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Disability Negotiations Daily Summary Volume 2, #7 June 24, 2003

Morning session

Commenced: 10:15

Adjourned: 11:18

Agenda Item 8: Next steps in the consideration of a convention

The Chairperson welcomed an almost full session of delegates, NGOs, observers and media, noting the agenda intent to have informal consultations on this item. For this purpose, the following four documents were distributed yesterday afternoon: A/AC.265/CRP.3/Ads 1 and 2, A/AC.265/2003.W1.

Greece submitted a statement on behalf of the EU and auxiliary countries setting out the essential elements they believe should be included in the Convention (A/AC.265/CRP.13/Ad2). These fundamental principles should be included in the body of the instrument: 1) non-discrimination 2) equality of opportunity 3) autonomy and 4) participation and integration. Specific non-exhaustive minimal essential measures were listed under each category to give effect to these principles. Under #1, a definition of direct and indirect "discrimination on the grounds of disability" was needed. # 2 included equal rights under the law, legislative and other awareness about PWD. Reasonable accommodation and the right of enjoyment of highest level of health, education, work, favorable labor conditions, technology were seen as necessary to a Convention which provides for positive actions and strategies. # 3 encouraged full PWD participation on an equal footing regarding decision-making that will effect the public and private lives of PWD. #4 advocated equal footing for PWD, identification and elimination of barriers to access, including the right to participate in NGOs. The essential elements paper didn't address monitoring in detail, but the delegation felt it should be addressed at later stages. They did not attempt a definition of disability, because they didn't believe it necessary for purposes of the Convention. In closing, Greece stated that the EU was looking forward to working constructively with members for a strong and effective Convention assuring the widest possible support.

The International Disability Convention Caucus commented that the Committee's "resolutions and decisions has given us some degree of participation in the work of the Committee, but it has been imperfect." The Voluntary Fund to Support Participation of PWDs from Developing Countries was not supplied with sufficient funds in time for this meeting. Many countries have still not incorporated significant participation of disabled peoples' organization representatives on their delegations. PWD representatives must be included in significant numbers in the drafting group. They proposed that 12 experts be chosen by the international disability community whose participation must be resourced with assured funds. "Our participation and our rights cannot be decided behind closed doors." The legitimacy of a HR treaty on disability depends on the participation of disabled people themselves. Any procedure which fails on this account will not be recognized as legitimate." While the Caucus appreciated the partnership initiatives, consultations with them as experts at regional meetings, as well as the transparent process of holding informal open discussions, it would be "unacceptable at this point to go backwards. We are at a crossroads here at the UN ...Will we be excluded once again?"

Cuba was of the view that the Secretariat's compilation of documents, including NGO contributions, would constitute a basis for a first draft of a Convention. This could be the result of this second AHC, "to express its views and opinions and submit whatever proposals and amendments the Committee considers to be important." There is no doubt that it is the responsibility of this Committee "to negotiate on a Convention on this topic in keeping with Resolution 57.229 of the Assembly and the recommendations of the special committee." They supported the proposal that "the official representatives of the various national organizations be included," and agreed with the open-ended composition format, which will include as many working meetings as necessary to enables participation of all of the member states.

A representative made a statement on behalf of the NGOs International Service for Human Rights, the Francois Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights and Human Rights Watch. The fundamental precept of human rights is that all persons without exception has equal claims to the rights that the human community has claimed as universal. These rights are recognized and applied through the emerging body of international human rights law. Despite the universality of these rights there exists population groups whose social and environmental circumstances are such that their claim to these rights are unrecognized or even challenged. The international community has recognized that women, children, refugees, migrant workers and racial minorities are among the populations that are particularly vulnerable to violations of human rights. In some cases this vulnerability is caused by discriminatory attitudes rooted in social perspectives and legal structures. In other cases, violations result more from a lack of understanding of the specific needs of the population and how rights must be implemented given these differences. The representative noted that the community of PWD cuts across every group in society and constitutes "the poorest of the poor" in every country. She elaborated that "PWD experience discrimination, and human rights violations that include lack of access to basic needs such as housing, transportation, education and employment as well as human rights abuses such as involuntary incarceration and restraint, forced medical treatment, sterilization, and many other degrading and violent acts." Their political and social disempowerment has meant that PWD have not been prioritized on the agenda of international institutions of human rights. The mainstream human rights movement has not included disability as a core area of concern or as a subject of monitoring, reporting or data collection. PWD represent a community that has been drastically underserved by both the inter-governmental and civil society based human rights framework. Therefore "our organizations strongly endorse the explicit inclusion of the rights of PWD in the international human rights law framework and urge UN member States to recognize that the rights of PWD, should be the subject of a specialized convention that elaborates the full range of human rights recognized in international law and which include provision for a monitoring and implementation mechanism." Mainstreaming disability in existing human rights bodies should be undertaken with the awareness that they currently lack the expertise to advise member states on the applicability of the rights of PWD. The process must include the leadership of PWD themselves and the full support and engagement of the human rights community.

