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UN Programme on Disability   Working for full participation and equality


Documents and contributions
NGO Participation



New York, 16 to 27 June 2003

Ms. Sebenzile Matsebula
Office on the Status of Disabled Persons in the Presidency
South Africa


My delegation wishes to thank you for the opportunity to present our statement under Agenda Item 5 to this distinguished gathering on a Review of the 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 and to cite the progress that South Africa has made in this regard.

We are cognizant of the responsibility placed on the Chair and the Bureau of this Second Session of the Ad Hoc Committee to demonstrate leadership in facilitating a process aimed at developing a legally binding instrument on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities. We have no doubt that under your able leadership the Ad Hoc Committee will be steered to a successful conclusion through meaningful deliberations.

My delegation also fully associates itself with the statement to be delivered by Morocco as the Chair of the African Group.


There have been a number of initiatives that have taken place in South Africa since our last meeting both at a domestic and at a regional level.

At the national level, the South African Government organized a national disability consultative conference that deliberated amongst other issues, the process on the proposed convention on the protection and promotion of the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities.

We agreed on the need for overarching principles that declare that all persons with disabilities are entitled to the full benefit and enjoyment of all fundamental human rights and freedoms on the basis of equality, dignity and without discrimination.

During our national consultations, our deliberations noted that the situation of all disability groups and the diverse conditions related to gender, race, age, HIV/AIDS, ethnicity and other considerations must be taken into account when elaborating the Convention and that multiple discrimination can occur. The impact of dual or multiple discrimination faced by individuals such as, women, children, refugees, minorities or persons with multiple and or severe disabilities or other status should also be included.

Added to this social construct, the interaction between poverty and disability cannot be overlooked and therefore the importance of addressing poverty eradication as both a means to prevent disability and to provide effective redress to persons with disabilities is crucial.


At a Regional level South Africa, hosted the African Regional Consultative Conference in Sandton, Johannesburg, during May this year, which brought together 48 African States. The Conference reviewed three critical areas. The progress by African States based on the African Decade of Persons with Disabilities, which spans the period of 1999 until 2009.

We are proud to report that our State President, His Excellency Thabo Mbeki, in his capacity as the Chairman of the African Union, has honored the request from the African Regional Consultative Conference to champion the rights of people with disabilities and has further committed to support the development of the elaboration of a Comprehensive and Integral International Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities at various levels; that will include the forthcoming summit of the African Union in July 2003.

The meeting further agreed on the establishment of the African Secretariat for the African Decade for Disabled Persons. .It is envisaged that the secretariat will serve as a central coordinating point and also facilitate for the effective ways to address issues of the Decade and the advancement of persons with disabilities on the Continent. This we also consider as an important mechanism to interface with the development of the United Nations Convention for the Protection and Promotion of the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities.

The Africa region identified the need to promote international and regional cooperation between the African Decade of Persons with Disabilities and the proposed Convention. African Countries felt that there was a common understanding that they must be linked. As a legally binding instrument, the Convention will serve as a continuous reminder of responsibilities of Member States. Whilst the African Decade lasts 10 years from 1999 to 2009, it will also carry its principles into the Convention.

In the context of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), African leaders pledged, based on a common vision and a firm conviction, that democratic and human rights principles must be promoted. This places our continent on a path of sustainable growth and development through our human resources, which includes person with disabilities. The New Partnership for Africa's Development is clearly linked to the objectives of the African Regional Consultative Conference. Africans share a common goal that these objectives are maintained to ensure that the New Partnership for Africa's Development policies and programmes incorporate disability perspectives and dimensions and that the proposed United Nations Convention include these principles as well.


My delegation once again strongly affirms the need for the development of a comprehensive and integral Convention, which is rights-based in its approach. We are encouraged that the majority of Member States are in favour of the development of such a Convention. My delegation would like to take this opportunity to clarify our position on proposals in relation to the objectives to be contained in the Convention.

South Africa is of the opinion that rights are indivisible and interdependent and that persons with disabilities are entitled to the full range of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. Further our perspective is that the rights guarantee that the principles of non-discrimination and equality should be enshrined in the Convention as well as the principle of progressive realization of certain rights.

In this regard, we would also like to thank the Secretary-General for his report on "Issues and emerging trends related to the advancement of persons with disabilities" and would like to seek clarity around the hybrid model, which incorporates social development and human rights.

In terms of the definition on disability, the South African delegation favors a broader definition that looks to the aspects of social constructs raised in our statement. We further request that the Bureau consider a process to consolidate the existing definitions of disability in order to provide guidance to Member States.

The South African delegation suggests that the Ad Hoc Committee promotes the use of appropriate terminology that engenders the positive and progressive spirit of our deliberations on the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities.

In addition, the South African delegation suggests the need for disability specific research, social mobilization and effective communication strategies, particularly to investigate disability discrimination.

The delegation further proposes a critical need to ensure self-representation of persons with disabilities in all structures that maybe created to draft, implement and monitor the Convention. We further propose the forging of partnerships among the various sectors of disability and the need for the disability movement to strengthen and organize itself to continue to play a leading role in effecting changes and in utilizing the space and opportunities that already exist.

My delegation views the issue of an effective monitoring mechanism as essential. Monitoring needs to be assessed and guided by a structure that draws on the expertise residing within the disability sector. Such mechanisms should include obligatory measures imposed on governments to report on the implementation of the Convention.

Finally, Chairperson, the South African delegation believes the second session of the Ad Hoc Committee should reach consensus on a way forward. Collectively, we have to decide on actions and measures, which are reflective of the desires of the majority of the participants in the processes of this Ad Hoc Committee. Our third session should be able to engage in meaningful negotiations towards the intended instrument. This, in our delegations view, can only be achieved if we work on the basis of a single draft document and/or convention. The South African delegation does not wish to see a proliferation of competing documents, which will certainly slow down our pace.

In conclusion, we view this Second Ad Hoc Committee Meeting as an important step in our efforts to put a stop to the marginalisation of disabled persons that deprives disabled persons the full enjoyment of basic human rights. The urgency in our approach to this process emanates from our firm conviction that the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities cannot be put on hold any longer. We cannot claim to be creating a better life for all persons including persons with disabilities and the enjoyment of human rights and dignity while inequalities still exist.

I thank you.

18 June 2003

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