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Disability Negotiations Daily Summary Volume 2, #4 June 19, 2003

Morning session

Commenced: 10:09
Adjourned: 12:25 

General Debate

General debate continued on Item 7, and the session started with a statement by the Philippinesreaffirming the commitment to work to support the Convention and highlighting the contribution of the Philippines, including the hosting of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Conference. They recognized that persons with disabilities (PWD) are at a higher risk of being impoverished, creating an urgent need to remove barriers hindering access to health, education, livelihood, opportunities and employment. They reiterated that the Philippines was the main sponsor of UN resolution 556-115 on implementation of the World Program of Action concerning PWD, towards a society for all in the 21st century which should be updated in the forth coming 58th General Assembly. They also recommended that the Convention should include the concept of attitudinal barriers in defining PWD, discrimination against PWD and reasonable accommodations. No type of disability should be given preference over another. An article should be included to guarantee accessibility to information and technology. Counseling to deal with health concerns of PWD and gender issues on disability should be given importance.

Brazil pointed out that their country co-sponsored Resolution 56/168 that established this Committee and will be actively participating in its deliberations. According to Brazil, “an international legal instrument would provide a powerful tool to raise awareness, empower PWD and help remove the many forms of barriers that hinder their full participation in the society.”  The linkage between poverty and disability must be acknowledged and special attention must be given to the situation of developing countries.

Qatar welcomed the formulation of the Convention, and stressed a need for following a practical and realistic approaching regarding it.  Drawing attention to the fact that definition of disability is a contentious issue, the need was presented to “reach a definition that is internationally accepted, which, at the same time shows a certain degree of flexibility.”

The Republic of Korea spoke of this year’s beginning of the second five-year plan in their country, after the successful implementation of the first such plan containing special measures for PWD. The delegate re-affirmed his country’s support to the General Assembly’s Resolution A/41/120 in developing instruments in the field of human rights (HR) and expressed creative suggestions for the provisions of the Convention and hope that this second Ad Hoc Committee (AHC) will come up with some concrete action to formulate the Convention.

Australia expressed their country’s commitment to work with PWD in this area and has been a co-sponsor of the resolution on HR of PWD at the most recent meeting of the Commission on Human Rights. The delegate stressed, “Australia believes that any instrument developed by the AHC should be a legally binding instrument with a HR focus.” It is important to consult the stakeholders at the local, national and international levels in the process of development of this Convention.

The Republic of Indonesia expressed the commitment of the Government of Indonesia to protect and promote the dignity of PWD.  They urged, ”The principles of the Convention should address a wide range of political, social, economic and cultural issues and should apply to all countries regardless of their developmental level or technological capacity.” They argued for selecting the “hybrid model” for the Convention based on the participation of all the stakeholders in its drafting. Once the Convention is drafted and adopted, a monitoring mechanism would be ensured and national capacities to carry out the recommendations contained in the Convention need to be actively supported through training, public awareness campaigns and other capacity building measures.  Increased resources need to be allocated to developing countries to improve this area of social development.

Israel enumerated certain domestic measures adopted regarding the rights of PWD in Israel and touched upon the point as to why we should have a Convention on the Rights of PWD and, if decided upon, what provisions it should have. They announced, ”While social security remains an important item on the Israeli’s disability rights agenda, particularly for people with severe disabilities, the disability rights campaign is a wide-ranging movement for profound social change in all aspects of life.” The Equal Rights for PWD Law (1998), combined important provisions of a constitutional nature on equality, affirmative action, autonomy and human dignity with operative sections concerning employment, including: the prohibitions on discrimination, the employer’s duty to make reasonable accommodations, affirmative action in the private and the public sector, access to public transport and establishment of a commission for equal rights of PWD. Israel believes that it is extremely important to have the Convention on the human rights of PWD, as wide gaps still remain between the ideals enshrined in the general human rights conventions of the UN and the reality of the lives of millions of PWD who continue to suffer from severe discrimination, segregation, patronizing attitudes and low socio-economic status in all walks of life. They summarized by stating, “The fact cannot be ignored that the existence of such a Convention will be a powerful tool in the hands of all those in the domestic level who wish to promote the rights which are enshrined in the Convention concerned. This has been our experience with the Convention on the Rights of the Child and many other UN treaties.”  The Convention should reflect the shift from the medical model to self-empowerment, social and legal model of disability, thus placing the emphasis on the rights of PWD to full and active participation in the mainstream of the society and equalization of rights.  The Israeli delegate highlighted the number of Israeli people affected by the terrorist attacks by Palestinian terrorist groups, particularly since September 2000, that lead to the killing of 507 Israeli citizens and the injuring or disabling of 5,585 of them. They concluded by expressing the desire “that this session, in addition to a forthcoming conference, will advance the universal issue of the protection of and promotion of the rights and dignity of PWD rather than divergent political assaults of certain delegations which undermine the ideological and pragmatic importance of a Convention such as this.”

