WBU President's Office
from the Expert Group Meeting
on the Comprehensive and Integral International Convention
to promote and protect the Rights and Dignity
of Persons with Disabilities,
Mexico June 11-14, 2002
The Government of Mexico had in beforehand sent out a draft convention on disability as a background document for discussion.
The purpose for participation in this meeting was to safeguard the interest of World Blind Union (WBU) and contribute to the texts with our knowledge and experience. WBU representatives wanted to see inclusion of elements of importance for WBU and follow the discussions among the experts.
Another goal was to convene internal meetings with present members of the International Disability Alliance (IDA), and discuss common statements on the draft presented.
Dr. William Rowland, WBU SECOND Vice President and Ms. Kicki Nordstrom, WBU President represented WBU. Christina Welander, assistant to Kicki supported by taking notes and collecting important information around the meeting and after.
At the fifty-sixth session of the United Nations General Assembly, Mexico submitted a resolution (56/168), on establishing a "Special Ad Hoc Committee" for the purpose of drafting a wide and comprehensive international convention to promote and protect the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities.
To fulfil the mandate in the resolution the United Nations and the Mexican Government had invited Human Rights and disability experts from different regions, to an Expert meeting with the purpose of analysing and discussing the elements that the new international instrument should include.
The Expert Meeting was organised by the Government of Mexico, with the support of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the sub-regional office in Mexico and the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).
The Meeting brought together 35 delegates as experts. Approximately 80 governmental and non-governmental representatives from Mexico and other countries, mainly from Latin America, participated as observers.
(For further information: http://www.sre.gob.mx/discapacidad/projectinfo.htm)
The first evening Kicki called present IDA-members and Bengt Lindqvist to a meeting for the purpose to ask for the opinion among the present person of their impression of the Mexican draft. Many other persons representing different national or regional disability organisations, also participated. Ms. Anuradha Mohit represented the Indian Government and their Human Rights Commission.
The feeling among the present persons were mixed. Some felt a threat of having been presented with texts to a draft convention at this stage, while others felt that it had not been proposed any drafting procedures from Mexico. It was agreed that it should help if Bengt tomorrow could stress the importance of first having the principals identified before the actual drafting took place.
Objectives for the discussions of a convention:
A draft document of a convention had been circulated in beforehand for further discussion at the expert meeting.
The following objectives had been identified as target for discussion:
O Provide a forum for exchanges of knowledge and experience on issues and trends related to international norms and standards on disability and to development-based approaches to the advancement of persons with disabilities through an international convention.
O Inform the upcoming work of the Ad Hoc Committee on outcome of the expert meeting. Consider aspects of the process, context and contents related to the elaboration of a convention of persons with disabilities.
O Contribute substantively to efforts of Governments as well as civil society to achieve full and equal participation of persons with disabilities in social life and development.
Towards a United Nations convention for persons with disabilities
Dr. Jorge Castaneda on behalf of the Mexican Government inaugurated the meeting. He explained that the purpose of this meeting is to move forward towards a convention for persons with disabilities and that the Mexican government provided with financial and logistical support to convene this meeting.
Bengt Lindqvist, the Special Rapporteur on disability was the next speaker and he emphasised that it was a responsibility for us all to make this work. He read out eight principles that should be discussed and agreed upon before entering into a real drafting process of a convention.
These principles were later redrafted and became one of the main documents of discussion during the meeting (see attachment 1).
Bengt Lindqvist finished by proposing that a special secretariat should be established and that adequate financial resources must be allocated to support the drafting process.
Debate on the text of the convention-reference background, objectives of the convention, definitions and other elements
The second session was open for discussions from the floor. The main themes of discussions were the following:
O Objective and purpose of the convention.
O What kind of instruments should be created?
O The content of the convention.
Many of the experts emphasised that the circulated draft of a convention had to be redrafted but that it was better to use this meeting to discuss what the convention need to include rather that a debate on the present text at this stage.
Other important subjects of discussion were the human rights approach in the convention and the need to use texts that can go beyond existing human rights instruments. The importance to set out principles in areas that are accessible and understandable for persons with disabilities was also stressed.
It was strongly felt that a disability secretariat through the UN should be established in order to support the work of the Ad Hoc Committee and later on, the implementation of the convention.
Other concerns were:
・ Need of a realistic approach towards developing countries when it comes to implementation.
・ The participation of disability NGO:s in the work of a convention.
・ The domestic violence towards persons with disabilities.
・ Education and inclusion (The Salamanca Statement and Dakar framework for action) the advantages and the disadvantages for certain groups (WBU and WFD on the term inclusive education).
