The Commonwealth Secretariat’s Human Rights Unit (HRU) is in Antigua and Barbuda to assess the needs of persons with disabilities and mental health conditions.
Their visit is also aimed at ensuring the disabled and mentally ill are included in public policy and society and the fulfillment of their rights.
Monday is World Mental Health Day, and the Commonwealth Secretariat is urging all member countries to ensure that persons with disabilities and persons with mental health conditions are both agents and beneficiaries.
President of the Antigua and Barbuda Association of Persons Living with Disabilities Bernard Warner said human rights concerns in the country were also discussed.
“Another issue that was discussed is the mental health of persons with disabilities as a result of trauma in the workplace, in the community, in our homes, and how it impacts us. We talk about violence by police, the court system… ” Warner said
He said the issue surrounding education for children with disabilities was also discussed collectively between the two parties.
Warner said following the discussions a report will be formulated, one he said that would speak the truth about their concerns.
“One that will not be doctored or misrepresent our concerns. I hope to see that we can see not aggressive changes but a timeline to address issues facing people with disabilities in Antigua and Barbuda”, he explained
The government of Antigua and Barbuda ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2016 and this needs assessment is part of their effort to help fulfill this commitment.
Meanwhile Head of the Commonwealth Secretariat’s Human Rights Unit, said Shavana Haythornthwaite, said disability is a cross-cutting issue that requires long-term, comprehensive approaches.
She said Antigua and Barbuda has a longstanding commitment to protecting the rights of persons with disabilities.
The Human Rights Unit is pleased to be here, supporting the government in identifying further sustainable steps it can take to ensure that Antigua and Barbuda is an accessible and inclusive society for everyone.
This needs assessment will provide an important evidence base upon which we will develop, in collaboration with the government, a multi-year program to strengthen frameworks to protect the rights of persons with disabilities.”
Approximately 15% of people globally have a disability and an estimated 1 billion are living with mental health conditions. In the Caribbean, there are over a million persons living with some form of disability and the vulnerability of the region to climate disasters creates a disproportionate risk to this group.
According to a UN survey, across the globe, only 20% of persons with disabilities could evacuate immediately and without difficulty in the event of a sudden disaster.
The Human Rights Unit’s planned project in Antigua and Barbuda will support the inclusion of disabilities as a central concern in all emergency communications and that persons with disabilities are consulted and fully involved in the development and implementation of emergency response, disaster management, and disaster risk reduction policies.
Speaking about the importance of this project in Antigua and Barbuda, Shavana Haythornthwaite said:
“The rights of persons with disabilities continue to be a priority for the Commonwealth Secretariat and this mission will help the Human Rights Unit to support the government of Antigua and Barbuda to build on its current achievements and ensure that persons with disabilities enjoy all human rights and fundamental freedoms.”