Training session
« Human rights and disability… towards an
International Convention to promote and protect the
Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities »
Training material produced by Handicap International Rights and Policies Unit, in collaboration with the Human Rights Institute
of Lyon
Part I : Disability and Human Rights – core notions
Part II : The process of elaboration of an international
convention on disability
Part III : The International Convention on protection and
promotion of the rights of persons with disabilities
Part IV : Participation of civil society in the elaboration
process of the convention
The disability field is going through a transition period :
– The perception of disability is changing,
– The disabled are finally recognized as having the
same rights as everyone,
– The international community has realised the great
difficulties faced by disabled people in the world,
– The UN invests into this theme in order to improve the
respect of the rights of the disabled people and to
allow them to be taken into account in policies,
– The States and civil society work together since 2002
on the elaboration of an international Convention on
the rights of the persons with disabilities.
=> It represents a real and durable opportunity to allow
progress to be made concerning the situation of disabled
We have to allow for the greatest possible number of actors
to mobilise in order to make this Convention a tool for
=> International and national actors, public or from civil
society, in order to ensure a process of dialogue.
It is to facilitate access to information regarding this
process that Handicap International has produced this
CD Rom.
Part I :
Disability and Human Rights – core notions
1) What is « law » ?
2) Disability is a Human Rights issue
3) The general human rights texts apply to all
4) International texts concerning disabled people
5) In fact : the invisibility of persons with disability
1) What is « law » ?
• Law = Rules established to prevent the law of the
strongest from applying.
• Characteristics of law :
punishes violations
+ makes up for the loss sustained by the victim
Example : an apple has been stolen
the thief will be fined = sanction
+ the apple will be given back to its owner = reparation
Law, is :
• Domestic Law (2 types) :
- Of Romano Germanic origin (such as French law) :
Written laws and regulations,
- Of Anglo-Saxon origin ( « common law » system) :
The law stems from courts themselves (“case law”).
• International Law :
Treaties and international
covenants, treaties…).
International Law, two types of texts :
• Legally BINDING
While agreeing on the text,
a State party accepts to :
- change its own laws,
- or create new ones
so that they would be in
conformity with the
international text.
Example: Convention on the
Rights of Child, the future
convention on the rights of the
• Not legally binding
Guidelines that States
parties undertake to
No specific obligations
Example: Standard Rules
2) Disability is a Human Rights issue
«Disability (is) a Human Rights issue. As long
as people with disabilities are denied the
opportunity to participate fully in society, no
one can claim that the objectives of the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights have
been achieved».
Bengt Lindqvist / UN ex-Special Rapporteur on disability
Disability is an unavoidable and universal part of
human diversity.
A shift in perspective has taken place on how to
consider the person with disabilities :
– From object of charity and burden = approach of
– To subject with rights = approach based on the
respect of any human being.
What does this shift imply ?
Four core values of human rights are especially relevant in
the context of disability :
– Dignity - respect of physical and moral integrity of the
– Autonomy – capacity for self-directed action, decision
and behaviour…
– Equality – prohibition of discrimination…
– Solidarity - collaboration, support…
 Hence human Rights apply to persons with disabilities.
Human Rights
Human Rights were born when it was clearly admitted
that every human being must be respected, as part of
• Human Rights are reference norms : they define limits
under which human life and dignity are violated
(example : freedom, food, housing…)
• Human Rights are prioritary norms : nobody can be
deprived of them without being a victim of a serious
The main Human Rights categories
Civil and political Rights
Civil Rights
• Protect people against
abuses of power
• Examples : right to life,
freedom of association,
right to freedom …
Political Rights
• Enable individuals to
participate in public life,
and to exercise
democratic control over
State power
• Examples : right to vote,
freedom of expression...
The main Human Rights categories
Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
Enable the individual to live a decent life and to fulfil his
essential needs.
– Economic Rights :
right to work, right to fair wages…
– Social Rights :
right to health, right to education, right to healthy food
at regular intervals, protection of the family...
– Cultural Rights :
right to cultural expression...
