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Growing pains – disability rights

Two weeks ago, a new report on Human Rights in New Zealand was released. There is a substantial chapter in the report on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, pages 107 to 135. Worth a look if you can find time.

The report highlights that the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has had positive effects on the disability community. The Convention had led to people having higher aspirations and improved the relationship between disabled people’s organisations and the government.

The report also notes, however that the implementation of the Convention is a bit more mixed. In some areas there has not been much sign of progress and in other cases, such as access and paid family carers, we seem to be going backwards.

There may be a need to develop better ways to push for Human Rights. Here are some suggestions to become a better advocate of Human Rights.

Know how to explain the story behind Human Rights
People need to be aware of and be able to explain where rights come from. Human Rights do not have universal support and some people are critical of rights, especially around equality. You cannot just expect everyone to be on board with Human Rights, you need to actually be able to convince people that rights are important.

Human Rights are strong ethical arguments that have won the backing of the international community. They are about what it takes to ensure a fair go for all. The story of rights has a dual history, they are not just about fairness, justice and doing the right thing. Rights are also about what it takes to build a stable, unified and peaceful society. Groups and individuals need to feel they have a stake in society and the government. Understanding and using these arguments may help you win people over.

Get inside the heads of people making decisions
There is a lot going on in the heads of officials and politicians, the people who make the decisions. They are often afraid of blowing budgets and also spend a lot of time worrying about what the wider public and the media will think.

Paul Gibson in the report talks about overcoming this resistance to change by exposing officials and politicians to new ideas about what is possible. There may also be a need to overcome fears around funding, possibly through good data, which leads me on to the next point.

Have good data and evidence
A lack of data is an on-going problem and the report identifies it as a key issue. Data is no substitute for the real life stories and experiences of disabled people and their families, but it is very important if you want changes. Otherwise, you are likely to hit barriers, where you think changes need to happen and the government thinks there is no real issue or the issue is to small to worry about. Good data linked to specific rights may be able to break through these stalemates. We have access to some data, but not enough.

I would love to talk more about these ideas, but will keep this post short. We can explore these ideas more in the future anyway.

Sam Murray
National Policy Coordinator

One Response to “Growing pains – disability rights”

  1. […] take a good look. Before I descend into the depths of numbers, I want to be clear about something. Despite what I said last week, there are often more important things in advocacy than data and […]

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