BRUSSELS: 20 November 2014
It is undeniable that the world is a much better place for children than it was on this day 25 years ago, when the United Nations (UN) General Assembly adopted the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). On the anniversary of the Convention, the UN can boast many achievements – from prompting a decline in infant child mortality to raising school enrolment. Unfortunately, children with intellectual disabilities have rarely been on the receiving end of policies aimed at promoting and protecting the rights of children, or ensuring that their voices are heard in matters directly affecting their own lives. Children with disabilities are still locked in cage beds in European countries, as a recent BBC report shows, or are openly discriminated against in deinstitutionalisation policies, in Romania for example.
Therefore, Inclusion Europe, the leading organisation representing people with intellectual disabilities and their families at the European level, welcomes the focus on child participation apparent in all UN communication related to the 25-year anniversary. “Let us stop talking about ‘allowing’ young people to participate – it is, firstly, a right of the child,” the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child stated in a press release on 19 November. As Inclusion Europe and its partners emphasized in their UN side event, organised in the framework of the Hear our Voices Project in Geneva on 26 September, while even children with severe disabilities or complex needs can express opinions, adults have often not been prepared or equipped to hear them. It is therefore crucial that children with intellectual and other disabilities are involved in every stage of the policy processes affecting their lives, and are given accessible information to participate fully and meaningfully.
While treaties such as the Third Optional Protocol to the CRC on a Communications Procedure are valuable in providing an outlet for children to bring complaints against states which have violated their rights, the United Nations must ensure that such tools are equally available to children with intellectual disabilities. All information aimed at children, including the Advocacy Toolkit and text of the Optional Protocol, should therefore be available in child-friendly easy to read or alternative format, including using visual tools or aids.
It is therefore time for a celebration – one based on the recognition of achievements, but acknowledgment of limitations. Much more needs to be done to improve the lives of children with disabilities the world over, but Inclusion Europe will continue working closely with the United Nations to make sure things are moving in the right direction.
For more information, please contact Silvana Enculescu, Inclusion Europe Communications Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org