Relationship between Development and Human Rights

The Convention is a human rights instrument with an explicit social development dimension. It reaffirms that all persons with all types of disabilities must enjoy all human rights and fundamental freedoms on an equal basis with others. It clarifies and qualifies how all categories of rights apply to persons with disabilities and identifies areas where adaptations have to be made for persons with disabilities to effectively exercise their rights, where their rights have been violated, and where protection of rights must be reinforced.

There are an estimated 650 million persons living with disabilities in the world today. If one includes the members of their families, there are approximately 2 billion persons who are directly affected by disability, representing almost a third of the world’s population. Thus, persons with disabilities represent a significant overlooked development challenge, and ensuring equality of rights and access for these persons will have an enormous impact on the social and economic situation in countries around the world.

The Convention as a tool for development

Article 32 on International Cooperation of the Convention highlights the pragmatic and action-oriented measures to be undertaken by States Parties to undertake and support inclusive development.

Article 32 also states that development programmes should be inclusive and accessible to persons with disabilities – this represents a paradigm shift within the development community, as it identifies disability as a mainstream issue to be considered in ALL programming, rather than as a stand-alone thematic issue. Once a country ratifies the Convention, it will need to be reflected in its national development framework such as the Common Country Assessment (CCA), United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF), and Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSP). It is through these broad-reaching approaches to development that the Convention will become a reality on the ground and in the daily lives of individuals.

Protecting and promoting human rights with limited resources

In recognition of the resource limitations that many governments face in implementing human rights law, many aspects implementing the Convention will be a progressive process. However, limited resources are not an excuse to delay implementation of the Convention and must also not be used to justify limiting the scope of the beneficiaries of the provisions in  the Convention. ALL disabilities must be taken into account when moving forward with implementation. International cooperation will be helpful in supporting the process, and resources will have to be prioritized according to reasonable and objective criteria. 

Mainstreaming disability in the development agenda

Mainstreaming disability in the development agenda is a strategy for achieving equality for persons with disabilities. Governments, international organizations, organizations of persons with disabilities and other civil society organizations are working with renewed vigour towards the goal of equality following the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, in December 2006.

There are approximately 650 million persons with disabilities in the world, or 10 per cent of the global population. An estimated 80 per cent of these persons live in developing countries, many in conditions of poverty. In both developed and developing countries, evidence suggests that persons with disabilities are disproportionately represented among the world’s poor and tend to be poorer than their counterparts without disabilities. It is estimated that of the world’s poorest people, meaning those who live on less than one dollar a day and who lack access to basic necessities such as food, clean water, clothing and shelter, 1 in 5 is a person with disabilities.

Given that persons with disabilities represent such a significant portion of the population, and are more likely to live in poverty than their peers without disabilities, ensuring that they are integrated into all development activities is essential in order to achieve internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals.

Read the report “Mainstreaming disability in the development agenda” (E/CN.5/2008/6)

“Mainstreaming disability in the development agenda” was selected as an “Emerging Issue” for the 2008 session of the Commission for Social Development, and a panel discussion was held on the topic.