Contents at a glance:
- A Welcome Message from DRPI Co-Director Bengt Lindqvist
- What is DRPI?
- Why Use a Human Rights Perspective?
- Why Monitor the Human Rights Situation of People with Disabilities?
- History of DRPI
A Welcome Message from DRPI Co-Director Bengt Lindqvist
What is DRPI?
DRPI is a collaborative project to establish a comprehensive, sustainable international system to monitor human rights of people with disabilities. Monitoring is an empowering activity because it:
- provides a voice to marginalized people
- enhances public awareness by documenting abuses and violations
- reinforces a collective identity among persons with disabilities
- supports efforts to achieve social justice
For more information on the DRPI project, you can access our Resources and Publications page.
Why Use a Human Rights Perspective?
The newly released World Health Organization (WHO) World Report on Disability estimates that at least 1 billion people worldwide have some form of a disability. Until recently, disability was seen as an individual issue - a medical condition to be
treated, a matter for
charity. More and more, social policies and attitudes are understood to exclude people from full participation and equal enjoyment of their rights. The discrimination and abuse experienced by so many people with disabilities is now seen as unjust and people with disabilities are claiming access to education and employment, rights to marry and have a family, rights to property and to political participation, such as the right to vote, and so on.
Viewing disability as a human rights issue emphasizes that people with disabilities are holders of rights, not objects of charity. People with disabilities are entitled to enjoy the same rights and freedoms as all other people. A human rights perspective highlights the responsibility of governments to ensure all citizens equally enjoy their rights and freedoms and can participate fully in society. The international human rights treaties and national human rights laws of the last few decades contain principles of equality and nondiscrimination that can be used to promote and protect the rights of people with disabilities.
Why Monitor the Human Rights Situation of People with Disabilities?
Monitoring involves collecting and verifying information about human rights abuses. More comprehensive information on the experiences of people with disabilities could be a powerful tool for promoting the social change needed to realize the full participation and equality of people with disabilities. Credible and accurate data about the human rights situation of people with disabilities can persuade governments that abuses are occurring and that action is needed to fulfill human rights obligations. Recording information about individual experiences can uncover a pattern of discrimination affecting large numbers of people. Data outlining the extent of disability discrimination can promote greater awareness of the need for social change, can provide facts and figures useful for lobbying and other advocacy, and can supply governments with credible documentation to support the creation of more inclusive social policies and laws.
Five Areas for Monitoring
To capture the depth and scope of the discrimination faced by people with disabilities, DRPI's activities will emphasize:
An individual violations focus:
- Fact finding with respect to alleged individual violations of the human rights of people with disabilities: monitoring human rights violations against people with disabilities will raise awareness of the nature and extent of violations and provide facts and evidence for advocacy efforts and improved government policies and laws.
A systems focus:
- Studying legislative frameworks: while laws may protect human rights, they may also violate human rights in some instances, either through a discriminatory provision or through silence on the rights of people with disabilities. Documenting the way laws violate or protect disability rights, and how relevant laws are implemented and enforced, will inform struggles for legislative reform.
- Tracking case law before the courts and statutory human rights bodies: compiling and analysing disability cases will generate evidence of how courts and other decision-making bodies, such as human rights commissions, address issues related to disability rights, interpret and enforce relevant laws, and use human rights law.
- Analyzing general government policies and programmes: beyond laws and their enforcement, a broad range of government action has a direct impact on the lives of people with disabilities. Documenting programmes, services and practices that violate human rights - either directly or indirectly - will provide evidence and awareness for change.
A media focus:
- Tracking media imagery and coverage of disability: the media have a powerful influence on the way disability is perceived and on the attitudes of the public towards people with disabilities. It is important to document myths and stereotypes perpetuated by media portrayals of persons with disabilities and also highlight effective reporting of disability issues.
A central goal of DRPI is to support monitoring in these five areas. Thorough and accurate data will expose the extent of discrimination faced by people with disabilities on a daily basis around the world. Data will be useful for advocacy activities and will provide documentation for governments to develop policy and plans that include people with disabilities in their societies.
