DRAFT NGO Statement submitted to the Americas Regional Seminar and Workshop on Norms and Standards related to the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and Development

The following Statement represents the sense of the NGO community present and participating in the Regional Seminar. It is the specific request of those participating groups that this Statement receive due consideration and be reflected in the final document produced by the Regional Seminar.

1) The need for the elaboration of an international convention on the human rights people with disabilities

People with disabilities are indeed subjects of international human rights law and are entitled to the full range of human rights as articulated in the existing international human rights conventions and, in particular the six principal human rights conventions. And yet while existing international human rights conventions do apply to people with disabilities, in only a handful of provisions are people with disabilities explicitly mentioned. In sum, people with disabilities remain invisible in the international human rights framework given that existing instruments do not address in concrete terms the social, political, economic and cultural circumstances which impact the human rights condition of people with disabilities.

People with disabilities are a marginalized group for whom existing generalized human rights standards have not worked. Explicit standards are required to address the discrimination that this sizeable group faces in society and the range of rights violations to which they are subjected.

The elaboration of a new international convention on the human rights of people with disabilities will provide an authoritative and explicit statement of law with specific application to people with disabilities.

2) Substance of a convention

The elaboration of a new international convention on the human rights of people with disabilities must be grounded in, and drawn from, existing international human rights law and address in concrete terms the economic, social, political, and cultural circumstances that adversely impact the human rights condition of people with disabilities. It is not enough for a new convention to reflect merely an anti-discrimination framework. In addition to the incorporation of anti-discrimination principles with specific application to people with disabilities in any new instrument, a new convention must provide the scope for the articulation of the full panoply of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.

3) Implementation of a convention

A new convention on the human rights of people with disabilities must provide for a monitoring mechanism that is comparable to existing human rights conventions. A new convention must not be a second class treaty, but should instead reflect the latest developments drawn from existing international human rights law and other model mechanisms found in, for example, international environmental law agreements.

Any monitoring mechanism must be informed by the unique perspective of disabled people to ensure the credibility and legitimacy of the convention. The monitoring mechanism should be empowered to engage all relevant levels, including states, intergovernmental organizations, non-governmental organizations and individuals. This body should, ideally, be empowered to do the following:

The convention provides a valuable opportunity to establish a framework for international cooperation as well as to address the particular challenges that developing countries face in areas such as:

4) Process of elaborating a convention

People with disabilities must have a meaningful voice in the development of an international convention on the rights of people with disabilities and must be consulted at all levels during the process. All stakeholders, and first and foremost disability and human rights organizations and their representatives, should be fully involved in the process of developing a new convention on the rights of people with disabilities. In order to facilitate this process, accessibility to UN facilities and information must be broadened to incorporate the principles of Universal Design. Such considerations must be taken into account if people with disabilities are to truly participate in a meaningful way in the convention development process. The UN is strongly encouraged to utilize the expertise of disabled people’s organizations in achieving full accessibility in this process.