5 May 2009 - CRINMAIL 1081: Special edition on the rights of children with disabilities
Breaking news: Top envoy on violence against children finally appointed. Read more in the Violence CRINMAIL: http://www.crin.org/email/crinmail_detail.asp?crinmailID=3138
- INTRODUCTION: The Convention's first birthday [update]
- GUIDE: Using the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to promote the rights of children [publication]
- YOUTH-LED ADVOCACY: Young people lobby their government - quotes
- IT'S ABOUT ABILITY: An explanation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities [child-friendly version of the Convention]
- RESOURCES: News - publications - laws - contribute
To read this CRINMAIL online, go to: http://www.crin.org/email/crinmail_detail.asp?crinmailID=3136
Your submissions are welcome if you are working in the area of child rights. To contribute, email us at email@example.com. Adobe Acrobat is required for viewing some of the documents, and if required can be downloaded from http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/readstep.html If you do not receive this email in html format, you will not be able to see some hyperlinks in the text. At the end of each item we have therefore provided a full URL linking to a web page where further information is available.
Introduction: The Convention's first birthday [update]
The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) became the first human rights treaty of the 21st century when it took effect on 3 May 2008. The Convention, which has so far been ratified by 53 countries, expressly recognises the equality of persons with disabilities for the first time in international law.
A year on from the Convention's birth, today's CRINMAIL reports on progress by the international community in ratifying and implementing the Convention. It includes an update on who has and who hasn't yet ratified, a new tool to promote understanding of and action on the rights of children with disabilities, a section on what children think of it all, and a catch-up with one of the new Committee members.
The Committee's work begins
The newly formed UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which will promote and monitor the Convention's implementation, met for the first time in February 2009. During the first session, members discussed the organisation of its future work, which includes examining State periodic reports and examining complaints received under the Optional Protocol to the Convention.
“The disabled have suffered in ignorance and silence. They are the people without any voice. Stigma and high levels of poverty have affected the voice of the parents and families who hide, chain, neglect and put in confinement their children or adults with disabilities. I want to be that voice of the voiceless and their families, to bring them justice and a better life,” said Committee expert Edah Maina from Kenya.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay described the Convention as “a paradigm shift”. It confirms “persons with disabilities as full and active members of society, with rights and entitlements, rather than people dependent on good-will or charity or people to be approached from a medical perspective.”
Committee members include: Ana PelŠez NarvŠez from Spain, Anma Ali Al Suweidi from Qatar, Cveto Ursic from Slovenia, German Xavier Torres Correa from Ecuador, György Könczei from Hungary, Jia Yang from China, Lotfi Ben Lallohom from Tunisia, MarŪa Soledad Cisternas Reyes from Chile, Mohammed Al-Tarawneh from Jordan, Monsur Ahmed Choudhuri from Bangladesh and Ronald McCallum from Australia.
From now on the Committee will meet twice a year in Geneva.
Read the full press release from the Committee's first session: http://www.crin.org/resources/infoDetail.asp?ID=19750&flag=news
Find out more about the Committee's work below with Ana PelŠez NarvŠez.
Why is the Convention important for children with disabilities?
The Convention marks a shift from seeing children with disabilities as objects of charity, and addressing their 'special needs' - the approach set out in Article 23 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child - to subjects of rights.
All the Articles in the text apply to children with disabilities; in addition, Article 7 sets out specific obligations to ensure children with disabilities enjoy all human rights and fundamental freedoms on an equal basis with other children. This includes: to ensure that the best interests of the child is a primary consideration and to provide disability and age appropriate assistance to ensure that children with disabilities are able to realise the right to express their views on all matters of concern to them and have them taken seriously in accordance with age and maturity. Read more in Gerison Lansdown's paper: The New Disability Convention and the Protection of Children.
- 53 countries have ratified the Convention.
