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Second Interactive Debate on the structure and role of national mechanisms for the implementation and monitoring of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Human Rights Council discussed the human rights of persons with disabilities on 5 March 2010

The Human Rights Council held its second interactive debate on the rights of persons with disabilities on 5 March 2010, in the course of its afternoon session. States representatives, inter-governmental organizations, national human rights institutions and non-governmental organizations, participated in the debate (see concept note). Interpretation into international sign language and real time captioning were provided for the first time during a session of the Human Rights Council. Hearing loops were also made available.

Human Rights Council discussed the human rights of persons with disabilities © OHCHR photoDuring the panel States and other stakeholders had the opportunity to discuss the structure and role of national mechanisms for the implementation and monitoring of the CRPD, in accordance with the Council’s resolution 10/7  of March 2009. The Convention was adopted by the General Assembly in December 2006 and came into force in May 2008. As of the date of the debate, 80 States were parties to the Convention and 51 to its Optional Protocol, while 139 and 82 are signatories to the two instruments respectively.

The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Navanethem Pillay, opened the interactive discussion welcoming the provision of sign language interpretation and real time captioning. Ms. Pillay noted though, that "All sessions of the HRC, and all UN facilities and events should be accessible to all”. The High Commissioner stressed that for the CRPD to make a tangible change in the life of people States need to implement the treaty at the national level through the adoption of all relevant legislative, judicial, administrative and educational measures. She asserted that part of the answer lies in article 33, which explicitly requires States to set up the institutional preconditions necessary to accompany the application of the Convention at the national level. The High Commissioner highlighted that the situation in Haiti underscored the importance of these national mechanisms to protect persons with disabilities and address their issues in situations of natural disasters and in the emergency response. (Text of statement)

To facilitate discussions, four panelists made introductory remarks:

Mr. Don MacKay, former Chair of the Ad Hoc Committee that negotiated the draft Convention and former Ambassador of New Zealand at the United Nations in Geneva, complemented OHCHR for the thematic study on national mechanisms for the implementation and monitoring of the CRPD. In his intervention, Ambassador MacKay noted that the adoption of the CRPD had put an end to the invisibility of persons with disabilities in the human rights agenda. He highlighted that the need for a strong implementation and monitoring system at the national level had become clear already during the early stages of the negotiations on the Convention. In this regard, he welcomed the novelty of the CRPD, whereby States are required to designate or establish implementing and monitoring mechanisms at the national level, and requires the involvement of persons with disabilities and their representative organizations in the implementation and monitoring of the Convention. Ambassador MacKay also highlighted the importance for States to allocate sufficient resources for an effective monitoring system.

Mr. Mohammed Al-Tarawneh, vice-President of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities addressed in his intervention the international and national mechanisms responsible for the implementation and monitoring on the Convention. In so doing, Mr. Al-Tarawneh highlighted the role of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in providing support and guidance to States parties in the implementation of the Convention through the State reporting system, the individual complaints mechanism and the inquiry procedure. He also noted the important role of international cooperation and of the specialized agencies, funds and programmes of the United Nations in this regard. With regard to monitoring, Mr. Al-Tarawneh stressed the need for the Committee to cooperate with National Human Rights Institutions in monitoring States’ implementation of the Convention. Mr. Al-Tarawneh also clarified the obligation of States to designate or establish a focal point within the government for matters relating to the implementation and the establishment of a framework to promote, protect and monitor the Convention. He also highlighted the important role of civil society in the implementation and monitoring of the Convention. (Text of statement)

Mr. Shuaib Chalklen, Special Rapporteur on Disability of the Commission for Social Development, shared the experience of South African in implementation of article 33. He described the functions and main features of national implementing and monitoring mechanisms. In reference to the focal point he stressed that it was placed within the Presidency and noted that the coordination mechanism was composed of officials from all national government departments. Mr. Chalklen clarified that the South African Human Rights Commission was the institution responsible for monitoring the Convention and highlighted the important role of the South African Disability Alliance consisting of Organizations of Persons with Disabilities and Service providers in both, the implementation and monitoring of the Convention. (Text of statement)

Ms. Jennifer Lynch, Q.C, Chair of the International Coordinating Committee of National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights (ICC), and Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, focused her presentation on the special role of NHRIs under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, a role without precedent in international law. She highlighted that National Institutions accredited with A Status by the ICC are ideally suited to be the cornerstones of the framework to monitor and protect the Convention established in article 33. Ms. Lynch highlighted that NHRIs have important responsibilities and specific expertise in promoting and protecting the rights of persons with disabilities, and serve as a bridge between states and civil society. She also remarked that monitoring and implementation would be greatly impoverished without the participation of persons with disabilities. She encouraged all States parties whose National Human Rights Institutions have "A" status to consult with them, with a view to designating them as the independent mechanism pursuant to Article 33.2, and to provide adequate funding to support this role. (Text of statement English-French-Spanish)

Ms. Regina Atalla, President of the Red Latinoamericana de Organizaciones no Gubernamentales de Personas con Discapacidad y sus Familias, and member of the International Disability Alliance (IDA), highlighted that focal points need to be positioned at the highest level of the Executive. She stressed that the most relevant and challenging feature of Article 33 relates to the establishment of an independent national monitoring framework in line with the Paris Principles. It will also be a role of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to ensure that the decisions made by States Parties fully comply with article 33 of the Convention. She described that if States choose to allocate the independent monitoring role to an existing mainstream body (usually a NHRI), it needs to be ensured that this body acquires the adequate resources and disability rights-related knowledge to be able to exercise its role. Where there are no NHRI or where they are not a good option to fulfil the role, States might decide to create a new body, which will only focus on monitoring the implementation of the Convention. Importantly, this body should also comply with the Paris Principles. (Text of statement English-Spanish)

The discussion continued with statements from the floor, delivered by New Zealand, Mexico, Morocco, Pakistan on behalf of the OIC, Canada, Cuba, United States of America, Turkey, Republic of Korea, Jordan, Burkina Faso, Spain on behalf of the EU, Belgium, Russian Federation, Democratic Republic of Congo, Austria, Slovenia, Israel, UNICEF, European Disability Forum and Human Rights Watch, to which the panelists provided feedback. After a short break, the discussion resumed with statements from Qatar, Australia, Hungary, Indonesia, Brazil, Islamic Republic of Iran, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Thailand, Algeria, Colombia on behalf of GRULAC, Slovakia, Sudan on behalf of Arab Group, Sweden, Philippines, Ukraine, China, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Peru, Costa Rica, Kenya, Morocco, Asia-Pacific Forum of NHRIs, the European Group of NHRIs and the World Federation of the Deaf.

The proceeding of the debate, including oral statements and the comments and answers from the panellists are available on the Human Rights Council extranet. Oral statements are available as pdf or word documents. The extranet page requires users to login.

Alternatively, the webcasted version of the session can be followed at: http://www.un.org/webcast/unhrc/archive.asp?go=100305#pm

To support this debate, the Council requested OHCHR “…to prepare a study to enhance awareness on the structure and role of national mechanisms for the implementation and monitoring of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities” and requested that such study be developed “in consultation with relevant stakeholders, including States, regional organizations, civil society organizations, including organizations of persons with disabilities and national human rights institutions disabilities”. The study is now available in English, French, Spanish, Chinese, Arabic and Russian.

Over 100 written contributions to the study were received and OHCHR also held an open consultation in Geneva on 26 October 2009. The submissions received for the study, the informal summary of the consultation and the presentations of the experts that participated in the consultation are available at: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Disability/Pages/DisabilityIndex.aspx