On the International Day of Persons with Disabilities: Four Measures For Lebanon to Become a More Inclusive Country

Leaving no one behind in Lebanon - a country characterized by profound inequalities – has never been an easy journey. Yet today, despite the many challenges the country faces; there is room for hope. On October 17; a handful number of the Lebanese took to the streets and raised their voices for legal reforms and better living opportunities.

Among the different participating groups, people with disabilities rallied against all forms of injustice and claimed publicly for their rights.

As today marks the International Day of Persons with Disabilities and thirteen years since the establishment of the Convention for the Rights of People with Disabilities, we highlight some measures Lebanon could take to offer people with disabilities new avenues to exert their rights.

1.    Ratify the UN Convention for the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD)

While more than 180 countries ratified the CRPD, acknowledging the impact it has on the lives of individuals with disabilities, Lebanon is one of few countries in the world, and the only among Arab states, not to have ratified yet the Convention. As a result, people with disabilities face discrimination and marginalization everyday as they are denied access to basic rights.

“To date, many do not officially declare cases of disability in Lebanon. Apart from the judgement and stereotypes they face, they do not expect any response or support from the state. This is due to a long history of frustrations and negligence of authorities towards the rights and entitlements of the people with disabilities,” explains Sylvana Lakkis, head of the Lebanese Union for people with physical disabilities.  

The ratification by Lebanon of the CRPD would ensure human rights are applied equally to persons with disabilities and would clarify the relevant obligations and legal duties of the State to respect and ensure these rights.

2.   Revise the Law 220/2000 related to the rights of persons with disabilities in Lebanon

In the year 2000, Lebanon passed the law 220 on the rights of people with disabilities.

Apart from not being enforced, the law fosters “exclusive environments for people with disabilities,” as explained by Lakkis. “The law follows an outdated policy approach to the rights of people with disabilities,” she continues.

What is needed today is a law that ensures people with disabilities can enjoy their rights on a daily basis. For that purpose, the law could be based on a rights-based approach to disability and implemented through relevant policies and regulations. “New laws related to the rights of people with disabilities should focus on inclusion and ensure the provisions of the CRPD are implemented in Lebanon. The benefits of inclusion can be seen in how it helps fostering an environment of tolerance and diversity, thus impacting the community as a whole,” Continues Lakkis.

3.    Promote disability inclusive development and policies

Access to jobs, education, healthcare, transportation, public spaces, housing, social protection and social care are many of the demands being raised today in the streets. Access to such services and opportunities can be even more challenging to people with disabilities.

It is time Lebanon recognizes the importance of ensuring inclusive services for all, and to ensure no one is left behind.

“Today we see many violations happening against the rights of people with disabilities, one of which is denying them the right to access jobs. Many cases have been recorded on organizations either refusing to hire people with disabilities or granting those jobs which they are over qualified for. By the law 220, this is illegal. Yet again this law on so many accounts is not enforced nor respected,” says Lakkis.

Articles 73 & 74 of the Law 220 specifies that the public sector must ensure 3% of its workforce are people with disabilities. Yet this equation remains far from reality.

“In general public budget for people with disabilities is still minimal, and often granted to charity–based organizations rather than dedicated to ensure the inclusion of people with disabilities in ordinary settings,” continues Lakkis.

Today more than ever, Lebanon must recognize disability as a human rights issue, and acknowledge that society, not individuals, need to change to realize truly inclusive communities and guarantee people with disabilities can participate equally with others in any activity and service intended for the general public.

4.    Promote a culture of rights, empathy & tolerance

“What we really need today in Lebanon apart from regulatory legal frameworks for the rights of people with disabilities, is nurturing a culture of rights and tolerance in general,” explains Lakkis.

The responsibility of ensuring inclusive environments for all does not only fall on states it is the people’s responsibility too. We are all in this together and change starts by each and every one of us recognizing their role in making the lives of others easier or vice versa.

 “We need more empathy and less sympathy. People with disabilities are just like everyone, if given the right opportunities and support, they shall thrive,” continues Lakkis.

We can start by realizing: We are all born equal and our indifferences do not make us entitled to less or more rights. Lakkis through her activism is one of the many activists that try to promote this culture which is much needed today in Lebanon and everywhere around the world.

To know more about Disability-Inclusive Development please check UNDP’s website on: https://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/2030-agenda-for-sustainable-development/peace/governance/disability-inclusive-development.html

To know more about the CRPD:

https://www.un.org/development/desa/disabilities/convention-on-the-rights-of-persons-with-disabilities.html

 

 

 

 

People with disabilities march for access to human rights in Lebanon. Photos Credits: Lebanese Union for People with Physical Disabilities/Sylvana Lakkis/2019

Nawal Handam

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