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Human Rights Council discusses the rights of persons with disabilities

Human Rights Council 
AFTERNOON

10 March 2015 

Holds Interactive Dialogue with Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and
an Interactive Debate on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

The Human Rights Council this afternoon held an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities, Catalina Devandas Aguilar, before holding its annual interactive debate on the rights of persons with disabilities with a focus on their right to live independently and be included in the community. 

In her presentation, Catalina Devandas Aguilar, Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities, outlined her priority to focus on States’ legislative framework and the implementation of international standards.  She would also promote the inclusion of the rights of persons with disabilities into the post-2015 agenda, and would strengthen her cooperation with other Special Procedures. 

During the interactive dialogue that followed, speakers expressed their commitment to protecting the rights of persons with disabilities and to ensuring inclusive access to health, education and other services.  Speakers underlined the importance of seeing the rights of persons with disabilities as a cross-cutting issue and being taken into consideration in the post-2015 development agenda.  Speakers also encouraged the Special Rapporteur to cooperate with other human rights mechanisms, without duplicity of their work.  

Speaking during the interactive dialogue were the European Union, India, Qatar, Paraguay, Greece, Israel, Venezuela, Norway, New Zealand, Costa Rica, Cuba, Bulgaria, Italy, Spain, Sudan, Australia, Thailand, Ghana, China, Mexico, Egypt, Brazil, Niger, Malaysia, Georgia, Morocco and Ecuador.

Also speaking during the interactive dialogue were the International Coordinating Committee of National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, Sudwind and International Disability Alliance.

The Human Rights Council then held its annual interactive debate on the rights of persons with disabilities, with a focus on Article 19 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on living independently and being included in the community.

Juan Esteban Aguirre Martínez, Vice-President of the Human Rights Council, in his introductory remarks, said that today’s debate would focus on living independently and being included in the community, and that arrangements had been made to make the discussions accessible to persons with disabilities. 

Jane Connors, Director of the Research and Right to Development Division of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and moderator, called in her opening remarks on States to implement measures to ensure the right to live independently and to implement without delay dispositions of the Convention relating to discrimination.  She also called on States to craft indicators that enabled persons with disabilities to benefit from and contribute to a broad and inclusive development agenda. 

Hyung Shik Kim, Member of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, said that the right to independent living served as a catalyst to trigger other rights.  He described the independent living plan implemented in the city of Seoul, and underlined the importance of international cooperation for the realization of the rights of persons with disabilities. 

Catalina Devandas Aguilar, Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities, said States had the responsibility to take concrete steps to ensure that persons with disabilities had equal choices and control over their own lives.  States had to provide inclusive education and health, and other public services, and address poverty and social exclusion of persons with disabilities. 

Alina Grigoras, National Human Rights Officer at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the deinstitutionalization of adults and children with disabilities was high on the Office’s agenda.  A plan for phasing out institutional options and replacing them with services to enable people to enjoy services as community members had been developed. 

Gunta Anca, from the International Disability Alliance, underlined the importance of community integration and of supporting the autonomy, individuality and dignity of persons with disabilities.  It was urgent to shift from a “care approach” to a “person-centred approach” and build inclusive public policies.  Development policies had to consider the potential and rights of persons with disabilities and their needs on an equal basis with others and without discrimination.

Quincy Mwiya, Self-Advocate and Member of the Council of Inclusion International, shared his personal experience of living and being a person with a disability in Zambia.  There, he had faced stereotypes and discrimination in access to education, employment, access to justice, and was denied the right to vote.  He called on States to encourage inclusive mainstream education and support teachers. 

In the ensuing discussion, speakers underlined the importance of the right to independent living and of eradicating discrimination against persons with disabilities, and shared the view that a shift from a “care approach” to a “person-centred approach” was needed.  Speakers highlighted measures taken at the national level to enable persons with disabilities through inclusive public policies and equal access to services. 