3) General Human Rights treaties apply
to everyone
• International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of
Racial Discrimination (1966)
• International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966)
• International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural
Rights (1966)
• Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination
Against Women (1979)
• Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or
Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1984)
• Convention on the Right of the Child (1989)
The role of the committees attached
to international texts
Attached to some texts, there are monitoring committees
= composed of independent experts.
Role :
- receive periodical reports from States parties on
the implementation of the convention in their
- receive alternative reports from NGOs to
counterbalance the state reports,
- receive individual and interstate complaints
- produce recommendations, inquiries...
But : committees do not work efficiently, and do not consider
the disability issue as a priority.
⇒ there is a need for a specific protection of persons16
with disabilities
4) International texts concerning disabled people
The UN set out great principles specific to the disability
issue, but lacking legal effect.
– Several resolutions and recommendations were
adopted. The adoption in 1982 of the World
Programme of Action reveals a new objective : the
equalisation of opportunities.
– 1993 : adoption of the « Standard rules on the
equalisation of opportunities for persons with
disabilities »
– 2002 : supplement to the Standard Rules, that
completes and gives precisions on the text.
Standard Rules on the equalisation of
opportunities for persons with disabilities
All human beings are equal in rights (they have the
same rights)
However, they are not equal in fact : they do not have
the same access to rights not the same opportunities
Aim of Standard Rules : favour
opportunities to allow for equality in fact.
=> measures have to compensate the disadvantages that
prevent disabled people from having an equality of
opportunities compared to the other members of society.
Standard Rules on the equalisation of
opportunities for persons with disabilities
The introductory paragraph number 24 of the Standard
Rules defines the concept of equalisation of
opportunities :
The term 'equalization of opportunities' means the
process through which the various systems of society
and the environment, such as services, activities,
information and documentation, are made available to
all, particularly to persons with disabilities.
Standard Rules on the equalisation of
opportunities for persons with disabilities
they require States to :
• remove obstacles to equal participation of persons with
• actively involve disabled peoples NGOs in an active
As long as the convention is not adopted, the Standard
Rules is the text of reference concerning the rights of
persons with disabilities.
Standard Rules on the equalisation of
opportunities for persons with disabilities
• Are not principles but practical measures :
 indicate what should be done for the persons
with disabilities to access the rights intended to all.
• 4 parts with a practical scope for an equal participation :
– Preconditions (awareness-raising, health care…)
– Target areas (accessibility, employment, education…)
– Implementation measures (planification, legislation,
– Monitoring mechanism.
5) In fact : the invisibility of persons with
• They are not very visible (different living places…) ;
• Their marginalisation is linked to the refusal to see
them ;
• Public exposition is difficult (they are looked at).
 The invisibility of persons with disabilities results in the
non-respect of their fundamental rights.
Statement :
International Law does not efficiently protect the rights of
persons with disabilities.
A few key points :
• The disability theme is considered only in non-legally
binding texts.
• Need for a specific and legally binding text, which would
efficiently protect the rights of persons with disabilities
(ie. the convention in progress).
• The convention, when entering into force, will highly
influence States parties’ national policies.
Part II :
The process of elaborating a convention on
1) Why elaborate a convention on disability ?
2) First step
3) Ad hoc committee sessions
1) Why elaborate a convention
on disability ?
The perception of disability has evolved :
• Disabled people are no longer considered as objects,
but as rights bearing subjects.
• Disability is no longer considered as a problem linked
to the person, but it depends upon the environment of
the disabled individual (social model of disability).
Why elaborate a convention
on disability ?
to allow disabled people to enjoy the same rights as others:
- Define the opportunity equalisation measures to
allow access by disabled people to everyone’s rights
- Have a implementation framework and monitoring
mechanisms aimed at ensuring that States parties fulfill
their obligations.
2) First step
1987 : 1st proposal of convention (Italy/Sweden), but
there was no agreement between States on the
necessity of a specific convention : it was considered
that general treaties are sufficient.
99/2000 : several experts meetings clearly recognised
that a specific and legally binding text on disability is
2001 : Mexico suggested to work on a new convention,
which was accepted by a United Nations General
Assembly resolution.
General Assembly resolution 19/12/2001
• Recognises that the international efforts are not sufficient
to promote full and effective participation for persons
with disabilities
• Establishes an ad hoc committee, in charge of
considering proposals for a convention.