See if your country has ratified here
- 32 countries have ratified the Optional Protocol
See if your country has ratified here
Of the States which have ratified the Convention so far, the following countries have entered declarations or reservations: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Egypt, El Salvador, Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand and Poland. Read these here: http://www.un.org/disabilities/default.asp?id=475
What if my government violates the Convention?
The Convention has an Optional Protocol which provides for a complaints mechanism and is ratified separately to the Convention. This mechanism will mean individuals or groups whose government has violated their rights as set out in the Convention can get redress, provided they have exhausted national remedies. The Optional Protocol has so far been ratified by 32 States.
Complaints submitted under the Optional Protocol will be examined by the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Committee has not been set up yet, but updates will be available on the CRIN website.
See how other UN complaints mechanisms work here
Sign the petition for creating a complaints mechanism for children's rights here.
What can you do?
Check if your government has ratified the Convention here
If it has not already done so, you can lobby your government to ratify the Convention. This toolkit, developed by Disabled People's International, offers ideas about how to do this.
Implementing the Convention
The next step is to ensure governments implement the Convention.
To get some ideas for your advocacy work, read: “See Me, Hear Me: A guide to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to promote the rights of children”, a new book published by Save the Children.
If governments fail to implement the Convention, they can be held to account through a complaints procedure. This is provided for in the Optional Protocol to the Convention. The procedure can be used to report violations of the rights contained in the Convention to the UN. More information about this will be available on CRIN as it develops.
See Me, Hear Me - A guide to using the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to promote the rights of children [publication]
The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities represents the culmination of years of advocacy by the disability community in their struggle for recognition of their rights. A new guide, published by Save the Children UK and Sweden, on behalf of the Alliance, looks at how this Convention can be used to support disabled children, alongside the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
"See Me, Hear Me: A guide to using the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to promote the rights of children," authored by Gerison Lansdown, analyses the inter-relationship of the two Conventions and presents practical guidance on advocacy strategies and illustrations of good practice.
The guide is intended for use by child and disability rights advocates, and civil society organisations. It will also be of use to governments in interpreting and implementing the rights of children with disabilities. It does assume some knowledge or understanding of advocacy and is not written for children themselves.
Menu: Introduction - Contents - Translations - Download full report
See also: Advocacy tips to promote the rights of children with disabilities - Hard copies
There are an estimated 200 million children with disabilities in the world, out of a global population of about two billion children. In other words, approximately 10 per cent of the total population of children, the majority of whom live in developing countries, are born with a disability or become disabled during childhood. A significant number of the impairments, and consequent disability, experienced by children are directly caused by preventable factors, including poverty, malnutrition, violence, accidents, trauma, war and preventable disease.
So, what are the implications for these children? Children with disabilities are not valued the same as other children, and are widely seen as not being capable of, or needing, love, affection, humour, friendship, cultural and artistic expression and intellectual stimulus. They are segregated, marginalised and isolated, and can be subjected to physical and sexual violence with relative impunity. Rates of early death for children with disabilities may be as high as 80 per cent in countries where mortality rates for under- fives as a whole have decreased below 20 per cent. Children with disabilities are defined by and judged by what they lack rather than what they have. Their consequent isolation can be extreme. Their very existence is widely denied– too often, their births are not registered, they are not recorded in census data, they are hidden away in back rooms or abandoned in institutions. These processes serve to dehumanise them. The cumulative impact is to deny children with disabilities respect for their dignity, their individuality, even their right to life itself. But it also dehumanises society. No society can lay claim to civilisation, humanity and justice when it continues to subject a significant minority of its people to such abuse and neglect.
A snapshot of the lives of children with disabilities
• Up to 200 million children globally have a disability.
• Children with disabilities are disproportionately likely to live in poverty.
• Children with disabilities are disproportionately vulnerable to both physical and sexual abuse.
• Mortality for children with disabilities may be as high as 80% in countries where under-five mortality as a whole has decreased to below 20%.
• Parents and medical professionals who murder children with disabilities often receive reduced sentences and use ‘mercy killing’ defences – this reflects the belief that the lives of children with disabilities are not of equal value to other children.