Peru emphasized, “Disability engenders economic poverty which in turn, aggravates the situation of marginalization and exclusion faced by PWD, which in turn, has a direct impact on a lack of access to health, education, work and other matters.”    In the final analysis, “PWD constitute one of the major vulnerable or high-risk groups and can be considered as the poorest of the poor; most especially, women with disabilities who suffer from a two-fold marginalization because they are women and because they are disabled.”  For these reasons, the Peruvian government attaches special importance to the situation faced by PWD that is reflected in a general law on PWD adopted in Peru. The Peruvian government also declared the year 2003 as the Year of the Rights of PWD and also prepared a plan for equal opportunities for PWD  (2003-2007) which inter-alia contains select public policies geared to combating discrimination and achieving equalization of opportunities under a perspective of inclusiveness and development of human capacities and by promoting participation by all persons at all levels in all spheres of the society. The delegate suggested, “The text of the draft Convention to be prepared, should also be guided by principles of equality, solidarity, commitment, full integration and sensitivity.”

Nigeria drew attention to the fact that particularly, in the context of Africa, PWD are among the poorest of the poor and therefore, disability issues have to be addressed in the context of poverty and development. The Convention should embrace all vulnerable groups such as women, the elderly, youths and children, and incorporate a gender perspective in all efforts to promote and protect the rights of PWD. Nigeria emphasized the need for a developmental approach in the process of the making of the Convention in order to resolve the problem of poverty and all the prejudices suffered by PWD in society. The Convention should be drafted with the proper participation of PWD.

The Russian Federation stated that since its population contains almost ten million PWD, it has recently begun taking measures such as the designation of 2003 as the Year of PWD. Their PWD legislation is rooted in international norms and standards, so the Federation is interested in improvement by the Convention in this area, and is supportive of the Committee’s work.  They place importance on selection of correct strategic parameters and broad and universal ratification of the Convention. Its greatest value is seen as an international legal instrument with non-discrimination emphasis and clear benchmarks to aid in overcoming existing barriers.  They expressed particular interest in the establishment of a monitoring mechanism; however, dual-track monitoring is unacceptable because it is “excessively costly and overly bureaucratic.”   They wish to make the most effective use of existing bodies and established human rights reporting mechanisms.

Liechtenstein informed the committee of their current domestic structural mechanisms regarding disability concerns, including a report to Parliament several weeks ago on implementation of issues related to PWD.  Liechtenstein sees a need for additional measures in their country since legal protections have not fully been realized in the practical life of PWD.  They expressed support for the drafting of an international convention as a good tool for change if it attracts a large number of ratifications without excessive proscriptiveness. They believe the AHC should reflect on states and NGO document submissions in drafting a new instrument, and they highlighted New Zealand’s approach as the best way to proceed.  Draft of a comprehensive Convention based on existing and future contributions to the process is seen as the best way to keep up momentum. 

Kuwait wished to express appreciation to the disabled persons’ organizations (DPOs), and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) participating in these meetings.  They believe the draft should consider these general principles: 1) inclusion of all factions of PWD; 2) prevention of all forms of discrimination; 3) acknowledgment of the importance of an institutional, national framework not exceeding local and national conditions; 4) an open and comprehensive Convention with involvement by all parties; 5) consideration of PWD’s human rights; 6) special attention to people with multiple disabilities; 7) application of clear, practical laws, policies and measures of countries and regions; 8) consideration of the situation of individuals during wars, occupation and armed conflict.  Kuwait expressed belief that full participation in a good, well-studied Convention is better than haste in formulation, and is committed to serious participation in this process. 

Jordan highlighted the importance of the following elements’ inclusion in drafting: 1) a comprehensive binding Convention; 2) based on a rights-based approach in a disability context; 3) with a comprehensive, progressive definition of disability; 4) with membership including member states, geographical coalitions, stakeholders, experts and NGOs; 5) in a monitoring mechanism similar to HR models; 6) taking advantage of international norms; and 7) the formation of a technical council to offer guidance and aid to member states on issues not detailed in the Convention.

