Quote of the moment

"I have to tell it again and again: I have no doctrine. I only point out something. I point out reality, I point out something in reality which has not or too little been seen. I take him who listens to me at his hand and lead him to the window. I push open the window and point outside. I have no doctrine, I carry on a dialogue." Martin Buber

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Judith Heumann to Join U.S. State Department in Fulfillment of Obama-Clinton Pledge

Judith Heumann, an international leader in the disability rights movement and a governmental representative to the USICD Board of Directors, will be joining the U.S. Department of State as their Special Advisor for International Disability Rights. This position was announced last summer,
when President Obama and Secretary Clinton declared that the United States would sign the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Heumann resigned her position as Director of the Department on Disability Services for the District of Columbia, and will assume her new position at the Department of State on June 7, 2010.

“This is a significant step forward to the U.S. government’s capacity to include disability in our foreign policy.  The knowledge Judy will bring to the State Department will be invaluable to international development programs, U.S. ratification of the CRPD, and our country’s approach to international engagement,” says USICD President Marca Bristo.  “As longtime colleagues and friends of Judy, the USICD Board of Directors is elated with her appointment and we wish her all the best in her new role.”

Previously, Heumann was the Advisor on Disability and Development for the World Bank from 2002 - 2006, and served as President Clinton's Assistant Secretary for the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services from 1993 -2001. She was a cofounder of the World Institute on Disability in Oakland, California, and served there from 1982 -1993. She was also a cofounder of the Berkeley Center for Independent Living, serving as their Deputy Director from 1975 - 1981.

In March 2010, prior to her appointment to the State Department, the Minnesota-based nonprofit Courage Center announced that they will grant Heumann the 2010 Medtronic National Courage Award this September. Heumann was selected for the 2010 award in acknowledgment of her lifelong advocacy on behalf of children and adults with disabilities. Heumann was the first recipient of the Henry B. Betts Award in 1990.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Morning Curtain of Clouds Unveil Andes After the Rain

Thursday, May 20, 2010

What Would You Do?

 John Quiñones  of ABC's news program,  What Would You Do?  recently asked, "What would you do if you saw a customer berating a service clerk with an intellectual disability." The clip can be viewed here:

Living here in Chile, unfortunately,  we do not see many (any?) people meaningfully employed as in the USA.   Of course some may challenge that even in the USA individuals with disabilities still lack meaningful employment. I have joined a group of foundations in Santiago who are now seeking to improve conditions for individuals with disabilities- especially people with intellectual disabilities that they may be included in their community first in housing.  There is much work to accomplish in order to change perceptions of ability and access in South America and in particular Chile.

Perhaps the more critical question needs to be asked, "What would you do if you never saw a person with a disability employed?"

Monday, May 17, 2010

Forms of Discrimination that Restrict Women’s Full Exercise of their Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights

While this questionnaire focuses on women's rights- I encourage women with disabilities to add their voices:

