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Agenda item 7
Contributions to proposals for 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

Ms Charlotte Vuyiswa McClain
Joint Statement of National Human Rights Institutions

Joint Statement of National Human Rights Institutions

More than fifteen National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) from the five continents of the World are attending this Second Session of the Ad-Hoc Committee on a Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. In preparation for the Ad-Hoc Committee, many more National Institutions have participated in regional workshops in the Asia-Pacific, Africa and Latin America and have prepared individual or regionally co-ordinated contributions to the Ad-Hoc Committee.

The following National Institutions have joined together in support of this collective statement:

Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission
Danish Institute for Human Rights
Irish Human Rights Commission
Mexican National Human Rights Commission
Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission
New Zealand Human Rights Commission
South African Human Rights Commission

Disability is a human rights issue and in this regard National Human Rights Institutions play a critical part in protecting and promoting the human rights of persons with disabilities and in the development and implementation of a new United Nations Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities.

The Ad-Hoc Committee should continue its positive inclusion of National Institutions and Non-Governmental Organisations and ensure that funds are available to allow both National Institutions and Non-Governmental Organisations from developing countries to attend the future sessions of the Ad-Hoc Committee.

Based on the individual and regionally co-ordinated contributions from a majority of existing National Institutions, the abovementioned National Human Rights Institutions attending this session of the Ad-Hoc Committee would like to put forward the following ten recommendations relating to the process towards a new Convention and the contents of a new Convention:

NHRIs Reaffirm the Urgent Need for a Convention

1. The Ad-Hoc Committee should recognise the pertinent need for a new comprehensive and integral rights-based Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities. A new Convention would help provide the needed stimulus and benchmarks to Governments, other institutions working with human rights implementation, as well as non-governmental organisations.

NHRIs' Proposals on Convention Baseline Values

2. A new Convention should recognise that the human rights principles of Equality of Opportunities, Human Dignity, Autonomy, Participation and Social Justice are crucial to ensuring that persons with disabilities fully enjoy all human rights. The explication and tailoring of rights in a new Convention should be guided by these principles.

3. A new Convention should be holistic in its approach and contain a comprehensive reaffirmation of the full range of human rights tailored specifically to the needs of persons with disabilities. The indivisibility of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights as reaffirmed by the Vienna Declaration, which was subscribed to by all States present in the Ad Hoc Committee, requires that both sets of rights should be contained in a new Convention.

Definition Should Reflect Baseline Values

4. A new Convention should provide a broad and inclusive definition of disability recognising the premise of disability as a social construct. It should recognise the diversity of disability. At no time should the process of defining disability take away from an insistent focus on the core task of tackling the causes and effects of human rights violations.

Equality and Non-Discrimination

5. A new Convention should contain a strong non-discrimination clause, which recognises all forms of discrimination, including direct, indirect, hidden and systemic discrimination. A new Convention should also take due account of the risk of dual or multiple discrimination of for example women, children, indigenous peoples, ethnic minorities with disabilities. The obligation of non-discrimination should extend to both the public and private domains.

6. A new Convention should recognise that the achievement of equality of opportunities for persons with disabilities requires accessibility to physical/built environments and transport as well as to accessible information and to communications. In addition, a new Convention should recognise state obligations to provide technical and personal assistance services to fill the gap between barriers in society and the needs of the individual person with disabilities. A Convention should recognise that positive measures to remove barriers and provide enabling environments should not be regarded as discriminatory and that failure to provide reasonable accommodation is discriminatory.

Principle of Participation

7. A new Convention should establish that persons with disabilities are entitled to: play an active role as partners in all policies, laws and practices that affect their own destinies; in all aspects of life in the community; and are entitled to live in mainstream settings with other members of society.

Dignity and Autonomy

8. A new Convention should recognise the right of persons with disabilities to personal autonomy, including independent living, and protection from violations of their personal integrity.

Rights Must be Enforceable

9. A new Convention should contain rights that are enforceable. There should be a clear statement of the obligations of a State Party to implement its provisions, in particular the obligation to respect, ensure and provide remedies for violations of rights set out in a new Convention.

An Imperative for Effective Monitoring

10. A new Convention should establish an effective monitoring mechanism, which includes a Committee of experts. People with disabilities would bring a particular expertise to this Committee. The Committee would have a mandate to examine State reports and optional complaints procedures as well as the possibility to conduct independent inquiries. A new Convention should recognise the role of National Human Rights Institutions in the national implementation and monitoring process.

Thank you.


1. Position Paper of the European National Human Rights Institutions Attending the Second Session of the Ad Hoc Committee to Consider a Comprehensive and Integral International Convention. Compiled on 16th June 2003.

2. African Regional Workshop on Promoting the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: Towards a New UN Convention. Munyonyo - Kampala, Uganda 5-6 June, 2003.

3. Conclusions of The Americas Workshop on the Human Rights of Persons with Disabilities of the Network of National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights. San Jose, Costa Rica, March 28 2003.

18 June 2003

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