In 2007 governments of the world adopted the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). The purpose of this is to move away from seeing people with disabilities as somehow ill or incomplete people and to understand that disability denies fulfilled lives, lives that should be marked by the realisation to which all humans are entitled.
The majority of persons with disabilities live in poverty. For this 10 percent of the population – 20 percent of the poorest – society tends to be excluding, discriminatory, and at best condescending and ultimately disabling.
The purpose of the convention is to 'promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities and to promote respect for their inherent dignity’.
The main principles of the convention are that there should be:
• respect for dignity, autonomy, choices and independence of persons;
• full and effective participation and inclusion in society;
• respect for difference and acceptance of persons with disabilities as part of human diversity and humanity;
• equality of opportunity;
• equality between men and women;
• and respect for the evolving capacities of children with disabilities and their right to preserve their identities.
As of August 2011 27 Commonwealth member states have ratified this important new Convention.
- In September 2010, HRU launched its publication on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (pictured) in Mauritius and globally with several partner institutions - National Human Rights Institutions and Public Defenders Office - across the world, including in India, Kenya, Jamaica and New Zealand.
The 36-page publication in English Large Text and Braille advocates full and equal enjoyment of human rights for people with disabilities and is the first Commonwealth Secretariat publication to be published in Braille.
- International Human Rights Day events focus on Disability Rights - December 2010
To mark and celebrate International Human Rights Day on 10 December 2010, the Commonwealth Secretariat organised two commemorative events, which both focused on the rights of persons with disabilities.
- On 8 December 2010 the Secretariat invited High Commissioners from across the Commonwealth, academics, NGO representatives, government officials and other Secretariat partners to a multicultural event to celebrate disability rights. Mr Shuaib Chalklen, UN Special Rapporteur on Disability of the Commission for Social Development, gave the key note address and musical performances were given by persons with disabilities.
- On 9 December 2010, a seminar on disability rights was held for all Secretariat staff. UN CRPD Committee members Mr Chalken, Edah Maina and Monsur Choudhuri each gave a presentation on their areas of expertise which included social-psychosocial disabilities, preventative disabilities, the work of the UN CRPD Committee and the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Disabilities.
- On 14 January 2011, HRU organised a seminar on the rights of persons with disabilities in the Commonwealth in New Delhi, India, which was hosted by the Indian National Human Rights Commission. The seminar brought together a small working group, representatives of member states and National Institutions - NHRIs / National Commission on Disability Rights from the Commonwealth Africa, Asia, Caribbean, Europe, North Americas and the Pacific countries - to deliberate on the initiatives undertaken on disability rights, identify gaps and challenges and as well to explore ways to promote the rights of persons with disabilities in the Commonwealth.
- In September the Human Rights Unit will organise a side event in the margins of the Fourth Session of the Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in New York. The side event - ‘Unlimited: Towards Good Practice on the CRPD in the Commonwealth' - will share good practices to promote the rights of persons with disabilities. It is being co-sponsored by UN/DESA.
Robert McCallum, the Chair of the Committee to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, has been invited to chair the event. Representatives from Jamaica and Sierra Leone (the Vice-Presidents of the Bureau to the Conference of States Parties), as well as civil society, will be attending to share their experience of working towards best practice in the Commonwealth. The seminar will benefit from the provision of international sign language interpretation.
- A Commonwealth consultation on good practices in the Commonwealth on disability rights.
- A Commonwealth publication on good practice in the implementation of the CRPD in the areas of education and employment.