First annual Interactive Debate of the Human Rights Council on key legal measures for ratification and implementation of the CRPD (6 March 2009)

Human Rights Council discussed the human rights of persons with disabilities on 6 March 2009

Navanethem Pillay, High Commissioner for Human Rights © OHCHR photo

The Human Rights Council held its first interactive debate on the rights of persons with disabilities on 6 March 2009 during its 16th session. States representatives, inter-governmental organizations, national human rights institutions and non-governmental organizations, participated in the debate (see concept paper).

The debate offered a unique opportunity for member States and other stakeholders to discuss key legal measures for the ratification and implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, for which OHCHR prepared a thematic report (A/HRC/10/48 - also available in English Braille printing) in accordance with the Council’s resolution 7/9 of March 2008. 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, 50 States are parties to the Convention and 29 to its Optional Protocol, while 139 and 82 are signatories to the two instruments respectively.

The interactive discussion was opened by Ms. Navanethem Pillay, High Commissioner for Human Rights. The High Commissioner described the Convention as a watershed in thinking and highlighted how the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities enshrines a shift from charity-based or medical-based approach to a new conception of disability that is firmly grounded in human rights. She stressed that a truthful endorsement of the paradigm shift requires a profound and comprehensive review of legislation and policies relevant to the situation of persons with disabilities. This review must address the scope and content of rights but also discuss approaches and processes required for the effective implementation of norms, including from the perspective of the active participation in such processes of organizations of persons with disabilities (text of statement).

Interventions of Panelists

To facilitate discussions, four panelists made introductory remarks:

Ms. Amita Dhanda, representing the International Disability Alliance on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (IDA-CRPD), highlighted the Convention as a lively example of the indivisibility of all human rights and focused her presentation on key challenges to the full implementation of the Convention. She highlighted in particular the concern raised by reservations and declarations lodged on the Convention, the urgent need for legal reform, the duty to involve organizations of persons with disabilities and the concern that the financial crisis might result in slower implementation of the Convention (text of presentation).

Mr. György Könczei, expert member of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, described disability as a part of the human experience and welcomed its framing as a human rights issue operated by the Convention through the paradigm shift. He expressed the view that reservations represent a threat to the unity of the Convention, referred to article 12 on legal capacity as one of the core elements of the Convention and invited States not to refrain from their duties under the Convention by claiming inability because of the financial crisis (text of presentation).

Ms. Edah Maina, expert member of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, focused her presentation on legal measures for the protection and promotion of the right of persons with disabilities to legal capacity. She clarified that recognition of legal capacity should be understood as capacity to act and not only to recognition as a person in the legal order. She discussed the revision of guardianship laws and the introduction of supported decision making systems. She highlighted the importance of capacity building and awareness raising measures and brought examples of her activity to support the rights of persons with mental and intellectual disabilities in Kenya (text of presentation).

Ms. Barbara Murray, from the International Labour Organization (ILO) discussed legal measures for the realization of the right to work and employment of persons with disabilities. Besides stressing the importance of normative frameworks outlawing discrimination, she clarified actions required in the area of integrated vocational training, physical and information and communication accessibility and awareness raising (text of presentation).

Statements from the floor

The discussion continued with statements from the floor, delivered by Yemen, Cuba, Chile, Check Republic, Pakistan, Mexico, New Zealand, Russia, Indonesia, China, Canada, Burkina Faso, Algeria, Philippines, Iran, Turkey and jointly from the Advisory Council for Human Rights of Morocco and the Irish Human Rights Commission, to which queries the four panelists provided feedback. After a short break, the discussion resumed with statements from South Africa, the United States of America, Malaysia, Thailand, Tunisia, Italy, Ukraine, Australia, the European Commission, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Kenya, Slovenia, Morocco, the United Nations Fund for Population Assistance, Yemen, Costa Rica, the Asia Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions and the European Disability Forum.