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Challenging Injustice, Advancing Human Rights

The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee advances human rights through grassroots collaborations.

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Extraordinary Efforts, Deep Thanks

December 3, 2014

I just want to say thank you to all of you who were part of the collective effort to get the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) ratified. You made calls, talked to your senators, signed petitions, and sent letters. It was a great pleasure and honor to work with all of you on this important issue. That’s why I am especially sad to report that the U.S. International Council on Disabilities, the lead organization in the coalition working on CRPD, just gave us news that the chance to ratify CRPD is lost for the forseeable future.

I deliver this news today, on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, gravely disappointed in the outcome but overwhelmed by your willingness to stand up for what is right. I’m also grateful to the people in Congress who championed this effort. Senator Tom Harkin has expressed to the coalition and disability rights activists his deep sadness and frustration with this Congress for blocking ratification of this treaty.

CRPD was of particular importance to us here at UUSC because it explicitly affirms the human right to water for people living with disabilities. U.S. laws alone may not be enough to protect persons with disabilities and their access to water — and on top of that, we believe it’s vital to bolster international recognition of this very basic human right.

We needed this treaty to protect people from callous utilities that are shutting off the water of vulnerable people without thought of the consequences. Too many utilities aren’t looking at how a shutoff, or an increasingly unaffordable basic service, makes people choose between medicine and water — or, worse, makes them face a day without water. Water shutoffs place an incredible burden on some of our friends, neighbors, congregation members, and people in our communities throughout the country. Water shutoffs must not be business as usual.

Thank you for keeping faith throughout this process and for deeply believing in the human right to water. Thank you for trying to do what is apparently — and sadly — too radical for our representatives: ratifying a human rights treaty in the United States. We didn’t say, “It can’t be done, so we should not waste the effort.” We tried. We did our best. Thank you.

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