The International Disability Caucus was playing an important role in nurturing the debates, and expressing the voice of civil society during the drafting process. But, I felt really concerned about the over-representation of organizations from developed countries in the Caucus, whilst developing countries were scarcely represented at all. As the conditions of discrimination were different in the Global South, we needed to take this into account. This is one of the main reasons that led us, the Inter-American Institute on Disability and Inclusive Development (IIDI), jointly with Handicap International (HI), to design the South Project. The overall proposal was to quantitatively enrich the Caucus with more people and organizations from all over the world, and to simultaneously enrich it in terms of diversity of proposals. The presence of leaders from developing countries gave the Caucus substance and greater influence on issues such as development and international cooperation. Never in the history of other United Nations treaties had the theme of development been addressed in such a way. In this regard, the South Project managed to have a real impact on the Convention, by including the fight against poverty and support to development and international cooperation as cross-cutting issues. The links between social poverty, development and disability are reflected in Article 11 on Humanitarian action and Article 32 on International cooperation.
Luis Fernando Astorga
I started to advocate on an article on international cooperation on behalf of the International Disability and Development Consortium at the 7th Session of the Ad Hoc Committee. The effort was led by Mariana Olivera West, who was the Mexican delegate, facilitator on the diplomatic side for what later became Article 32 - International cooperation. I worked closely with the South Project, where leaders from the South were advocating. They came up with really good and far-reaching ideas about what international cooperation would mean for people with disabilities. I could clearly see the value of these contributions, as there hadn’t been any stand-alone provision on international cooperation in any of the other UN human rights treaties. So, I knew that the negotiations would be tricky and politically charged. Each time I was to argue on something, I had to make sure that we wouldn’t push too far, because we might risk losing everything. Leaders from the South Project seemed to trust me on that, and I was therefore more in a lead than a side-counsel position on Article 32. Some of the aspects that were added to Article 11 on Situations of risk and humanitarian emergencies emerged in response to the 2004 Tsunami.
The debate on international cooperation was an interesting one, because at first civil society was mostly represented by civil society organizations from developed countries. This had an influence on the content and focus of the debates. And, as the participation of developing countries increased, the idea that there were also many economic barriers to overcome in order to improve the situation of people experiencing poverty grew in importance. This debate became very interesting. It was supported and picked up by the majority of civil society. If you look at the Convention, basically this debate had an impact upon themes relating to access to resources, but it also recognizes that developing countries could not reach the standards defined by the Convention without help from other countries. This is where international cooperation started to emerge as a theme. That particular debate was important, and was even included in the Convention’s preamble.
The message that HI was trying to convey during the drafting process, jointly with the International Disability and Development Consortium (IDDC) and the International Disability Caucus (IDC), was that inclusive development taking into account issues relating to disability was necessary, in order for effective human rights to be attainable for persons with disabilities. We really aimed at influencing the debates by creating momentum towards mainstreaming. We stressed the fact that disability should be addressed by all sectoral policies as a cross-cutting issue, as is the case for women and children. As a result, we tried to bring forth the idea of inclusive development across all of the Convention’s articles. The Convention has to become a clear framework for the achievement of a paradigm change on disability issues that takes human rights and social development into account. The objective was to create tools for a rights-based approach to development on disability issues. HI also advocated strongly for Article 11 on Situations of risk and humanitarian emergencies and Article 32 on International cooperation. For these articles, HI and IDDC did somehow take the lead for civil society, as these were articles that we particularly took to heart to get the message of inclusive development across. The organizations from the South were really supportive of this idea, knowing that the implementation of the Convention could only be achieved by fostering development efforts including people with disabilities.
Relationships between Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), Disabled People’s Organizations (DPOs) and international cooperation agencies and organizations did not emerge from the Convention. They emerged out of 50 years of development within the disability area. Halfway through the process, - when the South Project started to be drafted - is when NGOs began to take seriously the fact that they should work with DPOs at different levels. This is something that always had to be pushed and refreshed. If DPOs are not really supported to deliver the best they can, it is still very possible that we will fall back into a different kind of engagement, and that DPOs will once again become beneficiaries. This the Convention can change. So that people with disabilities and their representative organizations can be transformed from beneficiaries into full participants.
Rosângela Berman Bieler
I had a very strong commitment to inclusive development. I thought that these negotiations would not only be an opportunity to reaffirm the rights of people with disabilities, but also to place them in the context of development […]. What the Convention does is provide a frame of reference for communication and dialogue regarding the recognition of the rights of persons with disabilities. It is a milestone. It is unlike anything else. It was recognized that the human rights movement and the Convention have a full-fledged role to play in the overall context of the development agenda. We were a bit frustrated to see that there was nothing on disability in the Millennium Development Goals. We tried to feed them in too, but it was too late. Now, concerns relating to disability have been included in the Sustainable Development Goals, thanks to the Convention.
Rosângela Berman Bieler
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