Article 32 (International Co-Operation)

Global Event: ‘Fire Safety for All’ in Buildings – Reboot & Reload !

2014-12-09:  FireOx International, the Fire Engineering Division of Sustainable Design International Ltd., is very pleased and proud to present the following Global CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) Event

Fire Safety for All !9 & 10 April 2015 – Dublin Castle, Ireland

‘Fire Safety for All’ in Buildings – Reboot & Reload !
[ www.fire-safety-for-all.eu ]

Co-Sponsored by CIB & RI-ICTA
Kindly supported by Fáilte Ireland

This will not be a polite gathering intended just for an Irish audience, or even for Europeans … this is a Global Event – a catalyst for Substantive Social Transformation everywhere !

Within the professional discipline of Fire Engineering … either a building is Fire Safe or it is not ;  the design philosophy of the fire engineer is irrelevant.  Similarly, now, we must begin to think and act in the simple terms of a building either being Accessible for All, or not.  And if the building is accessible for all, does it tick all of the right accessibility boxes well, i.e. effectively ?

While building fire safety codes and standards exist in almost every country … guidelines relating to the Fire Safety of People with Activity Limitations – IF those guidelines exist at all – are technically inadequate, entirely tokenistic, blatantly discriminatory, and rarely implemented.

This is a very significant obstacle to Effective Building Accessibility everywhere !!

Accessibility is now understood to mean the full cycle of independent building use, in an equitable and dignified manner … and this term includes the approach, entry to and use of a building, egress during normal conditions and removal from the vicinity of the building … and, most importantly, evacuation during a fire incident to a ‘place of safety’ which is remote from the building.  (ISO 21542 : 2011)

Cogently mandated in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006) … the CRPD’s principal aim is to ensure that the Built, Social, Economic and Virtual Environments are sufficiently ‘accessible’ to permit a vulnerable and major(!) population group in all of our societies to enjoy the fundamental freedoms and human rights described in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948).

Refer to Preamble Paragraph (g) in the UN Convention …

‘ Emphasizing the importance of mainstreaming disability issues as an integral part of relevant strategies of sustainable development,’

and to … Article 3 (General Principles), Article 9 (Accessibility), Article 11 (Situations of Risk & Humanitarian Emergencies), Article 19 (Living Independently & Being Included in the Community), Article 20 (Personal Mobility), Article 24 (Education), Article 27 (Work & Employment), Article 31 (Statistics & Data Collection), Article 32 (International Co-Operation), and Article 33 (National Implementation & Monitoring).

The focus of this event, therefore, is Real Accessibility.  In other words, Effective Accessibility for People with Activity Limitations (which includes people with disabilities, and children under the age of 5 years, frail older people, women in the later stages of pregnancy, and people with health conditions, etc.) … an accessibility which actually works well for all potential building users.  And it is appropriate also, now, to introduce the concept of Monitoring and Targeting this ‘real’ accessibility … independently, i.e. by 3rd Parties !

It is time to Reboot this ridiculous, professionally negligent and obsolete old system … Reload with innovative and practical building design, construction, management and personal self-protection solutions … and Implement !

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EU Ratification of UN Disability Convention – EFC Legal Study

2011-02-05:  Further to my post, dated 15 January 2011

Many people directly or indirectly involved with Disability-Related Issues in Europe … may not yet know that, a few weeks ago, the European Union ratified the 2006 United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD).  They may not even know that their own country, as a Member State of the European Union, had perhaps already ratified the UN Convention one or two years earlier.

At this time, the majority of Member States have proceeded, voluntarily, to ratify the Convention … with some of those, inexplicably, declining/refusing to ratify the Convention’s Optional Protocol.

Human & Social Rights can be a difficult subject area !

Ireland has not ratified the UN Convention … and, unfortunately, the attitude of many policy-makers and decision-makers within our Irish Institutions of State, large and small, is that it’s business as usual … no need to worry or fuss, or give a damn … until this country does actually sign on the Convention’s bottom line … an attitude which displays a magnificent ignorance of the changed reality, post Lisbon Treaty, which is the European Union’s Current Legal Environment !!

