This Human Rights Day, IDA calls on the UN, State and civil society actors to speak up to stop discrimination against the human rights of persons with disabilities.

Human Rights Day celebrates the anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, the first human rights instrument to be adopted on an international scale.  Despite its universal intention, the UDHR makes explicit mention of disability only once, in the context of health and social protection. This inadequate regard for disability rights reflected the prevailing notion that disability fell within the domain of medicine, rehabilitation and welfare. 

It cannot be denied that since 1948, the recognition of the rights of persons with disabilities as human rights has made significant advances as demonstrated by the adoption of the first international human rights treaty on the rights of persons with disabilities in 2006, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  The CRPD is not just a non-discrimination treaty but also provides for substantive rights encompassing both civil and political rights, and economic, social and cultural rights, to ensure the full participation and inclusion of persons with disabilities in all aspects of life. Today the CRPD has 147 signatories and is ratified by 96 states.  The CRPD Committee will expand next year from 12 to 18 members comprising independent experts who are mostly persons with disabilities themselves.   

Sixty-two years on from the UDHR’s adoption, this year’s theme for Human Rights Day, “Speak Up Stop Discrimination”, supports the work of human rights defenders who act to end discrimination.  IDA acknowledges the work of its members, self-representative organisations of persons with disabilities which together cover a wide range of disability constituencies from all regions of the world, whose purpose is to defend the human rights of persons with disabilities, and in particular to create opportunities for self-representation and advocacy by the millions of children and adults with disabilities across the world who would otherwise remain invisible or forgotten.

Despite these important efforts, persons with disabilities continue to face discrimination and are denied their fundamental freedoms to make their own decisions, to choose where and how to live, to be free from torture and ill-treatment, to access information, the list goes on. The human rights of persons with disabilities cut across the mandates of all UN treaty bodies and the wider human rights system, and IDA has been working to mainstream the rights of persons with disabilities throughout the UN.  There is a continued need for the treaty bodies, Human Rights Council, special procedures and other UN entities to ensure that children and adults with disabilities are not left out of their mandate of protection and to support and promote the standards of the CRPD.

This Human Rights Day, IDA calls on States, UN treaty bodies and entities, and all other stakeholders to equip children and adults with disabilities with the tools they need to speak out for themselves and defend their rights.  By making these rights real, persons with disabilities can fulfil their central role in dialogue with States and private actors to end discrimination and take their place as citizens in an inclusive society.


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