The Holy See reflected that the “richness of PWD constantly challenges all of us to be open to the meaning of life presented by PWD.” They stressed the importance of placing safety and concern for human beings at the center of everything the UN does, highlighting that, as the Mexican paper appears to support these goals, their delegation looks forward to assisting in implementation of its proposals.  In the 27 years since the UN first published a declaration on the rights of PWD, there have been many scientific and technological advances. They encouraged all responsible parties to work together for effective protection of the dignity of PWD, and expressed their hope for a better future for all with increased recognition of the human dignity that we share.

India expressed its fullest cooperation in the work of the committee, and thanks for its documentation.  Their main focus of concern was on the area of multiple-discrimination and disability, stating India’s PWD definition moved from one of individual pathology to a HR model.  In their Decade of Disabled Persons they are interested in creating attitudinal changes in society to facilitate inclusion of the rights of PWD in a barrier-free society. They highlighted drafting issues to be addressed: 1) adequate resource availability and commitment to fill gaps between needs and funding, with external and internal resources to effect necessary transfer of funds to developing countries; 2) harvesting recent advances of science and technology to address gene-related disabilities; 3) better assistive devices; 4) broad approach to redress; 5) accessibility; 6) draft incorporation of monetary considerations; 7) support for the hybrid model; 8) holistic legal instrument addressing PWD issues in a manner not lower than established standards and contextual to individual countries; and 9) partnerships with all stakeholders.  Equality, dignity, and justice for PWD in India are their goals.

The New Zealand Human Rights Commission welcomed the opportunity to participate in the Committee in building on existing HR and principles of social justice, including rights of PWD to exist.  Since NZ is in the early stages of developing their model, there remain a myriad of barriers to full PWD participation, but the government by simply taking this approach has already made a difference.  The “value of this Convention is the legitimacy it provides.” They supported inclusive considerations with all players at the table on a “Nothing About Us Without Us” basis.   They advocated that the Convention needs a Preamble emphasizing: 1) the need for a convention; 2) recognizing application of existing HR instruments; 3) acknowledging indigenous, gender and other PWD issues; 4) comprehensive in nature with a full range of rights; 5) progressive realization of certain rights; 6) prohibitions against discrimination; 7) a statement that “lack of provision of reasonable accommodations amounts to discrimination”, as well as 8) “promoting international cooperation to support national action.”  Inclusion of all impairments, including neurological, sensory, and psychological, permanent, intermittent or temporary is desired.   They see the state parties’ obligation is to take legislative actions to achieve convention objectives, and wish to acknowledge the leadership role by Mexico in putting this on the agenda. They made large print copies of their statement available to the session.

Fiji‘s constitution and government has facilitated programs for assisting PWD, and their Social Justice Act (2001) forms a basis to implement constitutional PWD mandates.  Despite the current legislative framework, however, PWD in Fiji still are among the most disadvantaged because of lack of accessibility.  They seek a comprehensive, conclusive and holistic model, and feel regional consulting models are good to facilitate interaction, with future instruments formulating international monies toward these goals. 

The European Disability Forum wanted to ensure that all member states’ positions are positive on this Convention.  They stated that it is not about establishing new rights for PWD, but tailoring them by establishing legal and other mechanisms consistent with 2003 as the European Year of PWD. They stress the “need to move at this stage from words to deeds.”  They feel all actors involved would be benefited by a speedy, quality outcome of process.

People with Disability Australia Inc. and the Association of Community Legal Centers agreed with the Australian delegation position and expressed pride in their record, while stating that “there remain many unrealized opportunities and many unfilled responsibilities to advance cause of PWD in Australia” especially in areas of immigration, refugee law, and social work of indigenous peoples. In light of this, they feel it is regrettable that Australia has not expressed clear support for Convention, and look forward to working with their government on this.  These NGOs called on all nations to participate, because “to those whom much has been given, much has been expected.“ 

UN Mine Action Service bore witness to land mines (LM) as a major cause of disability to civilians and children.  Gender disparities in treatment and rehabilitation services were highlighted, along with resulting stigma and lack of employment opportunities. Their position paper and document copies are available at the UN Mine Action Service, and they remain committed to advancing PWD LM survivor causes and fully support committee endeavors

Afternoon session

Commenced:  15:11
Adjourned:  16:28

To begin, the Chairman announced that the Secretary General was present and would make a brief statement.  SG Kofi Annan welcomed all participants to the UN, referred to the “important work” that was taking place and announced that he was pleased when the GA passed the resolution.  Now, he said it was necessary to “give it meaning” indicating the idea of a Convention “is something I very much support.”  He expressed his intent to follow this issue.  He apologized for the brevity of his statement but indicated he was traveling to Amman later in the afternoon.  He indicated that he had a further statement that would be presented on his behalf.

