During the first period of sessions, we didn’t know each other. We were listening to experts, who were people without disabilities, talking about persons with disabilities. We hadn’t empowered ourselves politically, and the group of people with disabilities was still small. […] One question that arose was: “How could a discriminated against group such as persons with disabilities have an influence on the drafting process, knowing that there was such a will to participate and to learn, and to act as strong forces for bringing forth proposals during the sessions, the Working Groups and other meetings? […]” Many tools were invented throughout the process. For instance, a colleague from IIDI created a Yahoo listserv on disability and human rights in Spanish. Not only did this list serve as a tool for promotion. It also served for training and empowerment. It was all the more important, as many people entered the process without knowing what human rights, an international treaty or the negotiations process were.
Luis Fernando Astorga
Capacity-building was one of HI’s main issues for the Convention. We started to organize trainings for the [South Project] participants, sometimes before the start of every session in New York, so that people could get familiar with the process. We did this work along with people with disabilities who were already there and had been advocating strongly from the beginning. These were people like Luis Fernando who were strongly involved and had very strong activism practices at the national and continental level. Nevertheless, for a large number of these people, the United Nations system in itself was a discovery. Capacity-building is also important at national and local levels in order to bring the Convention issues into the field for today and tomorrow...
At first, I wasn’t familiar with the UN system. I observed how different mechanisms were operating, because I didn’t have any idea of how I could contribute to the process. This learning process occurred during the 2nd and 3rd Sessions of the Ad Hoc Committee. My effective participation started maybe from the 4th Session on. […] In the end, I participated with my country delegation. This was a very positive experience. So, when my country ratified the Convention, the country delegates nominated me as a candidate to be part of the Committee. Of course, my active participation in the drafting process had an influence on this nomination. It was a great opportunity in my professional career. For all those who took part in the Committee, it was a moment of quick professional growth.
For those who participated, the whole process operated as a master class that enabled anyone to get trained alongside prominent experts. Very strong connections were forged at this time. We could almost speak of a confraternity. What is certain is that a generation emerged from this process. For instance, from the Balkans, there was Damjan Tatic, who is now a member of the CRPD Committee, and Vladimir Cuk, at the time president of the Association of disabled students of Serbia and Montenegro, who is now IDA director.
The South Project and the drafting process in general managed to empower leaders from the South, but also generated growth, both at an individual and professional level. It brought a faith that things can change and a conviction that civil society can have an impact on history. This Convention’s elaboration process was a learning process for life. Many of these leaders from the South are today members of the UN Committee. The current Special Rapporteur also participated actively in the South Project. This goes to show to what extent the drafting process not only had an impact on the context and on the realization of rights, but also successfully empowered leaders and experts who are today changing the history of United Nations.
DPO leaders who took part in the South Project really got to understand how UN processes operate, how decisions are made by diplomats, and how important representativeness is in order to influence the diplomats. Getting to know the people and talking with other leaders surely brought the DPO leaders to another level of understanding. The people who went there experienced the whole process, and went through some kind of “enlightenment”. This moment in time was clearly key, and the starting point for many other things that were to happen later on. Having had these experiences and having built such a network turned DPO leaders into resources in the field of disability in their countries. As far as the influence of the South Project on the drafting process is concerned, the Convention’s overall inclusive development and human rights approach would have been completely different if it hadn’t been for these leaders from developing countries.
Copyright 2023 © Humanity and Inclusion | All Rights Reserved