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Disability Negotiations Daily Summary

Volume 1,#7
August 6, 2002

Meeting of the Ad Hoc Committee, 29 July - 9 August 2002 : NGO Daily Summaries :

Morning session

Commenced 10.15

The Representative from the Philippines Chaired the session.

Following a statement from Guatemala affirming the need for a Convention, the Philippines outlined the following rights for their applicability in the context of disability: 1] Right to work, based on ILO conventions; 2] Right to adequate health care; 3] Right to quality education, 4] Right to participate in civil and political activities. The Philippines asserted that states must address issue of resources. Huge expenditures are needed for programme that provide for equalization of opportunities. The convention must address the need for international cooperation, and render the financial and technical assistance to ensure living conditions of the disabled.

Japan concurred with others that any legal instrument should be compatible with the existing human rights treaty framework. In establishing a new mechanism for monitoring, Japan asserted that this should "be consistent with" a GA resolution that called for "a rationalizing and streamlining of the human rights machinery….to avoid duplication and promote efficiency" [A/56/253]. The report that will ensue from these Ad Hoc Committee meetings should contain recommendations acceptable to all delegations in a balanced and objective manner. "This would be the best point of departure for its future work."

Sierra Leone recommended the Mexican Working Paper as a guide for drafting recommendations regarding content and practical measures of a future treaty. The content should be based on the 5 broad rights and a notion of human dignity. It asserted that "the treaty must make a reference to money - financial and technical know how" asking how disabled members of delegations can carry out their duties without money? The delegate enquired whether the secretariat could afford to provide a small team of sign language interpreters, and whether it could translate selected documents into Braille. He emphasized the importance of the availability and provision of adequate resources. "This is the bottom line" to which "special attention should be paid….they are at the core" of a future treaty.

Chile proposed that the convention incorporate 3 elements: access, inclusion, and as mentioned by Sierra Leone, resources. The convention should take into account the social situation of the countries, and view disability as an element of "development." For civil and political rights equality is viewed in terms of "equality before the law." Concepts of economic, social and cultural rights view equality in terms of materials/resources, and there should be a move towards pursuit of material equality and equality of opportunities.

Nigeria drew attention to the difficulties faced by PWDs in developing countries, which are often exacerbated by armed conflicts and natural disasters. PWDs in developing countries are particularly vulnerable to discrimination and exploitation, and must be given the opportunity to enjoy economic, social and cultural rights just "as normal persons do." It proposed that the distribution of resources be increased to help combat the problems faced by PWDs in developing countries. More should also be done to assure the participation of PWDs from developing countries in the drafting of any new international instrument. Nigeria requested the Secretariat to make available all necessary facilities for the participation of PWDs in future meetings.

The Representative from South Africa welcomed the shift from a welfare model of disability to a more development-based model. Drawing upon the 6 core human rights treaties, it set forth several principles for inclusion in any new convention: respect & human dignity as the collective responsibility of both state and non-state actors; achievement of equality with an emphasis on the equalization of opportunities; a prohibition of all forms of discrimination; self-representation, social justice and democracy; and accessibility. The "litmus test" for a new convention would be to make these rights real for all PWDs.

The Representative from the Philippines, Richard Arce called for: 1] accessibility for PWDs; 2] the participation of PWDs in conference meetings in their own capacity and as members of state delegations; and 3] support from developed countries to developing countries. He praised countries like Japan for working to include PWDs in regional conferences and other similar events. He proposed a resolution urging that 10% (a reflection of the estimated percentage of the total number of PWD in the world) of Official Development Assistance (ODA) from developed countries to developing and underdeveloped countries be allocated to "people with disabilities programs, projects, services and activities."

Cameroon detailed some of the challenges it has faced in working to improve the lives of PWDs, and called for a convention that expressly promotes the distribution of additional resources.

Kicki Nordstrom, President of the World Blind Union (WBU), and speaking on behalf of the International Disability Alliance (IDA), endorsed the statement of the Philippines and the suggestion that 10% of aid programmes be directed to PWDs in developing countries. IDA also recommended the integration of more PWDs in national delegations as experts, for PWDs are in the best position to understand the conditions PWDs live and the challenges they experience.

