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UN Programme on Disability   Working for full participation and equality


New York, 16 to 27 June 2003

Panel discussions on priority themes

Panel I

Typology of international conventions and
options for a convention on the
rights of persons with disabilities


16 June 2003
3 to 6 p.m.)

Panel I had four presenters: Professor Andrew Byrnes (Australia), Professor Deepika Udagama (Sri Lanka), Professor Velina Todorova (Bulgaria) and Professor Muna Ndulo (Zambia).The panel discussion was chaired by H.E. Ambassador Luis Gallegos (Ecuador), Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Comprehensive and Integral International Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities. Professor Andrew Byrnes moderated the panel discussion.

The Panel discussed issues concerning a convention on the rights of persons with disabilities as to its nature, structure, elements and monitoring system. It also examined how the existing human rights conventions may provide guidance and options for elements in elaborating a new convention, especially in relation to the newly emerging concept, which incorporate the norms with an equal emphasis on both human rights and social development.

The Panel explored three models of an international convention: (1) Holistic rights-Model after the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which would provide a broader scope of the convention on the rights of persons with disabilities, based on the holistic and comprehensive nature of the CRC; (2) Non-discrimination Model after the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD), which would not require the development of new rights to incorporate specific conditions and needs of persons with disabilities, but rather the convention would guarantee that persons with disabilities could exercise their general human rights; (3) Hybrid Model, combining non-discrimination and equality with separate statements of existing rights guarantees, tailored to specific situations of persons with disabilities. Some options were discussed as to the substantive and procedural aspects of these three models, which could provide a basis for discussion of the new convention and its monitoring procedures.

It was reiterated by all the panellists that the indivisibility, independence and interrelatedness of all human rights-civil, political, economic, social and cultural--are of equal importance and equal weight in both jurisprudence and practice. Elaboration of the convention and its monitoring system would benefit from the experience and the on-going jurisprudential discourse on this issue at the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

A number of aspects of the existing monitoring mechanisms were discussed, including useful examples from the experience of the CRC for monitoring a convention on the rights of persons with disabilities, which was marked especially by the active role of non-governmental organizations involved in monitoring the convention. On the other hand, the individual petition mechanisms instituted by other conventions, such as CERD and the Optional Protocol to CEDAW, would be instrumental in addressing specific rights violations. The Panel recommended the establishment of an expert body with an active role of groups of persons with disabilities. The mechanisms would deal with a wide range of actions that protect and promote the rights of persons with disabilities from individual complaints to the means to strengthen monitoring, as well as to provide technical support to States.

Professor Byrnes identified the following issues concerning a new convention: (1) a new thematic convention on disability rights; (2) how the convention might be conceived against the background of existing human rights and disability specific instruments; (3) Structure and substantive issues specific to disability and; (4) the options for a monitoring and enforcement mechanism.

Professor Byrnes considered that a convention on the rights of persons with disabilities would be necessary to focus on disability as the existing human rights bodies are given a number of pressing priorities. The presentation also emphasized that the most effective way of addressing a particular human rights issues would be a multi-pronged approach, including a new convention, mainstreaming of disability into the general human rights system, and continuing work with the Standard Rules and World Programme of Action, which would create a multiplier effect in all aspects of development policy and programmes as well as promoting jurisprudence in disability rights.

Professor Deepika Udagama examined the need to have a new convention on the rights of persons with disabilities and compared the CRC and CEDAW as possible models, including a hybrid form that would combine a non-discrimination principle with a holistic approach. The presentation discussed the importance of the hybrid model as disability specific needs should be addressed in the convention. She also stressed the need for a multidisciplinary approach in elaborating the convention, and in the monitoring system.

Professor Velina Todorova also compared different models for a convention -holistic, non-discrimination and hybrid, focussing on the CRC, including the specific elements that can be drawn from the monitoring system of the CRC.

Professor Muna Ndulo examined the particulars of the situation of developing countries for promotion of the rights of persons with disabilities and the specific needs of societies in which persons with disabilities live in the context of varying developmental stages. The presentation focused on the need for a holistic model convention and addressed the importance of including all stakeholders in the process of elaboration of the convention as well as in the monitoring, thereby obtaining a broad support basis.

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United Nations, 2003-04
Department of Economic and Social Affairs
Division for Social Policy and Development