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Intellectual disability and human rights

Posted in Attitudes to disability by Matt at WelcometoIllinois on September 19, 2009

The Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg, has published an interesting viewpoint on attitudes to people with intellectual disabilities calling for political decision makers to stand up for their human rights.

“The key point is that persons with intellectual disabilities, as for other human beings, are entitled to basic human rights and fundamental freedoms. This was also the simple request formulated at a remarkable WHO conference in Montreal five years ago,” he writes.

“The adopted ‘Montreal Declaration on Intellectual Disabilities’ made points which should not have to be raised, but had remained ignored until then and, in fact, are still not taken seriously enough. The declaration called upon governments to implement the agreed human rights norms for persons with intellectual disabilities; to consult with them on relevant laws, policies and plans; and to take steps to ensure their full inclusion and right to participate in society.

“Furthermore, it asked governments to allocate sufficient resources and to provide the necessary support to persons with intellectual disabilities and their families; to strengthen their organisations; and to develop education, training and information programs for them. These proposals are realised only to a limited extent.”

Hammarberg provides some evidence to support his claims, based on his missions to Council of Europe member states, as well as some examples of improvements being made in countries such as Albania, Serbia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

He concludes: “It is urgent to move from word to action and to ensure that effective steps are indeed taken. The UN Convention [on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities] requires states to set up a mechanism to coordinate government action; to establish an effective system of independent monitoring; and to invite civil society – and in particular persons with disabilities themselves and their organisations – to take part in the monitoring.

“Such measures would help address the stigmatisation and marginalisation of persons with intellectual disabilities and encourage instead their participation and integration into society to the maximum extent possible. This change would make our societies more humane.”

Also available at the Commissioner’s website at www.commissioner.coe.int


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