• Suggests to elaborate an integral convention (which
would be exhaustive), based on a holistic approach
• Invites all relevant stakeholders (NGOs, international
treaty bodies, UN agencies...) to make contributions to
the work entrusted to the Ad Hoc Committee
Ad hoc committee
The ad hoc committee is composed of :
• States representatives
• Civil society (NGOs): its participation is exceptional
• United Nations organs et agencies (High
Commissioner for Human Rights,
on social development, World Health Organisation,
International Labour Organisation …)
• National Human Rights Institutions
Stakeholders positions
• Developing countries want practical obligations for
States parties, but which do not imply a cost too high.
• Scandinavian countries fear that international norms
would be lower than their national norms.
• The cultural differences in the perception of society
(individualistic or communitarian) lead to a different
perception of rights.
• Development organisations insist on development and
eradication of poverty as a means to reach the aim of
the convention.
• Disabled People Organisations :
« Nothing about us without us »
3) Ad hoc committee sessions
 First and Second Sessions, 2002-2003 : Choosing the
type of text and creation of a working group
The Committee has discussed :
– The necessity of drawing up a new convention, or
would it be enough to add a text to an existing
convention ?
 It was decided to draw up a new convention, specific to
persons with disabilities
– What should the convention deal with? Solely nondiscrimination, the interaction between disability and
Human Rights or a more global approach ?
the text will deal with related and complementary issues
It will focus on :
- Dimensions of Human Rights and Disability, on
one hand, and
- The core issues of social development, on the
other hand (gender equality, eradication of
During its 2nd session, the committee established a
working group, composed of :
• 27 States representatives
• 12 Disabled People Organisations
• 1 national institution of Human Rights
 January 2004 : Working Group meeting
The working group was in charge of drawing up a draft text
which would be the basis of the negotiations ; the draft
text is composed of 25 articles.
 3rd et 4th sessions (May 2004; August 2004) :
The committee discussed the draft text, and every
stakeholder could suggest amendments (first reading).
 5th session (January 2005) :
The committee has made a second reading of the first part
of the convention.
 6th session (August 2005) :
The committee has started the second reading of the
second part of the convention.
 October 2005 : publication of the « Chairman Text »
After the sixth session, the committee’s chairman proposed
a « Chairman text », which is a new version of the
convention with rewritten articles.
This text tries to set up a compromise between the
different positions of the participants (states and civil
society) after the last reading.
The chairman hopes this text will serve as the basis for
negotiations during the future sessions.
A few key points :
• Exceptional participation of civil society.
• The elaborating process is long and complex, in order to:
– Get a text that would be really efficient, and that
would take into account every dimension of disability,
in a perspective of human rights and social
– Take into account every stakeholder’s objectives and
• The article on monitoring is considered by all as crucial,
and it’s efficiency will be important.
• The recent publication of the « Chairman text » helps
progress of the convention.
Part III : Comprehensive and integral
international convention to promote and
protect the rights and dignity of persons
with disabilities
1) Presentation of the convention : articles and structure
of the « Chairman’s text »
2) The central principles of the convention
3) Transversal subjects
4) Zoom on important notions
5) Implementation and monitoring
1) Presentation of the convention: articles and
structure of the Chairman’s text
Art 1- Purpose
Art 2- Definition
Art 3- General principles
Art 4- General Obligations
Art 5- Equality and non-discrimination
Art 6- Women with disabilities
Art 7- Children with disabilities
Art 8- Promotion of positive attitudes to persons with disabilities
Art 9- Accessibility
Presentation of the convention: articles and structure
Art 10- Right to life
Art 11- Situations of risk
Art 12- Equal recognition as a person before the law
Art 13- Access to justice
Art 14- Liberty and security of the person
Art 15- Freedom from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading
treatment or punishment
Art 16- Freedom from violence and abuse
Art 17- Protecting the integrity of the person
Art 18- Liberty of movement
Art 19- Living independently and being included in the community
Art 20- Personal mobility
Presentation of the convention: articles and structure
PART 2 (continued)
Art 21- Freedom of expression and opinion and access to
Art 22- Respect for privacy
Art 23- Respect for the home and the family
Art 24- Education
Art 25- Health
Art 26- Habilitation and rehabilitation
Art 27- Work and employment
Art 28- Adequate standard of living and social protection
Art 29- Participation in political and public life
Art 30- Participation in cultural life, recreation, leisure and sport
Presentation of the convention: articles and structure
Art 31- Statistics and data
Art 32- International cooperation
Art 33- National implementation
and monitoring
Art 34- International monitoring
Entry into force
Dispute settlement
Authentic texts
2) The central principles of the convention
• It does not create new rights
Objective : The full enjoyment of all human rights and
fundamental freedoms by the disabled person.
