Social Missions Seminar

Handicap International

Project at a glance

Dates and Place

27 June - 05 July 2007, Valencia, France

Organizers

Handicap International is an international organisation specialised in the field of disability. Non-governmental, non-religious, non-political and non-profit making, it works alongside people with disabilities, whatever the context, offering them assistance and supporting them in their efforts to become self-reliant. Since its creation, the organisation has set up programmes in approximately 60 countries and intervened in many emergency situations. It has a network of eight national associations (Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Switzerland, United Kingdom, USA) which provide human and financial resources, manage projects and raise awareness of Handicap International's actions and campaigns.

Project details

The International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

The International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is now open for signature and ratification. This booklet contains the full text of the convention together with its additional protocol and is designed to help promote the dissemination of this new  convention, which is now the international reference on disability rights.

The United Nations General Assembly adopted the International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on 13th December 2006. The convention's purpose is "to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities, and to promote respect for their inherent dignity" (article 1). It represents a universal undertaking to make our societies inclusive so that people with disabilities may benefit from the same opportunities and the same possibilities for participation as everyone else. This convention has not created new rights. It expresses existing human rights in terms of the specific needs and situations of peoples with disabilities.

Until now, it has been possible to overlook disabled people and leave them to their families to look after, with no further thought being given to the matter. This text may have all the weaknesses of conventions and the simple fact that it exists will not be enough to make things change, but it is nonetheless an historical step forward which will provide civil society with new opportunities for calling States' attention to their obligations. This international convention calls for disabled people no longer to be regarded as objects of charity, but as subjects with rights and obligations.

For 25 years, Handicap International has been working and lobbying for disability issues to be included in all dimensions of human rights and development. We carry out advocacy actions at international level, and similar actions are implemented by our programmes in the Southern countries and our sections in the Northern countries in which we are represented. At international level: Handicap International was involved in the process drawing up the disability rights convention from the outset in 2001.

In France: Handicap International is working on European and international issues with the national consultative commission on human rights and the French disability council, and has developed links with the Foreign Affairs Ministry on matters relative to the convention. We were able to work together on the content of the text and its translation into French. 

In the intermediary and developing countries in which Handicap International operates, we have been working with civil society organisations and in particular with disabled people's organisations for many years now in order to address their needs and promote the effective application of disability rights. This sometimes  involves actions for facilitating the creation of forums for consultation with the public authorities. 
The convention process has strengthened these dynamics and brought positive results:

  • "Projet Sud" helped leaders of Southern disabled people's organisations to attend the sessions that took place in New York and thus contribute to the drafting. In addition to enabling them to take an active part in the convention process, this project also provided these leaders with opportunities for training and sharing their experience and analyses with state and non-state actors back in their home countries. In total, thirty or so Asian, African and Latin-American leaders took part in the project. 
  • Regional conferences were organised with the United Nation's Department for Economic and Social Affairs (DESA). These conferences took place in West Africa, North Africa and South-East Europe. Another one is scheduled for 2007 in Central Asia.

As a result of all these gains at international, regional and national level, Handicap International is now working with active partners in many regions of the world as part of a network . We must make the most of this privileged position by inciting the States to ratify this convention and take an active part in its application.  With what we have learnt from this experience, we are now able to identify the major challenges that lie ahead for civil society and in which Handicap International will engage. These challenges can be resumed  as follows:

- familiarising people with the convention
To actively promote this new and little-known convention using pedagogical approaches for explaining the text and ensuring it is interpreted correctly. This is an essential undertaking as it will take a major educational investment to change the paradigm so that disabled people are no longer seen as objects but as subjects and citizens with rights and obligations - which is a necessary precursor to the effective implementation of the convention,

- working together
Whether at international, regional or national level, the civil society movement that worked towards this convention now needs to work alongside the different disabled people's organisations (all types of impairment), and with other actors such as Human Rights and development organisations.

- coordinating between international, regional and national levels
It is important that civil society introduce exchange and support dynamics at these three levels, and in particular that it strengthen disabled people's organisations in developing countries so that they can play a significant role in their country and region.

-  establishing a common and concerted voice
During the process for drafting the text, civil society, assembled within the International Disability Caucus (IDC), succeeded in speaking with one voice and thus played an important role. It will be essential for civil society in each country to continue speaking with one voice if it is to influence the future stages of ratification and implementation in the same way.

- collaborating with governments
Civil society should intervene at various levels : with parliaments, ministries and with local decision-makers. Civil society and the public authorities must work together via institutionalised consultation forums to implement the convention . Any strain in these links will slow down effective implementation and monitoring, as well as the planning of actions to be taken in the event of the violation of rights.

- amending legal and political frameworks
Civil society will need to implement advocacy actions to strengthen anti-discrimination laws and cross-cutting national policies affecting all sectors such as education, employment and health. Civil society and especially disabled people's organisations must be allowed to contribute their direct knowledge and understanding of the effects the application of a law or a policy has on the lives of people with disabilities, their families, and even their communities.

- drawing up national action plans
These action plans will contain concrete measures for incorporating disability issues into the social development process, calling for inter-sectorial collaboration and resulting in inter-ministerial coordination. These national plans will also be essential for improving the articulation between laws, policies and practice. They will be built around concrete actions and present realistic stages with indicators for measuring progress.

Role of ICVolunteers

A través del departamento de servicios de interpretariado, ICVolontaires-France, proporcionó a Handicap International intérpretes del francés al inglés.

Volunteering Opportunities

Se necesitan intérpretes simultáneos del francés al inglés. El taller se llevará a cabo en la oficina cabecera de Handicap International en Lyon, específicamente en CISL (Centre International de Séjour de Lyon).



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