・ Forced treatment and the Pharmaceutical danger for persons with psycho- social disability.
・ Civil-, political-, economical-, social- and cultural rights
・ Ageing, gender equality and children.
With reference to the drafting of the convention a wide range of subjects were mentioned as desired to be included. It was stressed that the implementation of the convention has to be possible. It was also suggested to just form a simple convention there only definitions on rights and non-discrimination should be dealt with, together with implementation and monitoring procedures.
It was noted the importance of the diversity that exists in different countries and among different disability groups, without excluding significant definitions like autonomy, independence non-discrimination, positive action and so on. The complexity to draft a real comprehensive convention was obvious.
It was stressed that the convention should not be a medical document but rather build on human rights issues based on the six UN Human Rights treaties. It was discussed whether prevention should be included as a Human Right issue in the convention. The Disability Experts did not recognise prevention as a Human Rights issue.
A detailed discussion on the text of the Mexican draft was initiated despite strong protests by a number of delegates.
The organisers finally agreed that a discussion of identifying principles, would be more productive than trying to redraft the whole Mexican convention in a few days time.
A small group was established and given the task to prepare a document with the main principals that a convention should contains. It was also decided that a list of principles should be drafted and used as guidelines during the meeting days. (The document from Gerard Quinn, Bengt Lindqvist and IDA members is attached).
The last session of the day ended with a negative feeling as participants and organisers seemed to have misinterpreted objectives of the meeting. There was also a split between the IDA representatives and the rest of the participants, which was based on misunderstanding of the role of IDA.
In order to clarify objectives and to discuss how the following days could be best used, Luis Alfonso de Alba organised an informal meeting after the session. This initiative proved to be very effective and resolved most of the questions that had lingered in the air.
The ambassador, Luis Alfonso de Alba chaired this first session of the second day and suggested a change of the agenda. Participants were given the liberty to comment on the draft convention and/or the documents distributed (the principles etc.).
Important comments on the convention were:
・ The right to life.
・ The objectives of the convention.
・ Psychosocial disability not enough well expressed in the draft text.
・ Incorporate discrimination
・ The use of landmines.
・ Provision which positively affect persons with disabilities (disability being a social construction).
・ Provide quality and ensure equal rights.
・ Bioethics should ensure that no differences are made when a foetus has a disability.
・ Violence, persons with disabilities are suffering all types of violence and this should be added in the convention.
・ Definition of prevention (the major cause of disability is due to malnutrition and wars and armed conflicts).
・ Importance to provide technical assistance.
・ Habilitation instead of rehabilitation.
・ Strong monitoring mechanisms
・ Each disability group to write their own definition of rights and identify their specific problems
・ The importance to refer to existing UN documents such as the UN Standard Rules
・ Multiple discrimination. Special reference to other disadvantaged groups such as immigrants, indigenous, displaced persons and gender equality
・ The role of the family (advantages and disadvantages for different groups)
・ The right to associate
・ The discrimination in the labour market
・ Multiple disabilities
The states need to guarantee rights of persons with disabilities, especially in the developing countries. The necessary funds to capacitate persons with disabilities should be established. All kind of research and investigations should include persons with disabilities. With regards to prenatal diagnosis etceteras, there should not be any discrimination on the ground of disability. The family should never be forced to make decisions of abortion because of disability.
The convention need concrete guidelines that people can use and understand. There is also a need to explain what the barriers are that hinders full participation for persons with disabilities. Mentioning the importance of equal treatment (individual difference), equal opportunity (compensating measure to have equality) and equality of outcome (positive action and substantial change) should be explained.
The document of "What Rights Should the Treaty Contain", (see attachment 2), drafted by Gerald Quinn, Rodrigo Jimenez, Maria Soledad Cisterna and Marcia Rioux, was presented by the Ambassador de Alba. However many participants still had objections regarding the mentioning of IDA in the process and felt that other organisations were excluded in this way despite multiple attempts of explanation from the IDA representatives.
When asked about the report from the meeting, Luis Alfonso de Alba explained that no decision has been made regarding the structure of the report but that the document should be available to all organisations and to UN and its agencies etc. De Alba promised that a new draft based on the outcome from this Expert Meeting should be find on the webpage within a week time after closing of this meeting.
Continues discussions on the redrafted document (Quinn & Jimenez) and other working documents.
The drafted document written by Gerard Quinn & Rodrigo Jimenez was read out. Compliments were given on the document although there were a number of suggestions from the floor (ex. to include the right to information, language and communication). Other rights mentioned were: self-determination, self-help, autonomy, independence, empowerment and poverty alleviation, the right to education (through the whole life span) and mobility were suggested to be added.
