Realising the rights of persons with disabilities

Addressing the annual debate held by the Human Rights Council on persons with disabilities, High Commissioner Pillay highlighted the plight of people with disabilities caught in situations of extreme hardship. “Prior to the earthquake, there were 800,000 persons with disabilities in Haiti,” she said, “including 200,000 children. The tremor has injured an estimated additional 200,000 many of whom will suffer from long-term disabilities. There are at least 2,000 new amputees.”

The Human Rights Council holds its annual interactive discussion on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities - © OHCHRThe situation in Haiti, Pillay said, underscored the importance of the implementation and monitoring mechanisms specifically described in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. In emergency relief, recovery and reconstruction operations, established, designated focal points would ensure that issues for persons with disabilities are identified and addressed. Existing monitoring mechanisms, she said would assess whether the appropriate measures had been adopted and applied.

“Lessons learned from other natural disasters have shown that persons with disabilities suffer the most but their situation is often overlooked and neglected in relief and humanitarian responses,” according to the High Commissioner.

The implementation and monitoring provisions of the Convention were the focus of this year’s Council discussion supported by a study from the Office of the High Commissioner. The Human Rights Council resolved in May 2008 when the Convention entered into force, that a day of discussion would be dedicated to the Convention annually. 

The study draws attention to the Convention’s unique requirements that specifically describe its national implementation and monitoring and stipulate the two functions should not be assigned to one organisation. While implementation is the responsibility of government the report says, protection, promotion and monitoring lies with independent national institutions. Both implementation, and promotion and monitoring of the Convention must involve the participation of persons with disabilities and their representative organisations.

Pillay said requiring independent institutions to participate in the monitoring, together with persons who have disabilities promotes “a participatory, accountable and inclusive process of implementation.”

Regina Atalla, from the International Disability Alliance stressed that at all stages in the implementation and monitoring of the Convention, Governments must respect the involvement and participation of persons with disabilities.

Atalla said disability focal points need to be positioned at the “highest level of the Executive, which will ensure mainstreaming of the rights of persons with disabilities throughout the Government structure”. The establishment of an independent national monitoring framework can “become a powerful engine for change and an important complement to the role of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities”, she said.

A number of speakers participated in the Council’s discussion including Mohamed Al-Tarawneh, Vice-Chairperson of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Jennifer Lynch, Chair of the International Coordinating Committee of National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, Shuaib Chalken, Special Rapporteur on Disability of the Commission on Social Development and Donald MacKay, former Ambassador of New Zealand at the United Nations in Geneva.

For the first time at this Council event, the discussion was interpreted into international sign language and real time captioning was provided. Hearing loops were also made available.

9 March 2010