• At least 90% of children with disabilities across the developing world have no access to education.
• Access to justice is routinely denied because children with disabilities are not considered credible witnesses.
The causes of the rejection lie deep in the social, economic, cultural and psychological roots of all cultures – such as a dislike of or hostility to difference, a belief that disabilities derive from curses or punishments, guilt, fear of ‘contamination’, reluctance to accept the responsibility for caring, poverty and lack of support. Discrimination against children with disabilities has existed in every community throughout history. But it is not inevitable. And the 21st century has provided an unprecedented opportunity to bring about change.
On 13 December 2006, after four years of negotiations, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly adopted a new Convention to protect the rights of people with disabilities around the world.
However, the new Convention will only be effective for children with disabilities if they themselves, their caregivers, local communities, civil society organisations, and children’s and disability rights advocates know that it exists and how to use it. Save the Children has responded to the need for information by developing this guide to help children with disabilities and their advocates use the new Convention to claim their rights and begin to build inclusive societies that are equally respectful of all children.
Part one: The development of rights for children with disabilities
1 - A brief introduction to human rights - where do they come from and what do they mean?
2 - Historical overview of the rights of people, including children, with disabilities - a brief review of the developments at international level that have led to an understanding of disability as a human rights issue, and the contribution of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) to increased recognition of the rights of children with disabilities.
3 - Development of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and its Optional Protocol - an overview of the history of the Convention, how it came about, the role played by the disability community and children with disabilities, and the inclusion of issues concerning children with disabilities.
4 - Key provisions - a brief description of all the articles in the Convention and its Optional Protocol and their meaning.
Part two: Implementing the rights of children with disabilities
5 - Responsibility for implementation of the rights of the CRPD - a detailed analysis of the key responsibilities of governments and the actions they are expected to take after ratifying the CRPD and the UNCRC, as well as the responsibilities of other actors in the lives of children with disabilities.
6 - Advocacy to promote implementation - suggested strategies for action to ensure effective advocacy to promote the realisation of the rights of children with disabilities.
7 - Understanding the rights of children with disabilities - an analysis of how to use the CRPD and the UNCRC together in order to understand the key rights of children with disabilities and advocate effectively for their realisation.
Appendix 1 gives the full text of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Appendix 2 lists useful sources of information for professionals working in this area. Appendix 3 sets out how this guide was developed.
- UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
- Introduction: Landmark treaty on the rights of persons with disabilities enters into force
- Quiz on the rights of children with disabilities
Young people lobby their governments in support of the Convention [news]
Young people with disabilities have ideas, passion and experience. They also have stories that they want to tell the world. Groups of young people with disabilities from 18 countries have been able to do this through the Young Voices initiative of the Leonard Cheshire Disability Global Alliance.
Young people make up more than half the population in many developing countries and yet they are rarely consulted, this is even more so for young people with disabilities whose voices often remain unheard.
The Young Voices programme brings together young people with disabilities and gives them the opportunity to share their views and experiences; learn about the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and enables them to build their capacities to effectively lobby and campaign for their human rights.
Young Voices began as a project in 2005 when young people with disabilities from 12 countries were consulted and came together to raise their issues during the drafting of the landmark UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). These young people actively contributed and even attended some of the ad-hoc committee meetings of the UN in New York, where they also organised a side event.
Now that the UNCRPD has come into force, these groups are actively engaging with their Governments for the signing, ratification and the domestication of the Convention. Existing groups have been strengthened and new groups are being formed in 18 countries across Africa, Asia and the Americas. Their efforts have brought successes and the opportunity to participate and make themselves heard, have tremendously enhanced their self confidence and strengthened their resolve.
Sri Lanka signed the UN Convention after the Young Voices members met with the Prime Minister and lobbied other ministers. The groups are now actively lobbying various ministries to ensure that the government ratifies and implements the UNCRPD. The Young Voices groups have been actively using the media to highlight disability issues, raise awareness of the UNCRPD and promote disability rights.
