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The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 13 December 2006 and as of 15/9/2017 has been signed by 160 countries. 19 out of 22 Arab countries have signed, ratified or acceded to the UN CRPD. Its purpose is to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities. It transforms the traditional perception of persons with disabilities from a charity-based to a rights-based approach, and seeks to end their marginalization and exclusion by eliminating the barriers they face in their participation as equal members of the society.
Ratification of the CRPD imposes an obligation on States to bring their national legal framework in compliance with the Convention. In other words, States Parties are required to take all appropriate legislative and administrative measures to implement the rights recognized in the Convention, and to modify and abolish all laws, regulations, customs and practices that constitute discrimination against persons with disabilities (Article 4).
Prior to the adoption of the Convention, the Arab Decade for Persons with Disabilities 2004-2013 was adopted by the League of Arab States on 23 May 2004, which called on Arab countries to undertake a series of actions aimed at addressing the needs and promoting the rights of persons with disabilities. Similar to the Convention, the Arab Decade required Arab States to develop legislation that guarantees the right of persons with disabilities to inclusion in society and equality with others.
National legislation is fundamental to ensure that persons with disabilities fully and effectively enjoy the rights guaranteed by the CRPD. This report is an exploratory study into the development of indicators for assessing the compliance of national legal frameworks in Arab countries with the CRPD requirements. It falls under larger ongoing efforts to support national and regional efforts aimed at monitoring the progress of countries’ implementation of the CRPD in their legislative and policy frameworks.
This study proposes a set of indicators that aim to measure the progress of national legal frameworks in Arab countries in complying with the standards required by the CRPD and applies these indicators to the legal frameworks of four selected Arab countries.
The objectives of the proposed indicators are to (1) explore the extent to which a country’s legal framework is aligned with the word and spirit of the CRPD; and (2) examine the extent to which States are committed to eliminate discrimination against persons with disabilities and promote their rights in their legal frameworks. It is important to note however that the indicator framework, proposed in this study, does not monitor how legal texts are implemented in practice and whether the rights guaranteed by the Convention are fully and effectively enjoyed by persons of disabilities. Given that many countries adopted disability-related legal texts prior to the ratification of the Convention, indicators will allow identifying the presence of legal clauses in the national legal frameworks that reflect the CRPD’s obligations and standards, thereby revealing legal gaps that fall short of compliance with the requirements of the Convention.
Studies aimed at developing qualitative indicators assessing compliance with the CRPD have so far been limited. The Academic Network of European Disability experts (ANED) has conducted research and developed a preliminary list of indicators in the European context. In addition, several other United Nations organizations are in the process of exploring the development of indicators to measure implementation and policy effects in relation to the CRPD. Given the relative scarcity of research in this topic, the present study aims to contribute to the policy debate with specific focus on legal frameworks as such.
Report’s context and methodology
The report develops a limited set of indicators in three policy areas that aim to measure the progress of national legal frameworks in Arab countries in complying with the standards required by the CRPD. The report applies these indicators to the legal frameworks of four selected Arab countries in three specific policy areas. These are: education, work and employment and accessibility. These sectors were selected given that they are some of the most fundamental sectors to ensure the full participation in society of persons with disabilities on equal basis with others.
Four countries were selected to analyse the implementation of the compliance indicators. These are: Lebanon, the Sudan, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates. The countries were selected to represent the different geographical Arab sub-regions and different levels of developments within the Arab region. Among each sub-region, these countries were selected due to the availability of their laws online.
Except for Lebanon, all of the selected countries have ratified the Convention. Lebanon was nonetheless selected given that it has expressed the intent to ratify the Convention and that its consolidated disability law is considered to be a leading example in the Arab region.
As the selected policy areas are concerned with the enjoyment of persons with disabilities of a specific human right, namely the right to education, the right to work and employment and accessibility, indicators were formulated after identifying the main attributes of each right based on the approach adopted by the Convention. The main attributes of each right were identified based on the normative content of the right as enshrined in relevant articles of the CRPD and as developed and interpreted by the (Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CmRPD) or other relevant human rights mechanisms. Each country has received a set of recommendations concerning disability issues, these recommendations constitute also sources measuring the national legal framework conformity.
Relevant guidelines, developed by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the International Labor Organization (ILO) served as a basis for the interpretation of these rights and for identifying their scope. Due to the limited scope of the report, indicators were limited to the main attributes of the selected rights.