Judy Chamberlain from Support Coalition International pointed out that laws in many countries are aimed only at people labeled with psychiatric disabilities, and that these laws violate human rights. She urged that any new convention should not separate out psychiatric disability from other types of disabilities. She also called for the following rights to be "clearly and unequivocally included" in any convention: the right to become parents, and the right to be free from sexual oppression, given that psychiatric survivors "are routinely subject to rape and sexual abuse by those assigned to take care of us."

A Representative from the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) emphasized the need for states to recognise sign language as an official language in their respective countries. Without official recognition of this language, many deaf people are denied adequate information to participate fully in society. In order to counter what is in some cases a systemic parternalism, WFD encouraged states to pay greater attention to organisation of deaf people, rather than organisations for deaf people.

The Representative from the Gray Panthers, Judy Lear, spoke of the common link between aging and disability, given that impairment and disability frequently increases with age. Because disability is such a cross-cutting issue, a convention on the human rights of PWDs should be thought of as serving and protecting the rights of all people.

Robert Nagel of the Communication Coordination Committee for UN, recommended that: 1] in order to make UN resources available to all it should have an accessible website; and 2] accessible "architecture" be incorporated into the design of any new project, at the early stages, that might need to be accessible to PWDs. Committing to accessible design from the outset of any project would reduce the costs associated with addressing accessibility at a later point

Rosemary Marinara of Venture House, and Kate Millet, provided personal testimony of their experiences as psychiatric survivors, in New York State psychiatric institutions, including detailing instances of incarceration and forced treatment, and being denied the right to vote, which they identified as human rights abuses.

Afternoon Session

Commenced 3.15 pm
Adjourned: 6 pm

A series of presentations were organized by the Department of Economic and Social Affairs. The Special Rapporteur on Disability, Mr. Benqdt Lindqvist moderated, and made a few remarks at the end. There was time for only 2 questions from delegations and NGOs. Copies of the presentations are expected to be uploaded to an accessible website, http://www.worldenable.net/.  A date for when this will be done has not yet been announced.

Ms. Akiko Ito, Chief of the Programme on Disability, provided an overview of the international normative framework relevant to PWD. The World Programme of Action and the Standard Rules constitute the framework on which current policy is designed. The WPA clearly moved away from defining disability in terms of a medical framework, and this new paradigm is reflected in its most recent review. Ms. Ito highlighted several reasons for the increasing emphasis on the issue of disability in general, among them a "significant expansion of constituencies" given man made and natural disasters, and developments in genetic research. Ms. Ito also detailed the work of DESA, which can be found on their website:

Jane Connors - Chief of the Division of the Advancement of Women, traced the process by which the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women and its Optional Protocol was drafted and passed. She highlighted those stages that might be relevant for learnings on possible parallels in the process for a Disability Convention. She noted that the Women's Convention was unusual for two reasons: firstly it allows for temporary affirmative action, binding state parties to undertake measures to alleviate cultural practices harmful to women; secondly it extends the obligations of the state beyond the public sphere, to family life and corporations. She discussed the staffing, procedures, and work of the Committee, the treaty body that monitors the Convention, noting that this was the first human rights body to incorporate disability in its human rights work, in the form of - an albeit somewhat underdeveloped - General Recommendation #18 on women with disabilities.

CEDAW itself does not specifically address disability nor is there an overt provision allowing for NGO input. It was modeled as a nondiscrimination Convention, along the lines of the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Were the drafting process taken place today, a provision for NGO input would have been specified, and the approach would probably have paralleled the Rights of the Child Convention. Discussion at the time focused on an appropriate monitoring body rather than a mechanism for individual complaints. The treaty was therefore very much a document of its time.

The Optional Protocol was a result of the call for an individual communications procedure that emerged out of the women's movement in the 1990s. The Commission on the Status of Women's proposal for such a procedure was included in the 1993 Vienna Declaration on Human Rights, and picked up the Committee. The elements of such a procedure were circulated for reactions from member states and a comparative analysis of procedures. Following the Beijing conference, a working group was set up parallel to the Committee. Concerns about duplication in the mechanisms were addressed in subsequent years of discussion of a text and by 1999 a draft protocol was ready to be adopted. This contained no specific provision for disabled women.

