The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 13 December 2006. The President of Belarus signed the document on October 18, 2015. A year later, in October 2016, the document was ratified which allowed to launch the process of the Convention implementation. It was a landmark event the country went for many years to.
About the Convention:
The Convention represents an international document aimed at promoting the participation of people with disabilities (PwD) in the civil, political, economic, social and cultural spheres, preventing discrimination and creating effective legal mechanisms to ensure the respective rights. The aim of the Convention is to protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms of persons with disabilities on an equal basis with other citizens.
“What I realized during our campaigns focused on inclusion promotion is that the challenges and barriers people with disabilities face are quite significant. Belarus has signed and ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and this is a great progress. But there are still many barriers we should cope with. And these barriers that people with disabilities face are as bad in Belarus as in other countries around the world. Especially psychological barriers that are far more complicated for people with mental disabilities”.
Sanaka Samarasinha, UN Resident Coordinator in Belarus
What advantages does the Convention provide to Belarus?
- The Convention states that persons with all forms of disabilities should enjoy all human rights and freedoms as people without disabilities.
- Ratification of the Convention allows the introduction of "new" terms in the Belarusian legislation. For example, before that, the notion of "discrimination" was not specifies and, as a result, there was no mechanism of protection against such a phenomenon.
- The Convention introduces a new concept of a “universal design", which implies that the environment should be initially planned in such a way that it is equally accessible to everyone: for a person with a disability, young parents with a baby stroller, the elderly and those people who now feel completely healthy. The Convention implies that in any situation it is necessary to seek a way for a person to realize his or her right to accessibility.
- The Convention provides specific instruments for people with disabilities to assert their rights. For example, articles of the Convention prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability. Moreover, these facts of discrimination should be identified, made public, investigated and reclaimed.
- From the moment of signing the Convention the country makes commitments not to adopt laws and norms that contradict this document.
- The Article 33 of the Convention states that parties are required to establish special mechanisms for the implementation and monitoring of the rights of people with disabilities at the national level, namely:
- designate one or several actors in the Government that will supervise activities related to the Convention implementation;
- provide for the establishment or assignment in the government of a coordination mechanism to facilitate work in different sectors and at different levels;
- create an independent structure, for example, a national institution for the protection of the rights of people with disabilities.
"Ratification of the Convention opens new opportunities for Belarus to ensure constitutional guarantees of respect, realization and protection of human rights without discrimination based on disability. On December 3, we all celebrate the Day of Persons with Disabilities. It is important as a day of solidarity of the UN member states in recognizing disability as a political problem. Every year this day allows to emphasize this fact and to confirm respect for human dignity for many people with disabilities".
Sergey Drozdovsky, Director of the Office for the Rights of People with Disabilities
How to coordinate the joint actions of the Government, civil society and international organizations in the Convention implementation in Belarus?
In order to ensure coordinated actions of the legislative, executive, judicial and civil society bodies the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Belarus on June 13, 2017 approved the National Action Plan for the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities provisions in the Republic of Belarus for 2017-2025 years.
The National Plan is a strategic document aimed at ensuring the equality of rights of people with disabilities and creating conditions for their integration into all spheres of social life in Belarus.
The coordinator of the National Plan is the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection of the Republic of Belarus.
"Inclusion begins with a change in our thinking. It means to me that we do not decide for a person with a disability, but support him or her in making an independent decision. And, most importantly, you should not create special worlds for people with disabilities. There is no concept of "they", there is only "we", and external differences do not play any role – inclusion on an equal footing".
Elena Titova, Chairperson of the NGO “BelAPDIiMI”
"Inclusion is when you are kicked out of the club because you had too many drinks, and not because of disputes about the availability of the premises. Inclusion is when a mother of a child with autism equally chips in for curtains in a kindergarten and this is her only indignation towards the institution of preschool preparation. Inclusion is when in a school toilet in a fight with a blind guy his opponent turns the light off".
Alexander Avdevich, Activist
Initiatives/campaigns that promote inclusion, people with disabilities in Belarus:
Mind over Matter:
"Mind Over Matter" – a volunteer initiative aimed at fighting stigma towards people living with mental disabilities, supporting healthy lifestyles, sustainable tourism, and environmental protection.
"Mind Over Matter", the 8-day ride from Hrodna to Minsk, united 445 participants. Not only professional cyclists, but also persons with disabilities, children, the youth and the elderly, representatives of the diplomatic community and private sector, the UN agencies in Belarus, as well as locals, joined the team at different parts of the route.
Along the course, the cyclists visited clinical centers and centers of development training and rehabilitation, held open and frank dialogues with families whose members are people with mental disabilities, as well as with those who are interested in and can help improve the situation and change the attitude of society towards mental health issues.
The campaign "Agenda 50"
The campaign "Agenda 50" (50 as the number of articles in the Convention) – a campaign aimed at the implementation of the basic provisions of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in the local communities. It is planned to take practical steps in different regions of Belarus to realize the basic principles of the international document. The campaign is aimed at turning the legislation into real practical actions to change the situation.
The initiator of the campaign - the Office for the Rights of People with Disabilities.
"The implementation of Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities standards will change primarily the very essence of relationship between the Government and a person with a disability: it will increase the level of legal capacity of a person with a disability, he or she will be able to build their path of life and exercise their human rights without discrimination. I hope that the December 3 in a few years will not be some holiday, when society members remember their fellow citizens once a year and try to catch up. On the contrary, it will be a day of summing up all the things that have been done during a year by all members of society jointly and not just by a segregated minority".
Mikhail Matskevich, Deputy Director of the Office for the Rights of People with Disabilities
The project of inclusive education in the creative sphere "New Look"
The project "New Look" included the filmmaking course (directing, camera skills) and post-production (editing, computer graphics, sound engineering) with the participation of people with disabilities. The result was a series of video films, revealing the theme of inclusion of people with disabilities. In the scope of the project there were conducted round tables related to the topics of employment of people with disabilities in the media sphere and development of their creative abilities.
The initiator of the project – Social Cinema Workshop.