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Why International Cooperation to Deal with Disability? Politics of the Article 32 of the Convention

Hisayo Katsui, Institute for Human Rights, Åbo Akademi University


This paper elaborates the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities by focusing on the issue of international cooperation from the human rights-based approach (HRBA). One important remark to make about the Convention is that "International Cooperation" was included as an article (Article 32), which was not the case for the Conventions for the rights of women and children. Another important remark is that it is about "international" cooperation rather than "development" cooperation when it comes to disability. Why disability sector needs particularly the international cooperation? I try to answer this key question in terms of three sub-themes: 1) relevance of disability issues to every country, 2) discussions on this Article in the ad-hoc committee meetings, and 3) operational values of this Article 32.

The first part briefly conceptualises "international cooperation" vis-à-vis development cooperation. This comparison highlights the importance of HRBA to deconstruct and to problematise development merely as an objectively quantifiable phenomenon. When HRBA is applied, the existing dichotomy of "developed countries" and "developing countries" easily fails. Disability is a relevant issue for all countries. This part further explains the relevance of disability issues in the South to the Northern countries in terms of development cooperation activities. The first part is to stress the importance of this Article. The second part reveals the heavy discussion during the Convention-making process to include this Article. On the basis of the previous arguments, the third part focuses on the question of added value of this specific Article: what have changed and will change in practice? What does it mean when it is to be applied to resource-constrained Southern countries? Is it only North again that benefits? Is it going to be a sub-standard policy when "reasonable" constraints prevent any country from implementing it in practice? I try to tackle these questions. In the end, I conclude this paper by answering the set key question: Why disability sector needs particularly the international cooperation?

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