Human Rights and Inclusion – UN`s leading role

Yannis Vardakastanis (foreground right) of International Disability Alliance addresses the CRPD State Party Conference, (c) UN Photo/ Rick Bajornas

Have you ever heard of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)? I give you three reasons why you should have.

Starting with some data. The CRPD is the fastest-negotiated human rights treaty ever. It took only four years of negotiations (2002 – 2006) until the General Assembly adopted the CRPD. As of October 2012, 154 states have already signed and 124 ratified the Convention.  What makes this Convention even more necessary is that more than one billion people in the world experience disabilities, as the first WHO World Report on Disability revealed this year. The majority of disabilities are gained during lifetime, not at birth.

Getting deeper into the substance of the matter. The CRPD marks a major shift in the understanding and perception of disability, from a medical to a social model. Persons with disabilities are no „objects“ of charity or medical treatment, but „subjects“ with rights, who are capable of claiming their rights, making decisions on their own and being active members of society (cf. UN Enable 2012). Limitations created by disability are therefore no “problem” of the person but rather a problem of barriers in society. To advocate for full inclusion is therefore the fundamental goal of this Convention.

Coming to a so far unique feature. The development of the CRPD and the corresponding negotiation process is characterized by the principle ”Nothing about us, without us”. The participation of civil society, particularly of Disabled Persons Organizations (DPOs), was ensured during the whole process, as it will be during implementation and monitoring.

Accordingly, the Chair of the International Disability Alliance (IDA) was, besides UN representatives, one of the opening speakers at this years State Party Conference, which commenced mid-September at turtle bay.  Mr. Vardakastanis, IDA Chair, shed a special light on UN´s leading role once again. After negotiating and passing the CRPD, he asked the UN to incorporate CRPD principles into UN conferences and meetings as well as its human resources policies. Only by promoting the CRPD would it be ensured that it does not disappear from the collective consciousness. Delegates also stressed the critical need for the UN to act as a “real, practical and daily advocate” for those who had once been all but invisible on the world stage (cf. Press Release GA/HR 5106). “We must keep this steady pace to meet the mark of universal ratification in the near future,” said Mårten Grunditz (Sweden), President of the Conference.

The focus of this years Conference was on „Making the CRPD count for Children and Women“. Furthermore, the program included the election of nine new members of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which is composed of 18 independent experts who monitor the implementation process and examine state party reports as well as individual complaints.

Not only the UN should act by example, every one can. The first step is to know about the CRPD. So, spread the word.

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