DISABILITY: See Me, Hear Me - A guide to using the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to promote the rights of children

Summary: Save the Children UK and Sweden on behalf of the Alliance.

Arabic - French - Spanish

The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities represents the culmination of years of advocacy by the disability community in their struggle for recognition of their rights. A new guide, published by Save the Children UK and Sweden, on behalf of the Alliance, looks at how this Convention can be used to support disabled children, alongside the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

"See Me, Hear Me: A guide to using the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to promote the rights of children" analyses the inter-relationship of the two Conventions and presents practical guidance on advocacy strategies and illustrations of good practice.

The guide is intended for use by child and disability rights advocates, and civil society organisations. It will also be of use to government in interpreting and implementing the rights of children with disabilities. It does assume some knowledge or understanding of advocacy and is not written for children themselves.


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There are an estimated 200 million children with disabilities in the world, out of a global population of about two billion children. In other words, approximately 10 per cent of the total population of children, the majority of whom live in developing countries, are born with a disability or become disabled during childhood. A significant number of the impairments, and consequent disability, experienced by children are directly caused by preventable factors, including poverty, malnutrition, violence, accidents, trauma, war and preventable disease.

So, what are the implications for these children? Children with disabilities are not valued the same as other children, and are widely seen as not being capable of, or needing, love, affection, humour, friendship, cultural and artistic expression and intellectual stimulus. They are segregated, marginalised and isolated, and can be subjected to physical and sexual violence with relative impunity. Rates of early death for children with disabilities may be as high as 80 per cent in countries where mortality rates for under- fives as a whole have decreased below 20 per cent. Children with disabilities are defined by and judged by what they lack rather than what they have. Their consequent isolation can be extreme. Their very existence is widely denied– too often, their births are not registered,they are not recorded in census data, they are hidden away in back rooms or abandoned in institutions. These processes serve to dehumanise them. The cumulative impact is to deny children with disabilities respect for their dignity, their individuality, even their right to life itself. But it also dehumanises society. No society can lay claim to civilisation, humanity and justice when it continues to subject a significant minority of its people to such abuse and neglect.

A snapshot of the lives of children with disabilities

• Up to 200 million children globally have a disability.
• Children with disabilities are disproportionately likely to live in poverty.
• Children with disabilities are disproportionately vulnerable to both physical and sexual abuse.
• Mortality for children with disabilities may be as high as 80% in countries where under-five mortality as a whole has decreased to below 20%.
• Parents and medical professionals who murder children with disabilities often receive reduced sentences and use ‘mercy killing’ defences – this reflects the belief that the lives of children with disabilities are not of equal value to other children.
• At least 90% of children with disabilities across the developing world have no access to education.
• Access to justice is routinely denied because children with disabilities are not considered credible witnesses.

The causes of the rejection lie deep in the social, economic, cultural and psychological roots of all cultures – such as a dislike of or hostility to difference, a belief that disabilities derive from curses or punishments, guilt, fear of ‘contamination’, reluctance to accept the responsibility for caring, poverty and lack of support. Discrimination against children with disabilities has existed in every community throughout history. But it is not inevitable. And the 21st century has provided an unprecedented opportunity to bring about change.

On 13 December 2006, after four years of negotiations, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly adopted a new Convention to protect the rights of people with disabilities round the world. This Convention is the first major human rights treaty of the 21st century, and addresses civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights. It opened for signature on 30 March 2007, and entered into force on 3 May 2008 after having been ratified by 20 countries. Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has hailed the adoption of the Convention “as a historic achievement for the 650 million people with disabilities around the world”.

However, the new Convention will only be effective for children with disabilities if they themselves, their caregivers, local communities, civil society organisations, and children’s and disability rights advocates know that it exists and how to use it. Save the Children has responded to the need for information by developing this guide to help children with disabilities and their advocates use the new Convention to claim their rights and begin to build inclusive societies that are equally respectful of all children.


Part one: The development of rights for children with disabilities

1 - A brief introduction to human rights - where do they come from and what do they mean?

2 - Historical overview of the rights of people, including children, with disabilities - a brief review of the developments at international level that have led to an understanding of disability as a human rights issue, and the contribution of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) to increased recognition of the rights of children with disabilities.

3 - Development of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and its Optional Protocol - an overview of the history of the Convention, how it came about, the role played by the disability community and children with disabilities, and the inclusion of issues concerning children with disabilities.

4 - Key provisions - a brief description of all the articles in the Convention and its Optional Protocol and their meaning.

Part two: Implementing the rights of children with disabilities

 5 - Responsibility for implementation of the rights of the CRPD - a detailed analysis of the key responsibilities of governments and the actions they are expected to take after ratifying the CRPD and the UNCRC, as well as the responsibilities of other actors in the lives of children with disabilities.

6 - Advocacy to promote implementation - suggested strategies for action to ensure effective advocacy to promote the realisation of the rights of children with disabilities.

7 - Understanding the rights of children with disabilities - an analysis of how to use the CRPD and the UNCRC together in order to understand the key rights of children with disabilities and advocate effectively for their realisation.

Appendix 1 gives the full text of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Appendix 2 lists useful sources of information for professionals working in this area. Appendix 3 sets out how this guide was developed.


Parts of this guide have been translated into French and Spanish by CRIN. Read these here: French - Spanish

Save the Children will make the guide available in Arabic shortly.

Further information

Owner: Gerison Lansdownpdf: http://www.crin.org/docs/See_me_hear_final.pdf


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