By enabling cross-border exchange of accessible format works, the Marrakesh Treaty can particularly benefit small countries like Cambodia that have limited existing availability of these books. A wide range of print-disabled people would benefit, including students wishing to learn English or other foreign languages, as well as those interested in foreign literature or the latest scientific journals, which may be available from libraries in other countries.
In addition to the above benefits, the Marrakesh Treaty can provide Cambodia with an additional legal instrument, apart from the UNCRPD, to advocate, protect and promote the rights of persons with disabilities. It can also help Cambodia to benefit from greater international collaboration and movements on disability rights.
In 2019, UNDP organized a legal training workshop led by a world-renowned intellectual property lawyer from the United States who had engaged in the development and negotiation of the Marrakesh Treaty. The training helped the Cambodian government and stakeholders to develop a better understanding of the Treaty as well as the role of the Disability Action Council, the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts and the Ministry of Commerce – and how these institutions could work together towards the ratification. I facilitated the discussions among these ministries to plan ways forward.
It has only been just over three years since I first heard about the Marrakesh Treaty and since it became widely known in the disability sector in Cambodia. And yet we already have multiple government entities fully onboard to proceed towards the ratification. I would say that this is exceptionally fast progress in the Cambodian context, as it normally takes years to reach this stage. UNDP in collaboration with the government will organize the national dissemination workshop on the Marrakesh Treaty to further expedite the progress towards ratification with the establishment of a multisectoral working group, which is a major milestone.
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance and challenge of ensuring accessible information for persons with disabilities, which exists even in ordinary times. It is the right time for Cambodian to step forward to remove the barriers that remain.
The Marrakesh Treaty ratification and implementation can certainly help move the country in the right direction. It aligns with the Sustainable Development Goals pledge of leaving no one behind and reaching the furthest behind first, as well as with the theme of this year’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities: “Building Back Better: toward a disability-inclusive, accessible and sustainable post COVID-19 World.”
I am excited to be a part of the national and global efforts to make this vision a reality.
For more information about the Marrakesh Treaty:
UNDP Cambodia, WBUAP, EIFL, ABC (2017). Issue Brief for Cambodia on the Marrakesh Treaty. (Also available in Khmer, audio (English and Khmer), and braille.
UNDP Cambodia and WBUAP (2017). Cambodia edition: Legal reviews for the ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty for persons with print disabilities. (Khmer version also available upon request)