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African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights

Statement of the Working Group on the Rights of Older Persons and People with Disabilities in Africa of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, at the occasion of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities – 3rd December 2019


On the occasion of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD), this 3rd December 2019, the Working Group on the Rights of Older Persons and People with Disabilities in Africa of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights joins, as a tradition, celebrations happening all over the world focussing at promoting the understanding of disability issues and mobilising support for ensuring the dignity, rights and well-being of Persons with Disabilities.

The theme of this 2019 edition of the IDPD “Promoting the participation of persons with disabilities and their leadership: taking action on the 2030 Development Agenda” is   well within the compass of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Africa (the Protocol), which was adopted  in 2018 by the 30th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Head of States and Governments of the African Union (held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from 22to 29 January 2018).

It will be recalled that, at the request of the African Union, the drafting process of the said Protocol was led by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights through its Working Group on the Rights of Older Persons and People with Disabilities in Africa.

The Protocol which has registered so far only six signatures (Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Gabon, Rwanda, South Africa, Togo) with no single ratification to date, states at its Article 1 that “The purpose of this Protocol is to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human and people’s rights by all persons with disabilities, and to ensure respect for their inherent dignity”; and provisions of the Protocol which specifically pertain to “participation” and the “leadership” role of Persons with Disabilities, include:

  1. The general principle of “Full and effective participation and inclusion in society”  pursuant to Article 3(c);
  2. The general obligations of States to promote “positive representations and empowerment of persons with disabilities through training and advocacy” (Article 4(e)), and ensure “effective participation of persons with disabilities or their representative organisations, including women and children with disabilities, in all decision-making processes including in the development and implementation of legislation, policies and administrative processes to this Protocol” (Article 4(j));
  3. The Right to Live in the Community at Article 14;
  4. Accessibility as provided under Article 15 which states at its subsection 1 that “Every person with a disability has the right to barrier free access to the physical environment, transportation, information, including communications technologies and systems, and other facilities and services open or provided to the public”;
  5. The Right to Education provided for at Article 16;
  6. Habilitation and Rehabilitation as detailed in Article 18;
  7. The Right to Participate in Political and Public Life guaranteed under Article 21;
  8. Self-representation provided for in Article 22;
  9. The Right to Freedom of Expression and opinion covered by Article 23; and
  10. Access to Information which is taken on board by Article 24;
  11. The Right to Participate in Sports, Recreation and Culture detailed under Article 25; and
  12. The Right to Family stated at Article 26, etc.

The above Articles aim at guaranteeing that Persons with Disabilities are offered the frameworks and capacities to effectively participate on an equal basis with others to all  matters pertaining to their civil, political and social life.  This entails that disability must not, for whatever reason, be a basis of any forms of exclusion and discrimination against Persons with Disabilities. The Protocol represents a major milestone that has saved Africa centuries of negotiations and consensus-building on harmonised policies that protect the rights of persons with disabilities.

The Working Group therefore reiterates its call on Member States of the African Union to ratify the Protocol as a matter of utmost priority and to commit themselves to promoting and protecting the rights of persons with disabilities living in their respective countries. This should go hand-in-hand with the necessity that work towards developing programming and implementation strategies must be commenced without delay.

At this juncture, the Working Group wishes to underscore  again that it fully supports initiatives from various stakeholders, including the United Nations Disability Inclusion Strategy, aiming at ensuring that persons with disabilities are not left behind in the implementation of Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development as pledged by the United Nations. This noble goal is achievable by enabling persons with disabilities to participate in actions or plans relative to their rights and conditions, because it ensures ownership as well as the clear identification of challenges they face and a proper framing of the appropriate solutions.

Further, the Working Group reaffirms its commitment to work toward the promotion and protection of the rights of persons with disabilities.  The ‘Continental Sensitization Seminar for Member States of the African Union on the Ratification of the two Protocols on the Rights of Older Persons and of Persons with Disabilities’, held from 5th to 6th July 2019 in Kigali, Republic of Rwanda, is one of its major undertakings in that vein, together with the Panels on the same objective which are always part of the Public Sessions of the Commission. Such key interventions of the Working Group and its partners  will be continued  until the threshold of necessary ratifications for the Protocols to come into force is reached.

This year, the Working Group, in line with the 2019 theme of the African Union which is “Year of Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced Persons: Towards Durable Solutions to Forced Displacement in Africa”, has a special thought for Persons with Disabilities amongst Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced Persons who are more vulnerable  within a vulnerable group given their disability which exposes them to various challenges which are over and above  highly prejudicial existing factors to their human rights  due to forced displacement. It is crucial to include a dimension specifically geared toward addressing their peculiar needs while handling the overall phenomenon of forced displacement, and this entails to amongst others, fostering and intensifying the already existing initiatives of humanitarian stakeholders who have integrated habilitation and rehabilitation schemes in their interventions.

Thus, the Working Group while acknowledging that a lot is yet to be done in relation to combatting discrimination on the basis of disability and ensuring the dignity of persons with disability, equally notes that there are reasons for hope as it remains confident that with coordinated efforts and continuous advocacy, stereotypes associated with disability can and will be changed.

The Working Group wishes all Persons with Disabilities and their caregivers a happy celebration of the 2019 edition of the IDPD and is optimistic that the 2020 edition would be an opportunity to celebrate the gains of the efforts to ensure full participation of persons with disabilities and their leadership in the context of the implementation of the 2030 Development Agenda.

Done in Banjul, te Republic of The Gambia, on 3rd December 2019