Please examine carefully, for yourselves, the findings of this Legal Study, recently approved for publication by the European Commission …

European Foundation Centre (EFC)

Brussels, October 2010

Study on Challenges and Good Practices in the Implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Click the Link Above to read and/or download PDF File (1.46 Mb)

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EU RATIFICATION OF THE UN CRPD – ASPECTS OF EU LAW

The following are selected extracts from the EFC Study … my selection (!) … to answer specific issues relating to UN CRPD Implementation within the European Union.  Typographical errors in the Study have also been corrected … and, post Lisbon Treaty, references to the EU Treaties have been properly updated …

The legal basis for the conclusion of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD) signals the appropriate legal basis for its implementation within the European Union (EU).  In this respect, and in line with Article 4 of the UN Convention, implementation implies that instruments may be adopted or modified by the Union in order to comply with the Convention and give effect to its provisions and principles.  Although the choice of the legal basis for the decision concluding an international agreement is very important, it is not decisive for implementation.  In European Court of Justice Case C-178/0345, which concerned the implementation of the Rotterdam Convention on International Trade in Hazardous Chemicals, the Court stated that ” the fact that one or more provisions of the Treaty have been chosen as legal bases for the approval of an international agreement is not sufficient to show that those same provisions must also be used as legal bases for the adoption of measures intended to implement that agreement at Community level “.   The latter statement means that EU Treaty provisions other than those mentioned in EU Council Decision 2010/48/EC to conclude the UN CRPD can be used as legal bases to implement UN CRPD obligations in specific fields.

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The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD) is an international human rights agreement where both the European Union (EU) and its Member States are contracting parties.  The UN Convention is thus a Mixed Agreement.  Mixed Agreements involve a Shared Contractual Relationship between the EU, its Member States and one or more third countries and/or international organisations.  As a Mixed Agreement, the UN CRPD covers fields that fall in part within the competence of the EU, in part within that of the Member States and in part within the shared competence of the EU and its Member States.  It is therefore essential for the EU and the Member States to closely co-operate, in order to implement legislation stemming from the Convention in a coherent manner and ensure unity in the international representation of the Union.

EU Member States, when participating in Mixed Agreements, do not act as entirely autonomous subjects of international law; they are subject to a Duty of Loyal Co-Operation between one another and the EU.  This duty extends to each of the negotiation, conclusion and implementation phases.  In this sense, there is a collective management of the obligations under international law.  The duty of loyal co-operation, deriving from Article 4.3 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU), embraces two sets of obligations: first, Member States shall take appropriate measures, whether general or particular, to ensure fulfilment of the obligations arising out of the EC Treaty or resulting from action taken by the EU Institutions;  and second: Member States shall facilitate the achievement of the Union’s tasks and shall abstain from any measure which could jeopardise the attainment of the Union’s objectives … which are set out in Article 3 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU).

Treaty on European Union (TEU) – Consolidated Version, as Amended by the Treaty of Lisbon

Article 4.3

Pursuant to the principle of sincere mutual co-operation, the Union and the Member States shall, in full mutual respect, assist each other in carrying out tasks which flow from the Treaties.

The Member States shall take any appropriate measure, general or particular, to ensure fulfilment of the obligations arising out of the Treaties or resulting from the acts of the institutions of the Union.

The Member States shall facilitate the achievement of the Union’s tasks and refrain from any measure which could jeopardise the attainment of the Union’s objectives.

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In relation to EU Member States Compliance with a Mixed Agreement concluded by the EU … the European Court of Justice has inferred that for matters falling within EU competence … the Member States fulfil, within the EU system, an obligation in relation to the Union which has assumed responsibility for due performance of the agreement.  In other words, if a Member State fails to take all appropriate measures to implement provisions of the Mixed Agreement that fall within the competence of the EU … it not only fails to fulfil its international obligation, but is also acting in breach of EU Law.  The European Commission may thus bring an infringement case against a Member State that has not properly fulfilled its duty.  The principle underpinning such mechanisms is the ‘duty of loyal co-operation’, which provides the foundation for managing shared competence within Mixed Agreements.

