The Chinese New Year of the Fire Rooster coincides with a decade of freelance work. It has been an extraordinary experience and I look forward to adding a few more years of human rights work because: all human rights for all!
The Year of the Fire Rooster: Ten Years humanrightsconsultant.at
The Komagata Maru incident: 376 passengers of mostly Sikh descent arrived in Vancouver and were refused entry into Canada due to the discriminatory laws of the time 102 years ago. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced he will apologise in the House of Commons on May 18: “As a nation, we should never forget the prejudice suffered by the Sikh community at the hands of the Canadian government of the day. We should not – and we will not.”
“An apology made in the House of Commons will not erase the pain and suffering of those who lived through that shameful experience. But an apology is not only the appropriate action to take, it’s the right action to take, and the House is the appropriate place for it to happen.”
The World Health Organization’s Mental Health Action Plan 2013–2020 stipulates human rights as a cross-cutting principle (WHO, 2013) and foresees global targets to update policies as well as mental health laws in line with international and regional human rights instruments. The international human rights agreements repeatedly refer to health, including mental health. The most pertinent provisions related to mental health are enshrined in the 2006 Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), which sets out human rights in an accessible and inclusive fashion to ensure the equal participation of persons with disabilities. The inconclusive description of disability in the treaty overtly refers to ‘mental impairment’ as part of an explicitly evolving understanding of disability. This text sketches some of the underlying concepts as they apply to the realm of mental health: non-discrimination of persons with disabilities and measures that should be taken to ensure accessibility in a holistic understanding; removal of social and attitudinal barriers as much as communication and intellectual barriers but also institutional hurdles. The CRPD’s paradigm shift away from framing disability mainly through deficits towards a social understanding of disability as the result of interaction and focusing on capacity is the core on which the provision of mental health services at community level to enable participation in society shall be ensured. Questions of capacity, also to make decisions and the possible need for support in so doing, are sketched out.
Global Mental Health, Cambridge Journal, Volume 3
As 2015 draws to a close, the annual New Year’s greeting designed by Bueronardin. This year’s focus is the upcoming leap year: skip the beat, it’s a leap year!
Reviews for Human Rights and Disability Advocacy, which I co-edited with Maya Sabatello are trickling in. Kate Donald’s review for the LSE’s blog noted that the book “is not only a fascinating insight into the evolution of the CRPD, but also an extremely valuable exploration of how advocacy works in practice.” Kate Donald adds: “Each of the contributions shares lessons and tools that can inspire and inform all advocates for social justice.”
The review by Contemporary Sociology echoes a general sentiment that the book provides “unique insight” and helps to “illuminate the process” of negotiating the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Tom Shakespeare in his review for Disability & Society calls it an “invaluable book” and stresses that it is “the first to explore the background to the treaty and drafting process.” He commends the book as “excellent,” it “gives valour to the Treaty negotiations and will certainly help scholars and advocates to understand the CRPD.”
Christopher Riddle in the Law and Politics Book Review summarises the book as “a collection of original, analytical and explanatory essays,” and describes it as “both incredibly interesting and important as a collection of essays,” which provides “wonderful retrospective insights gained” as well as an “incredibly rich reading experience.” Riddle summarises the book as “skilfully crafted, carefully blending the conceptual and the historical and political, all the while never losing sight of what is most important: the rights and experiences of people with disabilities.”
All good wishes for 2015: Indulge in sweetness early!
On July 15 I will discuss supported decision-making at IASSIDD, here is the abstract:
With the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in force in a majority of the world’s countries, the necessity to frame human rights inclusively and accessibly is firmly established. The move from wanting to “fix” people by focusing on perceived deficits and medical aspects of impairment to needing to “fix” societies by reducing attitudinal barriers is underway, still haltingly in many places.
Enabling and empowering persons with disabilities is comparatively easily done on an individual basis. The negotiation of the Convention itself is a case in point on how processes can shift quite dramatically, when the meaningful participation of persons with disabilities is made possible. Importantly, a lot can be learned generally from this and related processes in how marginalized groups can and should contribute to mainstream policy and law development.
The profound challenges of the Convention’s implementation arise at the law and policy level and in its application to larger institutions. How does one shift from well-tested routines and carefully planned and well-intentioned procedures to an approach that empowers people to live independently? How does one move from cotton-wooling people to embracing their need – and right – to make mistakes, go overboard and transgress?