In Liberia, Sudan and other countries, the groups regularly take part in radio and TV talk shows, including the UN radio. The Young Voices group members even attended their Parliament when the Bill on the UNCRPD was being discussed in Liberia.
In Swaziland, group members are using theatre to let the community and others know about various articles and provisions of the UNCRPD.
In several countries including Guyana, Young Voices groups are invited by the government and in some instances even the UN to speak about issues of disability and raise awareness through their various programmes and events.
In Malaysia, the Young Voices members have been conducting disability equality training for government officials and are meeting ministers and bureaucrats to increase accessibility of public buildings, especially educational institutions.
The Young Voices groups have been meeting regionally and globally to share their views and draw up future campaign plans. Group members of the Asian Young Voices countries met in Bangalore in December 2008. Young Voices representatives from 12 African countries met in Nairobi in March 2009¸ where they made presentations at the African Commonwealth Conference on Disability.
Watch short films made by Young Voices members here: http://www.lcint.org/?lid=4661
[Source: Leonard Cheshire Disability]
Quotes from young people
Children representing the Young Voices network talk about their experiences and what they have been doing to advocate for the rights of children with disabilities in the quotes below.
Tio: Young Voice, Ethiopia
“Even though education is one of the main goals in life, we don’t get a chance….classrooms, libraries, dorms, cafeterias- nothing is accessible….asking for overnight change may not be realistic but simple solutions like shifting some classrooms downstairs when required and ensuring that new buildings are accessible is not asking for too much…people with disabilities just need an opportunity”
“I feel great satisfaction and fulfilment by being able to go out every day, work and do something, feel needed and useful”
Gurston : Young Voice, Kenya
“As young people with disabilities, we don’t want to just sit and do nothing…. We always want to contribute and do something… disability is not inability”
Yellamma: Young Voice, India
“After the video training in Ethiopia, when I was trying to make a film, I spoke to Rosaline who was being denied higher education as a person with disability. Her college was inaccessible so the college authorities were apprehensive of whether it would be okay to admit her. That the college is not accessible is not Rosaline's fault. So why should she pay for it or suffer for it? It is time that our leaders think about these basic questions. In case they don't, we as young disabled people will make them think about them by talking to them and making them realize that we have made them leaders to take care of our problems. I could see myself in Rosaline's place only a couple of years back when I faced the same problem because the college was not accessible. Things haven't changed much, but whether it will change in future or not depends greatly on us. If we want it to change, it will change and we can make it happen.”
Ranjana: Young Voice, Sri Lanka
“As Young Voices we have been undertaking a number of activities at divisional, district, provincial and national levels to maintain pressure and convince the government to ratify the UNCRPD. I had the chance to play a significant role in lobbying with our government to sign the UNCRPD. I met the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka in the Parliamentary complex and handed over a memorandum to expedite the ratification process. That was the red letter day [significant day] of my life. I had never thought that I would be able to meet our Prime Minister and demand that the rights of persons with disabilities in Sri Lanka are guaranteed. I made a speech on the UNCRPD in front of him. Three national newspapers published the same with pictures and my whole village and relatives, including my immediate family members, wished me well with open arms.”
Daintowon: Young Voice, Liberia
“The Young Voices Project in Liberia, along with the National Union of Organizations of the Disabled (NUOD) decided on the 12th of June to engage with our Government- mainly law makers- through parades, campaigns, interactions and the media (largely through radio talk shows as well as the newspapers) and to highlight discrimination across the country. With all these means being put into place, on the 14th of August 2008, we were invited to Session (Plenary) of the law makers to observe how the process was going to be, because the UNCRPD was on the agenda for that day, and the Bill was signed by the Lower House, which is the House of Representatives. And on the 28th of August 2008, the Convention was concurred by the Senate. Now, it has been sent to the President, Her Excellency Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, for her signature after which it will be ratified.”
