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NGO Participation
Ad Hoc Committee : Contributions : NGOs


Some reflections, proposals and recommendations for the IDA meeting on the Convention to Protect the Rights of Disabled Persons

February 2003

*Version Español

1. Background

Inclusion International has embarked on a process to develop a position on the establishment of a proposed UN Convention to protect the rights of persons with a disability. As part of this process we have tried to understand first of all whether there are any NGOs working in the disability field who are against a Convention. If so, why?

Our impression is that there are varying degrees of enthusiasm within the international NGO scene but the train is already moving in the direction of a convention. We are not aware of anybody any longer arguing with a clear "No" against the Convention, but there seem to be a number of NGO representatives saying: "yes, but…"

Trying to trace the "but"-arguments it appears that there is widespread support for the so-called twin-track approach, i. e. to fight for a Convention on the Rights of Disabled Persons, but not to give up the fight to include persons with disabilities in already existing conventions, e. g. the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

We would recommend broadening the discussion to talk about a multi-track approach as an addition to the attempts to open the discussions of the committees under the already existing conventions for the benefit of disabled persons. For example this would mean supplementing the Standard Rules and ensuring that the successful work of Bengt Lindqvist and the Panel of Experts under the Standard Rules can be continued.

If IDA accepts such a multi-track approach it will be necessary to share the work and to talk about priorities. Some might focus on some supplementary Standard Rules and others focus on the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Education for All, electoral rights, etc.

Taking these points into account, Inclusion International believes that a legally binding Convention on the Rights of Disabled Persons could influence societies much more than the non-binding Standard Rules and the long way to reach such a convention could, for many years, be used to raise awareness on the rights, needs and problems of disabled persons. Therefore, it is worthwhile to fight for such a convention and to participate in this fight.

2. Protecting the Rights of Persons with an Intellectual Disability and their Families

  1. Persons with intellectual disability must be treated and accepted as equal in terms of freedom and dignity. (See attached paper from EDF)
  2. Persons with intellectual disability must be recognized as full citizens of their country (human rights approach as full citizenship includes full civil rights such as to vote, the right to marry, the right to negotiate etc.).
  3. Persons with intellectual disability must not be socially excluded by incarcerating them in big institutions which, in many parts of the world, means that their heads are shaved, that they are beaten and deprived of any form of privacy .

This vision implies a strong link between the human rights movement and the fight against poverty and social exclusion which is one of the main tasks of ECOSOC and the UN Commission for Social Development.

3. Key human rights principles to be included in a Convention

  • Principle of autonomy and self-determination (as far as persons with intellectual disability are concerned that means to abolish paternalistic guardianship laws).
  • Principle of diversity
  • Principle of full citizenship
  • Principle of social inclusion

4. Other points to be considered

  1. For people with an intellectual disability, inclusion is the means to achieving human rights. A Convention must oblige state parties to build inclusive systems (education, health care, etc.)
  2. A new approach to building a convention would be to tie ratification to development assistance and poverty reduction strategiesA convention could recognize the role of civil society participation in transforming communities-not just delivering services.

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