The line dividing international responsibility for implementation of the International Mixed Agreement between the EU and its Member States depends on the obligations respectively assumed.  The UN CRPD contains a clause setting out ‘separate’ responsibility.  According to Article 44.1, Regional Integration Organisations acceding to the Convention shall declare, in their instruments of formal confirmation or accession, the extent of their competence.  This division of responsibility for implementation implies that the European Union only bears responsibility for the breach of those obligations it has assumed.

EU Council Decision 2010/48/EC on the conclusion of the UN CRPD refers to EU competence in respect of those matters governed by the UN CRPD, and lists EU Instruments which demonstrate such competence.

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STRUCTURE OF THE EFC REPORT

The main objective of the Study was to analyse the obligations set out in the UN CRPD and, in particular, to gather information about the various practices of the EU Member States and the European Union in implementing the UN CRPD.

The work was carried out by the European Foundation Centre (EFC), representing the European Consortium of Foundations on Human Rights and Disability … under Contract No. VC/2008/1214 … for the European Commissions Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion.

Section 1 of this Report sets the appropriate background for the analysis that will follow.

Section 2 of the Report provides an overview and general recommendations on the implementation of the social model of disability, and core obligations deriving from Article 1 and Preamble Paragraph (e) of the UN CRPD.

Section 3 of the Report provides an overview and general recommendations on the implementation of Article 3 (General Principles), Article 4 (General Obligations), Article 5 (Equality and Non-Discrimination), and Article 9 (Accessibility) of the UN CRPD.  The section also reviews UN CRPD articles on Inter-Sectionality, namely Articles 6 (Women with Disabilities) and Article 7 (Children with Disabilities).  It is worth noting that the articles addressed in this section are articles of general and crosscutting application, and therefore their application is relevant for the implementation of all articles of the Convention.

Section 4 of the Report provides an overview and general recommendations on the implementation of selected substantive provisions of the UN CRPD which apply existing civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights within the context of disability.  Specifically, the section considers the implementation of Articles 16 (Freedom from Exploitation, Violence and Abuse) and 17 (Protecting the Integrity of the Person), which are seeking to assert protections that underscore the humanity of all persons with disabilities.  The section also considers the implementation of Articles 12 (Equal Recognition before the Law) and 19 (Living Independently and Being Included in the Community), both of which aim at maintaining and safeguarding the autonomy of the person.  Furthermore, articles on specific accessibility rights, namely Article 13 (Access to Justice) and Article 29 (Participation in Political and Public Life), are likewise addressed.  Finally, the section considers the implementation of Articles 24 (Education) and 27 (Work and Employment).

Section 5 of the Report contains an overview and general recommendations on the implementation of articles which outline steps that are necessary to support reforms.  Specifically, the section considers the implementation of Article 31 (Statistics and Data Collection), Article 32 (International Co-Operation), and Article 33 (National Implementation and Monitoring).

Section 6 of the Report suggests good practices for the EU and national policy-makers for the future and overall implementation of the Convention, and the effective achievement of its objectives.

It is worth noting that, while it is hard to be definitive, given that the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is still in its infancy and has yet to pronounce on the obligations of the UN CRPD … it is nevertheless possible on the basis of the general principles of the Convention and interpretative tools, such as the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, to identify illustrative challenges to the implementation of the UN CRPD.  For the purposes of this Study, the review of EU and Member States policies and legal instruments is based on the analysis of the UN CRPD and checklists that were produced from this Study to measure progress.

