Keeping the promise: Government and civil society reflect on the rights of people with disabilities

18 Dec 2013

According to the World Health Organization, more than one billion people, or 15 percent of the global population, live with some form of disability.

The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities sets out international standards for the human rights of all persons with disabilities, affirming their legal rights and protecting them from discrimination.

Signed by this country in 2007 and ratified in 2011, the Convention requires governments, the private sector and others to take on the responsibility of respecting, protecting and fulfilling the rights of persons with disabilities.

The UN has been supporting national efforts to ratify and implement the Convention since 2008 and has been further assisting in the government’s reporting and follow-up processes.

With the country’s Initial State Report under the Convention due in January 2014, the UN is helping the Government prepare the Report by organizing consultations between the Government and people with disabilities.

As a result of these efforts, today saw the first consultations with organisations of persons with disabilities and civil society.

The consultation session was particularly significant because it enabled a valuable exchange of information and analysis between the Government and civil society organizations involved in protecting the rights of persons with disabilities and the implementation of the UN Convention in national legislation and practice.

Activists noted that legislation aimed at protecting the rights of persons with disabilities was often only partially implemented or disregarded, without any sanctions. One example was the provision of only 80 interpreters for a population of 6,000 deaf people.

Speaking at the session, Louisa Vinton, the UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative, said that “the country was one of the first in the world to sign the Convention and it has taken many steps towards realizing its promise since ratification two years ago. But barriers to full participation in society remain, whether in the form of physical obstacles to access, legislative and policy shortcomings, or prejudice and discrimination“.

The UN Convention and the committee of experts overseeing its implementation strongly advise states to encourage and facilitate the involvement of non-governmental organizations, including organizations of persons with disabilities, in the preparation of reports. Such constructive engagement not only enhances the quality of reports but itself promotes the enjoyment by all of the rights protected by the Convention.

“The voices of people with disabilities are crucial to this stocktaking, in line with the motto of the disabilities movement: “nothing about us without us“, Louisa Vinton pointed out, while reaffirming that “the United Nations remain committed to support the country's efforts to translate the rights recognized in the Convention into everyday realities for people with disabilities”.