[July 2014] A Class in Justice: Disability, Transparency and the Right to Education in Argentina

Publish Date: 
Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Information about the level of compliance with economic, social and cultural rights (ESCR) is essential for planning and implementing public policies and for the control of states’ compliance with the commitments they assume when they ratify international human rights treaties. Activists and social movements make use of information in order to document, prove and denounce human rights violations suffered by persons with disabilities and other groups, who otherwise would remain hidden. However, it is not completely clear how important it is for impact strategies to demand the production of data and statistical information from the state.

In many countries there is no basic statistical information about the educational career of persons with disabilities. Such information is essential to ascertain whether the right to inclusive education is complied with or not.[1] The Committee on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities has asked states for information on the number of persons with disabilities inside and outside of the education system, on the evolution of the percentage of this sector who attend general schools. It also asks that this data be disaggregated according to gender, age, ethnic group, urban and rural zone and type of disability. Moreover, in many cases information that allows for an understanding of how persons with disabilities who suffer poverty are affected is not produced, despite the fact they tend to face additional constraints and barriers. The Civil Association for Justice and Equality (ACIJ) in Argentina has produced a document, using public information, showing that in the city of Buenos Aires the percentage of persons with disabilities who do not attend school is higher in urban slums (known as ‘villas’).

All too often, necessary data and information is not produced, despite the established legal obligation that it be provided. For instance, article 31 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) incorporates the obligation to produce information about the barriers and obstacles faced by persons with disabilities. This raises the question of whether legal action could be useful in demanding the production of information about ESCR. As an example, we can examine the claim presented by CAinfo, in which the National Administration of Public Education of Uruguay was ordered to provide data about pre- and primary schools that had fire departments’ authorization to function, despite the fact the state did not possess that information at that time. There would be great value in identifying and exploring other cases similar to this one.

The use of litigation to access information already possessed by states is relatively common, but it would be interesting to know of successful experiences in demanding information which has not yet been produced, or that is not reliable, suitable or does not comply with appropriate disaggregation criteria. What are the challenges involved in the use of legal action to obtain the production of information? Further, how should a successful case concerning the production of information be presented? Finally, given that social conditions and economic position are prohibited criteria of discrimination, might we ask international bodies that monitor treaty compliance to require that States produce disaggregated information according to those variables?

[1] Art. 24 CRPD. Thematic study on the right of persons with disabilities to education, UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, available at: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Disability/Pages/StudyRightOfPersonsWithDisabilitiesToEducation.aspx

Dalile Antúnez (ACIJ)