· A study prepared by a Government committee was presented to the Cabinet proposing accession to the United Nations Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
· At the United Nations General Assembly deliberations on the protection of the Rights of the Child, the UAE said it is examining the possibility of signing two Optional Protocols, having already signed the Women’s Anti-Discrimination Convention, Convention on the Rights of the Child, International Labour Organisation Convention on Minimum Age, and the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities.
Efforts are under way to promulgate a draft national law for better protection of children, in line with the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The proposed law provides for the establishment of a hotline to respond to children’s problems and encourages the establishment of associations or clubs specialising in child affairs, as well as calling for the appointment of a special judge to handle cases related to children.
The draft also contains provisions covering children with special needs, and urges care in all areas, including education, health and vocational rehabilitation. Although children are already protected by law, the proposed legislation would be the first dedicated to tackling all forms of child abuse.
· An initiative to create the first local civil society organisation to protect the rights of children was announced and a department has been set up for the welfare of orphans.
· Plans to introduce human rights education for students in schools are being actively considered.
· As part of an awareness drive, a symposium was organised by the Human Rights Directorate at the Ministry of Interior, attended by delegates from various ministries, federal and local departments, civil society organisations and United Nations Development Program.
· To commemorate the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, the Higher Colleges of Technology, in collaboration with the Swiss Embassy, organised a series of campaigns for youth.
· Du, the country’s integrated telecom operator, and the Ministry of Social Affairs jointly launched Musahama, a comprehensive web portal for civil society organisations in the UAE.
· The Working Group Report on the UAE’s Universal Periodic Review was unanimously adopted at the tenth session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, three months after the country’s report was presented in December 2008.
· The UAE presented a report to the International Committee on Fighting Racial Discrimination in Geneva, outlining the steps it has taken to enforce the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. The Committee welcomed the UAE’s achievements.
· Responding to the official invitation extended by the Government, two special UN rapporteurs – one on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, and the other on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance – visited the UAE separately and held discussions with various ministries, civil society organisations, academics and ordinary citizens.
Commending the Government’s ‘cooperation and openness’, a preliminary report of the rapporteur on racism said: ‘The recent review of the UAE by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and by the Universal Periodic Review of the Human Rights Council demonstrates that the authorities are willing to find ways and means of addressing human rights challenges faced by the people in the UAE and to ensure compliance with international human rights standards.
’ The UAE welcomed the preliminary findings as ‘constructive’ and ‘recognition’ of the Government’s proactive initiatives.
The Ministry of Social Affairs signed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its additional protocol. In December, President Sheikh Khalifa issued a law ratifying the Convention.
· In another landmark move, the President issued Federal Law No.14 of 2009 amending Law No 29 of 2006 on people with special needs. The change means that phrases like ‘the disabled’ and ‘disabled individuals’, wherever they occur in the law, will be replaced with “Individuals with Special Needs’ and “Individual with Special Needs’. Even the word disability’ will be replaced with the word ‘Special Needs’.
· With the launch of special services on buses for physically challenged people in December, Dubai became the first city in the region to have an integrated public transport system fully accessible to people with special needs. According to Road Transport Authority officials, all modes of public transport, including the Dubai Metro, public buses, marine transport and even some taxis now meet mobility requirements of people with special needs.
· Dubai announced in December that it intends to build a five-dome Human Rights Village, with each dome addressing a specific issue. While the first is expected to focus on human rights from birth to death, the second would focus on health, the third on food and water, the fourth on education, and the fifth consisting of a ‘challenging room’ where human rights issues could be discussed and addressed.
· Under the auspices of the Zayed Higher Organisation (ZHO) for Humanitarian Care, Special Needs and Minors Affairs, the UAE launched the second phase of the National Project for Inclusion, which intends to expand services to people with special needs across the country and increase people’s understanding of special needs, as well as helping those with special needs to participate equally in society.
Public and private organisations participating in the programme are required to meet international standards to improve their services and accessibility to disabled people as part of an effort to assimilate people with special needs into society, to improve their lifestyles and to safeguard their human rights.
The ZHO enrolled 34 special needs students in government schools during the last two years and has been monitoring their progress under the supervision of specially trained educators. Five other hearing-impaired students were sent abroad for education.
It also helped find employment in various organisations for ten individuals with special needs, seven of whom were women. Among the programmes offered by the ZHO are vocational training, education and qualification services; management and investment of minor funds; social and psychological care; evaluation services, early intervention, physiotherapy, functional therapy; social and psychological care and total care for orphans.