Mohammed: Young Voice, Sierra Leone
“To us in the Young Voices of Sierra Leone, the UNCRPD is the greatest hope, assurance and guarantee that if ratified it will enable us to live a dignified life and allow us to put our disability behind us and mentally prepare us for the challenges that lie ahead. We are confident that this is the feeling that is being felt by every disabled person globally.”
[Source: Leonard Cheshire Disability]
It's about ability: An explanation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities [child-friendly version of the Convention]
A child-friendly version of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, 'It’s About Ability: An explanation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities', has been published by UNICEF and the Victor Pineda Foundation.
This version aims to educate, empower and motivate all children, but particularly those with disabilities, to claim their rights and to actively participate in challenging discrimination as well as promoting the Convention.
The child-friendly booklet is part of a collaborative effort involving UN partners, Save the Children and disabled people’s organisations. The Special Olympics and Save the Children (UK and Sweden) provided space to consult with children at organised events.
“It’s about ability. That’s what it’s about,” said disability rights activist Victor Pineda. “Hopefully I can inspire other kids with this book to understand all the things that they can do and to help them understand the promises that have been given to them.”
“The inclusion of children with disabilities is not a charitable act but a matter of rights,” said UNICEF Director of Programmes Nicholas Alipui. “Empowering and enabling children makes them less vulnerable to violence, abuse and exploitation.”
Together with its partners, UNICEF will also support data collection and research, and will provide technical assistance in the review of national legislation to ensure they are in compliance with the CRPD's principles.
- Child friendly version of the Convention in Arabic
- A to Z of child rights (child friendly)
- Disability news page
- United Kingdom: UN disability rights ratified (March 2009)
- Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities meets for the first time (March 2009)
- Kuwait: Demands to sign the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (July 2008)
- Human Rights Council: Side event on disabilities (June 2008)
- The meaning of inclusion (Definitely Inclusive, March 2009)
- Monitoring Child Disability in Developing Countries - Results from the multiple indicator cluster surveys (UNICEF, January 2009)
- Council of Europe: Viewpoint - “Respect and rights-based action instead of charity for people with disabilities” (October 2008)
- Mainstreaming disability rights in the development agenda (UN Commission for Social Development, February 2008)
- South Asia: Review of the CRC Concluding Observations – Non-discrimination, disability and ethnic rights Save the Children Sweden – South Asia (April 2008)
- Central America: A guide to combating all forms of discrimination against children and young people - in Spanish (Save the Children Sweden – Regional Programme for Latin America and the Caribbean, May 2008). This publication includes a report on discrimination against children with disabilities in Nicaragua.
- Promoting the rights of children with disabilities (UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre, October 2007)
- Torment not Treatment: Serbia’s segregation and abuse of children and adults with disabilities (Mental Disability Rights International, October 2007)
- Disability: Education's missing millions (World Vision, September 2007)
- The new disability Convention and the protection of children (Gerison Lansdown, December 2006)
- Investigative report regarding the "Ashley Treatment" (Disability Rights Washington, May 2007)
International instruments which can be used to challenge breaches of the rights of children with disabilities:
- Article 13 of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child
- Article 15 of the European Social Charter
- European Court of Human Rights judgement: Disability/ Sexual Abuse: X and Y v the Netherlands
- European Social Committee decisions: Discrimination: International Association Autism-Europe (IAAE) v. France (July 2002)
For more information on legal tools and where to use them, see our legal guide and database.
See also: CRIN's guide to strategic litigation
Do you have examples of campaigns or laws to promote the rights of children with disabilities in your country? If so, let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Not sure how to do this? See our media toolkit.
**Submission** Ana PelŠez NarvŠez
Ana PelŠez NarvŠez, 42, from Spain, is a member of the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Ana writes about her new role with the Committee below.
Ana is currently Director of International Relations at the Spanish National Organisation of the Blind (ONCE), Executive Vice-President of the ONCE Foundation for Solidarity with Blind People in Latin America (FOAL) and the Commissioner for Women’s Affairs for the Spanish Committee of Representatives of Persons with Disabilities and their Families (CERMI).
