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Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Praised for Hosting Seven Online Regional Consultations as it Opens Twenty-Fifth Session in Geneva

16 August 2021

The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities today opened its twenty-fifth session online, hearing from the Director of the Human Rights Council and Treaty Mechanisms Division at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, who was grateful to the Committee for its devotion to avoiding a human rights protection gap during this difficult period and for hosting seven online regional consultations.

In his opening statement, Mahamane Cissé-Gouro, Director of the Human Rights Council and Treaty Mechanisms Division at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, welcomed the most recent ratifications of the Convention by Botswana and Uzbekistan last month, as well as the ratifications of the Optional Protocol by Georgia and Sao Tome and Principe, for a total ratification of 184 and 99 States parties respectively. At the same time, and in stark contrast, the adoption of a human rights model of disability and national implementation of the Convention had not kept pace, as shown in the context of the pandemic. Mr. Cissé-Gouro was grateful for the time and efforts that the Committee had devoted during this exceptional period to avoid a human rights protection gap, praising its support for deinstitutionalisation, and for hosting seven online regional consultations on ending the institutionalisation of persons with disabilities, including in emergencies.

Rosemary Kayess, Chair of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, highlighted the intersessional online events she participated in since the last session, in her capacity as Chair. She met periodically with the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Disability and Accessibility, and the High Commissioner’s Disability Unit. Together with the Special Rapporteur and the Special Envoy, the Committee had issued a press release on 28 May 2021 calling on the Council of Europe to withdraw the draft Additional Protocol to the Oviedo Convention.

The Committee then proceeded to adopt the agenda of the twenty-fifth session, which will run from 16 August to 14 September 2021, and during which the Committee will review reports presented by Djibouti and France.

Speaking at the opening of the session today were Ambassador Keva Lorraine Bain, Chair of Human Rights Council Task Force on Accessibility, and María Soledad Cisternas, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General on Disability and Accessibility. Also speaking were representatives of United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction; United Nations Population Fund; Institución CONFE a Favor de la Persona con Discapacidad Intelectual; International Labour Organization; International Disability and Development Consortium; United Nations Children’s Fund; and International Disability Alliance.

All the documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, can be found on the session’s webpage.

The webcast of the Committee’s public meetings will be available via the following link: https://media.un.org/en/webtv/.

The Committee will next meet in public at 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday, 18 August for its constructive dialogue with France.

Opening Statement

MAHAMANE CISSÉ-GOURO, Director of the Human Rights Council and Treaty Mechanisms Division at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, welcomed the most recent ratifications of the Convention by Botswana and Uzbekistan last month, as well as the ratifications of the Optional Protocol by Georgia and Sao Tome and Principe, for a total ratification of 184 and 99 States parties respectively. At the same time, and in stark contrast, the adoption of a human rights model of disability and national implementation of the Convention had not kept pace, as shown in the context of the pandemic. At its forty-seventh session, the Human Rights Council had adopted its annual resolution 47/24 on human rights and climate change and called upon all States to adopt a comprehensive disability-inclusive approach to climate change adaptation and mitigation policies. The fourteenth session of the Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities had been held online from 15 to 17 June. Following the adoption of the historic Security Council resolution 2475 (2019) on the protection of the rights of persons with disabilities in the context of armed conflict, the Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities reiterated that his first thematic report would focus on this theme, and would be presented at the General Assembly this fall.

The Ministerial Declaration of the 2021 High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, adopted for the first time since 2018 by consensus, contained an unprecedented number of explicit human rights references, including a reference to persons with disabilities and the discriminatory laws, policies and practices that must change to leave no one behind. Mr. Ciss­é-Gouro was grateful for the time and efforts that the Committee had devoted during this exceptional period to avoid a human rights protection gap, praising its support for deinstitutionalisation, and for hosting seven online regional consultations on ending the institutionalisation of persons with disabilities, including in emergencies. The Office’s Human Rights and Disability Unit had presented its second performance report to the Secretary-General on the implementation of the Disability Inclusion Strategy, and reported progress under five indicators. It also reported on its performance under the Strategy to the Human Rights Council for the first time. The Unit was embarking on the drafting process of a report on article 31 of the Convention, statistics and data collection. Mr. Cissé-Gouro closed expressing encouragement at the Committee’s decision to continue holding online sessions, also acknowledging the challenging nature of remote work.

Adoption of the Agenda

The Committee adopted the agenda and programme of work for the session.

