29 - Participation in political and public life
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Working Group | References
Draft article 18
47. There was general agreement to the importance of this draft article. There was also general agreement that its provisions needed to be strengthened to better reflect the stronger commitments found in similar provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.
48. The Committee noted that General Comment 23 of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women provided some useful guidance in relation to this Article.
49. There was general support to strengthen the chapeau of paragraph (a) by replacing the opening phrase “actively promote an environment in which” with the phrase “ensure that”.
50. There was general support to change the term “citizens” to “persons” in paragraph (a) and subsequent paragraphs. This would be consistent with the term used in the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, and also reflect that in many States some non-citizens (such as permanent residents) have the right to vote and therefore no lesser standard should be accepted for persons with disabilities.
51. To ensure that there would be no expectation that States should grant extra political rights to persons with disabilities that others did not enjoy, the Committee agreed to add the phrase “on an equal basis with others”. That would ensure that no state would be obliged to give non-citizens with disabilities a right to vote if non-citizens in general would not be entitled to vote.
52. A proposal to add a phrase “and materials” to the end of the paragraph received no opposition. The phrase is intended to clarify that all aspects of voting and participation in political life should be accessible.
53. Following the discussion, paragraph (a) now reads:
(a) ensure that persons with disabilities can effectively and fully participate in political and public life on an equal basis with others [and in accordance with national laws outlining political rights for all people], directly or through freely chosen representatives, including the right and opportunity of persons with disabilities to vote and be elected, by ensuring that voting procedures, facilities and materials:
Subparagraphs (a)(i), (a)(ii) and (a)(iii)
54. There was general support on the inclusion of these three paragraphs, although a number of technical issues were raised.
55. In particular, the Committee noted that a secret ballot might not always be technically possible for some persons with disabilities. Some wording such as “in accordance with law” might help, and the phrase “without intimidation” might also be an important qualifier. Such language could help protect people with disabilities who are not able to engage in a completely secret ballot.
56. It was generally agreed that any assistance provided to people with disabilities should only be on their request and provided by someone they trust. It was also noted that political rights are broader than the right to vote in elections and several delegations wished to express specifically the right to hold office and participate effectivly in the political process.
57. There was also agreement to make some minor changes to make the language consistent with the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and the international Covenant on Civil and political rights.
58. Following the discussion, the paragraphs now read:
(i) are appropriate, accessible and easy to understand and use;
(ii) protect the right of persons with disabilities to vote by secret ballot, [in accordance with law and without intimidation] in elections, and public referenda; to stand for elections and to hold office and perform all public functions at all levels of government;
(iii) guarantee the free expression of the will of persons with disabilities as electors and to this end, where necessary, allow assistance in voting on their request and by a person of their own choice;
59. The Committee considered a number of linguistic and structural proposals that strengthened and broadened paragraph (b), and also brought it more closely into alignment with the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.
60. In particular, there was general agreement to delete the term, “as appropriate” from paragraph (b) as it might be misinterpreted as a qualifier. There was a preference in the Committee for the broader term “public affairs” rather than “public administration”, in order to be consistent with other international treaties. There was general agreement to add the word “international” to the settings in which persons with disabilities could participate.
61. Following the discussion, paragraph (b) now reads:
(b) [actively promote an environment in which] [ensure that] persons with disabilities, without discrimination and on a basis of equality between men and women, can effectively and fully participate in the conduct of public affairs, and shall encourage their participation in public affairs, including to:
(i) participate in non-governmental organisations and associations concerned with the public and political life of the country, including the activities and administration of political parties;
(ii) form and join organisations of persons with disabilities to represent persons with disabilities at international, national, regional and local levels.
62. The Committee noted that there was general agreement at its fourth session that the elements of paragraph (c) should be consolidated in draft article 4(2) along with several other provisions from other paragraphs that have general application across the whole convention c . Some delegations noted at this meeting, however, that the paragraph needed to be retained in the context of political participation. The Committee noted that these elements should be looked at in a future meeting from the perspective of the balance of text and repetition.
63. Divergent views were expressed on the phrase “in particular those with disabilities”. Some delegations proposed to delete the phrase in order to broaden the paragraph to take into account participation in matters wider than those concerning disability issues. Other delegations, however, considered that there was a need to ensure the primacy of the voice of persons with disabilities in relation to disability issues.
64. Participation in the implementation and evaluation of policy, in addition to decision making, was also emphasised by several States, in particular in relation to development programmes.