Speaking were Algeria on behalf of the African Group, Ecuador on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean Countries, European Union, Bahrain on behalf of the Arab Group, Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Finland on behalf of the Nordic countries, Germany, Paraguay, Greece, Ireland, Bahrain, Nicaragua, Togo, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Cuba, Maldives, Austria, New Zealand, Brazil, Australia, Albania, France, Belgium, Portugal, Croatia, Namibia, Mexico, United Arab Emirates, Sierra Leone, United States, China, Costa Rica, Republic of Moldova, United Nations Children’s Fund, Angola, South Africa, Russian Federation, Egypt, Montenegro and Israel.

The National Human Rights Council of Morocco, Action Canada, Sudwind and Down Syndrome International also took the floor.

The Human Rights Council will have a full-day meeting on Wednesday, 10 March.  At 9 a.m., it will conclude its interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, before holding a clustered interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteurs on cultural rights and on the sale of children.  In its afternoon meeting, the Council will hold a clustered interactive dialogue with the Special Representatives of the Secretary-General on violence against children and on children and armed conflict. 

Documentation

The Council has before it the report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities (A/HRC/28/58)


Presentation of Report by the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

CATALINA DEVANDAS AGUILAR, Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities, said today was an important day for persons with disabilities as it was the first time that the Human Rights Council was hearing a report by the Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities.  The Human Rights Council with Resolution 26/20 had decided to establish this mandate in recognition of the need for further attention to be given to the promotion and protection of the human rights of persons with disabilities.  This was an important message and showed the need to step up the inclusion of persons with disabilities on an equal footing.  The mandate was broad and offered multitude opportunities and possibilities to cooperate with States.  It included various areas of work which needed clarity and guidance for the theme of disability.  The first report of the Special Rapporteur set out a proposed work plan guiding her work for the next three years.  As to the normative framework for the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, considering the interdependency and universality of all human rights, all the standards of the human rights framework applied.   The Convention would serve as guidance.  It provided for development and this was key.  It also provided for new standards. 

There were three priority areas that the Special Rapporteur would focus on for implementation.  These were interrelated and complementary areas.  The first was citizenship, including the participation of persons in all areas of life; the right to freedom and security; the right to live independently and be included in the community; and the right to political participation.  Many persons with disabilities were being denied these rights, and could not start a family, be elected, and choose where and with whom to live.  The second area of focus for implementation was poverty reduction.  Persons with disabilities were proportionally misrepresented in social protection schemes.  The Special Rapporteur would also promote equal access to education and employment, and ensure that all persons with disabilities were active stakeholders and beneficiaries in programmes and processes.  A large majority of persons with disabilities lived in developing countries.   The majority of these societies continued practices that reinforced stigmatization and discrimination.  Promoting dignity and pride of belonging by persons of disabilities, and seeking to promote positive experiences would be part of the mandate.   The Special Rapporteur would also promote specific actions at the national level in view of national legislation and in view of the implementation of the Convention.  These included consultations with persons with disabilities, capacity building, the implementation of the Convention in public policies, and oversight of the implementation of the Convention as per Article 33. 

In terms of the post-2015 development agenda, the Special Rapporteur was actively involved in efforts to ensure that it would have new objectives and goals with regards to persons with disabilities.  She would promote efforts to ensure international cooperation at all levels, including with other Special Procedures, to promote dialogue and exchange ideas.  At the international level, the Rapporteur would ensure that upcoming related outcome documents included the perspective of disabilities.  The perspectives and needs of persons with disabilities had to be considered in all human rights issues, as they were related to all human rights.  The multiple kinds of discrimination faced by girls with disabilities would be in constant consideration by this mandate.  Lastly the Special Rapporteur would seek a collaborative dialogue with States to pinpoint good practices and build bridges.  The provision and facilitation of assistance and capacity building to support national human rights efforts would be taken into account, and a cross cutting view of persons with disabilities would be promoted. 

Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

European Union noted that the promotion and protection of persons with disabilities represented a priority of the European Union’s human rights policy worldwide.  A sixth of the European Union’s population had some type of disability and that number doubled among the elderly people.  The European Union shared concerns and priorities in fighting poverty and promoting citizenship among persons with disabilities, and asked the Special Rapporteur to elaborate on what kind of involvement by States would be useful in promoting those rights.

India underlined the importance of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities as a significant document that provided a legal framework to the social understanding of disability issues.  The appointment of a Special Rapporteur for that mandate was a welcome development, while combatting prejudice and stereotyping against persons with disabilities deserved urgent attention.  India took note of the Special Rapporteur’s call for a disability-inclusive post-2015 development agenda. 