Expressing her deep satisfaction in regard to the emerging consensus on taking a definitive step to begin the elaboration on a convention on the rights of pwd, Canada pointed out that there is a need to present a comprehensive compilation of all contributions made so far which can serve as a reference document for the subsequent proceedings. Canada suggested the following updates to they what they view is "an initial draft" of the compilation currently in circulation. [1] views of the states submitted in response to the Secretary General's questionnaire completed over the course of the spring; [2], both oral and written statements made by member states, international organizations and NGOs over the course of the Ad hoc Committee's meetings the past two weeks; (III) documents from the regional meetings not ready in time for the initial draft of the compilation; (IV), panel discussions over the past week; (V) proposed draft convention from Mexico and now Venezuela, as they reflect very specific suggestions while other statements reflect more general considerations of the possible elements of the convention. Canada highlighted the need, in the remaining days, to establish a constructive process to move forward, and that one possibility would be to appoint a Facilitator as was done last year".

Jamaica asked that the Committee move with "haste " to correct the historical wrongs that have been done to PWD, to ensure all key players are involved, and that measures to exercise these rights are put in place. Columbia was flexible as far as methodology of work was concerned but noted that an effective mechanism to enable the compilation of documents needs to put in place as soon as possible. Costa Rica emphasized the need to prepare an initial draft in order to begin negotiations on a Convention within a specific time limit. "PWD throughout the world need a convention urgently and we do not have the right to deprive them of their rights or of this convention." In agreement with Mexico, Guatemala noted that the mechanism for compliance and monitoring of the convention are important enough that those who do not comply should be penalized. This should be reflected in the reports on human development that the UN prepares annually. Brazil reiterated its satisfaction that there is now general agreement that there should be a Convention and that this Committee would be the forum for its negotiation. There is an emerging consensus that an intersessional mechanism is necessary, to make the compilation of the working document possible. "We must keep the momentum. We must agree upon a process that will lead us with no delay, but without haste, towards making this convention in to a reality." Mexico urged that the Committee make the best possible use of its remaining time to put some order into the compilation, that it integrate all and each of the proposals submitted, so that delegations can return to their home countries with complete documentation. The Mexican delegation was available to work on any task assigned to it in this regard. Venezuela noted the various proposals on ways forward that have been tabled, and stressed the need to start laying out text and use the remaining days for achieving some concrete actions. For example, rather than discussing whether a definition of disabilities exist, perhaps it is better to begin defining this right away. Thailand expressed that "we sincerely wish that we carry out this historic opportunity to invent this convention that will be about "participation, inclusion and partnership." China noted that there be reasonable time allocated to states and organizations so that their contributions can be integrated into this final compilation and expressed its satisfaction that the issue of whether or not there should be a convention has been resolved. Ecuador, suggested to have a "sufficiently broad and specific convention to reflect fundamentally the differences between the various types of disabilities and deal with them adequately.... strengthening opportunities for PWD especially in developing countries." The delegate noted the important role that civil society will play in this process and reiterated "the need for having as soon as possible a text on which we can make some headway in our negotiation." Venezuela further reflected on comments made with regards to "the cost involved in ensuring continuity in the participation of many persons in a special working group." They suggested taking into account the Canadian proposal that one facilitator be in charge of compiling all the documentation and presenting it to the Committee. Canada clarified that their facilitation suggestion was for the next three days of discussion only, not for any intersessional period.

The Chair announced that informal consultative meetings have been taking place, and will continue today. In order to reach consensus, the plenary open informals will be facilitated by the Philippine Vice Chair, who also helped reach agreement at the previous AHC session. Regarding the Chair's participation in these consultations, if there is no consensus this afternoon, he will intervene.

