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To Achieve Inclusion, the Arab Region Must Build On Positive Initiative and Successful Practices
Several Arab countries have begun to reform their disability policies. Table 1 presents the Arab countries that have signed and/or ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and its Optional Protocol (for a summary of CRPD see box 3). Guided by CRPD, Bahrain, Kuwait, the Syrian Arab Republic and the United Arab Emirates are enacting new disability laws and Jordan is revamping existing laws. Countries are also developing disability strategies using a participatory approach and awareness-raising strategies promoting inclusion (Lebanon, Palestine) (box 4).
|Country||Convention signature date||Protocol signature date||Convention ratification date||Protocol ratification date|
|Syrian Arab Republic||30/03/2007||10/07/2009||10/07/2009|
|United Arab Emirates||08/02/2008||12/02/2008||19/03/2010|
Box 3. The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
On 13 December 2006, the General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and its Optional Protocol. The Convention entered into force on 3 May 2008 making it the first major human rights treaty of the twenty-first century and the first legally binding instrument with comprehensive protection of the rights of persons with disabilities. The Convention embodied the shift from considering persons with disabilities as objects of charity and medical care towards considering them as holders of rights and active agents of development.
The Convention goes beyond other human rights treaties in identifying the rights of persons with disabilities and delineating the obligations of States parties to CRPD to promote and protect those rights. The obligations include fighting discrimination against persons with disabilities and enabling their access to social services, justice and opportunities on an equal footing with other individuals.
The Optional Protocol is aimed at strengthening the implementation and monitoring of CRPD. Once the Optional Protocol is ratified by a country, individuals from that country are allowed to bring complaints to the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities if they believe their rights have been violated. It also permits the Committee to undertake inquiries in the event of grave or systematic violations of CRPD.
The Committee reviews periodic reports submitted by States on the progress they have made to implement CRPD. The Conference of States Parties to CRPD was established to examine matters related to the implementation of the Convention, to debate and adopt amendments to it and to elect the members of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. More information on the Convention and its Optional Protocol is available at http://www.un.org/disabilities/default.asp?navid=24&pid=151#iq4.
Box 4. Practices promoting the inclusion of persons with disabilities in Jordan and Lebanon
Jordan has demonstrated high political buy-in to support persons with disabilities and shift from a welfare approach to a rights-based approach. The National Disability Strategy explicitly strives to achieve greater social inclusion of persons with physical disabilities by promoting their rights and enhancing the availability and accessibility of social services.
Lebanon is often cited as a model for participatory decision-making in the field of disability. Lebanon formed the National Committee for the Disabled, and members of the Committee are directly elected and represent associations of persons with disabilities and persons with disabilities themselves. The Rights and Access programme, which was created in 1994, helped to shift the approach to disability from care to rights. The Disability Card allows direct targeting of the needs of persons with disabilities and facilitates their access to services provided by public and private organizations.
The majority of countries have implemented specific measures to provide free health-care services, to support rehabilitation programmes and encourage small income-generation activities. They also introduced tax exemption measures aimed at increasing accessibility to transport and assistive technologies. It is also noteworthy that 13 out of 17 ESCWA member countries have established 1 to 7 per cent quotas for employing persons with disabilities. Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, the Sudan and the Syrian Arab Republic have established inter-agency bodies and councils in charge of implementing and monitoring the Convention. The establishment of such councils is expected to synchronize the efforts of different institutions working in the field of disability and improve the quality and accessibility of services.
 ESCWA member countries with employment quotas: Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the Syrian Arab Republic, the Sudan, Tunisia and Yemen. To note: Libya, Oman and the United Arab Emirates have legislation requiring a proportion of jobs to be allocated for persons with disabilities, although a specific quota is not defined in their legislation. Iraq is currently reviewing its disability-related legislation, including employment quotas for persons with disabilities.