US Senate fails to ratify UN treaty on disabilities

Updated 06 December 2012
0

US Senate fails to ratify UN treaty on disabilities

WASHINGTON: The US Senate failed to ratify the UN convention protecting the rights of the disabled, prompting disappointment from the White House over Republican blockage of the treaty.
Lawmakers on Tuesday voted 61-38 in favor of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, but fell short of the two-thirds majority needed for ratification of a treaty whose approval would create no change in US law.
President Barack Obama’s signature would have made the United States the 127th country to ratify the convention, which was first adopted Dec. 13, 2006 by the UN General Assembly.
The treaty was largely symbolic for the United States in that it codifies in international law many of the rights already afforded under the Americans for Disabilities Act (ADA), the historic US law passed in 1990.
“We are disappointed that the overwhelming majority of Senate Republicans today blocked the convention... which would enshrine American standards that have been developed through decades of bipartisan cooperation,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said in a statement.
“We hope the Senate will reconsider this treaty soon in the next Congress.”
In recent months, Republican lawmakers have spoken out against the treaty, suggesting it would infringe on US sovereignty or allow the state to dictate the actions of families with children with disabilities.
Senator Jon Kyl, a retiring Republican, objected to what he called the “disability diplomacy” on show with the treaty, saying there was no need for the country with the world’s best record on disability rights to sign a pact that made no changes to US law and was “not enforceable.”
Democratic Senator John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told AFP he was “of course” disappointed in the vote.
Minutes earlier on the Senate floor, he and Republican John McCain sought to convince wavering Republicans that the treaty would have no legal effect on the United States.
“It doesn’t require any changes to American law, zero,” Kerry said.
“This has no tying of the hands of America, there isn’t one law of the United States that would be negatively affected.”
Instead, he added, “it will push, it will leverage, it will require other countries by their commitments to be held accountable to the standards that we have set, and take our gold standard and extend it to the rest of the world.”
The presence in the chamber of former senator Bob Dole, the disabled World War II veteran and 1996 Republican presidential nominee who helped negotiate the ADA, was not enough to overcome Republican opposition.
More than 600 million people are living with disabilities around the world, according to the United Nations.
“It is a sad day when we cannot pass a treaty that simply brings the world up to the American standard for protecting people with disabilities because the Republican party is in thrall to extremists and ideologues,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, adding that he would plan to bring the treaty to a vote during the next Congress.
Rights groups swiftly expressed their disappointment as well.
“US leadership has been influential in putting disability rights issues on the international agenda, but the Senate vote is a big step backward,” said Antonio Ginatta, US advocacy director at Human Rights Watch.
Ratification, he said, would have “provided the framework to advance and promote the rights of people with disabilities globally.”


Uzbekistan to join Turkmenistan-India gas pipeline project

Updated 5 min 3 sec ago
0

Uzbekistan to join Turkmenistan-India gas pipeline project

  • Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev said Uzbek experts would travel to Turkmenistan to discuss Tashkent's role in the pipeline
  • "We have agreed that Uzbekistan will also take part in this project," says Mirziyoyev

TASHKENT: Uzbekistan plans to join an $8 billion project to build a natural gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to India, Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev said on Monday, although it was unclear whether Tashkent might eventually ship gas through it.
Turkmenistan, which sits on the world's fourth-biggest gas reserves and borders Afghanistan, started this year laying the Afghan section of the pipeline which will also cross Pakistan, seeing it as key to diversifying exports away from China.
Uzbekistan also exports gas, mainly to China and Russia, although its export volumes are much lower than the Turkmen ones due to higher domestic consumption.
"We have agreed that Uzbekistan will also take part in this project," Mirziyoyev told reporters after meeting his Turkmen counterpart Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, who visited Uzbekistan.
He provided no details, but said Uzbek experts would travel to Turkmenistan to discuss Tashkent's role in the pipeline.
Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, both ex-Soviet Central Asian republics, each produce more than 60 billion cubic metres of gas a year. China dominates Turkmen exports while Uzbek gas sales are split roughly equally between China and Russia.