By Guest Blogger Suzanne Cannon, Director of Resource Development of Bizchut – The Israel Human Rights Center for People with Disabilities
In the middle of March over 200 individuals with disabilities and their relatives, along with representatives of the Israeli government and academia gathered in Jerusalem for a two-day international conference, “From Ratification to Implementation: The U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in Israel.”
The conference was organized by Bizchut, The Israel Human Rights Center for People with Disabilities together with The Commission for Equal Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Minerva Center for Human Rights, the Faculty of Law at the Hebrew University in partnership with the European Union and the Disability Law and Policy Program at Syracuse University College of Law.
The day marked Israel’s imminent ratification of the CRPD, as adopted by the U.N. in 2006, obligating the Israeli government to bring local disability policy in line with standards established by the Convention. These are important steps that will increase equality, inclusion and participation of persons with disabilities in society in almost all areas of Israeli life.
Thanks to advocacy by Bizchut, academia and some intra-government negotiations, Israel agreed to remove or modify some of its reservations that would have limited realization of rights for members of the disability community.
Highlights of the conference included a keynote speech by Ms. Judith Heumann, Special Advisor for International Disability Rights at the U.S. State Department, who called upon conference participants to make the most of the potential offered by the CRPD for advancing disability rights on the local level, and an address by Amb. Luis Gallegos, Permanent Representative of Ecuadorto the U.N. Office in Geneva and former Chairperson of the U.N. Ad Hoc Committee responsible for drafting the Convention who praised the contribution of Israel’s civil society and government representatives in this process. Professor Arlene Kanter, one of the organizers of the conference, who chaired the concluding panel on community living, called upon Government offices to join forces and promote equal, independent, inclusive, person-centered and dignified living in Israel for people with disabilities in Israel.
— Suzanne Cannon