Finally, for the purposes of the Study, a challenge is defined as a ‘difficulty’ posed by existing national or EU practice which may potentially hamper the full and effective implementation of the UN CRPD by the EU Member States and/or the European Union.  In order to meet such challenges, it will be necessary, inter alia, for the EU (as appropriate) and/or its Member States to review legislation and/or policy with a view to full compliance.  On the other hand, a practice is defined as good if it fulfils certain requirements of the Convention or mainstreams the general principles, consistent with Article 3 of the UN CRPD, and has an awareness-raising impact.

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EU Accessibility & Ratification of UN Disability Rights Convention

2011-01-15:  Recently, I was waiting … and waiting … for the first mention of this important news to pop up on any of the European Disability Networks … the Formal Ratification by the European Union (EU) of the 2006 United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities … on 23 December 2010 last.

History in the making !!

This U.N. Convention was adopted on 13 December 2006 (2006-12-13), at the United Nations Headquarters in New York … and was opened for signature on 30 March 2007.  It entered into force, i.e. became an International Legal Instrument, on 3 May 2008 (2008-05-03).  A copy of the Convention can be downloaded, here, on this Site … in my post, dated 31 October 2009.

Finally, on Monday 10 January 2011 … via ICTA-Europe, EDeAN, and the EU Press Release below … it was announced …

EU Press Release IP/11/4 – Brussels, 5 January 2011

EU Ratifies UN Convention on Disability Rights

Click the Link Above to read and/or download PDF File (25kb)

So much for instant communication in our much-vaunted Information / Knowledge / Smart Society !!

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Ordinarily, this news would be nothing to get excited about.

BUT … since the Lisbon Treaty entered into force on 1 January 2009 … the European Union now has a legal personality all of its own, separate from those of the individual EU Member States.  See Article 47 in Title VI – Final Provisions – of the Treaty on European Union (consolidated version).

This is the first time that the EU has become a party to an international treaty.

The 2006 United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is now part of the European Union’s Acquis Communautaire, i.e. the extensive body of EU Law.

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The consequential impacts flowing, therefore, from the EU’s Ratification of the U.N. Convention … at both European and Member State (National) levels … will be very, very interesting to observe during the immediate short term.  [A note of caution … be patient, and allow for a short period of ‘bedding-in’ at the start.  See below.]

The European Commission, for example, must now take full account of the Convention in the drafting and implementation of any new legislation, policies and programmes … in fact, all of its activities.

The European Court of Justice must also take full account of the Convention in all of its work.

This will, inevitably, heavily influence what is … or is not … happening with regard to social and other policies at national level in the Member States.  Many Member States (16) have already ratified the Convention … and more power to them !   BUT among these 16 … the Czech Republic and Denmark have not yet ratified the UN Convention’s Optional Protocol … how strange … and unacceptable !!

Some Member States … and I am thinking specifically of Ireland … will have to be dragged, screaming, to the point of ratification.  And even when that position has been reached … proper implementation will always be an issue.  Just consider, for a moment, Ireland’s uncaring and ham-fisted approach to implementation of the 1989 U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child … which it did actually ratify way back on 28 September 1992 !   See my post, dated 30 November 2009.

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Accessibility of the ‘Human Environment’ – A Harmonized EU Understanding !

As far as the European Union must now be concerned … and all of the EU Member States … Preamble Paragraph (g) and Articles 9, 10 & 11 of the 2006 United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities – together – form the basis of a harmonized understanding for Accessibility of the ‘Human Environment’ … which includes the Built Environment, the Social Environment, the Economic Environment, and the Virtual Environment … concepts which I have defined, here, many times before.

Preamble Paragraph (g)

Emphasizing the importance of mainstreaming disability issues as an integral part of relevant strategies of sustainable development,

Article 9 – Accessibility

1.  To enable persons with disabilities to live independently and participate fully in all aspects of life, States Parties shall take appropriate measures to ensure to persons with disabilities access, on an equal basis with others, to the physical environment, to transportation, to information and communications, including information and communications technologies and systems, and to other facilities and services open or provided to the public, both in urban and in rural areas.  These measures, which shall include the identification and elimination of obstacles and barriers to accessibility, shall apply to, inter alia:

     (a)  Buildings, roads, transportation and other indoor and outdoor facilities, including schools, housing, medical facilities and workplaces ;

     (b)  Information, communications and other services, including electronic services and emergency services.