=> The goal is to allow disabled people to enjoy the same
rights as others.
• It rests upon a vision of an inclusive society in which
everyone has the same rights and opportunities.
This vision is illustrated through 6 general principles :
• Dignity, autonomy and freedom of choice
• Non-discrimination and respect for differences
• Integration
• Equality of opportunities
• Accessibility
• Equality between men and women
The vision of the society upheld by the convention makes
room for individual choices, while recognising the
importance of collective responsibilities.
The principles are upheld throughout the convention
Insure the physical and moral integrity of the person :
• by affirming the inherent right to life for all (art 10),
but no consensus on when this right begins.
• by protecting the person against :
 violence and abuses (art 16)
 inhuman and degrading treatments (art 15)
 forced intervention or institutionalisation (art 17)
*Autonomy and freedom of choice
Insure that the disabled person has the possibility of being
autonomous and has the freedom of choosing :
• his/her place of residence (art 19), in order not to force
the person to live in a specialised institution
• the medical treatment of his/her impairment (art 25)
• to have a family life and personal relations (art 23)
Discrimination in the draft text means :
- any distinction, exclusion or restriction,
- based on disability,
- limiting, as a consequence, the access to rights
 Encompasses double discrimination (sex, ethnic origin,
 Encompasses all forms of discrimination, be they direct
and indirect discrimination.
*Full integration
Disabled people are integrated in all aspects of existence,
considered as equal citizens and participants.
This principle :
• expresses the desired result of the convention,
• echoes the principle of respect of differences within the
society and to the acceptation of disability as being part
of human diversity.
* Equality of opportunities
Enable persons with disabilities to access, in equality with
other persons, services, information and activities…
It is thanks to the Standard Rules that the notion of
equalisation of opportunities has become central in the
treatment of the disability theme.
= to fight against the barriers to participation of disabled
1. Physical environment
Implements international standard norms for every
building, either public or private (Universal design).
Example : standards demanding that doors be wide enough to
allow a wheelchair to go through
Allow and facilitate the movements of disabled people.
Example : access to public transportation thanks to low-floor
2. Accessibility to information and communication
allow access to information and the enjoyment of the
freedom of expression.
Example : information available in Braille, websites specially
adapted for the needs of disabled people…
*Equality between men and women
• This principle has been included in the general principles
of the Convention by the « chairman text »
• We still do not know how it will be articulated with the
different articles of the convention.
3) Transversal subjects
 Participation of persons with disabilities and their
processes (articles 4, 8, 9, 29 et 31).
 Mainstreaming : (article 4) take disability into account in
all development actions and at all stages (planning,
implementation, evaluation…)
 Examples : take disability into account during the elaboration
of a general policy concerning health, education, housing…
Transversal subjects
 Community based support (local level):
The appropriate services and resources have to be
available at the community level (in the fields of
education, health…). This contributes into allowing
disabled people to have the opportunity to live
autonomously within their local community.
4) Focus on important notions
 Reasonable accommodation measures
 Affirmative actions
 Legal capacity
 Vulnerable groups
 Situations of risk
 Reasonable accommodation measures
A reasonable accommodation measure is a material
measure aiming at favouring equalisation of chances.
= individual measures
= do not imply a disproportionate burden
in all fields : financial, education, employment…
The absence of reasonable accommodation constitutes a
form of indirect discrimination.
according to the General Observation n°5 from the ICESCR
 Affirmative actions
Measures of preferential promotion of a usually
disadvantaged category of persons.
