Protecting the rights of children and the disabled

  • Date: 2017-12-26

I. Background

The United Nations (U.N.) exists in part to honor, protect and secure human rights and fundamental freedoms. Following the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)—known collectively as the “international bill of rights”—as well as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the U.N. passed both the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in 1989, to take effect in 1990, and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in 2006, to take effect in 2008. These two more recent treaties serve to further uphold and protect the rights of children and the disabled.

While not a member state of the U.N., Taiwan nevertheless upholds human rights as a universal value. Over the years, the government has honored the spirit of these two conventions by enacting a steady stream of laws and regulations to guarantee the rights of children and the disabled. To bring Taiwan’s laws in line with international norms, the government promulgated an act to implement the ICCPR and ICESCR in 2009, followed by a statute to implement the CEDAW in 2011. In 2014, both the Implementation Act of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Act to Implement the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities were enacted, giving the CRC and the CRPD the force of law, and announcing to the world Taiwan’s promise to protect the rights of children and the disabled.

II. Current status of Taiwan’s efforts to implement the CRC and CRPD

A. Initial national reports and reviews

In accordance with the CRC and CRPD, and associated implementation laws and regulations, state parties should deliver initial national reports on implementation within two years of the conventions taking effect. Governments are also obligated to assemble experts and civic groups to review the reports produced.

Following the path laid out by the international community, Taiwan has already issued its two initial reports, and the first meetings of the international review committees were convened at the end of 2017. The committees involved five international experts each, drawn from a pool of specialists, all with long histories of promoting and protecting the rights of children and the disabled, respectively, within the U.N. framework. Furthermore, the committees engaged in constructive dialogues with the government, civic groups and youth representatives to discuss and offer concrete suggestions on important issues concerning the rights of children and the disabled.

1. Taiwan’s initial national report under the CRPD was published on December 2, 2016, and the review committee met from October 30 to November 3, 2017.

The international review committee made 85 concluding observations, and committee members offered four proposals for the government, including within 12 months establishing a national human rights institute and defining the principle of reasonable accommodation. The committee affirmed the government’s many positive efforts, such as taking the initiative to convene the international review committee, promoting greater awareness of the need to protect the rights and interests of people with disabilities, providing physical accessibility in urban areas, and establishing standard operating procedures for the review of laws, regulations and administrative measures to implement the CRPD.

2. Taiwan’s initial national report under the CRC was published on November 17, 2016, and the international review committee met between November 20 and November 24, 2017.

Committee members affirmed Taiwan’s serious and sincere efforts to implement the CRC, thanked civil society organizations and children in attendance for their active participation, and adopted 97 concluding observations, including recommendations to establish an independent national human rights institution; review laws, regulations and policies and harmonize them with international rules and the best interests of the child; ensure education and training in children’s rights for all people working with children; emphasize measures to protect and support the rights and interests of children; pay special attention to children’s psychological and sexual health; guarantee the right of children to rest and leisure and to engage in play; and further improve the system of data collection and analysis.

B. Survey of existing laws and regulations

Vetting procedures for existing laws and regulations will be established for all levels of government, to include consultation with experts and the public. This survey—which will identify any laws, regulations or administrative measures in conflict with the CRC or CRPD—should be completed by 2019. Rules that do not comport with the two conventions will then be reassessed and improved through revision, repeal or new regulation where necessary.

III. Conclusion

Taiwan has taken upon itself to abide by the international standards established by the CRC and CRPD, together with the earlier ICCPR, ICESCR and CEDAW. In the future, the government will continue this work, with the protection of rights for children and the disabled as an administrative foundation. Guided by global human rights principles, Taiwan will ensure that all people enjoy the rights ushered in by the nation’s economic and social success.