YK Poudel

The National Assembly will deliberate on the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) tomorrow. Member In-Charge of the Convention, Foreign Minister Dr Tandi Dorji introduced the convention at the National Assembly on June 9. 

“The purpose of the present Convention is to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities, and to promote respect for their inherent dignity,” he said.

“The convention includes accessibility, participation, equality, employment, education, training, social protection, and health,” he said.

Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) include those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.

Lyonpo said that for over a decade, Bhutan could not ratify the convention, due to concerns on the considerable level of investments required in developing expertise as well as improving the current infrastructure based on the requirement of the convention.

“Although many countries have now adopted the convention, it is not necessary to implement it immediately. We can take time and work on the requirements. Moreover, when the ministry consulted the relevant agencies, they expressed full support,” he said.

The delay in ratifying the convention was attributed to concerns about the significant investments required to develop expertise and improve the current infrastructure to align with the convention’s standards. Budget constraints and infrastructure requirements were among the primary concerns expressed by members of the National Assembly in previous discussions on adopting the convention.

Several members of the National Assembly expressed their support for ratifying the convention, further reinforcing the consensus among policymakers and agencies that support the ratification of the convention.

As of date, there are 186 State Parties to the convention. Bhutan is the only SAARC country that has not ratified the convention.

The CRPD prepared by the UN includes the principles: respect for inherent dignity, individual autonomy including the freedom to make one’s own choices, and independence of persons; non-discrimination; full and effective participation and inclusion in society; respect for difference and acceptance of persons with disabilities as part of human diversity and humanity; equality of opportunity; accessibility; and respect for the evolving capacities of children with disabilities and respect for the right of children with disabilities to preserve their identities.

There are 50 articles agreed upon by state parties.

Bhutan’s 2017 Population and Housing Census of Bhutan (PHCB) reveals a disability prevalence rate of 2.1 percent (15,567 persons). Of these, 47.9 percent (7,456) are male, and 52.1 percent (8,111) are female. While 80 percent or 12,512 of the disabled individuals live in rural areas, 20 percent (3,055) are in urban areas.

Ratifying the convention will require Bhutan to invest in developing expertise and enhancing infrastructure to meet the convention’s standards. However, the unanimous support from the National Assembly and the commitment expressed by relevant agencies indicate a positive outlook for the successful ratification and subsequent implementation of the convention in the future.