As take from: http://www.cidh.oas.org/women/Cuestionario.Mayo.2010eng.htm

Forms of Discrimination that Restrict Women’s Full Exercise of their Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights
This questionnaire has been prepared as part of the work plan of the Rapporteurship on Women’s Rights (“Women’s Rapporteurship” or “Rapporteurship”) of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (“IACHR” or “Commission”), with a view to gathering information on the main advances and challenged faced by women in different countries with respect to the exercise of their economic, social, and cultural rights, particularly with regards to employment; education; and access to, and control over resources, among other areas of the economic, social and cultural rights of women. The information gathered will be analyzed in a report containing specific recommendations for the member states of the Organization of American States, aimed at enhancing and strengthening the legislation, policies, and practices to address the problem of discrimination and to guarantee that the economic, social, and cultural rights of women are duly respected and protected.
The binding principles of equality and non discrimination are core principles of the inter-American human rights system and its instruments, such as the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, the American Convention on Human Rights, and the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of Violence against Women (“Convention of Belém do Pará”). Consequently, the States have obliged to guarantee the exercise of women’s human rights under equal conditions and free of all forms of discrimination. The Protocol of San Salvador likewise contains a long list of human rights, including the right to work, labor union and social security rights, the right to health, the right to food, the right to education, among others. Article 3 of the Protocol of San Salvador establishes the obligation of the State parties to guarantee the exercise of these rights without discrimination of any kind.
In the past, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has addressed discrimination against women in the exercise and enjoyment of their civil and political rights through individual petitions and reports on these issues.  However, it is impossible to address civil and political rights without also addressing economic, social, and cultural rights, given the interdependence and integral nature of those rights.  With that in mind, the Inter-American Commission has been focusing on other forms of discrimination that go beyond the sphere of civil and political rights and touch on economic, social, and cultural rights. An example of that new focus can be seen in Access to Justice as a Guarantee of Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights. A Study of the Standards Adopted by the Inter-American Human Rights System, prepared by the IACHR as a contribution to guarantee economic, social, and cultural rights in the region. Recently, the IACHR also published a document entitled Guidelines for Preparing Progress Indicators in the area of Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights. 
Although significant progress has been made in the region, particularly with regards to formal equality between men and women, States still need to promote new and diversified actions to promote equality and equity, particularly with respect to economic, social, and cultural rights. In the course of its work in the inter-American human rights system, the IACHR, through its Rapporteurship on Women’s Rights, has noted with concern how discrimination against women is manifested to a particularly glaring extent in the structural inequities between men and women in the economic, educational, labor, health, justice, and decision-making spheres.
To gain more insight into what is happening, the Rapporteurship will conduct a diagnostic assessment of the obstacles that women still face throughout the Hemisphere in the effective protection of their economic, social, and cultural rights, without discrimination of any kind. The Rapporteurship is especially interested in generating standards, from a human rights perspective, that can guide State actions to overcome the hurdles that women still face to achieve the effective protection in the exercise of these rights without discrimination.  In that framework, the Rapporteurship will focus on (i) employment; (ii) education; and (iii) women’s access to resources, and their control over them, in equal conditions with men.
Replies to this questionnaire should be forwarded to the following address by June 10, 2010, at the latest:
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
Organization of American States
1889 F Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20006
Information requested:
This questionnaire seeks to elicit quantitative and qualitative information on the main advances and challenges faced by women with respect to the exercise of their economic, social, and cultural rights, particularly as regards employment; education; and access to, and control over, resources, in equal conditions with men, within the broader context of discrimination against women and from a human rights perspective. Thus, you are invited to submit reports and specific assessments of this area, graphs, and statistical and budgetary data, as well as other material. It is requested that the information includes insight into the situation at both the national and local, urban and rural levels. In federal countries, information is needed for all states and provinces. You are invited to submit information on the specific situation of women in groups that are particularly exposed to violence and discrimination, such as afro-descendent women, indigenous women, girls, elderly women, and others.

Forms of Discrimination that Restrict Women’s Full Exercise
of their Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
Section One: Employment
1)     Specify the principal provisions in the national and/or local legal framework, policies and programs that address equality of opportunity with respect to:
a.      Access to employment
b.      Equal pay
c.      Measures of protection in the access to social security.
2)     Specify the principal provisions in the national and/or local legal framework that protect women workers during pregnancy and breastfeeding and against sexual harassment and abuse at the workplace.
3)     Indicate whether labor statistics are compiled systematically at the national and/or local level. If they are, please provide statistics for the following:
a.      The labor situation in the country as a whole. Include data disaggregated by sex, age, race, ethnicity, and type of work performed.
b.      The situation of women in the social security system. The number of women enrolled in the system and their age of retirement compared to that of men.
c.      The level of unemployment, disaggregated by sex, age, race, and ethnicity.
d.      The situation of informal labor in the country, with data disaggregated down by sex, age, race, and ethnicity.
e.      Number of female domestic workers, including female immigrants.
4)     Please specify:
a.      Who are entitled under labor law to reproductive licenses (paternity or maternity leaves) and how are these rights exercised in practice.
b.      Legislative measures and/or programs provided by the State to take care of children whose parents are at work (e.g., establishment of child care or day nursery facilities).
c.      Legislative measures and/or programs provided by the State to take care of seniors.
5)     Laws, policies, and measures pursued by the State to facilitate and promote women’s access to the labor market. Include in your reply:
a.      The main challenges women face to enter and stay in the labor market.
b.      Specific measures designed to promote access to employment by low-income women, such as indigenous women and women of African descent.
c.      Existing mechanisms to address the labor needs and protection of migrant women.
d.      Regulations governing the treatment of domestic workers.
e.      In the answers to items (b), (c), and (d), indicate which monitoring systems are in place to verify compliance.
6)     Indicate what mechanisms are available under domestic law for women victims of discrimination in the labor sphere.
Section Two: Education
1)     Specify the principal provisions in the national legal framework that protect the right to education on fair and equal conditions. Include any laws that specifically protect the right to education of women and girls.
2)     Provide information on:
a.     The illiteracy rate, disaggregated by sex, age, race, ethnicity, and region (urban/rural).
b.     The number of pupils enrolled in public schools, by gender, in all leves of education (primary and secondary schools, high schools, colleges and universities).
c.      Evaluations of the quality of public education, by gender and region.
d.      Number of pregnant students in public schools.
3)     Access to free education:
a.      Indicate up to what grade/level free education is provided.
b.      Describe measures or policies pursued by the State to foster and guarantee women’s access to primary, secondary and higher education.
4)     Provide statistics on school drop out rates, disaggregated by sex, age, race, ethnicity, and region, and indicate what steps are taken to re-enroll girls and adolescents who drop out and/or abandon school.
5)     Text Box:  Identify the main – structural, economic, cultural, and social – challenges:

