The discussion of the growing and disadvantaged disabled population triggered a divide in a council dedicated to human rights.
As discrimination against disabled people becomes more and more prominent, the Human Rights Council, made of representatives from across the globe, debated how to approach the issue. While some delegations discussed ways of providing governmental and infrastructural support for affected individuals through awareness campaigns, some delegations proposed drastic measures to distance disabled individuals from society.
To deal with the issue, Japan, Portugal, and Iran discussed granting rights and creating support programs based on the nature and severity of an individual’s disability, which could only be done if the committee reaches a mutual understanding of what it means to be disabled. Thus, the United Arab Emirates and Argentina directed the committee to focus on choosing a definition for the term “disability,” so that the procedures to protect the rights of people with disabilities could be upheld uniformly across the world. Panama proposed terminology that included identifying “mental, physical, developmental levels” that would indicate if an individual was “fully participating in the full standards of life”. However, the committee did not establish a concrete definition of the term “disability”, although it was continuously brought up.
The delegations from Panama, India, Norway, Nigeria, Germany, and the United Kingdom collaborated to draft a working paper. These representatives focused on creating programs that would reduce discrimination and make more citizens aware of disabilities. Additionally, representatives suggested developing programs that focus on education, occupations, and social skills..
The delegation of Panama acknowledged that in Panama, progress needed to be made to increase accessibility for disabled individuals. Still, they emphasized that the priority of their government is to end discrimination through awareness campaigns instead of working on physical accessibility first. The nation advocated for the committee to take a similar approach to help increase the rights of people with disabilities.
Other delegations in the committee decided that enforcement rather than awareness was the best approach. Guatemala pointed out that while media campaigns may be useful in developed nations, they may not be the best action for this committee, since many citizens in third world countries do not have access to social media and other means of communication.
Honduras agreed that enforcing support should be the primary concern of the committee and suggested focusing on creating access to public facilities and establishing educational, occupational, and social programs for rehabilitation of disabled individuals. Thailand and Myanmar took this one step further by establishing an achievable goal of “integrating the disabled into the workforce [over a] 1-2 year period” in an effort to increase their functionality as members of society.
On the other hand, opposition delegations including Russia, Bolivia, North Korea, China and Venezuela had a more offensive and direct approach to the issue with Luke Arkins, the Delegate for Venezuela stating: “we want no infrastructure and if possible we would like to sterilise or euthanise any disabled persons … their presence is sort of a blight to our beautiful country”.
These delegations believed that by removing disabled people and the burden they represent from a society, a stronger and more efficient political, social, and economical nation can be fostered. They argued that disabled people posed no benefit to society and had the common agenda of giving disable people “no more rights than already existent”, according to the delegate of North Korea.
It seems that while both blocs of the Council agreed that disability is a growing and concerning issue, they have yet to come to a conclusion as to the most humanitarian way to create a solution. The controversial words of the delegate from North Korea sparked a conflict between the blocs, truly showing the divided nature of the council: “a world without disability is a better world”.