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Back to: Third Session of the Ad Hoc Committee
Daily summary of discussions

Daily summary of discussions related to Article 18

UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities
Third session of the Ad Hoc Committee - Daily Summary
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Volume 4, #6
June 1, 2004

Morning Session
Commenced: 10:29 AM
Recessed: 10:31 AM
Reconvened: 10:41 AM
Adjourned: 1:01 PM

The Chair appealed for simple and concrete interventions in order to make progress within the timetable.

Namibia proposed amending 18(a) by replacing “including" with "guaranteeing," and by replacing "citizens" with "persons." In 18(b)(ii), the word “local” should be moved before “national and regional levels.” A new subparagraph, 18(b)(iii), should read: “represent their states at national, regional and international levels to participate in the work of international organizations." Another new subparagraph, 18(c)(i), should read "participate in the formulation, implementation and evaluation of plans and programmes for national and regional development.”

Uganda proposed several amendments. In the chapeau, "ensure" should replace "recognize." In 18(a)(iii), after “assistance,” the words “of their choice” should be inserted. In 18(b)(ii), the word “international” should be inserted before "national."

Morocco proposed deleting from 18(a) the words "actively promote an environment in which persons with disabilities can effectively and fully participate," and replacing them with the following: “Allow persons with disabilities to participate effectively, fully and freely.” The current text in 18(a)(iii) should be replaced by the following: “ensure that the necessary support is provided to citizens with disabilities to vote.”

Japan proposed amending the 18(a) chapeau by changing the words “including the right and opportunity of citizens with disabilities“ to “by providing citizens with disabilities with opportunities"; and by changing "ensuring that voting procedures and facilities" to “taking measures to establish and maintain voting procedures and facilities which"; and by either deleting or defining “public," a word whose meaning is unclear. Several changes were suggested for clarity: The final word in the 18(b) chapeau, “to,” should be changed to “their." In 18(b)(i), “participate” should be changed to “participating.” In 18(b)(ii), the words “form and join” should be changed to read, “establishment and adhering to."

Costa Rica expressed concern because Article 18 only addresses physical assistance in voting. Stating the importance of consistency with 18(a), Costa Rica was of the view that the Convention shouldn’t limit it to discrimination. In the chapeau, the words "without discrimination" should be deleted and replaced by the words “on the basis of equal opportunity and to guarantee its effective enjoyment." In 18(a), the words “political processes” should be inserted before “voting procedures and facilities” in order to clarify that the whole political process, not just voting, should be accessible. In 18(a)(ii), after "citizens with disabilities," should be inserted the words "make a free and informed decision and." In 18(a)(iii), the words “the provision of assistance in voting to citizens with disabilities“ should be replaced by “and at the citizen’s request, the provision of the required support to exercise their vote.” An omission was noted in the Spanish text, and the Secretariat was asked to consider correcting it.

Ireland, on behalf of the European Union (EU), proposed moving the draft article towards the beginning of the Convention, before Article 8, to reflect its importance. Regarding 18(a), it agrees with Costa Rica and others that this should refer specifically to citizens with disabilities, because the language is drawn from Article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which specifically refers to citizens as opposed to persons in general. In 18(b) “without discrimination” should be inserted following the phrase, “conduct of public administration” to reflect the difference between public administration, which refers to conduct of government, and public affairs. In 18(b)(i), “on a basis of equality” qualifies the right, and should be deleted. In 18(c), the EU pointed out its reference to issues such as decisionmaking. It proposed that “participate on an equal basis to others” be replaced by “can participate without discrimination and on an equal basis to other citizens”, given that it is frequently citizens, rather than non-citizens, who participate in decisionmaking.

China proposed to differentiate the content of 18(a) and 18(b) clearly with several amendments. In 18(a), “and public” should be deleted, and the word “persons” should be replaced with “citizens," since in most countries only citizens enjoy political rights. In 18(a), the words “right and opportunity of citizens with disabilities” should be replaced by “exercise the right"; the word “to” should be inserted before “be elected,” which should then be followed by the insertion of “in accordance with election laws.” In 18(b), the words “and shall encourage, as appropriate, their participation in public affairs” should be deleted. In 18(c) the word “concerning” should be deleted for the sake of conciseness.

