people everywhere enjoy fundamental labor rights, as defined by the 1998 International Labor Organization (ILO) declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work and by U.S. law. In doing so, we work closely with our trading partners, the ILO, the private sector, and the global labor movement.