Due to its limited scope, this study focused on constitutional and legal provisions related to the selected rights and did not address public policies and institutional frameworks related to their implementation. As such, the indicators were limited to aspects of the rights that would be expected to be included in a legal framework while other aspects that would be expected to be reflected in policy documents or in administrative instructions were disregarded.
The proposed indicators were developed to meet the SMART criteria. They are “specific” in that they measure compliance with a specific obligation of the CRPD in each of the selected areas and identified duty-bearers. They are “measurable” in that they aim to reveal the presence or absence of a specific legal provision in a country’s legal framework. They are “achievable” in that they focused on the CRPD requirements that can be expected to be found in a national legal framework. Indicators are also “relevant” in that they focused on measuring compliance with the main attributes of the right to education, employment and accessibility as defined in the CRPD. Finally, they are “time-bound” in that they measured the presence or absence of legal provisions in the national legal framework in force in the selected countries on 1/1/2014.
The sources for information on the legal framework of the selected countries came from the selected States’ legal records. Initial information on countries’ legal frameworks was collected by ESCWA through a questionnaire conducted in May to August 2013 on the implementation of the CRPD and the Arab Decade for Persons with Disabilities. The questionnaire was completed by governmental focal points in each of the selected countries: the Ministry of Social Affairs in Lebanon, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates and the National Council for Disabled Persons in the Ministry of Care and Social Security in the Sudan. Basic legal texts were provided by the government focal points; additional legal texts were also obtained from online official legal portals and government websites. In the context of Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates, additional information was also obtained from the governments’ initial reports to the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. When necessary, the translation of the titles and content of the legal instruments from Arabic to English was done by the authors for the purpose of applying the indicators and cannot be considered an official translation.
The study examined States’ constitutional instruments, general laws on anti-discrimination, disability-specific legislation and the legal texts regulating the selected sectors such as education laws, child laws, labor laws, civil servants law, construction laws, public transport laws, etc. Draft laws, national policies or strategies, and internal administrative regulations were only examined if provided by the government focal points or found published on official websites and portals. As they do not formally constitute part of the legal framework, they were not included in the analysis resulting from the application of the indicators to the legal frameworks. In some instances, the study refers to the content of some of these documents as an indication of the State’s intent to comply with the CRPD requirements.
Upon application of the indicators to the legal framework of the selected countries, a legal conformity value was assigned to each legal framework reflecting the extent of its conformity with the CRPD’s requirements. A value of 0 was assigned to a legal framework where the application of an indicator revealed it had not incorporated the relevant CRPD requirement; a value of 2 was assigned where the application of the indicators revealed that the framework is in conformity with the relevant CRPD requirement. A value of 1 was assigned to a legal framework in cases where an indicator showed there was partial conformity, such as the recognition of a right for all persons but not specifically for persons with disabilities, or the incorporation of a CRPD requirement that only covers the public or private sector. It is worth noting that Lebanon has conditioned several of the rights of persons with disabilities to those holding the disability card. For this study, this nuance will be disregarded, and the right will be considered to be recognized for persons with disabilities. This should however be taken into consideration in future studies as a sign of partial conformity with the CRPD. Furthermore, provisions that are found in policy documents or national strategies rather than legal and administrative regulations will be mentioned when available but will not be included in the assignment of the conformity value for the purpose of this study. Although such documents indicate the States’ intent to commit to the fulfilment of rights, they generally do not constitute legally binding documents.
The study starts by providing a general overview of the legal frameworks related to disability in the selected countries. The report then develops a set of qualitative indicators that allow measuring the conformity of national legal frameworks to the CRPD. It then continues to apply these indicators to the legal framework of the selected countries. The application of the indicators to the national legal frameworks is organized by sectors to clearly reveal the different approaches adopted by the countries in the sectors of education, employment and accessibility.
 United Nations General Assembly, 2006.
 League of Arab States, 2004.
 United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, 2010, p. 41
 Academic Network of European Disability Experts (2009)
 United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, 2012a, pp.30-31
 The legal texts of Tunisia were obtained by accessing the online database of the National University Center of Scientific and Technical Documentation; the Laws of the Sudan were obtained from the online database of the Sudanese Parliament; the Legal texts of Lebanon were obtained from the online database of the Beirut Bar Association, which requires authorization access. Legal texts of the United Arab Emirates were obtained from the websites of relevant ministries.
 United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, 2010.
 United Arab Emirates, undated.