29 - Participation in political and public life
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Children's Rights Alliance for England
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CHILDREN's RIGHTS ALLIANCE FOR ENGLAND
Participation in political and public life
States Parties recognize the political rights of persons with disabilities, without discrimination, and undertake to:
(a) Actively promote an environment in which persons with disabilities can effectively and fully participate in political and public life, directly or through freely chosen representatives, including the right and opportunity of citizens with disabilities to vote and be elected, and by ensuring that voting procedures and facilities:
(i) Are appropriate, accessible and easy to understand;
(ii) Protect the right of citizens with disabilities to vote by secret ballot; and
(iii) Allow, where necessary, the provision of assistance in voting to citizens with disabilities;
(b) Actively promote an environment in which persons with disabilities can effectively and fully participate in the conduct of public administration, and shall encourage, as appropriate, their participation in public affairs, including to:
(i) Participate on a basis of equality in the activities and administration of political parties and civil society;
(ii) Form and join organizations of persons with disabilities to represent persons with disabilities at national, regional and local levels;
(c) Ensure that persons with disabilities and their organizations participate, on an equal basis to others, in all decision-making processes, in particular those concerning issues relating to persons with disabilities.
States Parties undertake to provide assistance for the self-advocacy of children with disabilities, and for organisations promoting and protecting the rights of children with disabilities.
INTERNATIONAL DISABILITY CAUCUS
Draft Article 18: Participation in Political and Public Life
States Parties recognise the political rights of persons with disabilities, including the right to participate in political and public life directly or through freely chosen representatives, without discrimination, and undertake to:
(a) take active measures to protect the right of persons with disabilities to vote in all elections and public referenda, and the right to be eligible for election to all publicly elected bodies. In particular States Parties shall guarantee to adult citizens and any other eligible persons, without distinction based on disability, the right to vote by universal and equal suffrage and the right to stand for election, and shall ensure that procedures and facilities:
i. are appropriate, accessible to persons with disabilities and easy to understand;
ii. protect the right of persons with disabilities to vote by secret ballot;
iii. and allow, where necessary and desired by the person with a disability, the provision of appropriate assistance in voting to persons with disabilities
(b) take all appropriate measures to ensure that people with disabilities can effectively and fully participate in the conduct of public affairs and the conduct of public administration without discrimination, including to:
i. hold public office and perform public function at all levels of government
ii. participate in activities and administration of political parties and civil society,
iii. form and join organisations of persons with disabilities to represent persons with disabilities at international national, regional and local levels;
(c) ensure that persons with disabilities and their organisations can participate, on an equal basis to others, in all decision-making processes, and are afforded an appropriate leading role concerning issues relating to persons with disabilities.
LANDMINE SURVIVORS NETWORK
Draft Article 18 – PARTICIPATION IN POLITICALAND PUBLIC LIFE
SYNTHESIS OF PROPOSALS
States Parties shall guarantee to citizens with disabilities the right and the opportunity to take part, on the basis of equality, in the political life and public life of the country and undertake to:
1. Ensure that citizens with disabilities have the right and opportunity to vote and be elected in all elections and public referenda and be eligible for election to all publicly elected bodies, and ensure that political processes, 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. Ensure the right of persons with disabilities to participate in the conduct of public administration and public affairs, including the right to:
(a) participate in the formulation and implementation of government policy and to hold public office and perform all public functions at all levels of government, including representation and participation in the work of international organizations;
(b) participate on the basis of equality in the activities and administration of political parties, non-governmental organizations and civil society; and
(c) form and join organizations to represent persons with disabilities at national, regional, and local levels.
3. Ensure that persons with disabilities and their organizations participate, on an equal basis with others, in all decision-making processes, in particular, those concerning issues relating to persons with disabilities, and to participate in the formulation, implementation and evaluation of plans and programmes for national and regional development.
Draft Article 18 provides specific content to the Convention principles of participation and inclusion. No delegation voiced opposition to the inclusion of this provision in the Convention. The fundamental importance of this provision is clear: barriers to participation in decision-making processes, including but not limited to voting and holding public office, represent a chief obstacle to the realization of the meaningful inclusion of people with disabilities in society. The exclusion of people with disabilities in society has been reinforced by their low level of participation in public and political life. Policies developed and decisions made without the participation of disabled people reflect only part of human experience and potential. The just and effective organization of society demands the inclusion and participation of all its members.
It is standard practice for specialized Conventions to provide coverage of rights of participation. (Cf. ICCPR, Article 25; CRC, Article 12; Convention on the Political Rights of Women, Articles 1-3; CEDAW, Article 5(c); ILO Convention concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries, Articles 6 and 7). The Working Group Draft Text Article 18 included important coverage of rights of participation in the voting context, but significantly extended coverage beyond that realm, as voting is only one aspect of common exclusion from public life for people with disabilities.
The language contained in Draft Article 18 represents a significant improvement upon the
Working Group Draft Text in several respects. The original Working Group Draft Text language represented an undercutting of existing political rights under human rights law. The current draft makes clear that States are under an obligation to ensure the right to vote and to provide, by means of positive State action, that disabled citizens actually have the opportunity to exercise their political rights.
Draft Article 18 chapeau: The chapeau should apply to all parts of the Article for clarity and consistency with approaches in existing international human rights treaties. (Cf. CEDAW) Both the Working Group Draft Text and proposed modifications are problematic in that they create distinctions in legal obligation among well-established political rights, thereby diminishing extant political rights of people with disabilities.