Qatar affirmed that the protection of persons with disabilities was one of the priorities of Qatar’s Government.  The national development strategy addressed that issue by amending certain provisions of the law on the needs of persons with disabilities in the areas of education, health, housing and labour.  In addition, an architectural manual stipulated provisions for accessible housing.  There were also steps being taken to ensure the social inclusion of persons with disabilities.
 
Paraguay said disabilities derived from society and not from persons.  Paraguay had reported to the Committee on the Rights of the Persons with Disabilities, and had established a national commission dealing with this issue specifically, as a clear expression of its commitment to combat discrimination on the ground of disability.  Paraguay was committed to seek accessibility in the broadest sense, and had adopted a law for accessibility of the media. 

Greece expressed its strong support to the mandate of Ms. Devandas Aguilar and subscribed to the view that the protection of these rights could better be achieved by promoting the role of persons with disabilities both as agents and beneficiaries of development and by fostering national efforts.  Greece underlined the importance of cooperation between the Special Rapporteur and the treaty body system. 

Israel underlined the importance of changing mentalities on persons with disabilities, and stressed that international efforts such as the discussion on the post-2015 agenda should include the rights of persons with disabilities.  Israel was committed to promoting and protecting the rights of persons with disabilities, and stood ready to share with the Special Rapporteur experience in this field. 

Venezuela welcomed the report and reiterated its support for the mandate.  The areas of interest were the participation of persons with disabilities in the community and in decision making in all aspects of social life.  Barriers needed to be overcome for the full enjoyment of human rights for persons with disabilities.  Venezuela had taken steps to improve their living conditions, conditions for development, satisfactory working conditions, and human dignity. 

Norway fully shared the concern expressed in the report that persons with disabilities continued to face barriers in their participation as equal members of society, and violations of their human rights all over the world.  It expressed hope that the mandate would help further strengthen the United Nations system in its efforts to realize the rights of persons with disabilities.  

New Zealand was deeply committed to ensuring the rights of persons with disabilities, and looked forward to further work in the Human Rights Council.  It supported the priorities set up in the report, which involved citizenship, poverty and social perceptions, and asked the Special Rapporteur to elaborate on opportunities to engage with other mandate holders and national and local governments.

Costa Rica welcomed the roadmap presented by the Special Rapporteur, and agreed that the human rights of persons with disabilities were a cross-cutting issue that required a holistic approach.  Costa Rica was one of the first supporters of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  The Special Rapporteur should cooperate with other United Nations mechanisms such as the treaty bodies. 

Cuba welcomed the roadmap presented by the Special Rapporteur and underlined the importance of her mandate.  Cuba and other Latin American countries attached great importance to the rights of persons with disabilities, and had undertaken efforts aimed at creating an inclusive society that respected the rights of persons with disabilities. 

Bulgaria said its national mechanism on human rights had the rights of persons with disabilities as one of its top priorities.  Particular emphasis was placed by the Government on the right to inclusive education of children with disabilities.  Bulgaria was also working to make sure that its international development efforts addressed the needs of persons with disabilities, and that issue was taken into account in the post-2015 agenda. 

Italy said a comprehensive and cooperative approach was essential to protect the rights of persons with disabilities.  Italy had adopted a biennial plan of action which included measures to improve accessibility.  Italy stressed that the rights of persons with disabilities must be included in the post 2015 development agenda. 

Spain stressed the need to strengthen the protection of the rights of persons with disabilities.  Spain underlined that legislative shortcomings, as well as gaps in the implementation of laws, resulted in violations of the rights of persons with disabilities, and asked for the Special Rapporteur’s view on how to address these. 

Sudan attached great importance to the rights of persons with disabilities, and had ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  Sudan would adopt policies to integrate persons with disabilities in most sectors, including children with disabilities. 

Australia had ratified the Convention in 2008 and in 2011 established a National Disability Strategy which provided a ten-year national policy framework to improve the lives of people with disability.  This included Indigenous Australians who experienced higher rates of disability than other Australians.  The Strategy ensured that principles in the Convention were incorporated into policies and programmes affecting people with disability. 

