Working to help People with Disabilities in the SI to attain disability rights and promote their dignity and pride
I wrote today a piece in which I expressed my appreciation for DFAT in conducting a training workshop in Honiara last week for some 29 women and girls members of the Association of Persons with Disabilities in the Solomon Islands.
The training was designed and purposely conducted to advise the group of their human rights as set out in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
It a was evident from some of the remarks voiced to the local media, following the workshop, that discrimination at home, in the community and in the work place, for the few that had work, was hard to endure, tantamount to unfairness and against the principles enshrined in the CRPD.
One or two of the workshop participants also spoke out about the need for employment and improvement to their education and vocational training needs.
The Solomon Islands Government has not yet ratified the CRPD and until that happens there can be no grant funding available from what is called the Human Rights Defence Fund which is available to disability groups in countries that have ratified the CRPD.
It was in March 2007 that Australia, along with 80 other countries, ratified the CPRD at the UN in New York.
The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is an international human rights convention which sets out the fundamental human rights of people with disability.
It is made up of two documents, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which contains the main human rights provisions expressed as a series of Articles and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which is a more limited document that sets up an individual complaints procedure. Australia has signed the Convention but not the Optional Protocol.
Through the Articles the Convention sets out general and specific obligations for States in relation to specific human rights and fundamental freedoms. These obligations aim to protect different types of rights: civil and political rights, economic, social and cultural rights, and rights to development.
The Convention contains traditional human rights concepts which are general protections found in other thematic human rights conventions.
For example, it outlaws discrimination in all areas of life, including employment, education, health services, transportation and access to justice. But the Convention has added, modified and transformed traditional rights concepts to give them a more specific disability focus. It has added detailed disability-specific interpretations to some of these 'traditional' human rights concepts.
In Article 21 the right to 'Freedom of expression and opinion and access to information' extends the protection against state interference with personal opinion and expression into the positive state obligation to provide public information in accessible formats, and to recognise sign languages, Braille, and augmentative and alternative communication.
The second half of the Convention is made up of implementation and monitoring articles, and operational articles. They set out what is required for implementation, monitoring and reporting of the Convention at both the national and international levels, and the basic arrangements for the administration of the Convention within the United Nations system.
Some aspects of the Convention may not have seem too novel for Australia as the country had a number of protections built into various state and Commonwealth laws for some time, but it was held that the Convention when ratified was an international instrument and its consequences for people with disability in many nation states would be far reaching.
The Solomon Islands, I believe, does not have the same degree of “protections” in laws that Australia had when first ratifying the Convention and, although Australia has still not been assessed as having met all the requirements on disability rights, in the fullest sense in 2021, how far does the fulfillment of disability rights lag behind in the SI?
How possible might it be without a ratification of the CRPD to progress disability rights at home with measures that might possible be introduced to:-
Promotes dignity and pride for a person with a disability
Provides a framework to support submissions, advocacy and discussion regarding individual and systemic disability issues
Help to change the culture, put human rights, specifically disability rights, in everyone's head.
Promote a human rights framework that will, over time, raise awareness, inform laws, regulations, policy and programme delivery, and
Provide government, industry and service providers with a clear framework for ensuring people with disability are treated fairly and equitably in all aspects of life.