Chile suggested use of more tangible terms regarding the right to vote, language such as “guarantee the effective enjoyment of that right,” and “providing necessary assistance and support the disabled citizen required.” Two paragraphs already address this, but it should be clearer that assisted voting does not have to be an obstacle to the secrecy of the ballot. PWD should be assured of a secret ballot as well as the assistance of their choice. Also, the article should refer to the participation of PWD decisionmaking in all areas of public interest, including but not confined to disability issues. Another issue which should be covered is the opportunity for PWD to hold both elective and nonelective government posts; the Convention shed expressly state “the right to hold public office.” 18(c) should not be eliminated; the logic in footnote 65 is flawed, since Article 4(2) covers domestic issues, while Article 18 focuses on the national and local level.

Kenya proposed adding a new paragraph,18(b)(i)(bis), “take all appropriate measures to ensure that persons with disabilities, without any discrimination, have the opportunity to represent their governments and to participate in the work of international organizations.” It also proposed insertion of a new paragraph following 18(c). 18(d) would read, “enable persons with disabilities to participate in the formulation, implementation and evaluation of plans and programs for local, national and regional development which may affect them.”

Argentina proposed to make Article 18 conform with the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) by rewording the chapeau to read “States Parties shall guarantee the political rights of persons with disabilities without undue restrictions and undertake to." In 18(b), the words “effectively and fully participate in the conduct of public administration” with ”participate in the direction of public issues.” The purpose of this replacement is to ensure conformity with the American Convention on Human Rights, Article 23. 18(c) should be deleted because its addresses issues already covered in 4.2.

Yemen expressed support for Article 18, and proposed the following amendments.
18(b) deletion of “encourage as appropriate” and replacing with “ensure,” to avoid possible misinterpretations that would deprive PWD of opportunities to participate. In18(b)(ii), “international” should be inserted so that the text would read “international, national, regional and local levels.”

Jordan stated that the term “public life” is vague, and suggested replacing “public life” with “public affairs” in the title of Article 18.

New Zealand distributed a restructured version of Article 18, in which the current chapeau and 18(a) would be replaced by new paragraphs, 18.1 and 18.2; the current 18(b) would be replaced by a new paragraph, 18.3; and 18(c), with some amendment, would be moved to the article on general obligations. The suggested revision reads as follows:

"1. States Parties shall guarantee to citizens with disabilities the right and the opportunity to take part, on the basis of equality, in the conduct of public affairs, including the right and opportunity to vote and be elected in all elections and public referenda and be eligible for election to publicly elected bodies. In particular States Parties shall ensure that voting procedures and facilities:
(a) are appropriate, accessible and easy to understand;
(b) protect the right of citizens with disabilities to vote by secret ballot; and
(c) allow, where necessary, the provision of assistance in voting to citizens with disabilities.

"2. States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure to persons with disabilities, on the basis of equality, the right:
(a) to participate in the formulation of government policy and the implementation thereof and to hold public office and perform all public functions at all levels of government;
(b) to participate in non-governmental organizations and associations concerned with the public and political life of the country.

"3. In particular, States Parties shall actively promote an environment in which persons with disabilities can:
(a) participate in the activities and administration of political parties;
(b) form, lead and join organizations of persons with disabilities established to represent them at national, regional and local levels."

In attempting to deal with some of the concerns about terms like "public and political life" and "political administration," New Zealand's suggested revision draws on wording from the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). The revised 18.1 changes “political and public life," which is part of a descriptive phrase in CEDAW, to “the conduct of public affairs," which appears as a right in the ICCPR. The proposed new paragraph 18.3 goes beyond the basic right to vote and be elected to public office, to address the right of PWD to take part in other aspects of public life and civil society.