2.  States Parties shall also take appropriate measures:

     (a)  To develop, promulgate and monitor the implementation of minimum standards and guidelines for the accessibility of facilities and services open or provided to the public ;

     (b)  To ensure that private entities that offer facilities and services which are open or provided to the public take into account all aspects of accessibility for persons with disabilities ;

     (c)  To provide training for stakeholders on accessibility issues facing persons with disabilities ;

     (d)  To provide in buildings and other facilities open to the public signage in Braille and in easy to read and understand forms ;

     (e)  To provide forms of live assistance and intermediaries, including guides, readers and professional sign language interpreters, to facilitate accessibility to buildings and other facilities open to the public ;

     (f)  To promote other appropriate forms of assistance and support to persons with disabilities to ensure their access to information ;

     (g)  To promote access for persons with disabilities to new information and communications technologies and systems, including the Internet ;

     (h)  To promote the design, development, production and distribution of accessible information and communications technologies and systems at an early stage, so that these technologies and systems become accessible at minimum cost.

Article 10 – Right to Life

States Parties reaffirm that every human being has the inherent right to life and shall take all necessary measures to ensure its effective enjoyment by persons with disabilities on an equal basis with others.

Article 11 – Situations of Risk & Humanitarian Emergencies

[My Note: An outbreak of fire in a building would be a situation of serious risk.]

States Parties shall take, in accordance with their obligations under international law, including international humanitarian law and international human rights law, all necessary measures to ensure the protection and safety of persons with disabilities in situations of risk, including situations of armed conflict, humanitarian emergencies and the occurrence of natural disasters.

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Accessibility of the ‘Human Environment’ – Competent & Effective EU Implementation !

Within the European Union as a whole, because it is a party to the Convention in its own right … and also within the individual EU Member States … Articles 31 & 33 of the 2006 United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities – together – mandate that implementation is taken seriously … that it is competent and effective … and, most importantly, that independent monitoring and verification is a fundamental part of the process.

Article 31 – Statistics & Data Collection

1.  States Parties undertake to collect appropriate information, including statistical and research data, to enable them to formulate and implement policies to give effect to the present Convention.  The process of collecting and maintaining this information shall:

     (a)  Comply with legally established safeguards, including legislation on data protection, to ensure confidentiality and respect for the privacy of persons with disabilities ;

     (b)  Comply with internationally accepted norms to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms and ethical principles in the collection and use of statistics.

2.  The information collected in accordance with this article shall be disaggregated, as appropriate, and used to help assess the implementation of States Parties’ obligations under the present Convention and to identify and address the barriers faced by persons with disabilities in exercising their rights.

3.  States Parties shall assume responsibility for the dissemination of these statistics and ensure their accessibility to persons with disabilities and others.

Article 32 – International Co-Operation

1.  States Parties recognize the importance of international co-operation and its promotion, in support of national efforts for the realization of the purpose and objectives of the present Convention, and will undertake appropriate and effective measures in this regard, between and among States and, as appropriate, in partnership with relevant international and regional organizations and civil society, in particular organizations of persons with disabilities.  Such measures could include, inter alia:

     (a)  Ensuring that international co-operation, including international development programmes, is inclusive of and accessible to persons with disabilities ;

     (b)  Facilitating and supporting capacity-building, including through the exchange and sharing of information, experiences, training programmes and best practices ;

     (c)  Facilitating co-operation in research and access to scientific and technical knowledge ;

     (d)  Providing, as appropriate, technical and economic assistance, including by facilitating access to and sharing of accessible and assistive technologies, and through the transfer of technologies.

2.  The provisions of this article are without prejudice to the obligations of each State Party to fulfil its obligations under the present Convention.

