The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has been attentively following the preparatory process of the Third World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction to be held on March 14-18, 2015 in Sendai Japan.
The Committee sees this process as presenting both challenges and opportunities to promote and protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms of persons with disabilities, who are often at most risk of all forms of discrimination and exclusion, and are often “the first to be forgotten and the last to be remembered” of all marginalized groups.
Through its reviewing of the states parties’ reports, the Committee, since its inception, has given high priority to article 11 of Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which requires that States Parties ensure protection and safety of persons with disabilities in situations of risk resulting from natural disasters, armed conflict and other humanitarian crises.
For the past few years, the Committee has worked with several relevant parties in ensuring that disaster relief measures can reach persons with disabilities, and has released statements concerning particular crises.
The Committee welcomes all initiatives and genuine efforts of all parties, particularly that of The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), to ensure that the disability perspective is not omitted from the agenda of this process, including the substantive part of revising the framework for action (Hyogo Framework for Action: HFA2), taking into account that persons with disabilities must not only be recipients of help and assistance, but can actively contribute to greater success of disaster risk reduction efforts.
In its General Comment 2, on accessibility, the Committee reiterated its great attention to this matter as shown in paragraph 36 of the General Comment which states: “Ensuring full access to the physical environment, transportation, information and communication, and services open to the public is indeed a vital precondition for the effective enjoyment of many rights covered by the Convention. In situations of risk, natural disasters and armed conflict, the emergency services must be accessible to persons with disabilities, or their lives cannot be saved or their well-being protected. Accessibility has to be incorporated as priority in the post- disaster reconstruction efforts. Therefore, disaster risk reduction must be accessible and disability inclusive.”
The Committee notes with great concern that even after the unprecedented successful process of proposing, drafting, negotiating, adopting, ratifying, and monitoring of implementation of the Convention, persons with disabilities still face great difficulty and unnecessary restrictions when participating in the mainstreaming development process.
The current Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are coming to an end in 2015. Their developmental results are ambiguous and despite a reduction in overall poverty figures, the MDGs have not achieved a sustainable improvement in the living conditions of the poorest of the population, including persons with disabilities. The recommendations of both the MDG Summit in 2010 and the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development in 2012 initiated an inclusive process to develop both a set of sustainable development goals, and a global development agenda beyond 2015. There was broad agreement that the two processes should be closely linked and ultimately converge in one global development agenda. hese two processes are informed by the United Nations’ consultations with Major Groups. The concept of the Major Groups arose from the first Rio conference in 1992, to incorporate civil society inputs into a sustainable development process. However, persons with disabilities have been absent from the outset.
The Committee sees the need for much improvement in order for both the process and substance of disaster risk reduction to be truly accessible to and inclusive of all, particularly persons with disabilities. This could serve as a significant indicator of a successful human rights and sustainable development agenda.
The Committee calls upon all States parties, the United Nations and all agencies within the United Nations system and the international community to:
1. Ensure that all processes of the Third World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction and any relevant conference on post-2015 sustainable development must be accessible to persons with disabilities, in line with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and other internationally recognized accessibility standards and guidelines.
2. Ensure that persons with disabilities, their representative organizations and relevant parties can fully and effectively participate in all aspects of any preparatory process and all consultations, including during the conference.
3. Ensure disability inclusion in the final outcome of this world conference leading to the true disability-inclusive disaster risk reduction which will serve as model of best practice for a disability-inclusive human rights-based sustainable development agenda.
4. Reconsider, through the United Nations General Assembly resolution, the more open and participatory structure of the United Nations engagement in any consultation with civil society organizations by either creating an additional Major Group for persons with disabilities, or, to revisit the entire Major Group structure to become more accessible, transparent and open to full participation of all persons.
Geneva, September 2014