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Ad Hoc Committee : Contributions : United Nations System

FAO's input to the proposal of the UN Ad Hoc Committee on a
"Comprehensive and Integral International Convention on Protection and Promotion of the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities"

Objectives of the convention

In accordance with FAO's mandates, the objectives of the convention should be to state clearly within the existing web of human rights and obligations the disabled people's right to food as a fundamental human right. In the case of disabled farmers and other rural people who derive their means of subsistence from agriculture, the convention should recognise that they have a right to feed themselves and their families. The World Food Summit of 1996 acknowledged the fundamental contribution to food security by disabled farmers, particularly in rural areas of developing countries, noting that a large proportion of the disabled people were farmers with responsibility for the food security of their households.

Principles to be embodied in the convention

The main principles to be adhered to are those pertaining to non-discrimination and equal opportunities for persons with disabilities. These principles would guarantee the disabled persons equal access to food and the means of producing food such as land, water and agricultural inputs.

Scope of the convention

The convention should cover the broad range of disabilities. Of special concern to FAO are those disabilities that act as barriers to food thereby creating food insecurity, poverty and hunger among the disabled people. The scope of disability is very wide. More than 600 million men, women and children have some form of mental, physical or sensory impairment, making people with disabilities one of the world's largest minorities, and when the people living with them on a daily basis are counted, there are easily 1 billion people directly affected by disability. Disabilities are the result not only of wars, but of landmines, accidents, malnutrition, substance abuse, environmental damage and more recently the devastating impact of HIV/AIDS on smallholder farmers. In developed and developing countries alike, they face discrimination and are found disproportionately among the poorest strata of society.


The definition of disability should cover all men, women and children that have some form of mental, physical or sensory impairment. These are the people who may not be able to produce or to access food. The vast majority of them are in the rural areas where they live in poverty, and belong to the poorest of the poor, are acutely affected by shortages of water, food and housing; bad or non-existent public transportation and health care, and lack of employment or other income opportunities.

The World Food Summit of 1996 noted that poverty was the main cause of food insecurity.   The vast majority of those who are undernourished cannot produce or afford to buy enough food. Undernourishment has led to more disabilities and poverty. Disabled farmers had inadequate access to means of production such as land, water, inputs and improved seeds, appropriate technologies and farm credit.

Monitoring and Evaluation Mechanism of the implementation of the convention

The monitoring and evaluation of the implementation of the convention could be undertaken in cooperation with the already existing UN System Network on Rural Development and Food Security. The Network, set up by the ACC in 1997 as a follow-up mechanism to the World Food Summit, has proved effective in mobilizing support for government efforts to implement the World Food Summit Plan of Action and rural development and food security programmes. The Network could be used to monitor the implementation of the convention especially in those aspects that pertain to the promotion and protection of the disabled people's right of access to food. The Network is comprised at the intemationa11evel, of UN system organizations and associated international and regional NGOs, and at the country level national Thematic Groups working on rural development and food security that have been established within the UN Resident Coordinator System in Africa.

Views on the Complementarity between a new instrument and the existing international instruments

To the extent that the new convention aims at protecting and promoting the rights of disabled people particularly the right to food and the right to live dignified lives, it is complementary to several existing conventions and legal instruments concerning disability. In this context the United Nations has, since its founding, been at the centre of global efforts to promote the well-being and rights of people with disabilities. The United Nations Charter and Universal Declaration of Human Rights stress the dignity and worth of the human person and the equal rights of men and women. The World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons was adopted by the General Assembly in 1982 and the United Nations Standard Rules on Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities, was adopted in 1993. Together they represent political and moral commitments by Member States to enhance disability prevention and to improve rehabilitation and other services and to fight against prejudice.

In 1995, heads of State and government at the World Social Summit in Copenhagen affirmed their commitment to promoting the Standard Rules on Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities and to developing strategies for their implementation. The Programme of Action adopted by the Conference called on "Governments, in collaboration with organizations of people with disabilities and the private sector, should work towards the equalization of opportunities so that people with disabilities can contribute to and benefit from full participation in society. Policies concerning people with disabilities should focus on their abilities rather than their disabilities and should ensure their dignity as citizens."

In line with its mandates, FAO has been undertaking activities aimed at the integration of disabled people into development programmes. A key event in launching FAO activities in support of the rural disabled in the Asia region was the organization of FAO's first "Roundtable Meeting on the Integration of Disabled People in Agricultural and Agro-Industry Systems,'" which was held in Bangkok, Thailand in May, 1997. The main objective of this meeting was to gain a better understanding of the problems of integrating the disabled into FAO activities and to identify concrete future actions that FAO could take within the Asia region in support of the UN Asian and Pacific Decade of Disabled Persons, 1993-2002. The meeting served as an important platform for promoting other initiatives in support of the rural disabled.

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United Nations, 2003-04
Department of Economic and Social Affairs
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