The development of an international monitoring system will involve:
- developing training materials and monitoring tools appropriate for diverse cultures, political settings, and economic contexts
- supporting credible and accurate monitoring procedures that ensure a safe environment in which people with disabilities can speak out
- establishing networks to facilitate communication around the globe
- developing coalitions with other rights monitoring bodies to encourage their involvement in disability rights monitoring
- promoting broader awareness of disability as a human rights issue
- communicating collected data so it can be used constructively by advocacy groups and governments
- encouraging engagement with the international and regional human rights systems
For more information on DRPI's holistic approach to monitoring the rights of people with disabilities, visit the Disability Rights Monitoring page.
History of DRPI
In November 2000, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Disability, Dr. Bengt Lindqvist, hosted an international seminar in Stockholm, Sweden. Twenty-seven experts from all regions of the world considered measures to strengthen the protection and monitoring of the human rights of people with disabilities. Among the seminar participants were representatives of all the major international disability organizations, representatives of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the UN Secretariat, disability rights activists, and experts on human rights. The participants recommended the creation of an international system to monitor the human rights situation of people with disabilities. To fill this need DRPI was founded by Dr. Bengt Lindqvist, former UN Special Rapporteur on Disability, and Dr. Marcia Rioux, Graduate Director of the MA and PhD programmes in Critical Disability Studies at York University. The report of the expert seminar entitled Let the World Know: Report of a Seminar on Human Rights and Disability is available on the UN Enable web site.
Phase 1: Background Research
DRPI was launched in 2002 with a research phase that investigated:
- opportunities for using international human rights instruments to enforce disability rights
- types of monitoring tools used by human rights monitoring projects, and
- current training resources for human rights monitors and for more general human rights education.
- confirmed the need for increased disability rights monitoring activities and for disability-specific monitoring and training resources;
- identified existing expertise, models, and methodologies related to human rights monitoring in the five areas of focus;
- highlighted opportunities for disability rights advocacy in the international human rights system.
In addition to research, DRPI reached out to many organizations to identify partnership opportunities. This exploration of partnerships continues as plans are developed to implement a monitoring system. DRPI aims to form effective working relationships with human rights and disability organizations to share expertise and develop field testing sites for monitoring. The report can be accessed in two ways:
- Download the Phase 1 Report as a PDF Document (1,417 kb)
- View the Phase 1 Report online in HTML format
- describes the United Nations international human rights treaties and opportunities for the promotion and protection of the human rights of people with disabilities
- reviews various methods for collecting human rights data and ensuring thorough monitoring activities
- lists human rights training resources for various audiences and describes them in relation to their usefulness in the disability context
The DRPI Phase 1 Report has been published on the following CD-ROMs:
- The Disability Convention - Making it Work, produced by Source and IDDC (International Disability and Development Consortium)
- Disability and Development Human Development Network - November 2004, produced by the World Bank
Phase 2: Implementation
Phase 2, completed in March 2009, involved the development and field testing of a broad range of tools, methodologies and training resources to be used by persons with disabilities and their organizations around the world to monitor disability rights.
Phase 3: Development of Regional Centres and Putting the Tools into Practice
Phase 3, now in progress, involves using the instruments and tools developed and field-tested during Phase 2 to expand capacity-building, training and monitoring activities to at least 20 more countries, fostering permanence and sustainability of monitoring. In collaboration with partner organizations of persons with disabilities, regional centres are being established in five regions across the globe to act as focal points for disability rights monitoring activities occuring in Phase 3 and following the completion of the DRPI project. The sustainability of monitoring activities is being fostered by increasing and strengthening the international network of persons with disabilities and disability organizations with the skills to manage, coordinate and participate in disability rights monitoring projects. Collaborations begun during Phase 2 are continuing and new partnerships are being explored. Capacity is being developed among disability organizations at the grassroots and persons with disabilities are being engaged at the national, regional and international levels. By the end of Phase 3, a strong foundation will be in place for a comprehensive and sustainable global disability rights monitoring system, involving the networks and organizations of persons with disabilities needed to support the work.