a.      for girls to attend school;
b.      to guarantee that girls complete their school studies;
c.      to address the issue of illiteracy among adult women;
d.      to protect pregnant students from all forms of discrimination.
6)     Describe what mechanisms are available under domestic law to denounce sexual harassment in schools and/or academic training institutions and other forms of discrimination against women.
7)     Indicate what mechanisms are available under domestic law for women victims of discrimination in the educational sphere.
Section Three: Access to, and control of, resources on equal conditions
1)     Indicate whether laws differentiate between the legal capacity of men and women, both inside and outside marriage, to enter into contracts, administer property, purchase land and/or housing, and gain access to credit.
a.      How do existing laws, policies, and practices guarantee equality between men and women regarding the various aspects of the right to adequate housing, the right to land, and the right to take out bank loans, mortgages, and other forms of financial credit?
b.      What programs and/or policies is the State pursuing to promote women’s ownership of homes and land, as well as their access to credit and technology? In your reply, specify any measures adopted with respect to the protection of women living in rural areas.
2)     Describe the legal provisions regarding the division of property in the event of divorce and inheritance taxes and say whether they protect men and women on equal terms.
3)     Provide statistics on housing and land, broken down by gender (forms of urban/rural property, households headed by women, homeless people, access to basic services, etc.)
4)     Identify the main – structural, social, and cultural – challenges impairing equal access by women to housing, land, credit, and technology.
5)     Identify the main – structural, social, and cultural – challenges impairing equal access by women to social programs.
6)     Indicate what mechanisms are available under domestic law for victims of discrimination in the area of access to, and control of, resources.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Fellowship position to work with USICD in Washington, DC for one year

The United States International Council on Disabilities (USICD), in partnership with Atlas Corps, has made available one fellowship position to work with USICD in Washington, DC for one year, beginning in September 2010. This is an exciting opportunity for a mid-career professional from another country, working in the nongovernmental sector, to spend a year working in Washington working and learning with our organization in areas such as advocacy, program development and nonprofit administration. Their experience will be further enriched by the professional development activities that occur throughout their placement, provided by Atlas Corps.

