CRPD Added Value ? - Seminar in Helsinki on 20-21 May 2008

Martin and Edson finally meet -->

UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities entered into force on 3rd of May 2008, as the first UN human rights convention in the new millennium. The Center for Human Rights of Persons with Disabilities (VIKE) organized this seminar. The seminar focused on the added value of this Convention to the fight against discrimination of 650 million persons with disabilities. 200 people participated in the seminar from all over the world.

The keynote speaker was Professor Michael Stein, the Executive Director of the Harvard Project on Disability (Harvard Law School). He called this convention both human rights convention as well as development one. He discussed the issues around Article 32 (international cooperation) and attitude in two presentations respectively. His vivid examples from all over the world were very interesting. I also personally liked his non-confrontational but very logical argument. Also representatives with disabilities from the South presented their views, such as Ms. Yetnebersh Nigussie from ECDD (Ethiopian Center for Disability and Development), Mr. Ngin Saorath from CDPO (Cambodian Disabled People’s Organization) and Ms. Constance Hambwalula from ZNAPD (National Association of the Physically Disabled). Their representation was very important and could have given more space, if time allowed.

Our research team also contributed this seminar to a great extent: Edson came all the way from Uganda and activated the discussion, and others made presentations (Martin on added values from international lawyer’s perspective, Jukka on VIKE, and Hisayo on our research project). Particularly, Martin’s presentation focused on added values such as 1) process of making the Convention itself was a process of empowerment and a visibility project, 2) reasonable accommodation argument stipulated obligation to states (though watering down by the word, “reasonable”), 3) broaden the human rights agenda (not only state-individual relationships but also interpersonal relationships), 4) use of more concrete formulation (such as education and movement), 5) new structural elements (definition and general principles) and 6) procedual advances (domestic implementation, involvement of PWDs and regional organisations also as duty-bearers). The presentation Power Point files can be found in VIKE’s homepage soon: www.vike.fi

We met many interesting people to continue our discussion even outside of the seminar room! We are excited to continue our discussion for the implementation of the Convention in our world. Our warm thanks to the organiser of this seminar.