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UN Programme on Disability   Working for full participation and equality


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NGO Participation


Agenda item 5
Review of progress in the elaboration of a comprehensive and integral international convention on the protection and promotion of the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities

New York, 16 to 27 June 2003

Views of the International Labour Organization on the proposed United Nations Convention

The International Labour Organization welcomes the proposal by the UN General Assembly to develop a Convention on the protection and promotion of the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities, as it provides an important opportunity to encourage all countries to take further steps towards the full inclusion of persons with disabilities in all aspects of society.

The ILO is particularly interested in contributing to the process of developing the proposed Convention, drawing on its wealth of experience over more than fifty years in promoting equal opportunity for and equal treatment of persons with disabilities in the world of work. Its advocacy work for disabled persons is reflected in the ILO Conventions, and in particular, Convention No. 159 concerning Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment of Disabled Persons, adopted in 1983, which has been widely supported and is now ratified by 75 countries.

Development Process

In developing the proposed Convention, it is the ILO's conviction that social dialogue is of central importance. The process should therefore provide for meaningful participation of all interested parties, including, in particular, the social partners, organizations of and for persons with disabilities, and other civil society organizations in meetings of the Ad Hoc Committee and in any expert or working group to be established. All regions of the world should be involved, including industrialized countries, developing countries, and those in transition. The proposed Convention should build on existing instruments at international level. Its provisions should be regarded as minima which States may exceed at national level, and should not affect any provisions in national or international law which are more conducive to promoting the rights of persons with disabilities.

Basic Principles

From the ILO's viewpoint, the proposed UN Convention should be based on a recognition of the human rights of persons with disabilities and reflect the principles of equal opportunity, equal treatment and non-discrimination.

It should cater to people with all types of disability, ensuring equal attention to women as well as men with disabilities and to others facing multiple discrimination, as well as disabled persons living in poverty and those with HIV/AIDS, providing for measures which are required to ensure that they may benefit from existing human rights instruments.

Governments should be encouraged to introduce affirmative action measures, including reasonable accommodation requirements, so as to ensure that there is adequate compensation for any relevant restrictions or limitations caused directly or indirectly by a disability. The proposed Convention should take into consideration the significant development effort which is required in order to make these rights a reality in some countries, by envisaging progressive implementation of the required measures over a period of time.

While it should be primarily addressed to Governments, these should be encouraged to cooperate extensively with social partners, organizations of and for disabled persons, service providers, parents and families; and to put in place mechanisms to promote such cooperation on a continuous basis.

Governments should be encouraged to take a multi-sectoral collaborative approach to policy development and implementation, involving all the relevant Ministries, Departments and Public Services, to ensure comprehensive provision for the needs of persons with disabilities. This collaboration should be coordinated at the highest possible level within Government.

Finally, it is important that the proposed Convention should provide for a mechanism to monitor and evaluate its implementation, which should involve governments, the social partners, representative organizations of persons with disabilities, specialized United Nations agencies and other UN organs, in their respective areas of competence.

ILO Contribution to Date

The ILO has commissioned a working paper on 'The Right to Decent Work of Persons with Disabilities' as a contribution to the deliberations on the proposed Convention. The paper is intended to be of specific relevance to those involved in drafting the provisions concerning employment and work in the Convention. By examining the development over time of the 'right to work' of disabled persons, the way in which this matter has been dealt with in international instruments and national legislation to date, and the experience in implementing employment and work opportunities, the paper will enable those involved in the preparation process to build on achievements so far. The paper is currently available in English and Spanish, and will shortly be available in Arabic, French and Japanese.

During the 91st International Labour Conference in Geneva, the ILO organized a Side Event concerning the proposed Convention, which was chaired by a representative of the Government of Mexico, and addressed by a panel of speakers representing government, organizations of employers, workers and disabled persons. The Event provided the opportunity for tripartite delegations to the ILC to be informed about the Convention process.

The ILO also participates in meetings with other UN agencies concerning the proposed Convention and is willing to organize expert meetings on topics linked to vocational training, employment and work in coming months, as required. It is also willing to participate in any expert group which may be established in connection with the drafting of the proposed Convention.

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