I have attached the candidate qualifications description we have developed with Atlas Corps. Please share this with any international networks with whom you participate. I am particularly enthused to have individuals with first-hand experience in disability in the applicant pool. Applications are now coming in; time is short, so please do not delay to encourage those people you know who may be interested to review the materials and consider applying. You can learn more about Atlas Corps here: http://www.atlascorps.org/ and in the information below; Atlas Corps manages the application process and is the point of contact for all applicants. Further information about USICD is available here:www.usicd.org.
Thank you,
David Morrissey
About Atlas Corps Fellowship
Atlas Corps coordinates the rigorous selection process as well as logistics including living stipend, visa, flight, health insurance, taxes, and end of service award. The Host organization pays a cost share that covers a percent of the expenses.
This is a unique opportunity to receive a talented, mid-career, citizen sector (nonprofit/NGO) leader from overseas who is recruited specifically for your organization. Host applications are accepted year round. The fellowship program runs a fall class from September to August and a spring class from March to February.
Host Benefits: 
• The Host organization receives a full-time, yearlong, international Fellow who is a leader in the nonprofit/NGO sector with 3-10 years of relevant experience. The average Atlas Corps Fellow is 28 years old, is fluent in English, and has a bachelor’s or master’s degree. (Volunteers going to Bogota are also fluent in Spanish.)
• Atlas Corps recruits at least two strong candidates for the Host organization based on a job description provided by the Host. The Host interviews candidates and selects their top choice from Atlas’ pool of vetted candidates.
• Atlas Corps provides Fellows with assistance in obtaining a visa, ten days advance orientation and training, health insurance, round trip international travel to host assignment, living stipend, and ongoing monthly training.
• The Host joins an international network of nonprofit organizations and rising nonprofit leaders who work together and share best practices.
Host Responsibilities: 
• Host agrees to pay Atlas Corps a cost share for the Fellow over the course of the year, beginning 30-45 days prior to fellow’s start date.. Payments are made quarterly. Host is not responsible for taxes, health insurance, visa, or additional compensation.
• Host interviews candidates and selects their top choice. The Fall Fellows start at Host organization in early September and Spring Fellows start in March.
• Host agrees to provide a workstation (desk, phone, computer).
• Host agrees to provide meaningful work opportunities for the Fellow and will develop a Fellow work plan during the recruitment process.
• Host agrees to embrace the two-way notion of the Atlas Corps program that values the contributions of rising nonprofit leaders from the global south.
Open Position: Atlas Corps Fellow
Job SummaryThe United States International Council on Disabilities (USICD) is looking for an Atlas Corps Fellow to serve in the Washington, DC area. 
USICD’s mission is to catalyze and help focus the energy, expertise and resources of the US disability community and the US government to optimize their impact on improving the lives and circumstances of people with disabilities worldwide, and to be an active member of the global disability rights movement. The selected fellow will join a groundbreaking organization supporting the rights of people with disabilities in the US and abroad.
As a member of a small team and working under the direction of the Executive Director, the Atlas Corps Fellow will have a working and learning experience with USICD. The Fellow will provide integral support to the administrative and programmatic functions of the organization, to include:
• Assisting the Executive Director with various administrative tasks related to operating a U.S.-based nonprofit organization
• Assisting the program management staff in implementing various USICD initiatives in the areas of CRPD education and global disability rights information dissemination
• Supporting the Board of Directors’ activities through communications and logistic planning
• Respond to the inquiries of USICD members and constituents for information and disseminating announcements via electronic and print mailings
• Uploading content to the USICD website
• And developing their own portfolio of projects, presentations, and global network building unique to their role as an Atlas Corps Fellow with USICD, under the guidance and advice of the Executive Director.
Qualifications Summary:
USICD seeks a dynamic, energetic individual who:
• Understands disability as a human rights issue, beyond the more traditional charity or medical models
• Has at least basic awareness of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities treaty -OR- the universal human rights framework in general
• Has some first-hand experience in the disability community, as a family member, advocate, or self-identified person with a disability
• Has developed skills speaking, presenting/teaching, and writing in English
• Has strong computer and internet use skills; experience with web publishing or content management a plus
• Some experience in nonprofit or civil society/NGO administration
A commitment to the advancement of people with disabilities and knowledge of disability cultures in the United States and internationally are desirable. First-hand experience with disability preferred.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Un Techo Para Descapacidades- Or VA's New Housing Ideas

Having just completed 17 new emergency  homes otherwise known as  "mediaguas" for Un Techo Para Chile I'm thinking Virginia, my latest "home state" is now on a very similar path.

From the Washington Post:
Va. launching portable housing for aging relatives:
SALEM, VA. The Rev. Kenneth Dupin, who leads a small Methodist church here, has a vision: As America grows older, its aging adults could avoid a jarring move to the nursing home by living in small, specially equipped, temporary shelters close to relatives.

So he invented the MEDcottage, a portable high-tech dwelling that could be trucked to a family's back yard and used to shelter a loved one in need of special care.

Skeptics, however, have a different name for Dupin's product: the granny pod.
Protective of zoning laws, some local officials warn that Dupin's dwellings -- which have been authorized by Virginia's state government -- will spring up in subdivisions all over the state, creating not-in-my-back-yard tensions with neighbors and perhaps being misused.

See rest of story: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/story/2010/05/05/ST2010050505681.html

The concern some have here regarding the Techos program is just how "temporary" are the structures? As you look at the hills in the zones of poverty here in Chile you can see the Techo with a new coat of paint and signs that the green wood structure are in fact a permanent structure with no intent of being replaced. Chile news outlets have shown these boxy one room buildings converted in to "home sweet home" with cords weaving out of windows to generators so refrigerators may be plugged in  and propane gas stoves used for cooking. Some have had the benefit of insulation added to ward off the coming chill of winter.

Temporary... no I don't think so.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Human Rights: Time to Practice What We Preach

Friends and colleagues, please take a moment to visit the following link and send an email to the White House urging the President to issue Executive Order on Human Rights: 

To send your questions, comments, concerns regarding the Executive Order on Human Rights to the President or his staff, please CLICK HERE

If you are an organization submitting comments on behalf of your membership, please use our Organization Contact Form.


(Originally posted on Huffington Post.) 