Uruguay suggested inserting in the chapeau, after "people with disabilities," the words “and their role in public administration,” in reference to the impediments that PWD often encounter in serving in the judiciary and holding nonelective office. To 18(a)(iii) should be appended the words “introducing the necessary adaptations that will facilitate the use of new applied technologies, adjusting them in keeping with their needs.” New technologies will continue to advance and these should be used to assist PWD in voting.

Mexico expressed concern that 18(b)(ii) restricts PWD to forming organizations of PWD. The words “of PWD” should be deleted, to indicate that these organizations can include both persons with and without disabilities. The content of 18(c) is covered by the general obligations of Article 4. It supported New Zealand on including language from other covenants and conventions, and supported Chile on the question of public office. It is important to identify not only the procedures and facilities involved, but also the measures required for PWD to exercise their rights effectively. It also supported the antidiscrimination clause suggested by the EU, and the technical amendments proposed by other delegations.

Canada expressed its support for the helpful amendments proposed by New Zealand, which clarify some of the concepts, including the distinction between the rights of "persons" and the rights of "citizens." In 18(a)(i), Canada suggested inserting “and use” after “to understand."

Australia recommended, in 18(a), replacing “ensuring that” with “promoting” and then appending “that:.” In 18(b)(i), in order to maintain consistency in the text, the words “on a basis of equality” should be replaced by the words “on an equal basis to others.”

South Africa proposed in 18(c) to replace “on an equal basis” with “equitably,” and also to delete the words "in particular those issues relating to persons with disabilities," as PWD should be involved in decisionmaking across all issues, not only the spheres that are disability-specific. Disability itself is a cross-cutting issue.

Lebanon recommended rewording the chapeau: “States parties shall guarantee the participation of disabled persons in the political and public life without discrimination and without any hindrances or conditionals and undertake to perform the following:.” In 18(a), it suggested adding “in the countries that approve of indirect voting” after “representatives.”

Trinidad and Tobago proposed the addition of a new paragraph, 18(d) "to ensure that persons with disabilities can access national parliaments and/or local government legislative bodies and be properly seated therein either as elected members of those bodies or as visitors.” Because this revision deals with accessibility which is covered in another Article, it could appear elsewhere in the Convention; either way, it is important to address this.

Thailand supported the New Zealand revisions to make the Article more concise and to bring it in line with other instruments. It emphasized the importance of guaranteeing the right of PWD to exercise secret voting, and also the right of self-representation for PWD. While PWD can join or form any other type of organization, organizations that represent PWD should always be organizations of PWD.

Israel supported New Zealand’s proposal, but suggested amendments to that text. Some of these amendments relate to the fact that in some countries, persons other than citizens are allowed to vote, hold office, and so on. Israel recommended rewriting the first sentence of New Zealand's draft paragraph 18.1, as follows: "States Parties shall guarantee to persons with disabilities implementation and fulfillment, on the basis of equality, of such rights as are prescribed by law, to take part in the conduct of public affairs. This obligation shall include facilitating to the full and on the basis of equality the rights of PWD prescribed by law to vote and be elected in all elections and public referenda and be eligible for election for election to publicly elected bodies. “Citizens” should also replace “persons” in NZ 18.1(b) and (c). Israel supported particularly the New Zealand proposal relating to public office, and it endorsed the Canadian proposal for 18(a)(i). It proposed a provision of an anti-discrimination paragraph for Article 18: “States Parties shall guarantee that the rights subject of this Article are not denied or restricted in any manner on the basis of disability.”

Viet Nam supported the proposal of the Chinese delegation.

Palestine emphasized the need to talk about the full right of public participation in all spheres of life, especially the right to vote and to serve in public office, and to participate in the political, economic, social, and cultural spheres.

