Human Rights and Disability Advocacy

Human Rights and Disability Advocacy

Human Rights and Disability Advocacy

Human Rights and Disability Advocacy


The United Nations adoption of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) constituted a paradigm shift in attitudes and approaches to disability rights, marking the first time in law-making history that persons with disabilities participated as civil society representatives and contributed to the drafting of an international treaty. On the way, they brought a new kind of diplomacy forward: empowering nongovernmental stakeholders, including persons with disabilities, within human rights discourse. This landmark treaty provides an opportunity to consider what it means to involve members of a global civil society in UN-level negotiations.

Human Rights and Disability Advocacy brings together perspectives from individual representatives of the Disabled People's Organizations (DPOs), nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), indigenous peoples' organizations, states, and national institutions that played leading roles in the Convention's drafting process. The contributors provide vivid and personal accounts of the paths to victory, including stumbling blocks--not all of which were overcome--and offer a unique look into the politics of civil society organizations both from within and in its interaction with governments. Each essay describes the nonnegotiable key issues for which they advocated; the extent of success in reaching their goals; and insights into the limitations they faced. Through the plurality of voices and insider perspectives, Human Rights and Disability Advocacy presents fresh perspectives on the shift toward a new diplomacy and explores the implication of this model for human rights advocacy more generally.

Contributors: Andrew Byrnes, Heidi Forrest, Phillip French, Lex Grandia, Huhana Hickey, Markku Jokinen, Liisa Kauppinen, Mi Yeon Kim, Gerison Lansdown, Connie Laurin-Bowie, Tirza Leibowitz, Don MacKay, Anna MacQuarrie, Ronald C. McCallum AO, Tara J. Melish, Pamela Molina Toledo, Maya Sabatello, Marianne Schulze, Belinda Shaw.


Don MacKay, Chair, Ad Hoc Committee (2005–6)

The adoption of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities by the United Nations General Assembly on 13 December 2006 marked the end of a long journey by civil society.

For many years the international disability community had tried to persuade states that a new convention was required to ensure the full enjoyment of human rights by persons with disabilities. It was an uphill battle, but once states had finally accepted that proposition, we saw the development of a remarkable negotiating partnership between civil society and the member states of the United Nations.

As a result of that negotiating partnership, the text of the Convention itself also bears the firm imprint of civil society.

As the secretary-general of the United Nations said on the adoption of the Convention, “It was the community of the disabled themselves that worked tirelessly and insistently to promote this Convention, and the United Nations responded. In three short years, the Convention became a landmark several times over: it is the first human rights treaty to be adopted in the twenty-first century; the most rapidly negotiated human rights treaty in the history of international law; and the first to emerge from lobbying conducted extensively through the Internet.”

It is therefore appropriate and timely to have this book that focuses on civil society’s involvement in the drafting of the Convention. The two editors of this volume are intimately familiar with the negotiating process and have brought together a group of contributors who were also closely involved and are well placed to write about their respective subject areas.

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is a comprehensive and detailed document, and civil society bears much of the responsibility for that. In contributing to its negotiation, disabilities organizations . . .

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