Speaking on the first day of a two-day conference on the effective implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), Charlotte McClain-Nhlapo posed the question why this treaty has had so little traction in African countries.

McClain-Nhlapo, who previously served on the South African Human Rights Commission and now works with USAID, noted that despite wide ratification of the CRPD in Africa, persons with disabilities in Africa remain among the most socio-economically excluded and deprived persons.

She noted that there are many challenges that inhibit the implementation of the CRPD in African countries. Some of these are: conflict, political instability, rapid population growth, and limited governmental capacity to give effect to the rights of persons with disabilities. Political will and strengthening of institutions – both formal and non-formal institutions – are key to overcoming these challenges.

McClain-Nhlapo identified three triggers that may contribute to the more effective implementation of the CRPD. First, there should be enforcement mechanisms at the national level to ensure follow-up of favourable decisions. Second, data about actual implementation should be collected.  There is thus a need for research that goes beyond textual analysis of the CRPD. Third, there is a need for increased and equitable spending to enable the implementation of the CRPD.

Speakers from as far afield as Germany and the United Kingdom, and from across Africa, have addressed four main topics: disability and awareness-raising; education and disability; equal recognition before the law and access to justice of persons with disabilities. The effect of the CRPD in Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Zambia, Uganda, South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya was reviewed and discussed. Some of these countries, such as Kenya and Uganda, have adopted legislation to domesticate the CRPD.  In others, such as Nigeria, efforts at domesticating have been floundering.

Access to education for learners with disabilities was one of the themes that was discussed by delegates. More specifically, inclusive education and the impact of the CRPD came under the spotlight.  There was consensus that inclusive education is a human right that has yet to be effectively implemented on the ground.  Disabled learners are still an excluded minority.

This conference is hosted by the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, and benefits from the support of the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA).  For a full programme see http://www1.chr.up.ac.za/index.php/disability-rights-in-africa/conference-programme.html

More information on this Conference:

For more information, please contact
Prof Frans Viljoen, Centre for Human Rights,
Tel: 012-420-3228
Email:  frans.viljoen@up.ac.za


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