For more information on the DAW, http://www.womenwatch.org/  

Mr. Burdekin of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, emphasized the importance of national human rights institutions for PWD. From a practitioner's perspective, despite the creation of international treaty bodies and mechanisms, "the level of reality in our respective countries is such that that there will be no way for PWD to access this machinery" except perhaps at the national level. The OHCHR will work with states to ensure that this machinery can work at the local level to strengthen NI. For more information on the work of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, go to http://www.unhchr.ch/  

Mr. Gerard Quinn spoke in his personal capacity and not as a member of the Irish delegation. He summarized the findings and recommendations of the study "The current use and future potential of United Nations human rights instruments in the context of disability" authored by himself and Ms. Theresia Degener and commissioned by the OHCHR. The study was premised on values and insights brought about by the move away from the welfare model. Mr. Quinn called it a "visibility project" to move the work on people with disability in law and in society into focus. He noted that it had been very difficult to focus on disability within the treaty bodies - a recognition of "the reality that other matters will always compete for their attention." The study is contained in E/CN.4/2002/18/Add.1 and can be downloaded from http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu6/2/disability.doc

Ms. Gulbadan Habibi of UNICEF described the relevance of the Rights of the Child Convention to disability, focusing on Article 23. This mentions disability specifically in a nondiscrimination clause. In UNICEF's Rights of Disabled Children report "It is Our World Too" their experiences of poverty, violence, and abuse in hands of caregivers are detailed. This report can be found at http://www.unicef.org/  

Mr. Steve Miller from the New York Office of the ILO elaborated on ILO Convention 159: Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (Disabled Persons) 1983. His presentation titled "Promoting Decent Work for People with Disabilities" can be requested from http://www.ilo.org/ 

Mary Chamie, Chief of the Demographic and Social Statistics Branch presented on "International Disability Statistics: Where are We Headed?" [goto www.worldenable.org site] She highlighted the fact there currently is "no one disability statistic" and that perspective is important in distinguishing them. She described the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF), a set of standards that she recommended can create consistency for referencing the Standard Rules and framing questions in relation to that. http://www.un.org/esa/population/ 

Mary Beth Weinberger, Chief of the Population and Development Section focused on population and ageing noting that while these issues are not synonymous with disability, there is a connection. Many types of disability are much more common with increased age. For more information on "Population Ageing 2002" goto http://www.un.org/esa/population/ 

Mr. Javier Vasquez of the World Health Organisation and the Pan American Health Organisation's Mental Health Programme sought to address two issues: What is being done to protect and promote rights of mental disabilities within these organisations? How has the Inter American Convention helped? For more information on these programmes visit: http://www.paho.org/ | http://www.who.int/en/ 

Mr Bengdt Lindqvist spoke briefly about his functions as Rapporteur noting that he has 3 more visits to make, including Nepal and Vietnam. He said that the Standard Rules have worked as a tool for implementing policies, for which there is a government interest. More than 40 or 50 countries have adopted legislation inspired by the SR. During the past 8 years there have been some weaknesses in the SR. He had initially thought of a two track approach; now thinks there will be a multi pronged. He fully endorsed Mr. Quinn's recommendations.

Norway asked if the statistics division could provide any up-to-date figures regarding the numbers of PWDs throughout the world. Mary Chamie replied that current figures as provided by states are compilations of noncomparable data. She hoped that future adherence to the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) would make possible the collection of comparable data. The figure of 600 million PWDs worldwide that was referenced in a Rehabilitation International report over a decade ago, stems from the assumption that 10% of the world's population are disabled, and continues to be cited due to expediency.

Tina Minkowitz of Madre enquired whether the standards WHO/PAHO used in their work with the mentally disabled comport with internationally accepted standards of human rights of all people. In response, Mr. Vasquez stated that PAHO has tried to disseminate standards approved by the UN and OAS, as well as general conventions applicable in mental health issues. He pointed to the inclusion of the issue of the human rights of people with mental disabilities in the plans of many country ombudsman offices, and efforts to take the members of regional human rights bodies and commissions into psychiatric hospitals to observe first-hand the human rights abuses in question.

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. LSN staff and consultants contributing to these summaries include Zahabia Adamaly, MA (zahabia@landminesurvivors.org), Katherine Guernsey, JD (Kathy@landminesurvivors.org), and Janet E. Lord, LLB (editor) (janet@landminesurvivors.org). Any questions or concerns relating to the Summaries should be directed to Janet Lord.