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Protecting Rights of Persons with Disabilities: Towards Full and Integrated Approach

With the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol and the opening of a large debate between the actors and in the media, Morocco is moving towards an integrated approach which goes beyond the purely supportive approach, which makes it possible to develop a comprehensive and integrated approach that focuses on the citizenship of the disabled, in such a way as to ensure the exercise of their rights.

The international community has since 1948 adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, several international conventions on the protection and promotion of human rights and specific rights (rights of the child, women's rights, rights of immigrants). Also, the exclusion and discrimination against persons with disabilities have forced the international community to develop and adopt a specific and relevant convention: the International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol, which reflects that the rights of persons with disabilities are indivisible, and calls for respect for the dignity, independence, non-discrimination, participation and respect for difference.

The Convention does not limit the problems of the disabled to the purely medical approach, but adopts a human rights approach. It recognizes that “disability is an evolving concept and that disability results from the interaction between persons with impairments and attitudinal and environmental barriers that hinders their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others”.

Thus, this Convention aims to “promote and protect the human rights of all persons with disabilities, including those who require more intensive support” 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” .

The Convention is based on the following principles:

(a) Respect for inherent dignity, individual autonomy including the freedom to make one’s own choices, and independence of persons;
(b) Non-discrimination;
(c) Full and effective participation and inclusion in society;
(d) Respect for difference and acceptance of persons with disabilities as part of human diversity and humanity;
(e) Equality of opportunity;
(f) Accessibility;
(g) Equality between men and women;
(h) Respect for the evolving capacities of children with disabilities and respect for the right of children with disabilities to preserve their identities.

For its part, the Optional Protocol to the Convention stresses that “a State Party to the present Protocol (“State Party”) recognizes the competence of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (“the Committee”) to receive and consider communications from or on behalf of individuals or groups of individuals subject to its jurisdiction who claim to be victims of a violation by that State Party of the provisions of the Convention”.

Morocco was among the first countries to have signed the Convention on 30 March 2009, which proves its commitment to the promotion and protection of the rights of persons with disabilities. Morocco ratified it on April 8, 2009, following the Royal letter addressed to the Advisory Council on Human Rights (CCDH) on the occasion of 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, on December 10, 2009.

Thus, the organization on May 14, 2009 of the international seminar by the CCDH and Handicap International on the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol aimed to assess national initiatives taken for the protection of persons with disabilities in connection with the terms of the Convention and to make recommendations to that effect.

This meeting was also an opportunity to study the standard aspect of the Convention and its Protocol: its genesis and its added value compared to other instruments, its principles and general obligations, the rights it guarantees, the role of the UN, its agencies, States, NGOs, NHRIs and individuals vis-à-vis the Convention and the role of international cooperation) and mechanisms for their implementation: ways of its implementation at national level by the introduction of provisions that enable a real enjoyment of rights, taking into account the disability dimension in the development and implementation of national policies in a cross-cutting way, mechanisms for monitoring and control of the Convention and its Protocol at national and international levels.

M Herzenni, CCDH President, said at the opening of the seminar that the objective of this meeting was to discuss ways and mechanisms for implementing this Convention to support the collective effort to promote the rights of persons with disabilities. He stressed the readiness of the CCDH, as a national institution governed by the Paris Principles, to work with various actors, agencies, elected bodies, the private sector and all components of civil society.

All participants stressed the development of an integrated approach that takes into account the health, psychological, social and professional aspects. In this sense, poverty should not be identified as an inevitable fate for persons with disabilities. Disability should not be a reason for exclusion, which explains the need for a comprehensive and integrated approach.

Ms. Nouzha Skalli, Minister of Social Development, Family and Solidarity, said that Morocco paid special attention to the persons with disabilities. Morocco celebrates each year the national day of disability. The Minister noted that the Government of Morocco prepared, in cooperation with various government departments and civil society, a bill relating to persons with disabilities. She said that the Convention reflected the country's commitment to guaranteeing the rights of the disabled through a global strategy. The Minister seized this opportunity to recall the achievements of the Ministry in the field:

- Provide education for children with special needs through the creation of integrated classes or in special centers;

- Implement a quota of 7% in the field of vocational training in the private and public sectors;

- Promotion of sport activities through federations and associations working in this field.

Regarding education, Ms. Skalli recalled the agreement signed between the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education, the Mohammed V Foundation for Solidarity and the Ministry of Social Development, Family and Solidarity. It aims to create 200 pilot classes each year. This was accomplished in 2008: 217 classrooms were created. Ms. Skalli finally announced that the Ministry would appoint a ministerial committee which would monitor the implementation of the Convention and its Optional Protocol, as a government department responsible for coordinating and monitoring the implementation of the Convention.

For his part, Mr. Jean Marc Bouvines, representative of Handicap International, said that to date 6 states have ratified it and started its implementation. He also stressed the need to sensitize society on this issue focusing on the role of audiovisual and written media.

The participants in the seminar highlighted the following points:

- Education on human rights through the integration of human rights in educational curricula and media involvement in raising awareness;

- Public policies: Participants recalled the efforts of the State in recent years in promoting the rights of persons with disabilities. However, these efforts have not been integrated in the framework of global plans of action. They need to be strengthened to be commensurate with the international commitments of Morocco. The CCDH could help by issuing advisory opinions and recommendations;

- National legislation: Morocco has several laws on the rights of persons with disabilities. However, various actors (parliament, government and the CCDH ...) should all work to fill gaps and exploit the studies that have been made in this field;

- The role of civil society: Participants reiterated the need to strengthen the capacity of civil society and encourage associations to build networks;

- Regarding the mechanism for implementation and monitoring: As specified in Article 33 of the Convention, the participants stressed the criteria of independence and the representation of various stakeholders, in addition to the Paris Principles.