The term “political and public life” is retained and is consistent with CEDAW. This language is preferred over other formulations, such as that found in the ICCPR, as it corresponds to the tailoring of political rights to historically marginalized groups in spheres beyond the more limited scope of political rights in the Covenant. The political and public life of a country is a broad concept, referring to the exercise of legislative, judicial, executive and administrative powers and covering all aspects of public administration and the formulation and implementation of policy at the international, national, regional and local levels. The concept also includes participation in many aspects of civil society. (Cf. Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, General Comment 23, para. 5)
Draft Article 18(1) covers the right to vote in all elections and referenda, and to be elected. These are rights that must be enjoyed both de jure and de facto. Accordingly, these well-established rights are tailored to address the particular positive measures that must be taken to ensure the right is fully enjoyed by people with disabilities. The inclusion of the term “political processes” (proposed by Costa Rica) is important as it extends the application of accessibility beyond the voting context, to encompass the political process in toto. The enjoyment of voting rights is about more than being able to access the ballot box: ballot box access is meaningless if the entire political process surrounding the casting of the ballot is inaccessible. (Cf. UNSR, Rule 5)
Draft Article 18(1)(b), retained from the Working Group Draft Text, introduces a core procedural guarantee for implementing political rights, namely, the voting principle of ballot secrecy, the importance of which was emphasized by some delegations (Thailand, Chile). Not only must States respect the secrecy of the ballot, they must also take appropriate measures to create the opportunity for voters to cast their ballot without fear of being observed. People with disabilities often face barriers to exercise their right to vote in secret owing to misplaced efforts to facilitate access. Thus, this provision is essential to ensure that the secrecy of the ballot is preserved, even in the context of facilitating access.
Draft Article 18(1)(c), retained from the Working Group Draft Text, introduces the concept of providing assistance, where necessary, to facilitate the right to vote.
Draft Article 18(2): The language used in the Working Group Draft Text represented an undercutting of existing international law (“actively promote … and shall encourage … ”) that was entirely at odds with, for example, CEDAW, Article 7. Accordingly, the language concerning the participation of people with disabilities in this provision is strengthened on the basis that disabled people already have the right to participate in public administration and the conduct of public affairs – the point of the provision is not to weaken human rights law, but to make sure that it is applied. The coverage of these concepts is essential given that the participation of people with disabilities in government at the policy level continues to be low in general, Uganda being a unique exception.
Draft Article 18 (2)(a)) requires States to ensure that people with disabilities have the right to participate fully in and be represented in public policy formulation in all sectors and at all levels. (Cf. UNSR, Rule 14) In addition, it specifies that participation and representation also apply to the context of international organizations. There is precedent for the inclusion of all concepts under CEDAW, although CEDAW addresses representation of government at the international level and participation in the work of international organizations in a separate Article. The provision reflects proposals made by New Zealand, Namibia, Kenya, Yemen and Sierra Leone, and supported by others. This type of provision is intended to facilitate the mainstreaming of disability issues and contribute a disability perspective to public policy-making. Given the poor representation of people with disabilities among governments at the international level or in the work of international organizations, specific inclusion of this language is important.
Draft Article 18(2)(b)) amends text found in the Working Group Draft Text, in keeping with proposed changes introduced by New Zealand and supported by many others. The concept of participation in the political and public life of a country includes participation in segments of civil society such as public boards and local councils and the activities of organizations such as political parties, trade unions, professional or industry associations, community-based organizations and other organizations concerned with public and political life. (Cf. Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, General Comment 23, para. 5) Its inclusion is important and draws from existing precedent. (Cf. CEDAW, Article 7(b))
Draft Article 18(2)(c): The inclusion of a provision specifically referencing the right of people with disabilities to particulate in disabled peoples’ organizations is a central part of facilitating meaningful participation and should be expressly mentioned in the Convention. These organizations provide a valuable training ground for people with disabilities in political skills, participation and leadership and is therefore a key component of addressing social exclusion and self-advocacy and empowerment. This provision is in keeping with the UNSR, Rule 14 and consistent with CEDAW.
Draft Article 18(3) retains the Working Group Draft language, which ensures participation in decision-making processes, a principle strongly
supported by delegations at the Ad Hoc Committee who emphasized that it must cover not only participation in disability-related issues, but all areas of public interest (e.g., Chile, South Africa). Note that this sub-article is taking a different approach from 18(2)(b), which focuses on administrative and organizational participation that may or may not have a decision-making component.
The concept of participation in decision-making as fundamental to equalization of opportunities and full integration is reflected in the UNSR, Rule 12(2) and (3). In keeping with proposals made by States at the third session of the Ad Hoc Committee (Namibia, Kenya), the text adds language concerning the participation of people with disabilities in development decision-making. Such language is in keeping with the fundamental importance of the principle of participation in this Convention, and is consistent with language found in other treaty contexts (e.g., ILO Convention 169). Given that 80% of people with disabilities live in the developing world and that the vast majority live in poverty, participation in development processes is a precondition to their successful integration into society and full realization of their human rights. It should be noted that this provision relates closely to two key components of poverty reduction strategies, namely, empowerment and opportunity. (Cf. World Bank Development Report, 2000) It is arguably one of the most essential provisions in the entire Convention text, from a poverty reduction strategy perspective.