… prior to ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities recommends High Level Task Force

Convention: One of the suggestions the stakeholder agencies of the High Level Task Force, established to study and prepare for ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, made during its first meeting yesterday was to have a national policy or an act in place before the country can ratify the convention.

Foreign minister Damcho Dorji said that before ratifying the convention, it is important for the stakeholder agencies to have an overview of the convention so that the stakeholders know what it is and what the roles of the respective agencies will be as per the provisions of the convention.

The first article of the convention states that the purpose of the convention is to promote, protect and ensure the full enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities.

The fifty articles of the convention includes freedom from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, freedom of expression and opinion, and access to information; equality and non-discrimination, awareness-raising, accessibility, and right to life; among others.

Lyonpo Damcho Dorji explained that all the articles in the convention are important because persons with disabilities are vulnerable to many abuses, which will affect their lives.

“It is important to ensure that persons with disabilities have access to opportunities and lead a normal life as far as possible,” Lyonpo said. “They should be given freedom of expression and opinion because unless we hear from them, we will not know what facilities they need.”

Lyonpo also pointed out that it is not exactly known how many people in the country are physically challenged and what facilities are provided to them.

Chief programme officer with the National Commission for Women and Children, Chhoeki Penjor, said that the provisions mentioned in the convention on women and children, are already in place  in the country. However, there is much to do at a policy level or providing infrastructure facilities for persons with disabilities, before the ratification.

Lack of physical infrastructure, weak coordination among the stakeholders, lack of specialised or trained people to deal with persons with disabilities, among others, were some of the challenges discussed during the meeting.

The 15th special session of the Lhengye Zhungtshog held on April 20 this year decided to defer ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

However, the foreign ministry was directed to coordinate with relevant agencies and prepare a comprehensive paper for ratification of the convention by Parliament in future.

The high level task force, which will be guided by the Rules of Procedure for Treaty Making 2016, involves members from eighteen national stakeholder agencies including civil society.

Bhutan signed the convention on September 21, 2010.

Dechen Tshomo