By Jamil Dakwar, Director, ACLU Human Rights Program, and Cristina Finch, Managing Director of Government Relations, Amnesty International USA

In a recent speech to the American Society of International Law (ASIL) the legal advisor to the State Department, Harold Koh, stressed the "most important difference" between the Obama and the Bush administrations is their "approach and attitude toward international law." Koh said this difference is illustrated by an emerging "Obama-Clinton Doctrine," based on a commitment to four main principles: "principled engagement; diplomacy as a critical element of smart power; strategic multilateralism; and the notion that living our values makes us stronger and safer, by following rules of domestic and international law; and following universal standards, not double standards."

The commitments to "principled engagement" and "living our values" are especially vital to advancing human rights. For years, U.S. leadership on the world stage has suffered because the U.S. seems to hold a double standard on human rights. Historically, notions of U.S. exceptionalism and selectively ignoring injustices and human rights violations at home and abroad have bred mistrust of U.S. leadership based on our incomplete commitment to universal human rights. The Obama administration, however, has committed to leading by example. According to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, this means "holding everyone to the same standard, including ourselves."

In many areas, the administration's actions have matched its rhetoric. Joining the United Nations Human Rights Council and signing the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities have both sent the right message that President Obama is prepared to engage with the international community on new and more principled terms than previous administrations. The appointment of many officials who are self-defined human rights champions with careers both inside and outside the government promoting civil and human rights evinces a commitment to "a vision of common humanity, universal rights and rule of law." Moreover, the willingness of this administration to work with members of civil society to align our human rights rhetoric with our human rights practices demonstrates a commitment to lead by example based on both "principled engagement" and "living our values."
These efforts, however, are not enough. What we have yet to see are new bold steps that prioritize human rights at home. This administration has not adopted domestic policies designed to translate its rhetoric and commitments into reality. And although the administration has made positive statements about the indivisibility of rights and the importance of recognition of economic, social and cultural rights, there has been no concrete action to fully incorporate those principles into domestic policies. "Principled engagement" and "living our values" require nothing short of a complete reversal of the positions, policies and practices from which this administration has assiduously worked to distance itself. This is the type of change an Obama presidency promised. This is the hope on which many relied when casting their votes in the 2008 election.
The Human Rights at Home Campaign was launched shortly after that historic election. A coalition of more than 50 human rights, civil rights and social justice organizations, the campaign is working to strengthen our country's commitment to human rights at home and abroad. Its goal is to create a national political culture that supports and advocates for human rights. Essential to achieving that goal is establishing a human rights infrastructure to fulfill human rights promises and legal commitments made by both Democratic and Republican administrations and congressional leaders. To this end, the campaign has endorsed four specific objectives:
  • revitalizing an Interagency Working Group on Human Rights to coordinate the efforts of the executive departments and agencies both to promote and respect human rights and to implement human rights obligations in U.S. domestic policy;
  • transforming the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights into a U.S. Commission on Civil and Human Rights, to expand its mandate to include not only civil and human rights issues, but also monitoring human rights implementation and enforcement efforts, and to make structural reforms to improve the commission's ability to function as an independent national human rights institution;
  • ensuring meaningful government compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which the U.S. ratified in 1994; and
  • strengthening federal, state, and local government coordination in support of human rights.
As a first step, the campaign has been calling on the administration to issue an executive order reconstituting the Interagency Working Group on Human Rights (IAWGHR). Initially established by President Clinton, this working group coordinated efforts within the executive branch to monitor, implement and enforce ratified human rights treaties. The Bush administration disbanded the working group, replacing it with a weaker interagency policy committee on human rights which mainly coordinated the submission of U.S. periodic reports to human rights treaty bodies. A reconstituted IAWGHR is one of the cornerstones of an effective human rights infrastructure, and a new executive order is absolutely imperative to putting this cornerstone in place.
Issuing a new executive order will increase the effectiveness and coordination of the efforts of the executive branch to meet our domestic human rights obligations by creating, in one standing body, an identifiable focal point for the administration's human rights activities and policy work. An executive order that creates a mechanism that ensures organized interagency coordination will better enable the United States to meet its articulated commitments to "principled engagement" and "living our values." In addition, this type of mechanism would establish a specific structure with a systematic and transparent process for handling human rights and would enhance federal, state and local coordination in support of human rights.
In addition to being a major symbolic achievement, issuance of an executive order sets forth a definitive plan, displays assertive action and lays the groundwork for the demand that other nations follow our lead.
Take action and join the Human Rights at Home Campaign, the ACLU and Amnesty International US in calling for a new and comprehensive executive order on human rights.

(Originally posted on Huffington Post.) 

Also posted to ACLU

By Jamil Dakwar, Director, ACLU Human Rights Program, and Cristina Finch, Managing Director of Government Relations, Amnesty International USA