Historic Hearing in US Senate on UN Disability Treaty

We are delighted to welcome this guest post from Professor Gerard Quinn Director of the Centre for Disability Law & Policy at NUI Galway.

A historic hearing took place yesterday (Thursday, July 11th) in the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.  The issue before the Committee was US ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).  In the US system the Senate must gives its ‘advice and consent’ before the Federal Government can ratify a treaty.  A two thirds majority vote is needed from the full Senate before the Administration can proceed to ratification.  This is an exceedingly high bar but, especially after yesterday, it looks likely to be met.  It is now almost a foregone conclusion that the Committee – chaired by Senator John Kerry (D-Mass) – will commend a positive vote to the full Senate.

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By Erica Edwards 

In the Handbook for Parliamentarians, the obligation of State parties under the UNCRPD is clearly stated: a State must not “fail to introduce and respect the minimum wage.” Accordingly, more and more pressure has been placed on countries to eliminate this unjust practice. Yet, subminimum wages for workers with disabilities are allowed to occur – either through explicit laws or through loopholes to avoid these laws.

For example, British Columbia legally mandated that all workers with disabilities were paid minimum wage, but a loophole for trainees was constructed to allow stipends less than the minimum wage. More than ten years later, much of the work in sheltered workshops has been re-classified as non-work with wages administered at less than minimum wage.

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Nepal’s Mental Health Bill or Not?

by Linda Lee

The Nepal Mental Health Policy group has set up a public forum and invites a respectful exchange of ideas and questions regarding the contentious issues in mental health and psychosocial disability rights (http://mhpolicynepal.org/forum.html). Nepal is one of many countries going through the Mental Health Law Reform process, especially in light of ratification of the CRPD. Mental Health Worldwide (MHWW) was one of many groups that provided feedback to the task force regarding their draft 2006 Mental Health Bill. This draft was not CRPD compliant in the opinion of many because the main focus of the draft was regarding establishing a central psychiatric centre or institution by psychiatrists.

 

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Starting in Your Own Backyard in UNCRPD Enforcement

by Erica Edwards  

Living in a state that does not appreciate federal authority, this past year it became abundantly clear to me that the implementation of the UNCRPD goes beyond federal levels – often becoming hindered by hurdles and tangles and just plain ignorance by some political leaders at state and local levels of government. This showed me that the work that needs to be done in implementing the Convention needs to begin at home.

I just finished monitoring the state of Arizona’s recently adjourned legislative session in the U.S. for people with developmental disabilities. In reality, I felt like I was playing Defensive Tackle in an American football game. The majority of my time was spent educating others on the prevention of the passage of harmful bills that were detrimental to the advancement of civil rights for those with disabilities. Over twenty years after the passage of the ADA, many of our state legislators were still simply not aware of the consequences that people with disabilities would face with each bill’s potential passage.

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Ghana Ratifies UN CRPD and Passes Mental Health Bill

March 2012 brought wonderful news for the people of Ghana, especially for persons with disabilities and those with psychosocial disabilities. On March 4, the Ghana government unexpectedly passed the Mental Health Bill. This Bill had been first introduced to the government eight years earlier.  Then on March 13, the Ghana government ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and the Optional Protocol. Ghana had signed the CRPD and Optional Protocol five years earlier in 2007.

Civil society groups, psychiatrists including Dr. Akwasi Osei, mental health workers, lawyers and many, many persons have been working years to have the Ghana government formally recognize the information as outlined in human rights instruments such as the CRPD and reformed mental health laws. And as the saying goes ‘it takes a village to raise a child’, it may be that it takes the world to ratify this Convention country by country and then to ensure the Convention is truly implemented and positively impacts persons with disabilities.

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Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities meets for 7th session

This week, April 16th – April 20th 2012, the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities will meet for its 7th session. If you are interested to follow proceedings, you can do so by following the web broadcast here.  The reports up for discussion this week are, Argentina, China, Hungary and Peru. You can find the reports each of these countries have submitted here. We will have some analysis of the meeting as it takes place over the coming days.

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European Disability Forum is Recruiting a Human Rights Officer

The European Disability Forum (EDF) is currently seeking a human rights officer,  The EDF is the European umbrella organisation composed of and led by persons with disabilties, representing the interests of 80 million disabled persons in Europe. The mission of EDF is to ensure persons with disabilities full access to fundamental and human rights through their active involvement in policy development and implementation in Europe. EDF works closely with the institutions of the European Union (EU), the Council of Europe and the United Nations.  The deadline for applicartions is  6/04/2012.  For more information see here.

EDF is seeking a Human Rights Officer with good knowledge and experience on human rights, non-discrimination, and equality including gender equality issues. The ideal candidate is:

  • committed to a human rights/social model approach to disability
  • understanding and knowledge of the United Nations Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities
  • with a good understanding of working in the political and civil society environment
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Creating New Spaces for Citizens with Disabilities in Political Participation

by Erica Edwards  

I was recently nominated to serve on the Mayor’s Commission on Disability Issues for the city where I live. While it is an honor to be asked, I am hesitant about my ability to make a real impact. Is this a Commission that is actively supported by the City Council to overcome barriers to inclusion, or is it a token board… there in name only to demonstrate that the city supports people with disabilities, yet any recommendations given by the Commission never make it to the City Council? In my preliminary research of fifteen U.S. cities, I have observed that few disability commissions meet more than a few times a year. Those that are active are not engaged in systemic issues, while those that are, are met with challenges as their recommendations are not advanced to the full City Council.

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To claim your rights you need to know your rights – Capacity Building for persons with learning disabilities

by Jana Offergeld

In the light of the ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), the German Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs initiated a poll on the public’s perception of the inclusion of persons with disabilities in Germany. The survey aimed to assess opinions on the current situation of persons with disabilities, on which measures and strategies are considered effective for the improvement of participation opportunities, and – on a more general level – to what extend participants were aware of the CRPD and its purpose.

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COE Commissioner for Human Rights Publishes Issue Paper on the Right to Independent Living

by Charles O’Mahony

The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Thomas Hammerberg published an Issue Paper entitled “The Right Of People With Disabilities To Live Independently And Be Included In The Community”.  This Issue Paper Follows On From One On Legal Capacity Published Last Month Entitled “Who Gets to Decide? Right to Legal Capacity for Persons with Intellectual and Psychosocial Disabilities”.  Issue Papers are commissioned and published by the Commissioner for Human Rights, to contribute to debate and reflection on important current human rights issues. Many of them also include Recommendations by the Commissioner for addressing the concerns identified. The Commissioner in this Issue Paper made a number of important recommendations on how States can realise the right to independent living.   The Issue Paper identifies the right to live in the community as enabling people to live their lives to their fullest within society and access the public sphere and as “… a foundational platform for all other rights: a precondition for anyone to enjoy all their human rights is that they are within and among the community”.   The Issue Paper very much is based on the emerging discourse being generated by Article 19 of the CRPD, which captures the right to live independently in the community as a distinct right. The Issue Paper also makes a number of references to the synergy between Article 19 of the CRPD and Article 12 on legal capacity and the right to live independently in the community is closely allied to fundamental rights such as personal liberty, private and family life and freedom from ill-treatment or punishment etc.

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