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Working Group : Compilation of Elements

UNICEF Proposals to the Working Group
on the International Convention on the
Protection and Promotion of the Rights
and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities

UNICEF submitted a statement to the Ad-Hoc Committee in June 2003 welcoming the development of a new Convention on the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities. The statement recommended that the Convention complement existing human rights standards, highlight that the principles of non-discrimination and equality are relevant with regard to all rights, and make clear the duty of States Parties to undertake specific and proactive measures to promote equal treatment. The statement also referred to UNICEF's positive experiences with the reporting system of the Convention on the Rights of Child, including the active involvement of NGOs.

The purpose of this note is to elaborate further on why and how the new convention should include specific mention of the rights of children with disabilities. As recognized in the CRC, the child, 'by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection.' This is a condition which does not generally apply to adults, and therefore cannot be readily covered by statements of rights intended more generally for adults. Preparing children with disabilities for their future lives as adults within society able to exercise and claim their rights also requires specific attention to their early development.

The unique situation of children with disabilities could be described in the early part of the document focusing on principles. In addition to pointing out the specific rights guaranteed to all children in the CRC, the statement of principles should recognize that:

  1. Specific attention to the rights of children with disabilities is merited given the additional vulnerability that their age implies;
  2. The provisions of the Convention are most obtainable over time if children with disabilities enjoy the right to develop to their full potential, and are thus in a better position to claim their rights both during childhood and later as adults;
  3. Efforts to address discrimination against children with disabilities and to enhance their participation in their communities, including with their peers, will have the positive effect of preventing the development of discriminatory attitudes amongst the young.

The document can further enhance the impression that the rights it describes apply to children as well as adults with disabilities (where this is appropriate) by using inclusive language which makes clear that this is the case.

With respect to specific provisions relating to children, as well as those relating to older persons but also with relevance to children, we recommend that the following issues be addressed in the Convention:

  1. All children, including those with disabilities, have the right to an education which will allow them to develop to their full potential. The educational system should thus integrate children with disabilities to the extent possible, and provide special provisions for their education where this is necessitated by the type of disability.
  2. In addition to enjoying access to health care on par with all other children, States' Parties should undertake to ensure early detection and rehabilitation services for children with disabilities.
  3. Efforts to change attitudes and combat prejudice against people with disabilities should include steps to prevent bias throughout the life cycle, and should reach service providers and parents as well non-disabled children
  4. The right to grow up in a family environment should be clearly stated. The Convention could make specific mention of the obligation of States to provide support where warranted, to enable children with disabilities to be raised within their families rather than in an institutional environment. The issue of the right to liberty is likely to arise for adults in the Convention, and should also clearly and specifically apply to children.
  5. Notwithstanding the argument above, ill health, rehabilitation, or absence of guardians are likely to result in hospital and other institutional stays for some children (and adults). Their right to all the same measures and recourses to limit such stays as would apply to all persons should be clearly stated, as well as to appropriate care, and access to education, and protection from violence, injury, abuse, neglect and exploitation should be spelt out.
  6. The right of children with disabilities to participate in decisions which affect them, as well as in the broader life of their families and communities, should be specifically stated.

It is important that the final version of the convention include an effective mechanism for monitoring implementation. We fully endorse the principle of the involvement of persons with disabilities in such a mechanism. However, before such a mechanism is decided, we would suggest that careful consideration be given to the ongoing process of treaty body reform, as requested in the Report of the Secretary General "Strengthening of the United Nations: an agenda for further change." This process may result in significant changes to the current system, and thus should be taken into account before any new mechanism is established.

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