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UN Programme on Disability   Working for full participation and equality


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Working Group : Compilation of Elements

National Council for
Rehabilitation and Special Education

Costa Rica

Some aspects to include in the drafting of
the convention of the human rights of the persons with disabilities

The vast majority of the persons with disabilities in the entire world are either among the poorest of the poor in the developing countries of they experiment a greater social disadvantage in the developed countries.

The statistics and the everyday reality of the persons with disabilities show that there is a correlation between disability and poverty: poverty generates disability and the disability produces poverty. This is, at present, a vicious cycle that has not been overcome.

The people with disabilities in the majority of the poor countries have been and still are excluded from development. This situation is evident both in the execution of public policy, programs, projects and other actions taken by such governments. However, such exclusion is not expressed only there; historically, the international agencies have equally failed to place the persons with disabilities within their strategies for the furtherance of development.

Such a lack of interest should be corrected through a new Human Rights Treaty, which is currently being drafted by the United Nations through the Special Committee and the Working Group, and which will be issued in January.

That is why, in a general sense, we consider necessary that, aside from including in this ample and integral Convention, a reference to the promotion and protection of the dignity of human rights of the persons with disabilities, through the observance of the Civil and Political Rights as well as the respect for the Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, a reference to the third generation rights, or the rights of the people, should be included.

This first Treaty of the XXI century should contribute, in a world sealed by the globalization phenomenon, to the development of actions that contribute to the improvement in the elimination of the existing imbalances and inequities and the different manifestations of economic, social, political and cultural exclusions.


That is what encourages us to propose that in the Preamble of the future International Convention on Human Rights of the Persons with Disabilities a point be made of the exclusion of the persons with disabilities from the right to development, especially those in poor countries, and the need to correct the international, regional and national development strategies in order to overcome this situation.

Moreover, we consider it is important that another point be included regarding the need for international cooperation as an indispensable means to advance in the economic, social, political and cultural inclusion of the persons with disabilities.

Both issues are coherent with the integral and ample character, that according to discussions in the United Nations, the new Treaty should have.

Elements to define disability

Disability is a condition, not an attribute inherent to the person. Such a situation makes it imperative to define clearly what will be protected by the treaty.

In defining disability in the Convention we must overcome the definition made in the medical field - which still has great influence in many regions of the world- that establishes that the disability is a problem of the individual, which is directly linked to a sickness, an injury or other health condition, and that requires medical attention, such as treatment and rehabilitation. When the disability is defined in medical terms, an individual that has a deficiency is considered a person with disability (where such an impediment is a physiological, anatomical or mental loss or any other abnormality), independent of whether or not the person experiments any limitation in his/her daily activities.

It is the social model of discapacity the one that should be used as a starting point in defining this concept in the Treaty. This model, as is well known, is based in the principle that the disability is entirely a social construction. In the social model the disability is not considered a personal attribute, instead it is a result of the social environment and thus, a social change is required. Consequently, under this model the disability is an issue of human rights in the political realm.

We share the view that the disability is a deprivation of the capacities, where the capacities are practical opportunities. Therefore, the disability is produced when an individual with a deficiency is deprived of the practical opportunities for its integral development as a person. In further detail, the deprivation is the result of the interaction between the resources that the person has, its personal traits (such as deficiency, age, gender) and the environment (physical, social, cultural, political and economic).

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