EU 'legally obliged' to promote disability inclusion

As a signatory to the UN convention, the EU has a responsibility to 'lead by example' and promote disability inclusion both home and abroad, writes Luk Zelderloo.

By Luk Zelderloo

28 Jan 2014

The European association of service providers for persons with disabilities (EASPD), which represents over 10,000 social service providers for persons with disability in Europe, fully supports the call by the international disability and development consortium (IDDC) and MEPs Bart Staes, Michael Cashman, Filip Kaczmarek and Marian Harkin for all new EU development programmes to consider the impacts on persons with disabilities.

The United Nations convention on the rights of persons with disabilities (UN CRPD), ratified by the EU and 24 of its 28 member states, aims to ensure that its parties "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".

Of particular interest to the IDDC initiative, article 32 clearly states that parties must ensure "that international cooperation, including international development programmes, be inclusive of and accessible to persons with disabilities".

"The EU should lead by example to fully include the requirements of the convention in all its internal and external actions because it is legally obliged to do so"

In reality, one can wonder why disability has yet to be already considered in current EU development programmes given that the EU ratified the UN CRPD over three and a half years ago. This is even more surprising given the political commitment that can be found in the European disability strategy 2010-2020, which states that the EU and member states "should promote the rights of people with disabilities in their external action".

The EU is the world's leading donor giving over €50bn worth of development aid each year. It plays an important role in developing the infrastructure and the economies of many countries throughout the world.

The evolution of a European development policy that is inclusive and accessible to all will first and foremost help the lives of millions of people with disabilities in the world's poorest countries to have equal access to their rights.

It will contribute to changing the minds of the political leaders in many of these countries to further take into account disability within their overall employment and social policy.

However, we cannot just stop here. If the EU is to promote the rights of persons with disability in its foreign development policy, then it must improve on its own implementation of the UN CRPD.

EASPD therefore calls the EU and member states to consider the impact on the lives of persons with disabilities in all of its policies. Especially in times of crisis and fiscal austerity, it is of utmost importance, and a legal duty, for the EU to uphold its obligations towards the rights of all citizens, including its most vulnerable.

We believe that social services play a key role in enabling persons with disability to gain access to their rights. This is recognised by the UN CRPD which argues that assistance services are guaranteed by the rights included in the convention.

As such, when taking into account the impact of a policy it is of the utmost importance to take into account the impact on social service providers.

The EU should lead by example to fully include the requirements of the convention in all its internal and external actions because it is legally obliged to do so.

More importantly, it should be done because it is an issue of human rights, and persons with disabilities are entitled to the same rights as every other person on this planet.

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