Representation matters! Ensuring Equitable Participation of Persons with Disabilities

More than one billion people suffer from disabilities, consisting of approximately 15% of the world’s population. Systematic discrimination poses a huge barrier to their participation in all aspects of society. As a result, persons with disabilities are more likely to live in poverty. With a significant population, their inclusion in all development activities is essential to ensure equitable policy-making.

On Jul 16, 2021, a side event at the Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was held to raise awareness of the lack of deaf representation at the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. In fact, there has only been 1 deaf member throughout the history of the Committee and there is no deaf member on the Committee today. This trend of a lack of deaf representation limits the functioning of the UN Disability Rights Architecture. 

The History of Disabled Representation

As early as 1982, the World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations (UN) to provide fundamental principles for policy-making related to persons with disabilities. In 1993, the Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities was adopted to set out further guidelines. They continued to operate until the Convention was signed to supersede these older recommendations.

On 30 March 2007, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) was ratified by Member States to protect the human rights and dignity of disabled persons. The Convention, which took effect in 2008, is a legally-binding international treaty. Together with its Optional Protocol (OP), they provide the comprehensive normative framework for Member States to ensure that disabled persons are included in all development efforts at different levels.

This marked a milestone by recognizing disabled persons as holders of rights, rather than as objects of charity, medical treatment and social protection. It allows them to live in dignity and autonomy, just like any other ordinary member of society.

Implementation of the Convention

Like many other international treaties, the major area of difficulty lies in the translation of principles and provisions into everyday planning and implementation. At an international level, the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was established to monitor implementation with monitoring functions. At a national level, State Parties were required to design national implementation and monitoring mechanisms pursuant to article 33.

According to the Guidance Note published for UN Country Teams and Implementing Partners, the first and foremost entry point was to ensure the early involvement of disabled persons and their representative organizations in the consultation and planning processes. Furthermore, the inclusion of disability rights should be promoted in government-led analysis. Monitoring and evaluation were also conducted by UN agencies and their partners to constantly review and improve the effectiveness and efficiency of programmes on disability rights. 

In a nutshell, it is essential to provide the marginalized groups with an opportunity to partake in governance and decision-making, especially when it affects them directly. We must all recognize the rights of disabled persons to build a more equitable world.

#disabilityrights #CRPD #disabilities #UnitedNations

Written by: WIT-UN Intern Tracy Cheng


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