Nature and Structure Discussion

South Africa, like many of the state delegations, expressed their gratitude to SG Annan for his support.  The delegate highlighted the need for a developmental approach to the legally binding framework and for this issue to be on the main agenda for national governments.  Discussing the regional conference in South Africa in June, the representative announced that the 48 countries attending indicated agreement for the development of such a Convention and announced the President of South Africa’s intent to be a “champion of disability rights” in the region.

Colombia indicated its support for the original Mexican resolution and expressed the need for it to reflect the issue of conflict. The Convention should also be binding and based on the clause of non-discrimination like those national instruments that deal with race and gender.  It should cover both first and second-generation rights, measures of social development, supervision and follow-up to ensure implementation, and the idea that poverty worsens the situation of PWD.  There is a need for this Convention to be elaborated on at this particular point in history and for this second meeting to establish a committee and a basic document that could be worked on.

Thailand observed the need to use time effectively to explore some form of international instrument with an open participatory approach with close consultation with stakeholders to guarantee success in elaboration. 

Nicaragua discussed the possibility that there might be an increase in state parties to such a legally binding instrument, and the independent mechanism ensuring state compliance must also reflect this by progressively increasing the number of experts on such a body to deal with the increased workload.   He called for the establishment for an assembly of the state parties that would meet periodically to elect the members of the monitoring body, deal with issues, and make NGO participation possible.

The Chairman reminded the delegations that the focus of this session is agenda item 7a, the nature and structure of the Convention.

The representative from Greece, on behalf of the EU, said that the EU has drafted a resolution and should begin informal consultations very soon.  He highlighted the need for a Convention to take into consideration the diverse experience of PWD but also the common discriminations that all PWD face.  We would be “best served” with a HR Convention with basic principles rather than specific text because of the danger of not having broad acceptance.

The Chairman indicated that there are no more states registered for intervention. No international organizations (IOs) indicated their desire to speak so he invited NGOs to take the floor.

The Disability Caucus indicated the need for it to be a human rights convention “first and foremost” that does not invent new rights for PWD but ensures the rights in the six core human rights treaties and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) are understood and applied in the disability context.  A non-discrimination clause or a brief statement of general principles is not enough as states need to take positive action to eliminate barriers and ensure accessibility, because not taking action is in itself a form of discrimination.  The Caucus said they do not support a tailoring of the Standard Rules and the World Program on Action to fit into a convention model, or the creation of a protocol or annex to an existing treaty as an alternative.   This possibility was already dismissed last year.  The Caucus highlighted the need for the Convention to include the overarching core principles of equality, development, autonomy, participation, and dignity and to ensure there is a monitoring body in place that includes a majority of PWD because there should be “nothing about us, without us.” 

The Chairman said that two countries would like to take the floor.

Canada reaffirmed their belief that the Convention should be “firmly anchored” in human rights principles and existing bodies and goes beyond labels and typologies; in particular, she raised the issue that CEDAW is a good example of such a thematic convention. With regard to a compilation document, such a document should reflect the core values of human dignity, inclusion, equality, participation, and autonomy, include the outcome of regional meetings, in particular the Bangkok meeting, and the discussion that has come out of the AHC.  Canada also discussed the nature of a convention by saying it should reaffirm equal protection of human rights, interpret the meaning of substantive equality with respect to obligation of states to ensuring political, civil, economic, social, and cultural rights for PWD.  It should also include the right to reasonable accommodation, a definition of what constitutes discrimination, and enumerate appropriate required steps for states to take to eliminate discrimination.  Canada called for the Convention to be drafted with sufficient precision, and be rights-based and principled so that all states can implement within their different national structures.  She indicated the need for PWD to be involved in the transparent process at all stages and called for the removal of barriers and obstacles to ensure such participation. 

The Chair gave the floor to the Secretary for two announcements: 1) Mexico will host an NGO briefing immediately following this meeting; 2) Landmine Survivors Network, South Africa and the UN Development Fund for Women will co-host a luncheon briefing Friday in the Delegates Dining Room.

