The UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People
2017 is a significant year for disabled people in the UK. Primarily, this is due to the United Nations review of the UK and devolved Governments on their compliance with the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People (CRDP). The Convention sets out the human rights of all disabled people. Those countries who have ratified the Convention, as the UK did in 2009, are expected to report on the implementation and progress of disabled people’s rights every four years to the UN Committee on the Rights of Disabled People. More information on the monitoring process can be found here.
Reviewing the UK and devolved Governments
The current review is the first that the UK and devolved governments have been subject to. This was delayed due to the Committee pausing the process to conduct an Inquiry into human rights violations resulting from austerity policies and welfare reform. In the context of the current review, it is critical to note that the Committee reported that they have concerns regarding the “grave and systemic” human rights violations of these policies. The UK Government has dismissed the findings of the Committee and continue to progress with these regressive and damaging policies and spending cuts. It is well documented that many people have died from ill health or suicide after being found fit for work or having benefits withdrawn due to sanctions. This is the first time that the Committee have reviewed a state that has previously been found to be violating the Convention.
Challenging human rights violations
This is why it is imperative that we engage politically with the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People. The Committee has been overwhelmed with evidence from disabled people and their organisations across the UK. The UK Government must be made to listen and to act. They cannot continue to dismiss the effect of austerity on the section of society that arguably has the least agency to defend itself. Whilst falsely framing austerity policies with a narrative of support for those who need it, coupled with individual responsibility for improving outcomes, the reality of impact has become invisible. Disabled people have become invisible.
The absorption of disability into the health and well-being agenda serves to individualise and depoliticise disability. This is most notable in the recent DWP Green Paper on tackling the disability employment gap.
Disability as a human rights issue
Why is this important? Disability is not a health issue, it is a human rights issue. By reducing disability to a health issue that individuals are responsible for, the UK Government has neatly side-stepped society’s responsibly for eliminating discrimination and tackling the environmental and attitudinal barriers that prevent disabled people from participating on an equal level in all areas of life.
The importance of being political
To change policy and to shift the mindsets of politicians and decision makers, we have to be political. We need to recognise and utilise our collective power. Disabled people must stand in solidarity with each other before we can expect the rest of society to demonstrate solidarity with us.
Fighting for our rights
Disabled people in the UK are faced by one of the biggest threats to our rights in quite some time. We are experiencing the damaging impact of regressive policies. In a short few months of consulting with disabled people, speaking to colleagues across the movement, listening to case studies, the genuine horrors of people’s experiences have emerged.
Disabled people are people. Yet our place as equal citizens is not respected. As people, we are not valued. Deaths at the hands of the state are covered up, or not investigated at all. This is why it was so important for Disabled People’s Organisations to be at the United Nations Human Rights Council to protect our rights and ensure that our voices are being heard at an international level.
Thank you for helping us
We ran a series of events and a survey to get your views and evidence on the barriers and experiences you deal with every day. All of this feedback was used to produce our report to UK and Welsh Governments. What you said has been listened to and has been used to influence the Committee and the questions they will ask the Governments.
Disability Wales was part of a delegation of a number of Disabled People’s Organisations from across the UK. Two days of intense meetings culminated in a professional, united and robust session delivering our evidence to the UN Committee. It wasn’t a certainty that we’d achieve that.
New relationships have been forged, we’ve all gained a tremendous insight into the workings of the Committee. It is now incumbent upon us to build on this. There is immense respect for the passion and expertise of fellow activists. This detail of knowledge of how legislature links to the reality of people’s lives has been crucial in our quest to persuade the Committee to voice our concerns to our Governments.
The way forward
Our next challenge rests in persuading disabled people to engage in understanding and demanding their rights. Policies are designed to isolate us and reduce our collective and political strength. We have to take that control back.
The long term job of scrutinising the actions of Government will hold more power if disabled people at every level know they have a voice, and use it. In Geneva we set the foundations for a resurgence of disability activism.
We are literally fighting for our lives.
How you can help
We are only as strong as our membership. By being a member of Disability Wales you strengthen the work we do and it also gives you opportunities to have your voice heard from a local to national and international level.
Our journey to Geneva
Take a look at our previous blog posts from our visit to the United Nations in Geneva to find out more about what we did: