Know Your Human Rights

What are human rights?
Human rights are rights inherent and fundamental to all human beings, whatever our nationality, place of residence, sex, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, language, or any other status. We are all equally entitled to our human rights without discrimination. These rights are all interrelated, interdependent and indivisible.

Universal human rights are often expressed and guaranteed by law, in the forms of treaties, customary international law , general principles and other sources of international law. International human rights law lays down obligations of Governments to act in certain ways or to refrain from certain acts, in order to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms of individuals or groups.

Universal and inalienable
The principle of universality of human rights is the cornerstone of international human rights law. This principle, as first emphasized in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights in 1948, has been reiterated in numerous international human rights conventions, declarations, and resolutions. The 1993 Vienna World Conference on Human Rights, for example, noted that it is the duty of States to promote and protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms, regardless of their political, economic and cultural systems.

All States have ratified at least one, and 80% of States have ratified four or more, of the core human rights treaties, reflecting consent of States which creates legal obligations for them and giving concrete expression to universality. Some fundamental human rights norms enjoy universal protection by customary international law across all boundaries and civilizations.
Human rights are inalienable. They should not be taken away, except in specific situations and according to due process. For example, the right to liberty may be restricted if a person is found guilty of a crime by a court of law.

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Any Progress For PWD?

In 2014, the WHO’s 67th World Health Assembly adopted a resolution endorsing the “WHO Global Disability Action Plan 2014–2021: Better health for all people with disability”. The WHO believes that this action plan will provide a major boost to WHO and governments’ efforts to enhance the quality of life of the one billion people around the world living with disabilities.  At the time, reading this Action Plan gave us some hope that substantial progress would be made by governments and by the WHO on the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities* (CRPD), towards ensuring the full enjoyment of human rights by persons with disabilities (PWD) and full equality under the law. We were hopeful, yet as most action plans and ‘strategic roadmaps’ from WHO usually sound good but don’t change much on the ground, we were also sceptical.

Two years into the Action Plan, the WHO is preparing a progress report for the next World Health Assembly in May 2017, and plan to discuss it at the WHO Executive Board meeting in January. The Action Plan contains sections on the global situation, goals, proposed actions and indicators for governments and partners.
It contains three objectives:
1.  To remove barriers and improve access to health services and programmes for people living with disabilities
2.  To strengthen and extend rehabilitation, habilitation, assistive technology, assistance and support services, and community-based rehabilitation
3.  To strengthen collection of relevant and internationally comparable data on disability and support research on disability and related services

As part of our series of ‘Reality Checks’, we’re seeking inputs from our comrades living with disabilities on how much progress, if any, is being made in our communities. Have you seen or heard of any new or improved programmes?  Do you have any evidence of practices that “remove barriers and improve access”? Any sign that public health services are serving you better in the last two years? We want to hear about your experiences and your views on whether or not there has been any progress since 2014.

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