“At the time of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Eleanor Roosevelt famously asked: ‘Where do human rights begin?’ and answered ‘In small places, close to home’. This is as true in the area of human rights and disability as with any other area of human rights.”

Louise Arbour, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, on the day of the signing of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol, 30 March 2007


The implementation gap – the gulf between human rights rhetoric spoken for example at a UN meeting in Geneva and the experience of a woman strapped to her bed in a psychiatric hospital in the Czech Republic – is one of the most striking failures of international human rights system. Much of MDAC’s work aims to hold governments account for respecting, protecting and fulfilling human rights, by building the capacity of civil society organisations, and by supporting cases before local courts. In other words, as an international organisation we play our small part in bringing human rights home.

At the same time, human rights are universal. The form and style of exclusion, invisibility and poverty vary according to context, but they are challenges throughout the world for people with disabilities. Innovations and solutions to human rights violations can also transcend borders. At MDAC we take our lead from international law, and always recommend to States that solutions to social exclusion of people with disabilities be grounded in international human rights law, theories of justice and notions of equality. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said in a letter from jail in 1963, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

MDAC works at global, regional and country levels. We are active in various discussions and initiatives and discussions at United Nations and often bring human rights violations to UN bodies. See UN advocacy for more information.

In addition, we are active in various coalitions of civil society organisations where we work together to advance our mission, seeking out the intersectionalities with other NGOs. For example, we have recently joined the campaign and in May 2011 jointly briefed the UN Committee against Torture.

We are also keen that international monitoring of human rights implementation improves. This includes being involved in UN treaty body reform, ensuring that the global monitoring body visits psychiatric and social care institution, and creating progressive jurisprudence by encouraging human rights mechanisms to synthesise their understanding of human rights, so as to more effectively hold States to account.

MDAC fights against localism and tribalism which are barriers to reform. Governments sometimes deploy notions of ‘culture’, ‘tradition’ to justify human rights abuses. It is only through elevating local issues as matters of concern to people in other countries that civil society can learn, discuss and take action.

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