A core expression of the right of all persons with disabilities to equally enjoy all human rights is the right to act their legal capacity. The application of this provision (Article 12 CRPD) raises some profound challenges in enabling the decision-making of persons with disabilities.
But does it really?
Granted: there is a need for more assistance, increased support and added resources. But is there really such a difference in what we describe as supported decision-making for persons with disabilities to what people in the so-called mainstream practice every day? How, exactly, is the process of a prime minister being advised by an army of advisers different from supporting the decision-making of someone who has an intellectual impairment?
Not wanting to diminish the responsibilities of prime ministers and the complexity of some of the issues placed before them: it appears that we are all too easily pushing the decision-making of persons with disabilities into a special realm with separate rules and different standards, which are also linked to status and its attached economic might.
The idea of inclusion is not just that we enable persons with disabilities to be equal, to enjoy the same rights and freedoms – as they should have already for a long time. The challenge lies in questioning the ways in which the mainstream operates routinely and how persons with disabilities – due to being labeled “different” and “special” and “needy” – are missing out.
None of the representatives in mainstream society and leadership positions would ever think that they have support in decision-making. But very few people actually make bigger purchases or investments without consulting “someone.” The social and cultural codes that are applied here, are frequently denied to persons with disabilities, particularly in those settings where they are separated and treated “differently.”
Persons who have guardians point to the impact of their guardianship on their social and societal standing. They report feeling stigmatized and sensing the effect of their guardianship in areas of life beyond their guardianship’s scope. While well intentioned and often reasonably applied, guardianship creates and reinforces stigma. The CRPD provides an opportunity to revisit engrained routines and calls into question the most well meaning of policies.
Revising such policies, including some important legal questions that require thorough examination, a core obligation of the CRPD has to be upheld and implemented: ensuring the meaningful participation of persons with disabilities at every stage (Article 4 (3) CRPD). As the first experiences prove, meaningful participation fundamentally changes the conversation; it also improves the quality of the outcome in immeasurable ways.
Inclusion also means that we keep in mind that the Conventions is not a special set of provisions for persons with disabilities: it is firmly grounded in the human rights obligations that precede it. Importantly, the right to act legal capacity is also enshrined in the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women: Article 15 thereof. If one ponders the significant changes that women’s liberation has brought across the globe – and not withstanding the manifold gaps that still mar the road to gender equality – one gleans the profoundness of the paradigm shift that is encapsulated in the right to act legal capacity.
In going forward it is in everyone’s interest to ensure the meaningful participation of persons with disabilities. The obligation of the CRPD should be used to advance the quality of the debate rather than be viewed as a cumbersome obstacle. It is equally important to remember the ways in which society can push itself, e.g. changes and ongoing challenges in gender equality. The support for decision-making of those in power, e.g. prime ministers, should be our guiding light in ensuring the empowerment of persons with disabilities to make their own decisions – including: mistakes!
A campaign by UNFPA from 2007, still holds very true
A helpful illustration on the health impact of violence against women by the World Health Organization: women exposed to violence are amongst others twice as likely to suffer from mental health problems and also twice as likely to abuse substances such as alcohol, among others. Note that more than a third of incidents of violence – 38% – are reportedly committed by intimate partners.
On the occasion of Women’s Day, a series of graphic graphics by the UK’s DFID on the situation of women and girls in developing countries focusing on obstacles to personal and corresponding overall economic & societal development:
As this business year – it is the eighth for humanrightsconsultant.at – draws to a close, the annual card created by the highly gifted Christof Nardin has been distributed across the globe. The seasonal greeting is by standard in accessible format, including Braille. This year’s greeting jumps ahead with a reference to the upcoming Chinese Year of the Horse, depicting a green horse and the Braille message: Jump! Utilize the Year of the Green Horse.
Out this week: Human Rights & Disability Advocacy, co-edited with Maya Sabatello:
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 Conven- tion’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.
The BBC reports that Chilean judges have issued an apology for their lack of action in response to motions seeking to save victims of the Pinochet Regime. The statement by the National Association of Magistrates of the Judiciary states: “the time has come to ask for the forgiveness of the victims … and of Chilean society.”
