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South Sudan signs for disability rights

Two South Sudanese pupils smile as they pose for a photo outside their school. South Sudan signing the UNCRPD was one of the positive news stories of 2023.
Akoi (right), a student with severe arthritis, wants to become a lawyer to fight for the rights of people with disabilities in South Sudan. © Light for the World
  • Disability Rights

South Sudan has finally signed the UN disability rights convention – a big win for people with disabilities in the country.

On 24 February 2023, South Sudan took a historic step forward for disability inclusion by signing the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). This means that the government will now have a legal duty to respect, protect and fulfil the rights of people with disabilities in South Sudan.

How does the CRPD promote disability inclusion?

The CRPD is the main international law that promotes the human rights of people with disabilities. Adopted by the UN in December 2006, it was written in collaboration with civil society organisations, national human rights institutions, and inter-governmental organisations. Crucially, people with disabilities had a leading voice in shaping the CRPD.

Article 3 of the CRPD covers the General Principles, that is, the principles that apply to all the rights of people with disabilities. These include:

  • respect for inherent dignity, non-discrimination,
  • full and effective participation and inclusion in society,
  • and respect for difference and acceptance of people with disabilities as part of human diversity and humanity.

The CRPD also urges governments to make sure that people with disabilities are consulted and have an active role in developing laws and policies that concern their rights.

We remind all the stakeholders that they have a responsibility towards persons with disabilities and that we need to work together so that persons with disabilities are not always hidden in the community, but rather they appear, and they are represented in the forefront of the society.

Mawut Lewis, Chairperson for the South Sudan Association of the Visually Impaired

In the development and implementation of legislation and policies… and in other decision-making processes concerning issues relating to persons with disabilities, States Parties shall closely consult with and actively involve persons with disabilities, including children with disabilities, through their representative organizations.

CRPD Article 4 (3)

Years of lobbying

The road to signing the CRPD in South Sudan has not been easy, with many challenges along the way, not least the outbreak of conflict.

We have been working in South Sudan since 2007 to promote inclusive education, economic empowerment, and humanitarian action. During that time and beyond, we have persistently encouraged the South Sudanese government to ratify and sign the CRPD. We did this by advocating for, and raising awareness of, the rights of people with disabilities.

In 2015, the CRPD taskforce was created, headed by South Sudan Union of Persons with Disabilities (SSUPD). Light for the World has been involved in the task force, which also included members from the government, as well as developmental and humanitarian partners: ACROSS, African Disability Forum-South Sudan, Christian Blind Mission, Dorcas, and Humanity & Inclusion.

We worked alongside these organizations, plus the International Organization for Migration and the International Committee of the Red Cross, to develop an action plan. This plan became the roadmap for South Sudan to sign up to the CRPD in February 2023.

Natali Dominic Hussein, 47, is a member of an OPD of South Sudan. He is a participant of the Light for the World Pride project, and through his OPD has advocated for the government to include people with disabilities as part of society. © Light for the World. 

Next step: effective inclusion

Now that the CRPD has been signed, the next important step is to make sure that it is enforced. By signing up to the CRPD, the government of South Sudan has agreed to enact laws that promote the rights enshrined within it and abolish discrimination.

The CRPD also means that South Sudan can be held accountable for not upholding these rights, which now must be monitored. The government must establish, strengthen, and maintain a national framework, to promote, protect, and monitor adherence to the CRDP. It is very important that the monitoring body is independent to ensure impartiality and transparency – for example, national human rights institutions or courts – with civil society fully involved in this process.

The expected next step for the country will be in developing a national action plan for implementation of the CRPD, by the government. Light for the World, together with our partners, and South Sudan Union of Persons with Disabilities, are ready to collaborate with the government on the development of this plan.

Sophia Mohammed, Country Director of Light for the World South Sudan Office

An effective long-term strategy will ensure that people with disabilities are actively included in the decision-making processes and development of national policy.

At Light for the World, we are committed to using this opportunity to advance the rights of people with disabilities in South Sudan. We call on advocates, duty bearers, and rights holders of the CRPD to join us and each play their respective roles in safeguarding, protecting, and promoting the rights of people with disabilities in South Sudan.

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