Botswana should ratify UN Convention to demonstrate commitment to assisting PWDs-BIDPA

20 Aug 2018

In order to demonstrate its commitment to improving the lives of people living with disabilities Botswana should ratify and domesticate the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities .Over two decades since its adoption, the National Policy on Care for People with Disabilities (NPCPD) has failed to achieve its desired policy outcomes, let alone meet its objective of improving the lives of people with disabilities (PWDs). This is according to the latest report by the Botswana Institute for Development Policy Analysis (BIDPA).

It says while the Policy has the potential to be an important tool in achieving social inclusion and protecting the rights of PWDs, implementation gaps remain, consequently limiting its effectiveness. “Firstly there is need to introduce disability specific legislation (which includes adopting the revised national disability policy) as this would go a long way in insuring that the rights of people with disabilities are protected from all forms of discrimination,” the report says, adding “It is necessary for the state to make specific constitutional provisions to ensure the protection and promotion of the rights of PWDs.” While the NPCPD is considered the government’s response to combat the incidence of disability and promote the quality of life for people with disabilities, BIDPA says, the policy does not clearly indicate or provide guidelines on how PWDs should be protected from acts of discrimination and exclusion in order to enjoy a better quality of life. “The policy does not substantively discuss the rights of PWDs. It only provides the normative guidelines on the care of people with disabilities.”

The report , ‘Case of the National Policy on Care for the People with Disabilities’ by Marumo Omotoye, recommends that in order to have greater involvement in the policy implementation exercise , it is paramount that several key stakeholders build the requisite capacity and acquire the necessary resources to enable them to play a meaningful role providing adequate support to PWDs.

“The Coordinating Office for People with Disabilities should be empowered to an extent that it is capable of enforcing its mandate as a regulatory or statutory body.” The report also states that there is a need for the government to review and amend existing legislation to ensure that linkages between disability and other social and economic factors are appreciated.

According to the 2001 Population and Housing Census, there were 58 976 persons with disabilities in Botswana, more than half of whom lived in rural areas. The 2011 Population and Housing Census indicated there were 59 103 PWDs of the total population of 2 024 904, accounting for three per cent of the total population of Botswana.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was adopted on December 13, 2006 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, and was opened for signature on 30 March 2007. There were 82 signatories to the Convention, 44 signatories to the Optional Protocol, and 1 ratification of the Convention. It is the first comprehensive human rights treaty of the 21st century and is the first human rights convention to be open for signature by regional integration organizations. The Convention entered into force on May 3, 2008.

The Convention follows decades of work by the United Nations to change attitudes and approaches to persons with disabilities. It takes to a new height the movement from viewing persons with disabilities as “objects” of charity, medical treatment and social protection towards viewing persons with disabilities as “subjects” with rights, who are capable of claiming those rights and making decisions for their lives based on their free and informed consent as well as being active members of society.

It is intended as a human rights instrument with an explicit, social development dimension. It adopts a broad categorization of persons with disabilities and reaffirms that all persons with all types of disabilities must enjoy all human rights and fundamental freedoms. The Convention clarifies and qualifies how all categories of rights apply to persons with disabilities and identifies areas where adaptations have to be made for persons with disabilities to effectively exercise their rights and areas where their rights have been violated, and where protection of rights must be reinforced.