ACCESSIBILITY AT UNOG A A A A The United Nations in the Heart of Europe

COMMITTEE ON THE RIGHTS OF PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES OPENS TENTH SESSION

COMMITTEE ON THE RIGHTS OF PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES OPENS TENTH SESSION
2 September 2013

The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities this morning opened its tenth session, hearing from Craig Mokhiber, Chief of the Development and Economic and Social Issues Branch, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and from Cisternas Reyes, Chairperson of the Committee.  The Committee also adopted its agenda and provisional programme of work for the session.

Craig Mokhiber, Chief of the Development and Economic and Social Issues Branch, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that this meeting of the Committee took place on the eve of the sixty-eighth session of the United Nations General Assembly, which would open in New York on 17 September and was particularly important for the work of the Committee in at least two ways.  The first was the Assembly’s focus on efforts to finalise the future global development framework, or post-2015 agenda, and the particular focus on increasing the inclusion of persons with disabilities in global development goals.  The second relevant feature related to the treaty body strengthening exercise, which may see an outcome reached at this session.

Maria Soledad Cisternas Reyes, Chairperson of the Committee, presenting an update on activities undertaken, recalled that the Committee was established more than five years ago, during which time it had considered a number of reports by States parties and adopted  seven concluding observations and recommendations..  The Committee had been able to address numerous issues, including those concerning equality, non-discrimination, freedom and security of the person, recognition of all persons before the law, legal capacity and prohibition of ill-treatment, the right to inclusive education, and the right to work in an open and inclusive environment.

The Committee also heard statements this morning from Representatives of the Committee’s secretariat, Council of Europe, Focal Point on human rights and disability of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, World Intellectual Property Organization, United Nations Children's Fund, International Labour Organization, Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention Implementation Support Unit, International Disability Alliance, World Network of Survivors and Users of Psychiatry, Disability Council International, Swiss Association to Support People with Disabilities, International Disability and Development Consortium, and Human Rights Watch.

The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities will reconvene this afternoon at 3 p.m. to start its consideration of the initial report of Austria (CRPD/C/AUT/1). 


Opening Statements

CRAIG MOKHIBER, Chief of the Development and Economic and Social Issues Branch, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that this meeting of the Committee took place on the eve of the sixty-eighth session of the United Nations General Assembly, which would open in New York on 17 September and was particularly important for the work of the Committee in at least two ways.  The first was the Assembly’s focus on efforts to finalise the future global development framework, or post-2015 agenda, and the particular focus on increasing the inclusion of persons with disabilities in global development goals.  The second relevant feature related to the treaty body strengthening exercise, which may see an outcome reached at this session.

Mr. Mohkiber reminded that the High Commissioner had expressed support for a post-2015 agenda based on human rights and that the General Assembly had convoked a high-level meeting on disability and development, which would have to adopt an outcome document in support of the Convention and the realisation of Millennium Development Goals.  The report published by the high-level panel on the post-2015 development agenda had included the universal objective of poverty eradication by 2013.  Members of the panel had argued for the production of disability disaggregated data and made the point that development targets should only be considered ‘achieved’ if they were met for all relevant income and social groups.  The upcoming session of the General Assembly would also see activity in the intergovernmental process on the strengthening of the treaty body system.  The co-facilitators had met with the Committees in April and it was reassuring to see the extent to which the intergovernmental negotiations were based on the proposals in the High Commissioner’s report and on the views of the treaty bodies’ experts. A new draft resolution had been tabled and would serve as a basis for the final negotiations.

Regarding additional work undertaken by the disability team at the Office of the High Commissioner, Mr. Mohkiber noted that a strong push had been given to the outcome document of the high-level meeting on disability and development during its negotiations in New York in June, for it to be strongly rooted in the Convention and the broader human rights framework.  Highlighting the importance of accessibility to the Convention and the role of the Committee, Mr. Mohkiber also welcomed the adoption of the Treaty to facilitate access to published works for visually impaired persons.  Among other developments, Mr. Mohkiber noted the publication by the United Nations Children’s Fund of a report focusing on children with disabilities which contained recommendations for Governments and other stakeholders to advance the agenda for their inclusion in their societies.  In New York, the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues had recommended that countries that had not yet ratified the Convention did so urgently, and recommended that the Committee paid special attention and took action to respond to the situation of indigenous persons and persons with disabilities. 

