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A blind girl reads from a Braille book in a classroom at the Royal Academy for the Blind in Amman. © 2011 REUTERS/Ali Jarekji

(Amman, December 23, 2019) – Jordan’s government has failed to fund key ministries to carry out the law on the rights of people with disabilities passed two years ago, Human Rights Watch said today. Jordanian lawmakers should ensure that the 2020 budget provides adequate funding for policies and programs to ensure the rights of people with disabilities.

In 2017, Jordan’s parliament passed a law on the rights of people with disabilities, which offers comprehensive protections for people with disabilities in all spheres of society. However, the government has not budgeted funds for several ministries and other programs to carry it out.

“Jordan’s disability rights law is great on paper, but it means nothing for people with disabilities if the government will not put it into practice,” said Michael Page, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The government should urgently revise the budget to give key ministries and agencies the resources to ensure disability rights protections.”

Human Rights Watch analyzed the 2018 and 2019 ministerial budget reports published by Jordan’s General Budget Department. For two years, several ministries did not allocate any funding for disability rights initiatives, including the Ministries of Interior; Municipal Affairs; Tourism and Antiquities; Transport; Digital Economy and Entrepreneurship; and Awqaf and Islamic Affairs. Awqaf refers to social assistance programs.  

On December 3, a group of people with disabilities protested outside the prime minister’s office in Jordan’s capital, Amman, to demand greater inclusion and government support for people with disabilities.

While the Education Ministry has an official inclusive education policy, a Human Rights Watch review of its 2018 and 2019 budget reports found no specific funding allocated to inclusive education. International standards guarantee the right to inclusive education, where children with and without disabilities study together in local community schools, with support as necessary. Instead, the ministry allocated 0.4 percent of its total budget to “special education,” or education of children with disabilities in segregated settings.

Funds allocated by ministries for disability-related projects appeared to be insufficient to address disability rights issues. For example, the Public Works and Housing Ministry allocated only 100,000 JD ($141,045), or 0.05 percent of its 2019 budget to improving accessibility of buildings for the entire country. Authorities budgeted the same amount to “purchasing maintenance materials to maintain different roads” in just one governorate, Jerash, with a population of 237,059.

The Vocational Training Corporation allocated just 15,000 JD ($21,157), or 1 percent of its 2019 budget, for increasing participation of women and people with disabilities in training programs.

The Health Ministry guarantees “early diagnosis of disabilities” under its Primary Health Care/Health Services Centers Program. However, it is unclear whether the ministry allocates funding to provide accommodation and accessible formats to ensure that people with disabilities have access to hospitals and other medical centers.

In August, Human Rights Watch sought the views of the Jordanian government by sending letters to 12 ministries regarding current budget allocations to carry out the disability rights law and Jordan’s international human rights obligations. They are the Ministries of Interior; Education; Higher Education and Scientific Research; Health; Justice; Public Works and Housing; Social Development; Tourism and Antiquities; Transport; Vocational Training Corporation; Digital Economy and Entrepreneurship; and Awqaf and Islamic Affairs. At time of publishing, none have yet replied.

While the government has not allocated sufficient funding to ministries, it has committed to supporting the Higher Council for Affairs of Persons with Disabilities, which exists to coordinate implementation of the disability rights law across government ministries. An official with the council told Human Rights Watch that the proposed government budget for 2020 raised the council’s budget to around US$5 million, up from US$2 million in 2019.

In 2008, Jordan ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which requires governments to ensure the rights of people with disabilities, including through “legislative, administrative, and other measures for the implementation of the rights recognized in the Convention.”

In its 2018 observations on Jordan, the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which reviews how countries carry out the convention, recommended that the government “adopt a new national strategy for persons with disabilities and a related action plan” and ensure “allocation of the financial, technical, and human resources necessary for its implementation.”

During its review the committee criticized Jordan’s failures to ensure adequate funding to carry out the convention. It noted “the absence of a systematic framework and public budget dedicated to the acquisition of mobility aids and assistive technologies necessary for the unrestricted personal mobility of persons with disabilities.” The committee recommended that Jordan adopt “a dedicated systematic framework and budget” to guarantee disability rights.

Jordan’s government, including each relevant ministry, should review current budgets to ensure funding for policies and programs to provide the protections guaranteed under the disability rights law. They should prioritize resources for making public buildings and services accessible for people with various types of disabilities as well as funding for inclusive education.

“Jordan’s disability rights law provides an explicit list of responsibilities for ministries to ensure non-discrimination and equality in accessing essential services like education, housing, employment, justice, and health,” Page said. “Without the budget necessary to effectively put this law into practice, people with disabilities won’t get the essential services they have the right to get.”

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