An Experts’ Round Table on a proposed ‘Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Africa’ was held at the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, on 21 and 22 of August 2014.
The Round Table is part of a consultative process, informing the elaboration of an African-specific treaty on the rights of persons with disabilities. The threshold question about the desirability and feasibility of adopting such a treaty with the African Union was also considered against the background of the fact that the UN in 2006 adopted the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), 36 AU member states have become party to the CRPD.
The meeting was organised by the Centre for Human Rights and the Africa Disability Alliance (ADA), with participation of representatives from the African Union, relevant ministries, continental and sub-regional organizations of persons with disabilities, leaders of the disability movement from various African countries, parliamentarians, experts and researchers on disability as well as regional and international organisations. A total of some 50 participants from all over the continent participated in the discussion.
Among the speakers at the Roundtable were: Deputy Minister for Social Development in South Africa, Ms Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu; Commissioner Lawrence Mute, African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights; Dr Johan Strijdom, Head of Division, Social Affairs Department at the African Union; Ms Roseweter Mudarikwa, Chair of the African Disability Alliance and Professor Frans Viljoen, Director, Centre for Human Rights.
The Deputy Minister of Social Development, Ms Zulu, at the Round Table dinner affirmed the need to explore options to strengthen the existing African human rights mechanism to advance the right of persons with disabilities on the continent. She called on the drafters to recognise the role of civil wars that are raging the continent in causing disability and as such the need to foster peace to protect people from being disabled. The weak state of the continent’s health care system has also meant that diseases go untreated, thus resulting in disability. She also emphasised that the Protocol must put strong emphasis on disability as a development issue and that the Protocol should be ‘Africanised’.
The draft legal instrument is being developed under the auspices of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. The most recent version (which was discussed at the Round Table) is on the Commission’s website and is open for comment.