On the occasion of International Refugee Day a guest blog on the Landmine and Cluster Munition Blog:
Disability comes in various forms – mobility, vision, hearing, sensual – and affects people of all walks of life. Refugees are no exception: on the contrary, they represent as much a kaleidoscope of society as any other realm of life. What is more: wars, armed conflict and other causes of humanitarian crisis as well as situations of risk can often lead to animpairment, including by landmines, cluster munitions or other explosive remnants of war.
Impairments and physical and social barriers combined, result indisabilities. A “Chronically normal person” is a label that can be attributed to those persons who believe that they do not have an impairment of any sort.
To continue reading.
As has been highlighted in the past, soccer is no human-rights-haven; on the contrary a lot needs to be done to make sure that human rights are applied in stadiums and around, particularly non-discrimination. It is thus a welcome BBC-read that FIFA is taking steps to have more sanctions in place to reduce discriminatory behavior on and particularly around the soccer fields.
A soccer team with a “say no to racism” banner © FIFA
An ICRC campaign highlighting the effects of destroying health care facilities:
© ICRC campaign on health service protection
A powerful documentary in the Washington Post on gun violence. Includes a portrait of Mary Jane Ledgerwood, Priest in charge, Grace Episcopal Church, The Plains:
Washington Post Mary Ledgerwood
In her message in celebration of Women’s Day, Michelle Bachelet, UN Women Executive Director states:
My message today is simple and straightforward. This year on International Women’s Day, we say enough is enough. Discrimination and violence against women and girls has no place in the 21st century. It is time for Governments to keep their promises and protect human rights in line with the international conventions and agreements that they signed onto. A promise is a promise.
In a NYTimes Editorial the “Spread the Word to End the Word” campaign is featured with a particularly poignant text. Lawrence Downes quotes a self-advocate of Bestbuddies, John Franklin Stephens to explain why the “r-word” is unacceptable. By the way this week is “End the R Word” campaign week:
I know people who care about language who do not see themselves as heartless and who do not see “retardation” as anything to get worked up about. To them, banishing the R-word for another clinical-sounding term is like linguistic Febreze: masking unpleasantries with cloying euphemisms.In this, as in other cases of discrimination, it’s probably best to let those affected speak for themselves.
Here is John Franklin Stephens, a man from Virginia with Down syndrome who serves as a “global messenger” for the Special Olympics. He has written op-ed articles giving lucid voice to thoughts you may never have heard before:
“The hardest thing about having an intellectual disability is the loneliness,” he once wrote in The Denver Post. “We are aware when all the rest of you stop and just look at us. We are aware when you look at us and just say, ‘unh huh,’ and then move on, talking to each other. You mean no harm, but you have no idea how alone we feel even when we are with you.”
“So, what’s wrong with ‘retard’?,” he asked. “I can only tell you what it means to me and people like me when we hear it. It means that the rest of you are excluding us from your group. We are something that is not like you and something that none of you would ever want to be. We are something outside the ‘in’ group. We are someone that is not your kind.”
A photograph of the two finance ministers of Germany and the United States of America, respectively, conferring. Mr. Schäuble of Germany has been a wheel-chair user following an assassination attempt in 1990.
An image of the Haitian National Amputee Soccer Team:
A poignant series of photographs of persons with disabilities by Fiona Yaron-Field includes the following image of a young woman:
The fall-out from gendercide continues as the Washington Post reports of the Middle Class’ preference for boys. The growing gap is compensated with yet another human rights violation: trafficking. As the BBC reports there is a growing trend to kidnap girls and young women to bring them to other parts of the country to “stand in” for the girls and women missing due to gendercide.
Ahead of the holiday season, below the greeting card designed by Christof Nardin, which states “ignore superstition, embrace 2013!,” also in Braille:
The Member States of the Convention on Cluster Munitions are meeting for the third time, returning to Oslo, Norway, where the treaty was first opened for signature. Member States are rightly hailing the speed with which cluster munitions have been stigmatized.
The School of Nursing and Human Sciences at Dublin City University hosted an interactive conference where speakers, performers and conference participants will explore the prevailing impact of dysfunctional oppressive communication patterns on marginalised communities.
A report on the Mental Health Trialogue Network Ireland (MHTNI) a community development initiative in Irish mental health was launched. The Network aims to empower communities in Ireland to become proactive in communicating about mental health through an open dialogue and participatory process called ‘Trialogue’.
