United Nations Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities

This section has information on New Zealand's involvement with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and how it is being implemented.


The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is the first United Nations human rights treaty of the 21st century. It does not create new rights for disabled people. Instead, it builds on conventional understandings of what is required to implement existing human rights as they relate to disabled people.

The Convention makes it explicit that States must ensure the full realisation of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all disabled people, on an equal basis with others, and without discrimination of any kind on the basis of disability. This is already a feature of New Zealand law.

New Zealand was a leader in negotiations on the Convention. We modelled the spirit of participation with disabled people through consultation on the evolving Convention text, and involvement of disability sector representatives in our delegations to the United Nations. This involvement of the disability sector has continued to be practiced by the government. We were able to use our experiences with implementing the New Zealand Disability Strategy to inform our contributions to the Convention process.

New Zealand signed the Convention at the United Nations on 30 March 2007, and ratified it on 26 September 2008.

All new legislation and policy should be consistent with the Convention, or New Zealand will be in breach of its obligations and subject to criticism by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Government agencies will find the specific measures of the Convention useful to analyse and improve, where necessary, the current mechanisms for implementing policy that impacts on disabled people. It will also help to ensure that mainstream services are inclusive of disabled people and delivered in non-discriminatory ways.

Like the New Zealand Disability Strategy, the Convention covers all areas of life, all ages and life stages. In doing so, it has obligations on government and the private sector. However, it is the government that is accountable to the United Nations, and government agencies need to take leadership in encouraging action by the private sector.

As an international legal framework, the Convention is able to be referred to by Courts in their decision making, where appropriate.

First review of implementation (2014-2015)

In September 2014, the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities reviewed New Zealand's Convention implementation. The Office for Disability Issues coordinated the Government's involvement with the review.

In June 2015, the Government response to the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities's Concluding Observations on New Zealand was released.

New Zealand first report on implementing the UN Convention (March 2011)

New Zealand submitted its first report on implementing the UN Convention in March 2011. A draft report was circulated for public discussion during November-December 2010. The Office for Disability Issues and the Ministry of Social Development lead the report's development.

Article 35 requires reporting by State parties to the United Nations committee set up under the Convention. The first report is due two years after the Convention enters into force, and then at least every four years thereafter.

Framework to promote, protect and monitor implementation (article 33)

The Government has established a working arrangement with government and independent of government to meet the obligation in the Convention's article 33. The framework is made up of two parts:

  • government mechanism - overseen by the Ministerial Committee on Disability Issues, chaired by the Minister for Disability Issues, and supported by the Office for Disability Issues
  • independent mechanism - consisting of co-ordinated activity by the Human Rights Commission, the Office of the Ombudsman, and the Convention Coalition of disabled people's organisations.

Optional Protocol

New Zealand has begun the domestic treaty examination process with a view to acceding to the Optional Protocol to the Convention.

On 1 July 2016, the Minister for Disability Issues announced that the Optional Protocol have been submitted for Parliamentary treaty examination.

International relationships

Read about New Zealand's involvement with the UN on the Convention, and about visiting experts.