A major report launched today (Friday January 24th 2003) entitled "Human Rights and Disability: the current use and future potential of the United Nations human rights instruments in the context of disability" calls for a new UN Treaty on the rights of people with disabilities as the most effective way of guaranteeing those rights. The report was launched by Mr Tom Kitt T.D., Minister for State at the Department of Foreign Affairs and was carried out by a research team based in the Faculty of Law in NUI Galway, under the direction of Professor Gerard Quinn.
The Report argues that a new UN treaty for peoples with disabilities would focus attention on disability and tailor general human rights norms to meet particular circumstances of persons with disabilities. It would add visibility to the disability issue within the human rights system and State parties would be clearer on their precise obligations in the disability field. Civil society would also be able to focus on one coherent set of norms rather than six different sets of norms.
The Report also recommends that:
- The United Nations Commission on Human Rights actively considers the appointment of a special rapporteur on the human rights of persons with disabilities
- National human rights institutions form a forum or working group on disability and human rights
- NGOs (Non-governmental organisations) combine their resources to form an international Disability Human Rights Watch, to help raise levels of awareness and human rights capacities within the disability sector
- Donor countries fund human rights projects in the area of disability as part of their development, democratisation and human rights programmes in developing countries
According to Professor Gerard Quinn, Director of the NUI, Galway Law School, "The core problem in the field of disability is the relative invisibility of persons with disabilities, both in society and under the existing international human rights instruments. What people with disabilities aspire to most is to have access to the same rights – and civic responsibilities – as all other persons".
Approximately 600 million people or 10% of the world's population have a disability of one form or another. More than four fifths of them live in developing countries. Only 2% of disabled children in the developing world receive any education or rehabilitation. "The link between disability and poverty and social exclusion is direct and strong throughout the world", says Professor Quinn. "However, a dramatic shift in perspective has taken place over the last two decades from an approach motivated by charity towards the disabled, to one based on rights".
There are currently six UN Conventions, aspects of which are relevant to peoples with disabilities. These include treatment of prisoners, the rights of the child, discrimination against women, and treatment of racial and minority groups. However, the authors of the Report claim that the adoption of a thematic treaty on the rights of persons with disability would underpin rather than undermine the web of existing human rights treaties insofar as they relate to disability.
The Report was commissioned by the Office of the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights and funding for the project came mainly through the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Information from: Máire Mhic Uidhir, Press Officer, NUI Galway. Tel. 091 750418