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Jordan’s obligations towards persons with disabilities

Aug 16,2014 - Last updated at Aug 16,2014

The General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in December 2006.

It was ratified by member states and became effective on May 3, 2008, 30 days after the deed was registered for ratification or accession, as stipulated by Article 45.

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is a human rights agreement, but it differs in substance from other conventions in that in the preamble, it asserts that the concept of disability is still subject to evolution.

It also states that disability results from the interaction between persons with disabilities, and environmental, physical, behavioural and informational barriers that hinder their full and effective participation in their society on an equal basis with others.

The convention recognises the global nature of all human rights and fundamental freedoms, and their indivisibility, interdependence and interrelatedness. It asserts the need to ensure that persons with disabilities enjoy these rights fully and without discrimination in order to achieve the purpose of this convention, contained in Article 1, which translates into promoting, protecting and ensuring the enjoyment by persons with disabilities of all human rights on an equal basis with others, and promoting respect for inherent dignity.

Thus, the convention adopted the social model based on participation, empowerment, equality and non-discrimination.

The convention also put forth a set of key general principles in Article 3. The most important is the principle of non-discrimination, a fundamental principle and the cornerstone on which the convention was developed and which covers all the provisions contained therein.

The convention also confirmed, in Article 11, agreement on specific cases where people with disabilities should enjoy special protection, such as situations of risk and humanitarian emergencies.

In addition, it advocates protection from exploitation, violence and abuse, in Article 16, and the right to privacy and litigation. 

The convention assigned a series of articles on civil political, economic, social and cultural rights, as well as articles on women and children with disabilities.

Under the provisions of Article 33 of the convention, regarding its implementation and monitoring at national levels, states are obliged to apply its provisions through the appointment of one or more coordination points within the government, for the implementation of the terms of the convention.

As for monitoring, it is incumbent on the state to form or strengthen, designate or establish a framework for strengthening the convention to protect and monitor its implementation through human rights organisations, in particular, as these have real expertise in the field of human rights.

It is vital that civil society organisations, and persons with disabilities and their representative organisations contribute to the process of monitoring.

Jordan was one of the first countries that adopted the convention, expressing commitment to implementing its terms and achieving its goals of protecting the rights of persons with disabilities and ensuring that they fully enjoy human rights and basic freedoms.

It was then published in the Official Gazette to become an integral part of the national legislation.

The general obligations were set in Article 4 of the convention, and its endorsement entailed a set of commitments at international and national levels.

At international level, under the provisions of Article 35 of the convention, Jordan was bound to submit a comprehensive report on its obligations and commitments with regard to the implementation of the terms of agreement to the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities two years after the ratification of the convention, and then once every four years and whenever the committee requests it.

The first government report, “State of the rights of persons with disabilities in the Kingdom for the period from 2007-2011”, was sent to the committee that follows up on the implementation of the international convention.

At national level, upon the directives of His Majesty King Abdullah, a National Strategy for Persons with Disabilities (2007-2015) was set forth with the active participation of persons with disabilities and all stakeholders.

In addition, the Law on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities No. 31, for the year 2007, was published, and the Higher Council for Affairs of Persons with Disabilities was set up under the provisions of Article 6 of the Law on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

This is a national institution that supports persons with disabilities and defends their interests, draws policies and plans, and coordinates with all stakeholders, raises awareness and educates people on the rights of persons with disabilities.

It also helps remove barriers and physical obstacles to achieve full participation in society and conducts studies and research related to disability, such as providing a database, in addition to educating and training staff and specialists in the field on the rights of persons with disabilities.

Developed countries have great experience and strong commitment to implementing the provisions of the convention. A good example is the Kingdom of Sweden, a model in this area that has a set of rights-based laws for which the state takes responsibility through the empowerment, rehabilitation and development of the potential of persons with disabilities, as well as educating them and enabling them to access all facilities.

The Swedish law has identified categories of disabilities and identified the competent departments charged with implementing the statutory provisions in the convention.

Sweden adopted a strategy for the implementation of policies related to the rights of persons with disabilities for the period 2011-2016, which includes pivotal axes based on specific targets, including, for example, the right to education, employment, the judicial system and transportation hubs.

Despite the achievements made at national level, in Jordan there are still challenges in the application of the convention including:

1) Legislation: the development and activation of national legislation in line with international standards.

2) Awareness: raising awareness and educating about the rights of persons with disabilities, an aspect where the media can play a role in changing the prevalent image and the negative perception of persons with disabilities.

3) Finance and policies: placing disability atop the list of national priorities for all stakeholders, and providing financial resources necessary to implement the terms of the convention.

4) Technical issues: building the capacity of workers from all sectors in the field of disability and empowering persons with disabilities and their organisations in all fields.

5) Environment: remove barriers, as well as physical, environmental, informational and behavioural obstacles, to provide an enabling environment for persons with disabilities.

The writer is president of Jordan’s Higher Council for Affairs of Persons with Disabilities. He is also special envoy to the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention. He contributed this article to The Jordan Times.

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