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Let the World Know
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"Let the World Know"

Report of a Seminar on Human Rights and Disability
Almåsa Conference Centre (Stockholm, November 5-9, 2000)

Published by the Office of the Special Rapporteur on Disability
of the United Nations Commission for Social Development © 2001


Preface and Acknowledgements *

I Introduction *

II Background to the Seminar *

III Timing of the Seminar: An Opportune Moment *

IV Purpose of the International Seminar: From Rhetoric to Reality *

V Organization of the Seminar *

VI General Directions for Mainstreaming the Human Right of Persons with Disabilities *

VII Developing an Overall Structure for Reporting Violations of the Human Rights of Persons with Disabilities *

VIII Understanding What Amounts to an Infringement of Human Rights *

IX Building a System for Dealing with Infringements of Human Rights *

X Making it work: Developing Instruments for Documenting Infringements of Human Rights: The Five Working Groups Report *

  1. Documenting Individual Cases *
  2. Documenting Legal Cases/Jurisprudence *
  3. Documenting the Media *
  4. Documenting legislation *
  5. Documenting Programmes, Services and Practices *

XI. Additional General Recommendations to Strengthen the Use of International Instruments on Human Rights of Persons with Disabilities

XII Concluding Remarks: From little acorns great oaks grow *

ANNEX A: List of Participants (including observers, and support staff)

I. Introduction

"Let the World Know"
Report of a Seminar on human rights and disability

Almåsa Conference Centre, Stockholm
November 5-9, 2000

This seminar is a vital step towards the full recognition and realization of the human rights of all persons with disabilities… We know that persons with disabilities frequently live in deplorable conditions, and face physical and social barriers, which prevent their integration and full participation in the community. As a result, millions of adults and children throughout the world are segregated, deprived of virtually all their rights, and sometimes lead wretched and marginalized lives. This is completely unacceptable.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights refers specifically to the rights of persons with disabilities. Article 1 declares that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. There is a joint responsibility at the national and international level to ensure these rights are translated into concrete action.

Despite the adoption by the United Nations General Assembly of the World Programme of Action concerning Disabled People, and the adoption in 1993 of the Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities, it is clear that a great deal needs to be done. I know that that is the main reason you are meeting this week. I feel it is time to look afresh at this issue and to identify ways of stepping up our joint efforts to secure the full range of human rights for persons with disabilities.

Let me add some questions to your agenda:

  • How can persons with disabilities themselves speak up for their rights and make human rights a tool in their continuous struggle for dignity, equality and justice?
  • How can we ensure that the rights proclaimed in international norms and legislation are translated into real improvements in the lives of persons with disabilities?

Mary Robinson, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Video Message to the International Seminar on Human Rights and Disability, Almåsa Conference Centre, Stockholm Sweden, 5 November 2000

With those challenges a video of Ms. Mary Robinson, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, opened an International Seminar on Human Rights and Disability, convened by Dr. Bengt Lindqvist, the Special Rapporteur on Disability of the United Nations Commission for Social Development. The meeting was held from November 5th to 9th, 2000 at Almåsa Conference Centre, Stockholm, Sweden.

Twenty-seven experts in human rights law and policy and disability rights law and policy attended the meeting. Six of the 27 participants who attended the meeting were appointed by the International Non-government Organizations (INGOs) that constitute the "Panel of experts" which consults with the Special Rapporteur. The other 21 participants attended in their individual capacity at the invitation of Dr. Lindqvist. The twenty-seven experts were from 16 countries. In addition, there were seven observers and guests. Mr. Brian Burdekin attended as the special representative of Ms. Mary Robinson. Ms. Akiko Ito of the Division for Social Policy and Development of the United Nations Secretariat also participated in the seminar. The list of participants (including Dr. Lindqvist, observers, assistants and interpreters and accompanying persons) is attached as Annex A.

The International Disability Foundation funded the meeting with additional support from the Olof Palme International Center and the Swedish Committee for Rehabilitation.

Dr. Bengt Lindqvist, the Special Rapporteur on Disability of the United Nations Commission for Social Development, chaired the seminar. The rapporteur of the seminar was Dr. Marcia Rioux (Canada). The seminar organised five working groups, which were facilitated, respectively, by Dr. Richard Light (United Kingdom), Mr. Ragnar Aðalsteinsson (Iceland), Mr. Eric Rosenthal (United States), Ms. Mary O’Hagan (New Zealand) and Ms. Anuradha Mohit (India). Facilitators were supported by a secretariat from Sweden, which included: Ms. Susanne Berg, Ms. Anne Froden, Ms. Erica Olsson, Mr. Erik Staaf, and Ms. Annica Akerberg.

The purpose of the seminar was to develop guidelines to support disability NGOs in their work to identify and report human rights infringements and abuses. This report presents the results of this seminar, incorporating the views of those who attended.

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