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NGO Participation


Agenda Item 7
Debate on contributions to proposals for a convention

New York, 16 to 27 June 2003

Views of the International Labour Organization

Nature and Structure

The ILO is of the view that the proposed UN Convention on the protection and promotion of the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities should be a human rights instrument, based on the principles of equal opportunity, equal treatment and non-discrimination. It should be comprehensive in scope and address the economic, social, civil and political rights of all persons with disabilities. It should explicitly state that people with disabilities are covered by the provisions of existing human rights conventions, and should focus on measures that ratifying States are required to adopt to ensure that persons with disabilities are effectively able to exercise these rights. In view of the development needs of many countries, the progressive introduction of these measures should be envisaged.

The Convention should build on existing international instruments and should not conflict with the provisions of these instruments, where these are more conducive to promoting the rights of persons with disabilities.

In the ILO's opinion, therefore, the proposed Convention should follow the Non-Discrimination model put forward in the Note by the Secretary General to the Ad Hoc Committee (A/AC.265/2003/4), specifying that, like the Holistic Model, it should refer to all categories of human rights - civil, political, economic, social and cultural. Specific requirements of disabled persons should be provided for through affirmative action measures, including reasonable accommodation, within the framework of existing human rights, rather than through the development of a new set of rights, applicable only to people with disabilities.

Elements to be considered

The ILO agrees that a holistic approach to catering for the requirements of persons with disabilities is crucial and that a multi-sectoral collaborative approach within the public sector should be combined with extensive cooperation between the public sector, social partners and civil society organizations including organizations of and for people with disabilities to ensure that the rights of persons with disabilities are effectively exercised.

The guiding principle of the ILO is the right to decent work, which includes the right to equal opportunity and treatment in employment and occupation, and to decent, just and favourable conditions of work, including equal pay for work of equal value. But it goes beyond these to include the right to skills training and skills development, to vocational guidance, employment services and to social security, where disabled persons are not part of the active labour force for a shorter or longer period. The proposed Convention should include provisions relating to these, including provisions for incentives and advisory services to employers, while ensuring that any social security provision does not constitute a disincentive to vocational rehabilitation, training, employment or return to work. Where people with disabilities are unable to work in the open labour market, the development of alternative forms of work should be envisaged - work which is useful, remunerative, involves the opportunities for advancement and transfer to open employment, as well as meeting labour standards.

There is a widely recognized circular link between poverty and disability - people with disabilities are more likely to live in poverty, and conditions of poverty increase the prevalence of disability. Since many women and men with disabilities live in poverty, particularly in developing countries, the ILO is convinced that the Convention should call for the explicit targeting of people with disabilities in poverty alleviation strategies, strategies for skills acquisition and the promotion of work opportunities, including self-employment and in activities to improve the informal economy.

Follow-up and monitoring

The Convention should include provision 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.

In recognition that rights can only be exercised and protected if people are aware of their existence and in a position to access them, the Convention should require governments to make the rights which it embodies visible and accessible, and to provide for access to justice through an effective dispute prevention and settlement system, and to legal aid.

Complementarity between a new instrument and existing instruments

The provisions of the Convention should be regarded as minima, which States may go beyond in national law.

The provisions of the Convention should not affect any provisions which are more conducive to the realization of the right to decent work of persons with disabilities which may be contained in existing law at national or international level, in particular ILO Convention No. 159 concerning Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment of Disabled Persons.

Thank You

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