The compilation of documents is evolving, and the Bureau welcomes additional contributions. For this reason physical distribution of the document would not be possible. The Secretariat shall post these on the Web along with the questionnaire from the office of the Secretary General. The Chair reiterated the intent to use his best efforts to reach consensus as soon as possible, exhorting the Committee to reach consensus today on procedure.

Afternoon Session

Commenced: 3:16 PM

Adjourned: 5:06 PM

Mexico, the European Union and New Zealand presided over informal open consultations, receiving delegations' comments on the Revised (Joint) Draft Decision (RDD) -- the result of the harmonization of their 3 individual proposals on procedural matters. (this document was not produced as an official UN document). New Zealand, as the Acting Chair, noted that the RDD maintains the structure of having a Working Group (WG) and NGO participation. The WG is to meet intersessionally and its purpose is to prepare a text for presentation at the Third Meeting of the Ad Hoc Committee (AHC). The WG is to report two months prior to the 3rd meeting. A difference between the RDD and prior formulations is that the RDD WG membership comprises 25, as opposed to 27, states "equally divided" between the regional geographical groups, rather than selected according to "an equitable geographic representation." The number of NGOs remained at 10. The WG would meet for 10 working days in New York. The Acting Chair also noted that there are provisions for Voluntary Funds to be available for participation of NGOs from developing countries. He noted that a revised resolution was being worked on.

Delegates' questions and comments on the RDD addressed the following themes:

Representational Matters

Equitable geographic representation of states

Japan noted "Asia is the largest regional geographic group"; China that "the regional groups differ in size and membership"; Thailand that "each region has a different number of countries"; Sudan that the WG must "adopt a procedure on representation of countries in a region"; and Pakistan that "the Mexican proposal was fair." Kuwait and Indonesia also addressed the importance of this provision in the RDD. Guatemala asked whether the 25 governmental representatives would be states or individuals.


Many states highlighted the need for NGOs to represent the main geographic regions. China asked "how do we decide which ten?" and "are we limiting it to those NGOs who have UN consultative status and are approved by the GA?" Brazil noted that the "voices of the South must also be heard"; Thailand highlighted the "need to increase the number of NGOs from regional areas to five"; and Indonesia asked that the Committee "consider how a geographical representation mechanism is used for NGOs as they are outside the UN system." South Africa noted that if the NGO representation was going to be from the international organisations, then this would under-represent NGOs based in the South. India, Kuwait, Cuba and also indicated their support for consideration of these matters.

The Disability Caucus noted that there were international disability organizations with consultative status in both New York and Geneva and with representatives linking up in all five UN regions.

India asked for clarification on the rationale behind the revised number of NGOs that would be represented in the working group ("before it was seven and now it is ten?"). Uganda expressed its support in raising the number of NGO representatives to12 as did the Disability Caucus.

Morocco, Canada, Chile, Jamaica supported the Thai proposal and also emphasized the need for NGO representation.

National Human Rights Institutions

The New Zealand Human Rights Institution, on behalf of all HR Institutions, reminded the Committee of its statement of 19 June in which it expressed that inclusion of National Human Rights Institutions would be "very appropriate" because of their "expertise". Thailand emphasized the need to include national human rights institutions and called for adding 5 national human rights institutions to the 25 representatives from member states, allowing for one national human rights institution per geographic region or decreasing the number of member states to 20 to allow for 5 national human rights institutions to participate. Chile supported the idea of adding five experts in human rights to the working group. Uganda also echoed its support for the inclusion of human rights experts and called for states to "reduce their presence by one" to keep the number of "representatives under reasonable control." The Disability Caucus also "appreciated" the presence of national human rights institutions in the working group."

Developing nations/voluntary fund

Some states also highlighted the need for developing nations to have a voice in the working group and supported a voluntary fund that would aid in allowing NGOs to have access to the meetings, especially those from developing nations. Among those were: Jordan ("need more emphasis to ensure participation of NGOs from developing nations"); Sudan ("should include NGOs from developing nations"); and Jamaica (need for "equity in terms of balance of power and representation of developing and developing states"). South Africa, Bangladesh, and Indonesia indicated their support for the voluntary fund.

Representation of PWD

Jamaica, in particular, echoed the view of many NGOs comprised of PWD "nothing about us, without us" in their statement regarding the working group composition. Jordan, Kuwait, and Uganda highlighted the need for PWD participation, including those with expertise in these areas. The Disability Caucus said that the working group would benefit from the input of experts, including "human rights experts and lawyers who are PWDs themselves."