Sierra Leone endorsed the NZ proposal and suggested further discussion of the issue, raised by Israel, about whether to refer to "persons" or "citizens." In NZ 18.2(a), the words “of government policy and the implementation thereof” with the words “and implementation of public policies.” Referring to footnote 65, Sierra Leone noted that Article 4.2 deals specifically with legislation to implement the Convention while this Article does not. In NZ 18.2(b), “international organizations” should be inserted before “non-governmental organizations.”

Peru recommended in 18(c) replacing “in particular those issues relating to PWD” with “public and political life of a country.” It also endorsed the New Zealand proposal, which encompasses all aspects of political participation, and which incorporates the language of internationally-recognized human rights instruments.

Serbia and Montenegro supported the New Zealand proposal and suggested that “international” be inserted before “national” in 18.3(b). It supported the EU’s recommendation to move this Article further up in the Convention, after the Articles that deal with equality and non-discrimination.

India proposed in 18(a) to replace “to vote and be elected” with “to vote and stand for election.”

Guatemala proposed to append to 18(a)(iii): “when they so request of their own free will.” It supported Peru on its proposal for 18(c).

The Chair opened the floor to NGOs.

Landmine Survivors Network supported the proposals of Kenya and Uganda to include the right of PWD to represent their governments at the international level. LSN emphasized the need to ensure that a disability perspective be integrated into development planning and decisionmaking, for example when considering accessibility of reconstruction projects in post-conflict areas. This can only occur with the participation of PWD and their representative organizations. LSN supported the inclusion in Article 18 of language supported by international law that would reference the right of PWD to participate in the formulation, implementation, and evaluation of plans and programs for national and regional development.

Disabled Peoples’ International expressed appreciation for the current level of specificity regarding PWD and voting, but expressed concern for the lack of specificity in relation to other decisionmaking processes, such as holding political office or participating in political organizations. DPI drew attention to the prevailing practice to ensure participation of marginalized groups in society of providing detail outlining potential barriers to the realization of rights of participation. It then urged the Committee to attend to the ILO Convention No. 169, as noted in footnote 65, for a fuller outline of these potential barriers. It supported Uganda and Kenya proposals to make explicit the rights of PWD to represent governments and take part in the work of organizations at the international level.

People with Disability Australia, Inc., along with (Australian) National Association of Community Legal Centres and Australian Federation of Disability Organizations, applauded 18(b)(ii), but recommended strengthening the subparagraph in three respects as proposed by the Bangkok draft. First, the Article should make clear that PWD are entitled to form and join “independent” organizations, a right which is crucial to the integrity of the civic participation of PWD. Second, the Article should require States to provide these independent organizations of PWD with recognition and financial support, without which these associations will not be able to fulfill their important role. Third, the role of PWD organizations should be expanded to include the international level, such as in the implementation of this Convention. Also, 18(c) should be strengthened by requiring States to recognize the "primacy" of PWD participation in decisionmaking about issues which directly affect PWD. "We want more than equal standing with others on these matters." To facilitate PWD participation, States should establish central disability policy coordination points within and across governments. In 18(a), the words “information and materials” should be inserted after “voting procedures and facilities,” to insure full accessibility. The convention should also prohibit States from denying voting rights to PWD on the basis of mental or cognitive disability. In 18(a) and (b), the words “actively promote” should be replaced by “ensure," because these paragraphs deal with civil and political rights which should be implemented immediately. In 18(a)(i) “appropriate” should be deleted, as it adds nothing to the meaning and might allow it to be read down. For this same reason, the words “as appropriate” should be deleted from the chapeau of 18(b).

World Network of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry expressed concern that the text of Article 18 does not explicitly guarantee the right to vote and hold public office. This must be included because the legislation of many countries excludes PWD from voting or holding public office on the ground of disability. WNUSP supports New Zealand’s proposal.

National Human Rights Institutions suggested expanding the scope of the text to “embrace the full spectrum of the right of association," so that PWD can not only join organizations that are representative of PWD but can also join other organizations. It supported the proposals of Mexico and New Zealand. In 18(a), “ensure” should replace “actively promote”; and in 18(b), “shall encourage” should replace “actively promote.”

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