Dr. Bengt Lindqvist, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Disability, hosted an international seminar in Stockholm, Sweden in November of 2000. Twenty-seven experts, from regions all over the world, considered measures to strengthen the protection and monitoring of the human rights of people with disabilities.
Among the participants at the seminar were representatives of every major international disability organization, representatives of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the U.N. Secretariat, Disability Rights Activists, as well as experts on human rights.
The participants at this seminar recommended the creation of an international system with the purpose of monitoring the human rights situation of people with disabilities. Bengt Lindqvist and Marcia Rioux founded Disability Rights Promotion International in order to meet this need. Let the World Know: Report of a Seminar on Human Rights and Disability.
Disability Rights Promotion International (D.R.P.I.) is a collaborative project that is working in order to establish a monitoring system, one that addresses disability discrimination on a global basis. D.R.P.I. Has adopted an approach that is holistic in regards to the monitoring of disability rights and includes three main focus areas. The areas the D.R.P.I. Is pursuing include monitoring of individual experiences, media monitoring, and systemic monitoring.
D.R.P.I.'s development of an international monitoring system involves a number of things, to include:
D.R.P.I. And Human Rights
The United Nations has estimated that there are at least six-hundred million people across the planet who experience a form of disability. Disability has been viewed as an individual issue until recently, a medical condition requiring treatment or a, 'cure,' something that belongs in the realm of, 'charity.' Both social policies and attitudes are increasingly understood as excluding people with disabilities from full participation and equal enjoyment of their rights. People with disabilities are claiming access to employment and education, rights to property and political participation, the right to vote, rights to marry and have a family, and more. The abuse and discrimination experienced by large numbers of people with disabilities is now viewed as being unjust.
Understanding disability as a human rights issue places an emphasis on the fact that people with disabilities are holders of rights and not objects to be associated with charity. People with disabilities are entitled to the same freedoms and rights as every other person. A human rights perspective highlights government responsibility to ensure that all citizens equally enjoy their freedoms and rights, and have the opportunity to participate fully in society. International human rights treaties, as well as human rights laws, established over the last few decades, contain principles of nondiscrimination and equality which may be used to both promote and protect the rights of people with disabilities.
Monitoring of human rights in relation to people with disabilities involves the collection and verification of information about human rights abuses. Additional and comprehensive information about the experiences of people with disabilities could be a powerful tool for promoting social change. The information could be used to realize the full participation and equality of people with disabilities. Data that is credible and accurate about the human rights of people with disabilities can persuade governments that abuses are occurring, and that action is needed to fulfill the human rights obligations of these governments.
Through recording information concerning the individual experiences of people with disabilities, patterns of discrimination affecting large numbers of people can be uncovered. Data that outlines the extent of disability discrimination can promote greater awareness of the need for social change, provide facts and figures for use in lobbying and advocacy efforts, and supply governments with credible documentation to support the creation of social policies and laws that are more inclusive.
D.P.R.I. - Focus Areas
The D.P.R.I.'s activities emphasize different focus areas with the intention of capturing the depth and scope of discrimination faced by people with disabilities. The D.R.P.I. Has a central goal of supporting these focus areas, knowing that thorough and accurate data will expose the extent of discrimination faced by people with disabilities on a daily basis around the world.
Individual Violations Focus: The Individual Violations Focus pursues fact finding with respect to alleged individual violations of the human rights of people with disabilities. Monitoring human rights violations against people with disabilities raises awareness of both the nature and extent of violations, and will provide facts and evidence for advocacy efforts and the improvement of government laws and policies.
Systems Focus: The Systems Focus studies legislative frameworks. Laws might protect human rights - they can also violate human rights in some cases, either through a provision that is discriminatory, or through silence on the rights of people with disabilities. Documentation of the ways in which laws violate or protect disability rights, as well as the relevance of laws laws in relation to how they are implemented and enforced, will inform struggles for legislative reform.
The focus tracks case law before the courts and statutory human rights bodies. Compiling and analyzing disability cases generates evidence of how courts and other decision-making bodies, to include human rights commissions, address issues related to disability rights. It produces evidence of how they interpret and enforce relevant laws, as well as how they use human rights laws.
The System Focus also analyzes general government policies and programs. A broad range of government action has a direct impact on the lives of people with disabilities. Documentation of programs, practices, and services that violate human rights - either directly or indirectly, provides evidence and awareness for change.
Media Focus: The Media Focus tracks media imagery and coverage of disability. The media have a powerful influence on the way disability is perceived, as well as the attitudes of the general public towards people with disabilities. Documentation of stereotypes and myths which are perpetuated by media portrayals of persons with disabilities is important, as is highlighting effective reporting of disability issues.
D.R.P.I - Phase One
D.R.P.I. Was launched in the year 2002 with a research phase that investigated opportunities for the use of international human rights instruments in enforcement of disability rights. Phase one involved types of monitoring tools that are used by human rights monitoring projects. The phase also included current training resources for human rights monitors, as well as for more general human rights education.
The research completed during phase one by the D.R.P.I. Confirmed the need for increased disability rights monitoring activities, and for disability-specific monitoring and training resources. It identified existing expertise, models, and methodologies related to human rights monitoring in the described areas of focus. The research also highlighted opportunities for disability rights advocacy in the international human rights system. The D.R.P.I., in addition to research, interacted with a number of organizations in attempts to identify partnership opportunities. Their exploration of partnerships is a continuing effort as their plans are developing to implement a monitoring system. The D.P.R.I. Intends to create working relationships that are effective with both disability and human rights organizations with the intent of sharing expertise and developing field testing sites for monitoring.
As a result of phase one, the D.R.P.I. Has produced a report which describes the United Nations international human rights treaties and opportunities for the protection and promotion of the human rights of people with disabilities. The report reviews various methods for the collection of human rights data and ensuring thorough monitoring activities. The report also lists human rights training resources from different audiences, describing them in relation to their usefulness in a disability context.
D.R.P.I. - Phase Two
Phase two involves implementation, focusing on capacity building. The phase facilitates the sharing of knowledge and expertise needed in order to monitor disability rights, to include knowledge of the means to apply a human rights framework to disability issues, and how human rights treaties and mechanisms operate. Phase two works on establishing ongoing international collaborations and sustainable monitoring programs in different international locations, as well as raising awareness and encouraging action. It also provides information to facilitate different groups to engage with the international and regional human rights systems using data from monitoring.
Disability is understood at this time as a complex social issue as well as a human rights issue. In order to create a disability rights monitoring system that is effective, an approach that is broad-based is required. The D.R.P.I. Is building partnerships and collaborations with a number of organizations and others, to include:
Through the collaborations the D.R.P.I. Is establishing, training resources and monitoring tools will be developed and field tested in a number of places around the planet. Both training and monitoring activities will build on the strengths of key partners, who will take the lead in the establishment of local monitoring sites. Collaborations and partners will take part in disability rights training and monitoring activities which address important issues and needs in each nation's unique context. Partnerships and collaborations will permit organizations as well as individuals to share expertise and build on prior experiences. They will also encourage the creation of networks to sustain monitoring activities over the long-term.