MARIA SOLEDAD CISTERNAS REYES, Chairperson of the Committee, updating the Committee on activities undertaken between the ninth and tenth sessions, recalled that the Committee was established more than five years ago, during which time it had considered a number of reports by States parties and had issued seven concluding observations and recommendations on country reports.  Among many other issues, the Committee had been able to address issues concerning equality, non-discrimination, freedom and security of the person, recognition of all persons before the law, legal capacity and prohibition of ill-treatment, the right to inclusive education, right to work in an open and inclusive environment, among many other issues, and the need for disaggregated data and the participation of persons with disabilities in proceedings concerning them, their right to live freely within their communities and to follow their life-plans.  The Committee had also considered individual and group communications related to the optional protocol and, as well as considering case law that was building up through its opinions and concluding observations, general comments had been issued to provide guidance and interpretation, including on legal capacity and the question of access.  During this session, the Committee hoped to adopt an initial draft, in order to start taking into consideration the opinions of stakeholders.

The Working Group on women and girls with disabilities had organised a half-day discussion which would lead to a publication and, perhaps, a general comment on this topic.  The Committee had also put in place different working groups on air travel, accessibility, and other issues.  The Committee had become a reference point for persons with disabilities and created synergies across the United Nations system.  As Mr. Mokhiber had recognised, the question of accessibility had moved beyond the Committee and throughout the United Nations.  The Committee had also played an important role during the sixth session of the Conference of States parties to the Convention, including the organisation of an event together with the Committee against Torture regarding the common ground shared by both treaties, which had been very successful.  Committee Members had participated in a number of events.  Together with the Vice-Chairperson, Ms. Cisternas Reyes had attended an event organised by International Labour Organization and United Nations Children's Fund.  In May the Committee had highlighted the importance of the social and human rights models, as well as the importance of participation and access for persons with disabilities and their representatives in a statement, and full legal capacity for all persons for disabilities for sustainable development. 

The Committee was part of the process leading to the high-level meeting of the General Assembly on disability and development.  The Committee had been one of the first bodies to put forward a declaration in support of the process and had adopted the Addis Ababa guidelines.  Ms. Cisternas Reyes expressed her appreciation to the States parties which had supported the extension of the Committee’s next session.  The full integration of this treaty body with 18 members coming from different regions and civilisations, as well as with experts with different forms of disabilities, showed that the Committee was able to deliver results despite a variety of challenges.  The Committee should continue to make optimal use of its working time and ensure that it would continue to be able to consider additional reports and carry out additional tasks.  Ms. Cisternas Reyes also thanked representatives of organisations of persons with disabilities, civil society organisations, national human rights institutions, and the Secretariat for their contributions to the Committee.  

JORGE ARAYA, Secretary of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, provided an update regarding the reports received.  Additionally, Mr. Araya noted that 41 reports were pending consideration, which represented almost five years with backlog under current meeting time, and that 58 reviews were overdue (pending submission by State parties).

Statements by Other United Nations Bodies, Specialized Agencies and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs)

A Representative of the Council of Europe indicated that among the Member States of the Council of Europe, 45 had signed and 37 had ratified the Convention and the rights of persons of disabilities were of great importance for the Council of Europe.  A disability plan had been developed and served as an implementation tool which was complementary to the Convention.  The post-2015 disability framework was currently being prepared in the context of the draft programme and budget for the next triennium.  Disability issues would be included in an activity programme called “human rights and equality” which evidenced the commitments to a rights-based approach as well as equality for persons for disabilities. 

The Focal Point on human rights and disability, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights referred to the Office’s efforts to promote and mainstream human rights and disabilities throughout the United Nations system and implementation at the national level.  The Office had organised a one day workshop on a human rights- based approach to disabilities to explain how this approach was different from the social-approach, in the context of the Conference of States Parties to the Convention.  The high-level meeting on development and disabilities would include human rights and development agenda and the Office had promoted the adoption of an outcome document that reflected the legal obligations of States parties to the Convention and the importance of human rights as a precondition for sustainable development. 

The Director of the Copyright Law Division for the Culture and Creative Industries Sector, World Intellectual Property Organization updated the Committee regarding the treaty to facilitate access to published work for visually impaired persons, adopted in Marrakech on 27 June 2013, and which would benefit visually impaired or print disabled, many of whom lived in the developing world.  The treaty embodied core principles of the Convention and illustrated the potential for multilateral work to address humanitarian needs.  The main objective of the treaty had been to harmonise limitations and exceptions concerning the reproduction of materials and counted with an explicit human rights dimension.  The participation of stakeholders, including persons with disabilities, at the Conference and activities leading up to it had been important.  The treaty required States to adopt measures to facilitate access for the beneficiaries and required limitations and exceptions to allow for cross-border transfer, a process which would be facilitated by entities such as libraries or non-for-profit organisations created for this purpose. 