Article 33 – National Implementation & Monitoring

1.  States Parties, in accordance with their system of organization, shall designate one or more focal points within government for matters relating to the implementation of the present Convention, and shall give due consideration to the establishment or designation of a co-ordination mechanism within government to facilitate related action in different sectors and at different levels.

2.  States Parties shall, in accordance with their legal and administrative systems, maintain, strengthen, designate or establish within the State Party, a framework, including one or more independent mechanisms, as appropriate, to promote, protect and monitor implementation of the present Convention.  When designating or establishing such a mechanism, States Parties shall take into account the principles relating to the status and functioning of national institutions for protection and promotion of human rights.

3.  Civil society, in particular persons with disabilities and their representative organizations, shall be involved and participate fully in the monitoring process.

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The European Union’s Disability Strategy 2010-2020 [COM(2010) 636 final]

The general approach to, and the quality of, Accessibility Implementation in Europe … when compared, for example, with Japan … is pathetically inadequate.

It is quite amazing, therefore, that the texts which deal with Accessibility of the ‘Human Environment’ in the EU’s Disability Strategy Document 2010-2020 … are weak and far too vague … basically, meaningless claptrap drafted by desk jockeys / ‘suits who do not know’ !   We did not achieve a ‘Europe Accessible For All’ by 2010 (see below) … do you see it ??   And … at the current rate of progress, neither will we achieve a ‘Europe Accessible For All’ by 2020 !

The European Union’s Accessibility Strategy, related Policies and Programmes … and the monitoring, targeting and independent verification of Accessibility Implementation … all require a radical overhaul !

All those Officials in the European Commission who are involved, in any way, shape or form, with Accessibility of the ‘Human Environment’ would do well to RE-READ AND MEDITATE DEEPLY on the contents of the 2003 Final Report from the Group of Accessibility Experts, which was established by the European Commission itself …

EU 2003 (EYPD) Expert Group on Accessibility

October 2003

2010: A Europe Accessible For All

Click the Link Above to read and/or download PDF File (294kb)

I was a Member of that Expert Group !

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AND SOME WIDER CONCERNS …

1.  The European Union HAS NOT RATIFIED the UN Disability Rights Convention’s Optional Protocol.  If the Union is so Open and Transparent … and so committed to Human and Social Rights for All EU Citizens … somebody, somewhere, has to scream out loud “Why is the EU Not Ratifying this Optional Protocol ???”.   And … we demand an honest answer !!!

Optional Protocol – Article 1

1.  A State Party to the present Protocol (‘State Party’) recognizes the competence of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (‘the Committee’) to receive and consider communications from or on behalf of individuals or groups of individuals subject to its jurisdiction who claim to be victims of a violation by that State Party of the provisions of the Convention.

2.  No communication shall be received by the Committee if it concerns a State Party to the Convention that is not a party to the present Protocol.

2.  The EU Code of Conduct between the Council, the Member States and the Commission setting out internal arrangements for the implementation by and representation of the European Union relating to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  Above, I talked about a short period of ‘bedding-in’.   BUT … get your teeth into the ‘meat’ of this document … which indicates that it might be a much longer and more difficult process !?!

Official Journal of the European Union (15 December 2010) – 2010/C 340/08

EU Council – UN Disability Rights Convention – 2010 Internal Code of Conduct

Click the Link Above to read and/or download PDF File (729kb)

3.  At EU Council … How Important is this Issue Considered ?   In the 37 Page Report on the Justice and Home Affairs Council Meeting, which was held in Brussels from 2-3 December 2010 … the adoption of the above Internal Code of Conduct rated just a very brief mention on the last page.  It was not mentioned, at all, among the Main Results of the Meeting !

4.  Will Disability Networks, at both European and Member State (National) levels, have the stamina … and be sufficiently competent and focused … to rigorously monitor European Union Implementation of the UN Disability Rights Convention ??   And … will these Networks be courageous in challenging the EU Institutions … if Implementation is found to be Inadequate ???   I’m not so sure !

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