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The African Disability Protocol: a call to leave no one behind

Grace Antwi-Atsu, August 2021

The African Disability Protocol is the legal framework based on which member states of the African Union are expected to formulate disability laws and policies to promote disability rights in their countries.

The African Disability Protocol ensures that no one is truly left behind. It is unique to the continent and takes African practices and concerns into consideration so that the lives of people with disabilities improve. It tackles the ingrained issues of disability discrimination so that everyone can access health, education and employment without stigma.

The protocol addresses and encompasses specific issues such as customs, traditional beliefs, harmful practices and the role of the family, caregivers and community. It also deals with community-based rehabilitation and minority groups within the African disability community, including people with albinism. Although the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) is the first comprehensive human rights treaty of this century, it does not address the unique challenges like the African Disability Protocol does.

The protocol takes into account the general comments and observations of the UNCRPD. It builds on the rights enshrined in the UNCRPD and Universal Declaration of Human Rights but uses a rights-based approach, but is more detailed and illustrative in representing the uniqueness of the African context.

The protocol was adopted in 2018 as the Disability Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (Banjul Charter). It will come into effect only after it is signed and ratified (made legally binding) by 15 member states of the African Union. Through our Equal World campaign, Sightsavers is working with partners in Ghana, Malawi, Nigeria, Kenya, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe to campaign for the ratification of the protocol. This has so far included hosting a side event at the Conference of State Parties to the UNCRPD (held in June 2021) to communicate the importance of the African Disability Protocol. Our country offices have also been holding side events, one of which is available to watch below.

A young boy smiles and waves at the camera.
© Sightsavers/Rodrig Mbok

How can we ensure that the African Disability Protocol is ratified?

It is vital that advocacy work continues to ensure the ratification of the protocol. As of May 2021, the protocol had 10 signatures and only one ratification with several states at various stages in their ratification efforts. It is critical that stakeholders and advocates call on all African Union states to ensure their ratification and implement the protocol. COVID-19 has greatly affected people with disabilities across the continent so now, more than ever, is the time to advocate for governments to ratify the protocol. We must all join together and work towards the ratification so that the lives of millions of people with disabilities can be improved.

If you would like to find out more about the African Disability Protocol or get involved with its ratification in your country, contact Grace Antwi-Atsu, global advocacy adviser at Sightsavers at [email protected].

The African Disability Protocol will only come into effect only after it is ratified by 15 member states of the African Union.

Author


Grace Antwi-Atsu is a global advocacy adviser for Sightsavers, based in Ghana.

 

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