Kuwait highlighted the need to ensure PWD participation in the group, paying attention to their "legal and civil rights."

Mandate and work of the Working Group and Ad Hoc Committee

Morocco, Cuba, Republic of Korea, Bangladesh, Sudan asked for more detail on the mandate of the WG to be included in the RDD text. Argentina called for a broad mandate to translate concepts into text. China said that the mandate of the working group was clear -- to draft the text of the Convention.

Some concern was raised over what the role of the AHC will be. Canada noted that the RDD paragraph 5 reference to the WG taking into account "all proposals submitted by States for its consideration" should probably be clarified because the 'its' language seems to refer to the WG when the AHC is the body ultimately considering any proposals.

Pakistan wondered how to proceed from this point -- is it necessary to submit written comments, or will there a "revised text" in light of today's comments?.

Many states asked for clarification of the term "new draft text," which is found in paragraph five of the RDD. Among those states were India ("clarification is important to the mandate of the working group"); the Republic of Korea ("as it relates to the mandate of the working group"); Thailand ("new is relative to old; is the old draft text the Mexican resolution?); Sudan ("what is the status of the Mexican and New Zealand draft texts?"; "are they withdrawn?") Pakistan ("is the Venezuelan text still being looked at by the Bureau?"; "called for the possibility of changing "new draft text" to "another preliminary text"); and Uganda ("implies a previous text will be replaced?"). Indonesia and Bangladesh also expressed concern on the clarity of this term.

Mexico noted the WG is that of "supporting" the work of the AHC while remarking that it is "important to stress" that the "negotiating forum" is the AHC, the WG "sifts through proposals".

Indonesia suggested that the UN Secretary-General provide assistance to the WG.

Procedural Questions

Kuwait noted a generalized concern that "rules and procedures" used to reach a decision of objectives be "known to states".

Nomination and selection of WG members/Chair

Jamaica asked for criteria for selecting the 25 state representatives and noted that states could appoint experts. Sudan also highlighted the importance--especially for developing countries--of adopting a procedure for determining the number of countries from each region and emphatically stated that it is "very important" that a "clear deadline" be set regarding nominations. China wondered how the 10 NGO representatives would be decided and whether only those NGO's that have consultative status would be included; Sudan repeated this request and suggested that if NGOs without ECOSOC status be included, that "basic information" be circulated regarding the credentials of any such NGOs. Guatemala also expressed concern over the procedures for appointing NGOs. Sudan also pointed out that a further clarification was needed as to who will chair the WG, and wondered if the AHC Chair would also be the Chair for the WG. Uganda further questioned if the Chair would be selected from the WG. Argentina added that it "might also be a good idea to state who is to preside" over the WG. Guatemala pointed out that the possibility that five regional groups would each appoint five states "might work" although the "normal thing" procedurally would be to "name states X, Y, and Z expressly" within the Decision. Guatemala also referred to "quite a few other secondary problems" but said the problems elaborated were enough for the time being. Uganda enquired into the time frame for the nominations.


Some countries, including Bangladesh; Brazil; Chile; Republic of Korea; and South Africa made general criticism of the lack of dates, timeframes, and deadlines. South Africa was keen to see the process proceed "expeditiously". Bangladesh requested that a timeframe be "clearly mentioned" in the RDD paragraph 4 reference to the WG meeting inter-sessionally.

Jordan, Sudan, Venezuela asked when the WG will be established. Sudan remarked that the WG should only start work once "contributions" have been received from member states that have not yet done so. Sudan also asked when the deadline for submission of the WG's work would be.

Venezuela asked for a specific date for the third meeting of the AHC as mentioned in para 7. Costa Rica concurred ("so we can broach this issue with greater clarity"). Canada assumed that the next meeting of the AHC will be in June 2004.

Thailand noted that reference in RDD paragraph 4 to "ten working days" was imprecise because it is unclear how many meetings total will take place (i.e., ten days for each meeting or both meetings combined?).

Venezuela, noting RDD paragraph 4, asked how many inter-sessional meetings will be (or have been) planned by the drafters.

Submission of proposals for consideration by the WG

Jordan enquired about a timeframe for submissions and Morocco about how states/actors who were not a part of the WG could have their proposals "considered" by it. Pakistan commented that the listing of potential contributors in paragraph 5 was rather "open-ended".

