The Equal Partners Foundation welcomes the news that Malta has deposited the instruments of ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities at the United Nations.

The ratification of this Convention required changes in some of our laws, which were a long time in coming, and in which change the Foundation participated in full.

The most significant piece of legislation passed in this regard was the Disability Matters Act, which was passed in March of this year. Notwithstanding these changes there are still several areas of the law which have been identified as requiring substantial amendments, most crucially in the areas of guardianship and also voting rights and procedures.

It is understood that due to the nature of voting in Malta, reservations were expressed by the Government to the Convention in the deposited instruments on issues such as assisted voting. This is a great pity, and thus due to the continued local duopoly, many disabled persons, especially those requiring assistance to vote, will continue to be effectively disenfranchised.

We trust that with Malta eventually ratifying the Convention, this participation itself will bring pressure on the local electoral process to reform itself and become more accessible.

In fact adhesion to the Convention can bring a higher degree of emphasis on the attainment of rights for the persons with disabilities. This should draw us further away from the ‘charity’ model and more into one where respect and equity is the basis for all citizens, no matter what their abilities are. We look forward to using the Convention more as the objective by which the rights of persons with disability are measured, and this should remove the mindset that such rights are concessions wrung from a benevolent administration.

The meaning that states give to the implementation of the Convention varies according to the democratic development of that country, and it is hard to see how a number of states with poor human rights records can have ratified the Convention. None the less, the participation of Malta and most of the EU bloc in the process should enhance the credentials of the Convention, hopefully engendering further change.

Closer to home, we trust that the monitor role entrusted by law to the KNPD (National Commission Persons with Disability) of Malta’s adherence to the Convention will give it more autonomy and authority, and we pledge that the Equal Partners Foundation will continue to be a very active participant in the enactment of the UN Convention in Malta, especially for persons with intellectual impairments and learning difficulties.