AdHoc 3 - Sylvia's notes from the UN May 24 - 28

As I posted before I left, I’m not going to say much about the content that will be reported in the daily notes available in several places on the web.

I left Santa Cruz at 6 AM Sunday and arrived at my hotel in New York at 8 PM, delayed by thunderstorms and expressway accidents. Since I’m only partially funded, I’m staying at a budget hotel half a mile from the United Nations, toilets and showers in the hall, in a singled-bedded 8 x 10 room. I’m very much aware of how much longer it takes to function in such small space, how hard to organize efficiently, and the trade off between money and time.

The UN computers were down the morning when I went to get my badge, I was told that someone deleted Microsoft Office so the registration files couldn’t be accessed, and there was a long, long, longer line of people waiting for paperwork, photos, a badge. Tina had arrived early enough so that the whole WNUSP group was in the first dozen registered - Daniel (Uganda), Amita (India), Karl (Denmark). Already inside were SCI delegates Myra and Kate (they have permanent UN access badges) and Mary and Chris (members of the New Zealand delegation). About 350 people are in the packed conference room (later they opened up a balcony gallery), about 200 State delegates word smithing article by article, starting with the title of the Convention, the wording of the purpose. The changes and edits and suggestions are projected in real time on one large screen while screen displays the initial language. There are 200 NGO participants expected, from ECOSOC agencies and another 30 accredited just to the AdHoc committee. As well 140 of the 191 governments are here. The weather stayed clear for my walk over and back, it’s raining right now, the weather prediction keeps changing, I have a raincoat and umbrella and only want to carry them if I expect to use them.

The UN, responding to the urging of the Disability Caucus, has equipped two rooms for us with computers for note-taking, copier, phone, internet access, ...

Celia (SCI) is here, Laurie and Eric (MDRI), lots of other familiar faces from the disability advocacy world.

Tuesday: While the UN provided copiers, we had to provide our own paper. Staples opened at 7 AM and though there was a discount if I bought three reams, two were as much as I could carry the three blocks to the UN. 60 advocates squeezed into a too small room, 60 advocates with things to say and one hour in which to organize. It was chaotic! We received permission to meet tomorrow at 9 in the main room, but we will have to be finished before the 10 AM regular session. Decisions were also made to meet at 6:15 every evening in the UN employee cafeteria on the main floor. (The conference rooms are down on flight of stairs and the elevators stop running at 6 PM so those who don’t do stairs need to be sure they are on a street level floor.) There’s a full house again at the main session at 10. More country delegations include people with disabilities, including New Zealand, which has two people with psychosocial disabilities.

Tina and IDA organized a lunchtime briefing: Why Individual self-determination in important to people with disabilities, and how a convention can make it possible.

About 50 came, again overflowing the room. There were speakers representing people who are blind, deaf, have intellectual disabilities and psychosocial disabilities and a few general speakers. Laurie Ahern drew parallels between torture using electricity (Iraq for instance) and etc. Mary O’Hagan addressed force. Linguistic rights, right to sign was a theme. Pwd are often deprived of access and disqualified from ordinary life activities. There must be unqualified recognition of the rights of People Who to choose, to have self-determination.

At the afternoon 3 - 6 session, there was more word smithing and some substantive issues. I note that the UN typists now use PWD (people with disabilities) in the transcriptions of the interventions that are displayed on the big screens. So PWD is now in the universal domain.

Wednesday morning began around 10:30. While we waited, I had an interesting discussion with Daniel, WNUSP representative from Uganda, about time and punctuality in different cultures. He said in Uganda, if they mean to be clock-punctual, they say for instance, that the appointment is 10:AM "British time." We discussed valuing time as a resource, how not being timely can be seen as laziness. But I thought about how his country was adopting Western (developed world) and I started to think about the development of human consciousness, how speeded up processing is today, about multi-tasking and sound bytes and the general pace of activities. I’m not sure whether we are expanding our capacities and consciousness or becoming shallow and superficial in our understandings. Perhaps we will also learn to speed up recuperation, recovery, resilience. Anyhow, the work is organized her from 10 - 1 and 3 -6 for full sessions, with various meetings from 9 - 10 and 6:15 onward to prepare and side-events at the lunch break and there still isn’t enough opportunity to confer with those one wants to so some of that happens during the full sessions while others are speaking. It’s quite a lot to manage!

I woke up thinking about how psychiatric medications cage the brain in the same way that jail cells cage and control the body. Psychiatric medications function to limit the range and depth of mental activity, to conform the mind to the mainstream.

The Disability Caucus met at 9, first developed an agenda, then by 9:20, proceeded with a bit more order. There may be an experts’ meeting between now and AdHoc4 in August, and there will be two AdHoc’s in ‘05. The Chair has invited experts to help with drafting. It is his intention to use them to assimilate the input of what has been mostly agreed, creating a Chair’s Draft, and bracketing what can’t be assimilated for negotiating at the August session. Tina has became a strong part of the leadership, respected, invited, included. The Europe Union has been providing lengthy interventions that are limiting rather than enhancing rights and there is a growing anti-EU, anti-US feeling as the developing countries are creating counter-coalitions.

Mid-day I went for a walk, had a bagel, and returned to find a response to the US higher security rating, guarding the entrance were a small group of rifles, dogs, and men in riot gear.

It occurs to me that mental health interventions that are not voluntary and informed are a parody of health values.

There are 150 users and survivors from 45 countries registered for the WNUSP General Assembly in July.

Today’s discussion moderator received several questions from the floor before returning the microphone to the speaker to answer several at once. It made for a smoother meeting.

I went for a walk and saw three blocks of Fifth Avenue full of police presence, about 50 cars diagonally parked filling each block on the east side of the street, and on the sidewalk, many many uniformed officers, relaxed, chatting.  I asked and couldn't find out the occassion, was told this was not uncommon in New York, probably a dignitary.   50 cars seemed quite a greeting to me!

Meetings at the UN resume on Tuesday. But I’m going to DC for the CMHS Joint Block Grant and Statistics conference. Ad Hoc Committee meeting details will be posted on several web sites and Tina has been sending some email updates.