India questioned the "relevance" of requesting documentation from the Secretary General; Bangladesh was not clear as to the reference to "timely manner" made in this paragraph.

Consultation with capitals

Several delegations noted that two months allowed for representatives to consult with their governments as per paragraph 7 of the RDD was inadequate: Argentina; Brazil, Indonesia, Pakistan, Sudan, Canada ("suggest a minimum of three months"); India ("at minimum" three months); Namibia ("six months at least". Reasons cited for the need for additional consultation time included: federal governing systems (raised by Australia, Thailand), states whose territories of governance are large (raised by Thailand) and the need to ensure that documents were fully accessible including to those who were visually impaired (raised by Namibia).


In referring to paragraph 7 of the RDD, some States highlighted the need to have WG documents in alternative formats. Namibia noted that the translation of the WG presentations to the Committee into all UN languages should also not exclude those people who have visual impairments and provide the "opportunity for translation into Braille so they can participate. Thailand (this should be "practiced throughout the entire process"); Canada ("any final outcome document or circulation document" should be accessible); Thailand ("should include but not be limited to sign language, Braille, audio, electronic formats"); and Argentina, also highlighted the need for accessible formats of all documents.

South Africa pointed out that information on the voluntary fund should also be in accessible format, so all NGOs can access it.

General Comments

Morocco expressed: its thanks on behalf of the African Group to all NGOs; its belief that all delegations and regional groups could "enrich" the process with further proposals. Brazil noted that delegations should "be ready for negotiation" at the next session (after consultations with their governments). Kuwait mentioned the possibility of consultation with the Special Rapporteur while proclaiming that civil and political rights "must" be assured in the process, and that economic, social, and cultural rights (e.g., education, health, development) "should be" included in the Convention.

Jamaica noted--in its second intervention--that it has a "concern that is not an opposition" that the development of a document as a "human rights" document must be "balanced", noting for example, the right to vote doesn't matter "if one does not have the funds to purchase a wheelchair to get to the voting booth", and that we must "move with both our left foot and our right foot". Brazil's second intervention was to convey its hope that a draft resolution along the lines of that proposed by the E.U. with elements that a Convention should contain and the AHC as the organ for that elaboration is "still" on the table for consideration. Norway expressed its confidence that agreement will be found on issues in question in the "spirit of cooperation".

Closing Remarks

The Acting Chair (New Zealand) asked for an "opportunity to reflect" on thoughts, questions, and proposals presented and perhaps work further on another revised text. He reiterated that determination of state representation would be up to the regional groups themselves and that he also wanted NGOs to be "self-selected". He noted "considerable support" for "increased representation" of NGOs. In response to the question of when a WG would start its work, the answer given was "as soon as possible', though it "might be possible" to establish which states might participate on the WG and the dates of their participation by the end of this second AHC session. "We want to keep momentum going" yet the intent of the RDD was not to be "too prescriptive at this point". In response to the multiple queries regarding the "new text" language, the Acting Chair explained that there have been "many texts over the years" in U.N. files. The need to look at timelines was acknowledged.

He expressed agreement with the notion that time limits should be placed on "new contributions". He was optimistic that all can work "quite well" together towards improvements noting that the three delegations are driving the process but that comments "in the hallways" are always welcome. He could not confirm whether another meeting "of this kind" to consider revisions will take place, though the need for this was clear. For example he pointed to an item in paragraph 5 which "gives the impression" that contributions go only to the WG.

The European Union delegate noted that the E.U. has "already shown its flexibility and commitment to move the process forward" and expressed hope for a final solution adding that "what we already have in the text is enough".

The New Zealand delegate noted that if it were "helpful" they could "look at presenting further text", but said they "will want to check with the Chair on this".

The Disability Negotiations Daily Summaries are published by the Landmine Survivors Network, a US based international organization with amputee support networks in 6 mine affected / developing countries. Reporters include Jagdish Chander, Margaret Holt, Jennifer Perry, Marshall Traster and Zahabia Adamaly (editor) The Summaries are posted on line by noon the following day at www.rightsforall.org and www.worldenable.net and translated into Spanish, French (Handicap International), and Japanese (Japanese Society for Rehabilitation of Persons with Disabilities). For questions, write to Zahabiaadamaly@hotmail.com.