Committee on the Rights of Persons
17 September 2012
The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities this morning opened its eighth session, during which the Committee will review the initial reports of China, Argentina and Hungary on how those countries implement the provisions of the Conventions on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Committee heard an opening address by a representative of the High Commissioner for Human Rights as well as opening remarks by representatives of United Nations and non-governmental organizations. It also adopted its agenda and revised programme of work.
In her opening statement, Wan-Hea Lee, Chief of the Treaties Division of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, reported that since the Committee’s last meeting in April 2012 seven countries had ratified the Convention and five countries had ratified the Optional Protocol. Ms. Lee highlighted key proposals in the report of the High Commissioner on treaty body strenthening, such as increasing accessibility and visibility of the treaty body system, and reported on important recent developments relating to the rights of persons with disabilities, including the September 2012 Global Partnership Forum on Children with Disabilities organized by the United Nations Children’s Fund.
Ronald McCallum, Committee Chairperson, noted that sign language and captioning were being used during the session, and that the public meetings were being transmitted by live webcast, via http://www.treatybodywebcast.org. He welcomed the allocation of extra time to the Committee, which for the first time would meet for two weeks, and said the fact 28 reports were awaiting review justified the request the General Assembly for more time.
During the meeting the Committee heard from United Nations bodies, specialized agencies and non-governmental organizations on ways to enhance the promotion and protection of the rights of persons with disabilities. Issues raised promotion of sports for persons with disabilities, employment, violence against women, negotiations on an instrument for visually impaired persons and initiatives in child nutrition, education and humanitarian action.
Representatives of the Council of Europe, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, World Health Organization, World Intellectual Property Organization, the United Nations Children’s Programme, the International Disability Alliance, Human Rights Watch, and International Social Services, took the floor.
The Committee will next meet in public on Tuesday, 18 September at 3 p.m. when it will begin its review of the initial report of China, including China, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and Macao Special Administrative Region (CRPD/C/CHN/1, CRPD/C/CHN-HKG/1 and CRPD/C/CGB-MAC/1).
WAN-HEA LEE, Chief of the Treaties Division of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, made an opening statement on behalf of the High Commissioner in which she congratulated the re-elected and new members of the Committee and reported that since the Committee’s last meeting on 20 April 2012, seven countries had ratified the Convention and five countries had ratified the Optional Protocol. Ms. Lee spoke about the High Commissioner’s report on treaty body strengthening, which was published this summer, and contained key proposals that included establishing a comprehensive reporting calendar to ensure strict compliance with human right treaties, measures to implement continued consistency of treaty body jurisprudence in relation to individual communications, increased accessibility and visibility of the treaty body system, a simplified reporting procedure to assist States parties to meet their reporting obligations with cost savings for them and the United Nations, and maximum alignment of other working methods without contradicting the specific requirements of the treaties.
The adoption of guidelines on the independence and impartiality of treaty body members (the “Addis Ababa guidelines”) had been a significant achievement of the Treaty Body Chairpersons meeting held earlier in the year in Addis Ababa. The guidelines were strongly recommended for prompt adoption by the respective treaty bodies. Ms. Lee highlighted other important developments relating to the rights of persons with disabilities, which included the following meetings: the Council of Europe Committee of Experts on the Rights of People with Disabilities in June 2012, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in June 2012, the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights in July 2012, the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in May 2012, the Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in September 2012, and the United Nations Children’s Fund’s Global Partnership Forum on Children with Disabilities in September 2012.
RONALD MCCALLUM, Committee Chairperson, thanked Ms. Lee for her opening statement. He said that in the interest of making the Committee’s meetings as accessible as possible, sign language and captioning were being used. He announced that the public meetings of the session would be broadcast live via webcast (and also archived). The webcast could be watched via the following link http://www.treatybodywebcast.org. He was also pleased to note that the Committee had been granted extra time to meet, and for the first time this session would last for two weeks instead of one.
