The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the Commission) joins the United Nations and the rest of the international community in commemorating the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.
Almost eighty (80) per cent of persons with disabilities live in developing countries. In Africa a growing number of persons are added to the list of persons with disabilities due to factors such as the consequences of war, poverty, disease, ageing, malnutrition, natural disasters and accidents. This disability day serves as a reminder of the challenges faced by persons with disabilities.
On the African continent, persons with disabilities continue to face barriers in access to fundamental rights, rights which are guaranteed for all persons in international and regional human right treaties as well as national legislation and rights for which no one should be excluded from enjoying by reason of disability. An example is the continuous discrimination of persons with disabilities in accessing education where educational policies and services exclude them from learning institutions. Persons with disabilities also are often marginalized in participating in the conduct of public affairs, including the right to vote and be elected, as well as accessing public services.
Article 18 (4) of the African Charter recognizes the rights of persons with disabilities and provides that they shall also have the right to special measures of protection in keeping with their physical or moral needs.
The African Union (AU) continues to work towards creating a society that is inclusive for all. The AU 36th Assembly of Heads of State and Government, held in Lome, Togo, in 2000, declared 1999-2009 as the African Decade for Persons with Disabilities. At the meeting of African Union Ministers for Social Development in Khartoum, Sudan in 2010, the AU extended the African Decade to 2019. The African Decade for Persons with Disabilities reinforces the spirit of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol.
The theme chosen by the UN for this day strongly resonates with the work of the Commission in this regard. The Commission is committed to ensuring that the rights of persons with disabilities are adequately promoted and protected and they have a safe atmosphere to live a life of dignity free from exclusion and marginalization. Towards this end, the Commission established a Working Group on the Rights of Older Persons and People with Disabilities in Africa to spearhead its work in this area. During its 54th Ordinary Session which took place in Banjul, the Gambia from 22 October to 5 November 2013, the Commission adopted a resolution on the Prevention of Attacks and Discrimination against Persons with Albinism on the Continent which recognizes the widespread discrimination, stigma and social exclusion directed at persons with albinism and calls upon State Parties to take effective measures to eliminate any type of discrimination against persons with albinism, and to accelerate education and public awareness-raising activities. In addition, work has begun towards drafting an African Protocol on People with Disabilities which will complement and strengthen the protection provided by the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
Breaking barriers and opening doors requires active work and not a passive stance by everyone. The Commission salutes the work of persons, organizations and all partners involved in the arduous tasks of advocating for disability rights and who work tirelessly to ensure the full inclusion of all persons with disabilities in society.
The International Day of Persons with Disabilities offers an opportunity to Governments to reflect on the commitments they have made to their own people in regards to rights of persons with disabilities. In the spirit of the theme for the day, the Commission seizes this opportunity to urge State Parties to work to create inclusive societies and take the appropriate measures in accordance with the CRPD, the relevant Articles of the African Charter and other international instruments to realize fully the rights of disabled persons on the continent. This will be achieved by bringing laws, policies and programs in line with State obligations and by ensuring proper mainstreaming of disability rights in planning and implementation of laws, policies, programs and actions in every sector.
The Commission further calls on all African countries to ratify and implement the CRPD and its Optional Protocol, and put in place adequate and effective national mechanisms for the implementation and monitoring of the Convention.
The Commission looks forward to an inclusive society in which all barriers will be removed, where persons with disabilities like everyone will have no obstacles in accessing their rights and where they can realize their potentials to the maximum.
Done in Banjul, 3rd December 2013