They aim at realising equalisation of opportunities.
They are temporary measures – they stay in place as long
as the disadvantage is not compensated for.
Ex: establish quotas for the employment of disabled people within
a company, grant tax incentives…
The convention provides for affirmative actions in order to
encourage employers to hire disabled people (article 27).
 Legal capacity
• Legal capacity is the legal aptitude of a person to be a
holder of rights and obligations and to be able to put
them to use.
• In the common law system, legal capacity is understood
as the general capacity of a person to engage in legal
acts, such as contracts, etc…
• Legal capacity distinguishes itself from legal personality,
which a recognition of a person as a rights holder (=
subject of law, ie. The person has rights and the
possibility to enforce them in a tribunal.
 Vulnerable groups
The sixth session has tackled the opportunity of including :
- an article 6 concerning disabled women since they
suffer from a double discrimination and are subject to
violence and abuses.
- an article 7 conferring a special protection to disabled
However, the necessity of having a separate article for the
protection of those two categories of vulnerable disabled
persons is not decided upon.
 Situations of risk
(for now, this article 11 is still under consideration, and
could be moved to the preamble of the convention)
It is important to protect disabled people in cases of armed
conflict, natural disasters, and other situations which
make them more vulnerable.
This article will define the obligations of States to
guarantee a specific and efficient protection of disabled
people in situations of risk.
5) Implementation and monitoring
• Monitoring (articles 33 and 34)
To be efficient, the convention must elaborate relevant
monitoring mechanisms, such as :
- establishment of monitoring committees (on national,
regional and international levels)
- possibility of individual and interstate complaints
- reinforcement of national, regional and international
- collaboration with existing UN Human Rights treaty
Any monitoring mechanism must include the participation
of persons with disabilities (including disabled peoples
• International cooperation (art 32)
It would be a transfer of resources, aid and expertise
• between States, NGOs, international organisation,
private sector, in a North-South perspective, but also
• all fields : technical, scientific, economical,
technological, training, information exchange…
It should allow :
• access to new technologies, information sharing, and
harmonisation of standards of access
• mainstreaming of disability issues in all development
cooperation programmes
• a better implementation of the convention.
The absence of international cooperation can not
constitute a motive for non application of the
 The realisation by States
Principle : the compulsory and immediate realisation by the
State of the rights sanctioned by the convention.
= by modifying national regulation and by guaranteeing
the application of the rights.
But : Certain States ask for the possibility of a progressive
= could allow these States to depart temporarily from the
implementation of economic, social and cultural rights
when the country needs more time for implementation.
The States will have to prove that measures are taken to
make progress, even if the realisation of the convention
is not complete.
It is not allowed for civil and political rights.
A few key points :
• The convention is not aimed at creating new rights but at
allowing persons with disabilities to enjoy their rights, in
equality with the other members of society.
• It touches all aspects of life
• It states rights but also constraining implementation
• Some fundamental topics are still considered, and a
consensus will have to be reached for each of them
(such as for international cooperation).
To follow the elaboration process of the
Consult the Enable UN website, where you will find :
– The « Chairman text » as well as the first draft of the
Working Group
– The official reports of the ad hoc Committee sessions
– The « daily summaries » of the sessions of the
– The different amendments proposed by participants
(States, NGOs, UN agencies, Human Rights
The website is in many languages.
Part IV :
The participation of civil society in the
elaboration process of the convention
The voice of the civil society during the
sessions of the ad hoc Committee :
International Disability Caucus (IDC).
 Gathers about fifty organisations from around the world
(august 2005), from which a majority are disabled
peoples organisations.
Holds the unified voice of the civil society during the ad
hoc committee sessions.
=> it is civil society’s lobbying body.
IDC’s actions
1. Active participation to the drafting of the first draft
(January 2004)
12 NGOs from IDC among the 40 members of the
working group
2. Amendment proposals from IDC on all the articles
of the convention :
• Drafting proposals for every article
• Arguments to describe its positions for every
3. But also
During the sessions of the ad hoc Committee :
 Organisation of parallel meetings aside from the plenary
 Organisation of an IDC secretariat (done by Handicap
Between the sessions :
 Elaboration of new concrete proposals that will be
upheld by the Caucus - via « Yahoo Group »
• on precise themes
• on every article of the convention with one
coordinator per article.