The agenda and revised programme of work were adopted.
Since the last meeting of the Committee, nine initial country reports had been received, which meant that twenty-eight reports were awaiting review. More time was needed to consider more reports, the Chairperson said, and that ideally seven or eight countries should be considered every year. The fact 28 reports were awaiting review justified the request the General Assembly for more time. In a brief update Mr. McCallum spoke about his attendance at the Addis Ababa meeting of Treaty Body Chairpersons, at the Fifth Conference of States Parties in New York and at the Global Partnership Conference on Children with Disabilities.
A representative of the Council of Europe, said that the Council of Europe and the Committee had similar priorities regarding persons with disabilities. In 2013 the Council of Europe would promote the cultural rights of persons with disabilities focusing in particular on the participation of persons with disabilities in sport and leisure activities, both as participants and as spectators. He also reported that The Council of Europe was actively promoting recent recommendations made by the Committee. The European Commission for Democracy through Rights, or the Venice Committee, had recently published an interpretative declaration of proper electoral conduct which clearly stated that the right to vote was a fundamental right and that persons with disabilities should not be discriminated against in that respect. His presence at that session demonstrated that The Council of Europe was actively supporting the work of the Committee and was keen to ensure that there was close collaboration with the Committee.
A representative of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, reported on activities undertaken since the Committee’s last session. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights was currently preparing a study on work and employment for persons with disabilities. Over seventy contributions had been received from invited States and other key actors. She also reported that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights had actively contributed to several initiatives aiming at improving accessibility for persons with disabilities.
A representative of the Women’s Section of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, reported on the involvement of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in recent initiatives on women with disabilities. The Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women with Disabilities would present a report to the upcoming session of the General Assembly. Ms. Burger encouraged the Committee to explore the possibility of closer co-operation with other relevant mechanisms and to ensure that issues of persons with disabilities be incorporated in initiatives taken. The goal should be a holistic approach aiming at eliminating discrimination.
A representative of the World Health Organization, reported on a number of initiatives taken by the World Health Organization, including publications on persons with disabilities. He stressed that the launch of the World Report on Disability at State level was a great opportunity to promote the work of the Committee and the Convention. World Health Organization offices in 194 States were strongly promoting the mainstreaming of disability.
A representative of the World Intellectual Property Organization Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights, provided an update on the status of negotiations in the Committee on an instrument for the benefit of visually impaired persons or print-disabled persons. The Committee was working on issues such as the exact nature of the instrument, the definition of the beneficiary class of the instrument, the scope of the works covered, the presidential effect of the adoption of the particular instrument, and the impact it would have on the interpretation of the Three-Step Test which defined the boundaries of copyright exceptions and limitations.
A representative of the United Nations Children’s Fund, said that structural and systematic measures had recently been taken in order to make programmes more inclusive for children with disabilities. United Nations Children’s Fund was looking to increase its activities and co-operation with relevant global actors, focusing in particular on nutrition, education and humanitarian action. The regional office in Eastern Europe recently issued a publication on a rights-based approach to an inclusive education for children with disabilities.
A representative of International Disability Alliance, stressed that high-level meetings should be made ‘disability inclusive’, and strongly recommended that more time be allocated to the sessions of the Committee to enable it to carry out its work properly. International Disability Alliance welcomed the High Commissioner’s proposal to strengthen treaty bodies and make information, communication, meetings and websites more transparent and accessible across all treaty bodies. International Disability Alliance was firmly opposed to the proposal to establish a code of conduct for treaty body members, which it believed was an illegitimate intervention in the independence of treaty body members.
A representative of Human Rights Watch said that it looked forward to the work of the Committee, especially the three State party reviews and the interactive dialogue with States.
A representative of the International Social Services said that children with disabilities were particularly at risk and that the disability of a child was a factor that could lead to its abandonment or separation from their family. Research showed that children were increasingly vulnerable to abuse and violence in institutional settings.
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