One of the participants questioned whether this should be a convention on principles or a convention on rights?
To work more effective the experts were divided into two groups, one whose purpose was to work through the convention draft (including comments) and the other to work through the principles. The outcome were later translated and distributed to the participants. (However not in braille!)
Presentation of the new draft of the "Principles for drafting of a new treaty" by the chair of the working group, Stefan Tromel.
After the distribution (to some of the delegates), of the redrafted document there was still disagreement with the naming of IDA in the document, as the feeling was that no particular organisation or network should be mentioned. It seemed as many still had the feeling that IDA was a construction from industrial countries and that they were excluding organisations and leaders from developing countries. IDA members tried again to explain that IDA is formed by elected leaders by International Disability Organisations and that members of those organisations had acknowledge the elections of their international leaders. If not, they had to take that discussion within respective organisation.
Apart from that, most of the participants seemed rather satisfied with the outcome.
Luis Alfonso de Alba suggested that a small group on educational matters be established with Rosa Blanca as chair. The group met after the session but had finished, as people were not able to come to an agreement.
Mechanism for implementation of the convention and process and the human resources
The day started with Rosa Blanco's report from the working group on educational matters.
It continued with more comments and suggestions on the working documents.
The important mechanisms for implementation of the convention were discussed and the following comments were maid:
・ An individual complaint mechanism
・ The follow up mechanism
・ A Special Rapporteur on disability (and/or a permanent secretariat of reporting
・ An advisory panel of experts (independent and comprised of persons with disabilities)
・ A panel of reporting from DPO:s to governments etc.
・ Access to human and financial resources
・ National monitoring mechanism
・ Future optional protocols to the convention on disability
・ Reinforcement of the UN offices in Geneva and New York.
Many of the participants expressed their worries that disability organisations would be excluded from the work with the convention. Luis Alfonso de Alba explained that the next step is an informal meeting there all UN Missions will be invited, which will take place in New York 24-25 June, where all organisations would be welcome to participate. He also expressed the hopes to achieve certain agreements that will enrich the convention work. He further voiced his hope that the secretariat of the UN can receive information from organisations even though they do not have consultative status.
ILO through Robert Ransom voiced a concern with reference to the drafting of the convention. The drafting will take time and will require resources that might be diverted from persons with disabilities, affecting especially people from the developing countries.
During the session a document was distributed where participants were informed of a network that had been formed yesterday of organisations from the south. This information raised fears of a split between north and south in the disability community, and it was expressed that although it is important to form networks it should also be rooted in the international organisations such as IDA. It was suggested to form IDA structures in each region.
The meeting ended with much appreciation for an well-organised and important meeting.
After the meeting had ended, IDA met and discussed the upcoming problem with the lack of trust among individuals and national organisations of persons with disabilities. It was agreed that IDA immediately should establish a discussion list for those who are interested in IDA decisions and agreements. Karl Bach Jensen from WNUSP, was asked to establish this list
This meeting was an important initiative by the Mexican government to invite not only Human Rights experts, but also disability organisations to the meeting.
The inputs from the disability organisations gave a wider perspective of the needs and rights that has to be covered in the convention. However, the disagreements during the meeting, shows that there is a split within the disability movement and mistrust and misunderstanding between the disability groups and the Human Rights experts.
Hopefully this meeting will broaden the knowledge of the different needs and goals of each disability organisations.
There was compliance with the objectives of the meeting. There was an exchange of knowledge and experience on issues and trends related to international norms and standards on disability. A report with comments and suggestions from the experts will be presented to the Ad Hoc Committee that will meet between the 29 of July and 9 of August 2002 in New York City.
Despite endless efforts to explain the work and goals of IDA, many of the participants felt excluded. IDA came up with an idea to start a wider network discussion on e-mail with the objective to make people feel more inclusive.
There was a very strong consensus among the disability organisations regarding the importance to involve disability organisations in the drafting process and that the process be transparent and accessible.
There was also agreement that this was a human rights convention and that already existing UN instruments such as the UN Standard Rules should be used to complement the convention.
The manifest from the disability movement was undoubtedly: "Nothing about us without us".
The meeting came up with four documents:
1. Principles for drafting a new treaty: (Attachment 1)
2. What rights should the treaty contain? (Attachment 2)
3. The first draft of a Convention
4. The recompilation of all the comments and observations from the meeting.
These can be obtained from the website: http://www.sre.gob.mx/discapacidad/projectinfo.htm.