Presentation by the Chair of the Committee of her Report on Intersessional Activities

ROSEMARY KAYESS, Chair of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, in presenting the report of the Chair on intersessional activities, highlighted the intersessional online events she had participated in since the last session in her capacity as Chair. She met periodically with the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Disability and Accessibility, and the High Commissioner’s Disability Unit. Together with the Special Rapporteur and the Special Envoy, the Committee had issued a press release on 28 May 2021 calling on the Council of Europe to withdraw the draft Additional Protocol to the Oviedo Convention. In June 2021, an open letter to the Secretary-General of the Council of Europe was also published. Ms. Kayess had also participated in the fourteenth Conference of States Parties, speaking in two high-level segments, highlighting that inclusion and participation of persons with disabilities must be part of building back better. The Committee had held the Chairpersonship of the thirty-third annual Treaty Bodies Chairpersons’ Meeting. The meeting had considered the outcome of the 2020 review, including focused in-situ reviews, more aligned working methods, and the digital uplift in the work of treaty bodies post-COVID 19.

Statements on Cooperation with other United Nations bodies, Special Bodies, Organizations of Persons with Disabilities and other Civil Society Organizations

ROSEMARY KAYESS, Chair of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, welcomed all the representatives from United Nations bodies, organizations of persons with disabilities and other civil society speakers who had signed up to participate in this segment. The Committee was honoured to count on their constant support and sincerely appreciated the response to engage in this session.

KEVA LORRAINE BAIN, Chair of Human Rights Council Task Force on Accessibility, noted that in 2021, thanks to the efforts of many colleagues, the Council had successfully held four panels with international sign interpretation and captioning. The interactive dialogue with the new Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities, Gerard Quinn, had also been fully accessible.

MARÍA SOLEDAD CISTERNAS, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General on Disability and Accessibility, stated that it was important to have a meeting with all key partners so that a path ahead could be forged. Awareness campaigns were a key tool, particularly regarding girls and adolescents with disabilities. The human rights model must be cross-cutting, allowing for mainstreaming disability issues.

United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction continued to be committed to implement the United Nation Disability Inclusion Strategy. With the support of the World Institute for Disability, all staff completed in 2020 a three-module training on the implementation of the Strategy and disability inclusive disaster risk reduction, generating a list of activities to be undertaken in 2021.

United Nations Population Fund said young persons with disabilities were disproportionately isolated, often invisible and prone to discrimination and stigma. The Fund advocated to ensure persons with disabilities were free from violence and discrimination, free to exercise their rights. Through its Global Strategy for Adolescents and Youth, the Fund promoted human rights and the social inclusion of women and young persons with disabilities, leading inter-agency cooperation and promoting youth ownership of policy dialogues.

Institución CONFE a Favor de la Persona con Discapacidad Intelectual highlighted its creation of the "Guide for the Protection of the health of people with disabilities in the context of COVID-19" with the collaboration of organizations of and for people with disabilities, as well as the involvement of government agencies for its formulation and execution. The institution had also created a document to ensure that persons with disability in Mexico were incorporated into the vaccination system – however, in practice they were not prioritised.

International Labour Organization noted that in recent years, the Organization had increased its work on the future of work, addressing the megatrends that were already affecting the world of work now. After the launch of the publication “Making the future of work inclusive of people with disabilities” in 2019, the Organization had also published “An inclusive digital economy for people with disabilities” in February 2021. The Global Business and Disability Network was currently engaging stakeholders in five Asian countries.

International Disability and Development Consortium noted that during the past 16 months, the consortium had worked with other partners in launching a series of campaigns to denounce multiple human rights violations committed against persons with disabilities. It had also published the “Adjust and Respond” report to ensure that governments pursued disability-inclusive pandemic responses.

United Nations Children’s Fund noted that children with disabilities were 32 per cent less likely to read books or be read to at home, compared to their peers without disabilities. Remote home schooling could be exceptionally challenging, requiring Internet, assistive devices, and individualised curricula. In 2020, the Fund worked to implement inclusive education programmes in 115 countries, providing children with disabilities with individual support for learning at home.

International Disability Alliance applauded the efforts of the Committee for carrying out this session remotely, hoping that pre-COVID-19 practices would be resumed by the end of the year. The seven regional consultations held by the Committee together with persons with disabilities were welcomed. COVID-19 had created a visibility for disability issues that must not fade away. Together with other organizations, the Alliance recently launched a Call to Action to Protect the Right to Family Life and Prevent Institutionalisation for All Children.

ROSEMARY KAYESS, Chair of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, then closed the meeting, reiterating that those speakers that could not take the floor were invited to do so at the public closing on 14 September.

Link: https://www.ungeneva.org/fr/news-media/meeting-summary/2021/08/committee-rights-persons-disabilities-praised-hosting-seven