A Representative of the United Nations Children's Fund recalled that a report on children with disability had recently been issued by UNICEF in a number of accessible formats.  The Global Partnership on Children with Disabilities, launched last year, was achieving results, including a greater number of partners working to advance the rights of children with disabilities, and a second global forum would take place in New York.  UNICEF was chairing the partnership and work was being undertaken for the implementation of several outcome areas related to the Convention.  Next month, UNICEF would publish a guide for the participation of children with disabilities, which would count with the support of Members of the Committee and the International Disability Alliance.

A Representative of the International Labour Organization said that the Organization continued to promote decent work for persons with disabilities, including through the provision of support to constituents to review employment laws with a disability approach.  A review of labour codes had been undertaken following requests from constituents.  The International Labour Organization’s training centre provided open courses or country specific courses and awareness raising activities had been carried out in countries working under technical cooperation to bring media to play a positive role.  The business and disability network sought to identify good practices and to reach out to medium and small companies to promote opportunities for persons with disabilities.  Partnerships were key for moving the decent work agenda forward and the Organization looked forward to working with the Committee and the inter-agency partnership.

The Director of the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention Implementation Support Unit said that the Unit contributed to States parties’ compliance with obligations.  In Peru, the Unit had worked on a workshop for the equalisation of opportunities for persons with disabilities convened by the national council for persons with disabilities and the de-mining centre with support from the European Union.  In Ethiopia, the Unit had also supported efforts to integrate victims’ assistance to their approach to disability, integrating efforts to meet the rights of survivors of remnants of war into a wider human rights approach.  The Unit was in discussions with Colombia regarding the possibility of a high level meeting on building bridges between landmines and broader issues, building on aspects on the upcoming High-level meeting on disabilities and sustainable development. 

International Disability Alliance said that the Alliance supported disabled people's organisations and their representatives.  The Alliance was determined to ensure that all disabled people's organisations had an active voice and to ensure that persons with disabilities were aware of their rights.  The Alliance congratulated the Committee and statements regarding the upcoming high-level meeting and noted its intention to participate in the proceedings.  The Alliance also welcomed the treaty on accessible publications, which would ensure information was accessible to a greater number of beneficiaries and provided a positive example of what people with disabilities could achieve through their representatives.  Concerning accessibility at the UN, the NGO supported the Committee’s endeavours and the practice to provide international sign interpretation.

A Representative of World Network of Survivors and Users of Psychiatry highlighted their contribution to the work of the Special Rapporteur on Torture and the call for a ban on non-requested psychological intervention.  Regarding the Convention, the NGO noted that article 12 could not function in a vacuum and articles 14 and 15 overlapped.  The NGO hoped the Committee would clarify that article 14 prohibited all detention based on mental health condition and the NGO emphasized the need for equal treatment, including reasonable accommodation, in the context of criminal procedures.  Culturally appropriate and sensitive support should be promoted; and communities should be strengthened to address existing stigma and institutional measures which relied on non-consensual medication, constrain and reclusion. 

Disability Council International said it had continued to work in support of the Committee, including the recommendations made to the Government of Paraguay, including through the organization of a number of events and activities with local partners.  The Council had continued to work on shadow reports on countries under review and was planning to expand its work on regional projects, helping States with capacity building on report writing, and following on the Committee’s recommendations to Governments in the development work. 

Swiss Association to Support People with Disabilities sought to identify the challenges facing the Francophone area, contributing by providing guidance and recommendations concerning the Convention in the French speaking world.  Four issues and three challenges had been identified.  Among the issues, governance, international cooperation, and education and cooperation for research, had been identified; challenges included the need for commitment, ownership, and civic involvement within community organizations.  The Association was pleased and would continue to work in the area in cooperation and would also like to involve the Committee and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

A Representative of the International Disability and Development Consortium recalled that the organization sought to promote development that respected the human rights of every person, ensuring diversity, inclusivity, and the participation in development on an equal basis.  The Consortium had worked closely with partners in the South and at an international level to promote an inclusive post-2015 development agenda.  Persons with disabilities from the South had been selected to participate in relevant meeting.  The Consortium looked forward to continuing to work with the Committee to ensure sustainable development for all.

Human Rights Watch appreciated the Committee’s openness to engage with civil society and urged the Committee to continue to allocate time for inputs from civil society and organizations of persons with disabilities, given principles of participation and inclusion.  Accessibility was a crucial aspect of inclusion, Committee meetings should be accessible and more documentation should be available to persons for disabilities to engage with the Committee’s work.  Human Rights Watch also stressed the need for coherence across treaty bodies and the danger posed by conflicting positions.  The NGO would publish a report on barriers to access in Russia and work was being carried out on the issue of violence against women with disabilities in India.


For use of the information media; not an official record

CRPD13/007E