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Disability Rights are Human Rights: from Ratification to Implementation of the CRPD


The ratification of the United Nations Convention on the rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) on the 24th of February 2023 by the President of the Republic was a great step towards realization of the rights of persons with disabilities in South Sudan. This is a result of a series of advocacy campaigns by persons with disabilities and their allies, which started over a decade ago. The ratification of the Convention has been much celebrated by South Sudanese citizens with disabilities, with expectations for full inclusion and effective participation in society. Evidence shows that persons with disabilities who are educated and employed become financially independent, are able to support their families and help with the country’s overall economic growth.

The United Nations General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) on the 13th of December 2006. The CRPD was much needed as persons with disabilities are largely discriminated and have been historically marginalized across the globe despite the existence of several human rights instruments. The CRPD aims 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. (Article 1)

The recent ratification of the CRPD by the government of South Sudan shows its commitment to meaningful inclusion of persons with disabilities and protection of their human rights. To achieve this, persons with disabilities and their representative organizations should be fully involved in all processes on implementation and monitoring of the Convention as active stakeholders, which is in line with the global disability principle of Nothing About Us Without Us. It is worth noting that persons with disabilities actively participated in the processes leading up to the adoption of the CRPD, and some were in the committee that drafted the text of the Convention. Persons with disabilities now look forward to playing an equally active part in realizing the implementation of the Convention in South Sudan.

In terms of concrete steps to be taken, persons with disabilities recommend that the government should prioritize the following:, Awareness-raising. Under article 8 of the CRPD, States Parties are required to conduct massive awareness to reduce negative attitudes towards persons with disabilities in society and promote positive perceptions about disability. The awareness-raising campaigns should also educate the public about contributions and capabilities of persons with disabilities and should be done together with persons with disabilities.

Accessibility. Article 9 of the CRPD requires States Parties to take measures on accessibility for persons with disabilities to the physical environment, transportation, buildings, and communication, including information and communications technologies. Implementing this provision would make a difference in the lives of persons with disabilities in South Sudan as children and adults with various impairments in the country struggle to access services and participate in society due to barriers related to accessibility.

Protection against discrimination. The CRPD urges States Parties to guarantee equal protection to persons with disabilities from discrimination, exploitation, violence, and abuse. The government should ensure that persons with disabilities who are discriminated against in employment, education and other sectors can have their rights protected by law.

Review of existing laws and policies. Under article 4, the CRPD requires States Parties to modify or abolish laws and policies that are not consistent with the provisions therein. This is an essential point especially if there are laws and policies which are conflicting to the principles of the CRPD.

The ratification of the CRPD is a commendable initiative from the Government of South Sudan and an important victory of the disability movement in the country. The CRPD reinforces how an inclusive and barrier-free society is beneficial for the whole country, not just for persons with disabilities. Thus, ensuring that everyone in society, including those with disabilities, can enjoy their rights (such as education and employment) is vital for a prosperous and peaceful nation. Ensuring proper follow-up to the ratification of the CRPD, with adequate policies and reasonable changes to legislation, will be an important step to operationalize the Convention and thus, improve the lives of persons with disabilities in South Sudan.

Written by IOM and the South Sudan Union of Persons with Disabilities and endorsed by a consortium of organizations working for the rights of persons with disability.

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