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Statement by Mr. Andrew Gilmour, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, at the High-level Panel Meeting to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: Promoting universal ratification; New York, 2 December 2016

Honourable Chair,
Distinguished Ambassadors,
Colleagues,

It is a pleasure to be here with you to celebrate the International Day of Persons with Disabilities and the 10th anniversary of what is a landmark achievement of the human rights movement.

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities brought about a fundamental change in the way people see disability and the way Governments approach the issue. It marked a break with some of the old medical approaches of the 20th century, and it left behind the idea that disability policy is somehow a charitable project, in favour of a human rights-based approach.

During the last ten years, we have seen important progress in the protection of the rights of persons with disabilities:

The paradigm shift reflected in the Convention is gaining strength. Negative attitudes are being challenged. Societies’ own response to impairment is changing.

The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which oversees implementation of the Convention, continues to generate practical and innovative recommendations aimed at making sure the commitments that States parties make when they ratify the Convention are translated into actionable laws, policies and practices at the national level.

In addition, the Human Rights Council’s Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities has taken the lead in a number of international processes like the World Humanitarian Summit and the SDG indicators discussions, making the connections through her reports and monitoring functions between human rights and development issues.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development refers to persons with disabilities, and this is a progress in comparison with the Millennium Development Goals where persons with disabilities were omitted. However, the realisation of the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will not be fully achieved if it is not driven by the standards of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Convention needs to guide the implementation of the SDGs if we want to ensure that persons with disabilities are not left behind and can effectively participate in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. I encourage Member States to engage with our Office through technical cooperation for the implementation of the SDGs in line with the provisions of the Convention.

Following the World Humanitarian Summit, the humanitarian agenda has included a new perspective on persons with disabilities. The adoption of the Charter on Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action represents a starting to point to increase political commitment towards improving and reframing the emergency cycle to be inclusive of this population. OHCHR is committed to support the Inter-Agency Standing Committee Task Team in developing internationally agreed guidelines to include persons with disabilities in humanitarian action from a CRPD perspective.

The human rights of persons with disabilities need to be mainstreamed in all resolutions, beyond those that are disability-specific, in line with the human rights-based approach to disability.

Distinguished colleagues,

Today we celebrate the adoption of the Convention that with 169 ratifications reflects the commitment towards persons with disabilities from Member States. Much has been done over the last 10 years and yet much more needs to be done.

As the High Commissioner has said, the women members of the Committee have significantly contributed to its work, and OHCHR sincerely hopes that in future elections the gender balance will be rectified by Member States, in order to uphold the pledge to gender parity and rectify this imbalance where today only one out of the 18 members of the Committee is a woman.

Though progress has been made, we need to do more to implement the human rights of persons with disabilities. I highlight here the importance of active collaboration between the different stakeholders responsible for improving the enjoyment of human rights by persons with disabilities. The States parties to the Convention are of course the main duty bearers, but the private sector, media and academia also have a role to play. And we count on civil society actors to let us all know how to do better and what more we can do. The 2016 Social Forum of the Human Rights Council this year focused on persons with disabilities, including recommendations from civil society to all relevant stakeholders in a strong call for action, for example, on promoting better portrayal and involvement of persons with disabilities in the media; and using public procurement to encourage the private sector to increase globally the availability of goods and services for persons with disabilities.

I am grateful to the President of the General Assembly for hosting this meeting and hope we will all continue working together towards the inclusion of persons with disabilities in all areas, and to ensure the implementation of their human rights in practice.

Thank you.