 Publication of a guide to facilitate the integration of new 68
participants from the civil society.
A few actions done by IDC members
 Writing of daily reports on the debates held in the
Committee (daily summaries)
by Rehabilitation International, translated into French by Handicap
International, into Arabic by the Landmine Survivors Network, into
Spanish by the Inter-American Institute on Disability…
 Realisation of internet pages concerning the convention
Handicap International, Inclusion International, Landmine Survivors
Network, Disabled People International, Rehabilitation
 Set up of a project to develop the participation of the
South’s civil society
Handicap International and Inter-American Institute on Disability.
In conclusion
• Civil society has a great role inside the ad hoc Committee
• Civil society has a unified voice through the International
Disability Caucus
• It influences the debates, but it is the States that ultimately
decide and ratify the final text
• It has to spread the maximum information on the convention
and mobilize the energies of the civil societies from all
countries for :
– the end of the elaboration process
– the later steps (ratification, implementation, monitoring).
Handicap International’s focus on
inclusive development
Handicap International is a member of International
Disability and Development Consortium (IDDC): 21
NGOs et DPOs dealing with disability and development.
HI and IDDC, inside the Internationa DisabilityCaucus
(IDC) :
 have proposed an amendment on inclusive
development during the fifth session.
 have realised a CD Rom they presented in New York,
which includes resources on inclusive development in
respect of every article of the convention («The
Disability Convention – Making It Work»).
What is inclusive development ?
=> A development that integrates disabled people in the
general process, while at the same time taking into
account their specific needs.
Inclusive development :
• implies that the disability dimension has to be taken into
account in all the steps of development (programming,
implementation, evaluation, follow up),
• guarantees that the civil society (such as the disabled
peoples organisations) is an actor in the development
process and its implementation,
• bases itself on a rights based approach of development.
Why talk about inclusive development ?
• According to the United Nations, over 600 millions of
persons have a disability, and 82% of them live in
developing countries and are among the poorest of the
• The economic and social exclusion that face those
persons is a major development issue.
• The elimination of poverty cannot be achieved without :
- mainstreaming the disability issue in all
development policies and processes,
- ensuring that persons with disabilities participate
and are involved in all phases of development programs.
How the convention can reach the objectives
of inclusive development ?
Certain of the identified means to achieve inclusive
development are present in the text of the convention (it
is however not finalized) :
Community-based support
Consultation and representation of disabled people
Awareness raising on disability
Information sharing…
How the convention can reach the objectives
of inclusive development ?
Other aspects have yet to be integrated in the
convention :
• The increase of disabled peoples standards of
• The protection of certain vulnerable categories of
populations : refugees, ethnic minorities…
• International cooperation as a means of
• The protection of disabled people in risk situations:
the issue is mentionned but is not decided upon
How the convention can reach the objectives
of inclusive development ?
The monitoring has to be considered :
- at all levels : national, regional, international.
- in the framework of existing human rights instruments.
- in link with development mechanisms, such as the
“Poverty Reduction Strategy Plans”.
- on the basis of indicators allowing to measure the
effective respect of rights. These indicators stem from the
set up of a development policy based on human rights.
Convention : the next deadlines
January and August 2006 : 7th and 8th sessions of the ad
hoc Committee
 third reading of the convention on the basis of the
Chairman Text
 Discussions on the structure of the text
2007 : The convention should be finished
 the second aspect of the lobbying action of the civil
society will start for the ratification of the convention by
The role of civil society
Following the ratification by States, the civil
society’s exceptional role has to continue for
the implementation and monitoring aspects.
The role of civil society after ratification
• Insist on an efficient implementation and monitoring of
the convention by States Parties.
• Within the monitoring process : observation, gathering
and management of information, in order to :
- submit alternative reports to the monitoring
- plead in front of the monitoring committees
(national, regional and international),
- facilitate access to information for the civil society,
- inform on / influence disability policies…

Diapositive 1 - Handicap International