UN Conventions

Reference work entry
Part of the The Statesman's Yearbook book series (SYBK)

Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was adopted on 13 Dec. 2006 and came into force on 3 May 2008. With 82 signatories to the Convention and 44 signatories to the Optional Protocol, it holds the record for the highest number of signatories to a UN convention on its opening day. As of Feb. 2017 it had 160 signatories.

The Convention recognizes the human rights of disabled people who have physical, mental and/or sensory long-term impairments that may affect their full participation in society. Article 1 lays out the convention’s aim ‘to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities, and to promote respect for their inherent dignity’. Member states are obliged to ensure the equality and non-discrimination, health, education and employment of disabled people. Every four years, each member state must submit a report on relevant measures taken. A committee of 18 independent experts monitors the implementation of the convention and normally meets in Geneva, Switzerland twice a year.

United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification

The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) was adopted in Paris in 1994 and came into force in Dec. 1996. Its 195 signatory parties (194 states and the EU) meet every other year and work to combat the effects of desertification, drought and land degradation. Specific attention is paid to Africa, where desertification is most prevalent. The ten-year strategy covering 2008–18 focuses on improving living conditions of affected parties, improving the condition of affected ecosystems and mobilizing resources to build relationships between national and international participants.

The UNCCD encourages co-operation between nations and with international non-governmental organizations. The body also works closely with the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). In March 2014 Canada became the first member state to withdraw from the convention, having announced its intention to do so a year earlier with then Prime Minister Stephen Harper claiming that it had become too bureaucratic. He maintained that less than a fifth of the money that Canada gave to the organization went on programming.

  • Headquarters: United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, UN Campus, Platz der Vereinten Nationen 1, 53113 Bonn, Germany.



    Executive Secretary: Monique Barbut (France).

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

The Convention was produced at the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development with the stated aim of reducing global greenhouse gas emissions to ‘a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic (human induced) interference with the climate system’. Signatories agreed to take account of climate change in their domestic policy and to develop national programmes that would slow its progress. However, no mandatory targets were established for the reduction of emissions so the treaty remained legally non-binding. Instead it operates as a ‘framework’ document, with provisions for regular updates and amendments. By Feb. 2017, 196 states and territories plus the European Union had signed and ratified the Convention.

The first of these additions was the Kyoto Protocol in 1997. Under the protocol, 37 developed countries were committed to reducing their collective emissions of six greenhouse gases to at least 5% below 1990 levels. These targets were scheduled to be met in the period 2008–12. By 2012 results were mixed. The EU had reduced emissions by 21∙0% and Russia by 50∙3%, while the USA’s had risen by 2∙7%, Canada’s by 42∙2%, New Zealand’s by 111∙4% and Turkey’s by 163∙3%. In Dec. 2011 Canada announced it would be the first signatory to formally withdraw from the agreement. A second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol began on 1 Jan. 2013. The USA has not ratified the protocol. China and India, also amongst the world’s top five producers of emissions, are exempt from the protocol’s constraints by virtue of their status as developing countries.

The members of the UNFCCC meet on an annual basis. The conference in Indonesia in 2007 led to the creation of the ‘Bali Roadmap’, which timetables negotiations for a protocol to succeed Kyoto, a process continued at the 2008 conference in Poland. The subsequent Copenhagen Accord of 2009 was not legally binding and failed to set out concrete measures for tackling climate change. The 2011 conference, held in Durban, South Africa, advanced negotiations on the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol, the Bali Action Plan and the Cancún Agreements. At the 18th conference in Doha, Qatar in 2012 plans were laid for the development of a successor protocol by 2015 to be implemented by 2020. The 2014 conference, in Lima, Peru, saw a framework agreement approved by 194 nations for setting national pledges for submission at the conference in Paris, France in 2015. The Paris conference duly concluded a global agreement on countering climate change, although no country-specific goals were set. A follow-up conference was hosted in Marrakesh, Morocco, in Nov. 2016, with a further conference scheduled to take place in Bonn, Germany, in Nov. 2017.

  • Headquarters: United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, UN Campus, Platz der Vereinten Nationen 1, 53113 Bonn, Germany.



    Executive Secretary: Patricia Espinosa (Mexico).

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