The 140-characters blog Twitter has recently faced some scrutiny over its balance between business interests and the defense of freedom of speech. In a portrait of Twitter’s lawyer, Alexander Macgillivray, the NYTimes observes:
This is a reality of the digital age. Sovereign nations have their laws. Internet companies have their rules.
A group of women who participated in the suffragettes celebration of the Olympic opening ceremony plan to become activists and march to the UK parliament in October to stand up for women’s equality, reports the Guardian.
Ahead of the Paralympic Games, the Guardian reports on an initiative to train persons with disabilities as reports for the games, another indicator of the efforts aimed at creating the most accessible and inclusive Olympic experience of all times.
As the adoption of the Universal Declaration is celebrated for the 63rd time, the world reflects on major achievements but more so the enormous amount of work that still needs to be done to make all human rights a reality for all. As people around the world still fight for the recognition of their basic human rights it is a timely occasion to remember those at the forefront in advocating for human rights: human rights defenders, who frequently endanger their lives to demand the promotion and protection of human rights around the world.
Amnesty International Slovenia has developed a tool-kit on creating posters against racism.
One of the many superb examples to jump-start discussions about diversity, equality and how prejudices stand in the way of enjoying them:
On the occasion of the world’s population reaching seven billion, the UN Foundation has put out a timely reminder with seven billion reasons calling for investment in international reproductive health, voluntary family planning to empower women, building healthier families and strengthening communities.
The Washington Post provides an insightful piece on how the data is collected, analyzed and projected.
The plurality of media outlets is under scrutiny these days. The UN Committee on the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in its discussion in 1983 of the implications of Article 19 CCPR (Freedom of Opinion) has stated:
“little attention has so far been given to the fact that, because of the development of modern mass media, effective measures are necessary to prevent such control of the media interfering with the right of everyone to freedom of expression,”
One of the Committee’s experts said:
“By this sentence, the Committee managed to come to unite these kinds of worries by careful wording, but what it means is that any kind of concentration, any kind of control of the media, is harmful to the enjoyment of this freedom. Sometimes the Committee acts in a very “superstitious” way. It does not mention things that should be mentioned.”
Now the Committee is working on a new statement, which shall also be more specific on the issue of diversity of ownership:
“States parties should take appropriate action, consistent with the Covenant, to prevent undue media dominance or concentration by privately controlled media groups in monopolistic situations that may be harmful to a diversity of sources and views.”
The WHO has launched the World Report on Disability. As the Guardian reports that “disability is less about health conditions and more about social and economic barriers to inclusion.” “Aid donors should not be funding projects that are not inclusive to people with disabilities,” Tom Shakespeare, one of the co-authors of the Report is quoted. “Disability must be seen as a development issue, says the report, but like obesity and ageing, it is an issue that transcends the traditional north-south distinctions,” writes the Guardian.
The recent capture of Ratko Mladic in Serbia is, as Geoffrey Robertson writes in The Age, also part of the Nuremberg legacy: that no one can escape their responsibility for a crime, particularly those against humanity. Robertson, whose book “Crimes Against Humanity” is a must-read on international criminal justice goes on to observe:
Focus on this war crime will discomfort those who might have prevented it – especially the UN, which refused to authorise the air strikes that would have stopped Mladic’s advance, and the Dutch government, which insisted on vetoing them to protect its cowardly battalion that was meant to be protecting the town but which immediately surrendered to Mladic and handed over to him the thousands of Muslims who had sought refuge in the UN compound. The moral nadir of UN/NATO ”peacekeeping” where there is no peace to keep is the photograph of Mladic blowing his cigar smoke in the face of the spineless Dutch colonel while in the background those his battalion should have protected were taken off to the killing fields.
Amidst the financial crisis of California, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) has ruled that the government must reduce the amount of prisoners, as the overcrowding violates the ban on cruel and unusual punishment, reports the NYTimes.
The BBC reports that new census data from India confirms the predictions over the imbalance in the gender ratio caused by female infanticide: eight million girls under the age of eight are “missing” due to a culture, which makes parents dread the birth of a girl due to dowry payments.
The visit of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. is an opportune occasion to return to the “saying sorry” series. Full coverage by the BBC.