New Zealand reiterated its position that a Convention should be: binding; based on all existing HR instruments; and “more than a simple statement” that rights exist. Also reiterated was its support of the Bangkok Recommendations in terms of the Convention’s structure: expressing guarantees of existing rights drawing upon the international Bill of Rights and other instruments.  New Zealand looks forward to “ongoing discussion” of how to get the “very best” Convention.

Sudan announced that this was first time his country was taking the floor at the meeting, indicating that the document should reflect the view of all states.  He reaffirmed support for the regional documents (Africa and Arab world) on the Convention.   He highlighted the need for the session to adopt specific resolutions but the need for agreement on how to draft such a document.  Such measures should not be done in haste; likewise, negotiations should not be entered in at this stage.  He called for delegates to have the opportunity to consult their states before there could be agreement on when to begin negotiations.  Sudan also called for the need for a broad consensus, and the need to highlight the needs of PWD in developing nations, by supporting and providing resources and technology to these states. 

Australia noted the need for a legally binding instrument, and suggested that “one option” might be a protocol or annex to existing instruments in order to “close gaps” and “avoid duplication of existing rights and proliferation of reporting mechanisms”.  Any instrument must have “best practice principles” that includes “streamlined reporting” for example. Australia is committed to “real outcomes” for PWD.

The Chair asked if any other countries wished to take the floor, none did. International Disability Alliance (IDA) took the floor saying it believes a Convention should reflect the shift away from disability as a social welfare, medical issue toward disability as a human rights issue, building on existing HR norms and principles such as dignity, self-determination, equality and social justice. A Convention should have a mechanism for “strong monitoring.”  Violations faced by PWD of civil and political rights to: life, freedom from torture, dignity, liberty, equality, association, family/privacy, freedom of expression, vote, citizenship, and recognition as a minority group were highlighted, as well as violations of economic/social/cultural rights to: education, work, health, access, standard of living, and culture. IDA would also welcome the inclusion of the so-called third generation of HR: the right to development. “Nothing about us, without us.”

The Alliance of Arabic NGOs noted that existing UN conventions should serve as a “baseline,” and a convention should, for example, address “national programs” that eliminate barriers to services, establish an independent monitoring mechanism, and establish a committee in which the disabled take part.

Tunisia took the floor to express the notion that “disabled people are more expert” than any expert can possibly be because an expert cannot “feel things the same way” as PWD. One of the first items a Convention should state is that all things should be decided with disabled persons.

Support Coalition International announced its agreement with the World Network of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry (WNUSP) proposal as well as earlier statements by other disability NGOs. Mental illness is a “legal category.”   The neurological detriment that iatrogenic treatments can cause was mentioned as well as principles such as: the need that “all other alternatives be used instead of psychiatric drugs as a first line of treatment” and one should have access to service “without having to become impoverished.”  “Nothing about us without us.”

The Economic and Social Coalition for the Asia Pacific (ESCAP) asked for a procedural clarification: Is the Secretariat currently consolidating the proposals presented, or planning to so do in the next couple of days?  He cited the DPI Japan Position Paper as an exemplar of NGO participation.  “Nothing about us without us.”

Thailand noted that many delegations are circulating various proposals and expressed that it would appreciate two things: such proposals also be circulated in electronic format so that they can be accessible by PWD and periodic announcement of the URL for electronic access.

The Chair then asked for submission of all interventions to the Secretariat to enable electronic distribution and asked the Secretariat to announce the URL for accessing electronic documents.  The Secretariat announced the following URL: www.un.org/esa/enable.  [Editors’ Note: The announced site does not work.  The UN PWD website is: http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/enable/. The Ad Hoc Committee website is: http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/enable/rights/adhoccom.htm.

The Disability Negotiations Daily Summaries are published by the Landmine Survivors Network, a US based international organization with amputee support networks in six developing / mine affected countries.  Summaries staff contributing include Jagdish Chander, Margaret Holt, Jennifer Perry, Marshall Traster and Katherine Guernsey (editor).  The Summaries are available online at www.rightsforall.org and www.worldenable.net.  Translations in Spanish, French and Japanese are provided courtesy of Disabled Peoples’ International, Handicap International, and DINF Japan.  Any questions or concerns relating to the Summaries should be directed to Katherine Guernsey (k_Guernsey@yahoo.com).