She also plays an active role in a number of European and international associations.
I have always been drawn to working on issues that affect people with disabilities. I think as a woman with a disability I am in a privileged position, and I want to make good use of my knowledge and experience in the struggle for the rights of other people whose human rights are being violated for whatever reason.
It is vital to truly advocate for the rights and equal opportunities of the most disadvantaged groups among people with disabilities, including children with disabilities.
The CRPD says clearly that we need to fight to make sure children with disabilities can express their opinion freely, and to ensure their voice is taken on board as it should be. From an early age we need to break down the stereotypes that cause suffering.
Children with disabilities really are the forgotten group; they are treated as invisible and don’t feature in many of the action programmes and policies to improve the lives of children in general. An important challenge is to mainstream disability in each and every policy, programme and action that’s carried out, because children with disabilities are present in all parts of the struggle for children’s rights.
There is a specific article in the Convention – article 7 – which deals with children with disabilities. It recognises that they are in an especially vulnerable position and enshrines their right to full enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms on an equal basis with other children.
The aim of the Committee is to make sure the rights of persons with disabilities are upheld. The Committee is just starting out and was only formed recently, but I believe it is a key body in monitoring compliance with the obligations set by the Convention.
It has three basic functions:
- to review State parties' reports on how the Convention is being implemented nationally and maintaining a constructive dialogue with States parties;
- to receive and study communications and complaints from individuals; and
- to investigate if there is evidence of grave and systematic violations of the Convention, although only the States parties that have signed the Optional Protocol recognise the committee’s authority to receive and consider any communications sent to it.
The first meeting, which was held in February 2009, set up the Committee officially. The members were elected and we made some progress on the Committee’s rules of procedure. We also had meetings with different UN agencies, human rights institutions, NGOs and States parties to begin to work with all of them. We are now devising our working methods.
We will be reviewing the first reports in 2010.
Working with the Committee on the Rights of the Child
The Committee will work with the Committee on the Rights of the Child on issues such as violence against children with disabilities. Mainstreaming disability in all fields is a key area of work for us. We need to work with the other committees on common issues to make this a reality.
Interaction between the Committee and NGOs is vital. This is recognised in the text of the treaty itself. If there were no close liaison between both sides it would be a breach of the CRPD. It’s important to remember the slogan “Nothing about us, without us”.
I have always performed my work as part of civil society so I know how much hard but essential work NGOs perform - out of the public spotlight but forcefully – to guarantee people with disabilities have rights and support them to play an active role in society.
- take part in open consultations when national reports are being drafted, and the consultations should be as wide-reaching as possible.
- submit additional reports covering issues that the States parties don’t address in their reports. They can do this in writing or orally during the Committee’s sessions. Some committees also hold private meetings with NGOs.
- monitor how States parties implement the Committee's recommendations, carrying out advocacy and lobbying work
- assist and advise victims of rights abuses on how they should present their complaints to the Committee and take charge of monitoring how the Committee’s decision on a complaint is implemented, making sure the decision is known in the country.
There are more than 150 million children with disabilities in the world, and more than 80 per cent live in developing countries where there is little or no access to services. Most children with disabilities in developing countries do not attend school and they are completely illiterate.
It has been recognised that the major causes of disability, like war, illness or poverty, can be prevented. So we need to mobilise the necessary political will and make sure we have a real commitment to researching and rolling out the most efficient measures to prevent disabilities and avoid violating the human rights of girls and boys with disabilities. We need to offer them the possibility of living a decent life with the participation of all stakeholders in society.
To contact the secretariat of the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with disabilities, email: email@example.com
**News in brief**
Uruguay: Court orders State to tighten controls on children's medication (CRIN, 1 May 2009)
Ombudswork: What is an ombudsperson for children? Web page now available in Russian
Burkina Faso: Millions to receive birth certificates (IRIN, 5 May 2009)
Iran: Woman hanged for murder allegedly committed when a minor (AP, 5 May 2009)
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