This week, 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 and to help ensure their inclusion in public policy and society and the fulfilment of their rights.
Today on World Mental Health Day, the Commonwealth Secretariat urges all member countries to ensure that persons with disabilities and persons with mental health conditions are both agents and beneficiaries of development as their full and meaningful participation is essential for achieving a prosperous and just society and meeting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
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 fulfil this commitment.
Speaking on her arrival in Antigua and Barbuda, Shavana Haythornthwaite, Head of the Commonwealth Secretariat’s Human Rights Unit, said:
“Disability is a cross-cutting issue that requires long-term, comprehensive approaches. 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 programme 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.”
The Commonwealth is a voluntary association of 56 independent and equal sovereign states. Our combined population is 2.5 billion, of which more than 60 per cent is aged 29 or under.
The Commonwealth spans the globe and includes both advanced economies and developing countries. Thirty-two of our members are small states, many of which are island nations.
The Commonwealth Secretariat supports member countries to build democratic and inclusive institutions, strengthen governance and promote justice and human rights. Our work helps to grow economies and boost trade, deliver national resilience, empower young people, and address threats such as climate change, debt and inequality.
Member countries are supported by a network of more than 80 intergovernmental, civil society, cultural and professional organisations.
The Commonwealth admitted Gabon and Togo as its 55th and 56th members respectively at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Kigali, Rwanda in June 2022. Prior to this, Rwanda was the last country to join in 2009.