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UN disability rights expert announces first visit to North Korea

GENEVA / PYONGYANG (27 April 2017) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities, Ms. Catalina Devandas-Aguilar, will conduct an official visit to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea from 3 to 8 May 2017 to learn about the situation of persons with disabilities in the country, with a particular focus on children with disabilities.

Ms. Devandas-Aguilar’s visit will be the first ever to the country by an independent expert designated by the UN Human Rights Council.

“My upcoming visit to DPRK represents a key opportunity to learn firsthand about national realities, laws, policies and programmes concerning people with disabilities, as well as the challenges and opportunities the Government faces in implementing the Convention”, the human rights expert said noting the DPRK’s recent ratification of the Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities in December 2016.

The human rights expert, who visits the country at the invitation of the Government, will meet with Government representatives, UN officials, international humanitarian organizations, the Korean Federation for the Protection of the Disabled and other affiliated organizations, and people with disabilities themselves.

During her six-day mission, Ms. Devandas-Aguilar will visit Pyongyang and the South Hwanghae Province.

“I look forward to engaging with the Government, humanitarian actors and people with disabilities to identify needs and practical approaches in order to formulate constructive recommendations that can contribute to enhance protection for people with disabilities and compliance with the Convention,” she said.

The Special Rapporteur reports to the UN Human Rights Council and advises on the realisation of the rights of people with disabilities word-wide, supporting States to identify good practices, opportunities, challenges and protection gaps in this area. Her work is guided by the Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities and other international human rights standards.

On 8 May 2017 at 4 p.m., Ms. Devandas Aguilar will hold a press conference at the Hotel Koryo in Pyongyang to share with the media her preliminary observations on the visit. Access to the press conference is strictly limited to journalists.

The Special Rapporteur will submit a comprehensive report to the UN Human Rights Council, including her findings and recommendations, in March 2018.

Ms. Catalina Devandas-Aguilar (Costa Rica) was designated as the first Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities in June 2014 by the UN Human Rights Council. Ms. Devandas Aguilar has worked extensively on disability issues at the national, regional and international level with the Disability Rights Advocacy Fund, the UN unit responsible for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the World Bank. Her work has focused on the rights of women with disabilities and the rights of indigenous peoples with disabilities.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights, country page: DPRK

For press inquiries and additional information, please contact:

In Pyongyang (during the visit): Ms. Thuy Hang To, UNDP Office (+ 850 2 381 7772 ext. 202 / thuy.hang.to@undp.org) or Ms. Cristina Michels (+ 850 1 912502666 / cmichels@ohchr.org)

In Geneva (before and after the visit): Ms. Cristina Michels (+41 22 928 9866 / cmichels@ohchr.org) or write to sr.disability@ohchr.org

In Geneva (during the visit): Ms. Alina Grigoras (+41 22 917 9289 / agrigoras@ohchr.org) or write to sr.disability@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)  

You can access this news release online

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