This morning, I was pleased to read a press release confirming that the Maltese cabinet had approved the ratification of the UN Convention Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). As explained in this press release issued by the National Commission Persons with Disability (KNPD).
The ratification doesn’t mean that we should pat ourselves on the back (if we can) but does augur well for all Maltese disabled people and all those who acquire an impairment during their life or because of old age. In this sense, while this IS a moment to celebrate this occasion, we must work together as disabled and non-disabled people to ensure that all of us have equal access to the same human rights.
For, at the end of the day, the UNCRPD isn’t as some may interpret it, a ‘Convention for Disabled People’ that entitles us to any privileges or ‘special rights’. Rather it provides our governments and all of us with a set of guidelines that ensure we actually have equal access to the same human rights which every human being should be entitled to. Rights, I believe, have been denied us out of inconsideration, exclusion or outright prejudice.
It’s certainly positive that, as Maltese citizens, we can - once the UN approves Malta’s ratification - we can lay claims to human rights as any other person without the risk of being marginalised or denied the right to make our voices heard. However, I appeal to every disabled Maltese citizen and to our allies across our society to be ready to help in implementing these rights in time. This should never be a dialogue based and ‘we’ and ‘them’ but rather a dialogue based on an understanding that ‘we’ are all together in this journey in securing our own futures and that of future generations.
My appeal is thus to everyone in our society to join in the spirit of human rights as these affect all of us - irrespective of any differences we might have amongst ourselves.
I also appeal to all disabled people and allies NOT to take the rights affirmed in the UNCRPD for granted or to abuse them or, worse still, abusing them to make unreasonable demands or make claims to benefits or services that are unjustified and which go against the principles set out in the UN Convention Rights with Disabilities (UNCRPD)).
Yes, in some countries, our human rights have been forgotten for far too long. Yet, we must keep in mind that rights come with a degree of responsibility. Thus, we should never use the tools provided us by the UNCRPD capriciously as that would be an insult to all the disabled people and our organisations, to our allies and all the stakeholders, who made this groundbreaking Convention possible in the first place!
It is also true that Malta's ratification of the UNCRPD -binds the government to honour the UNCRPD and we should hold it accountable for its implementation and progressive realisation. On the other hand, as disabled people, or allies to disabled people, we should not expect the government to do all the work while we stay passive observers who only intervening when we]re personally affected by some form of discrimination or are subject to unequal treatment. Indeed, we should take ownership of this Convention and appreciate the fact that apart from affirming our individual human rights, it is also emphasising that we should seek unity in our struggle in being accepted as equals irrespective of any differences we may have which, in truth, should be celebratedd as part of our human diversity and universal heritage!