Thailand, as a State party to the Convention, believed that the empowerment and participation of persons with disabilities were key prerequisites to their enjoyment of rights.  That was why it called for enhanced accessibility, provision of sign language interpretation, and installation of assistive devices and mobility aids at homes and in public places to ensure that persons with disabilities could live independently and be included in their community according to Article 19. 

Ghana was committed to addressing the rights of persons with disabilities.  It had ratified the Convention in 2012, thus becoming the 119th member.  In 2013 it passed a Disabilities Act to facilitate persons of disabilities’ access to public facilities.  This act made the right to employment and health care mandatory for persons with disabilities.  A Council had been established to monitor the implementation of this Act.

China supported the Special Rapporteur’s work to eliminate discrimination against persons with disabilities and to promote and protect their human rights.  It was important to give priority to eliminating poverty and ensuring support for practical measures for the improvement of the social and economic rights of persons with disabilities.  The rights of persons with disabilities would be ensured through improving their social status. 

Mexico welcomed the priorities flagged by the Special Rapporteur, and asked what could be done to change mentalities and negative stereotypes of persons with disabilities.  Mexico also asked what the challenges were and underlined the importance of linking the human rights and the development agendas in order to address the needs of persons with disabilities.  It also stressed the importance of international cooperation. 

Egypt welcomed the priorities and areas of focus outlined by the Special Rapporteur, and encouraged the Special Rapporteur to maintain a linkage on the rights of persons with disabilities with the development agenda.  Egypt underlined the importance of cooperation between the Special Rapporteur and other United Nations mechanisms without duplication of their work. 

Brazil said social inclusion and accessibility were conditions for persons with disabilities to enjoy their human rights.  Public policies should ensure that persons with disabilities had access to education, health and social services.  Brazil acknowledged that a cross-cutting approach to this issue was needed.  Brazil stressed the importance of national mechanisms for the implementation and monitoring of the dispositions of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. 

Niger shared the view that to take up the challenge of the integration of persons with disabilities, stress must be placed on cooperation with all stakeholders.  One of the major obstacles for their social equality was marginalization.  Niger had adopted social and legislative measures to ensure the integration of persons with disabilities into the society, including quotas on jobs for persons with disabilities.

Malaysia agreed with areas of concerns and priorities for the mandate on persons with disabilities, including addressing root causes of their poverty, their inclusion in decision-making processes, and their full inclusion in the life of the community.  Those priority areas were relevant to the promotion and protection of the human rights of persons with disabilities and achieving their full inclusion in mainstream society.

Georgia said it was committed to protect the rights of persons with disabilities.  It had signed the Convention in 2009 and ratified it in 2014.  The most recent development in the legislation was the anti-discrimination legislation in May 2014 which prohibited discrimination, including on the grounds of disability.  The Action Plan 2014-2016 had been adopted which would see the establishment of an Inter-ministerial Council on Disability.

Morocco emphasized the importance of raising awareness of the rights of persons with disabilities.  It had ratified the Convention in 2014 and witnessed a real change from an approach based on charity to an approach based on promotion and protection.  The Ministry for Development and Solidarity ensured the provision and mainstreaming of rights for persons with disabilities.  It also ensured that public buildings were upgraded to provide access to persons with disabilities.

Ecuador stated that respect for the rights of persons with disabilities was a priority in the social policies of Ecuador.  Societies had to be sensitive towards persons with disabilities, and had to fight against the discrimination of persons with disabilities.  Ecuador agreed that disabilities should be dealt with using a human rights based approach, and encouraged the Special Rapporteur to ensure the implementation of Resolution 26/20. 

The International Coordinating Committee of National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights stated that today was an important milestone in the evolving capacity of the United Nations system to address the human rights concerns of the estimated one billion persons around the world with disabilities.  Key issues that had to be highlighted included the fact that persons with disabilities were the poorest of the poor.   Special attention was required for women, children and indigenous peoples with disabilities.

Sudwind asked whether it was the Special Rapporteur’s view that the term “persons with disabilities” implied acceptance of discrimination against these persons.  Sudwind was concerned that countries had unrealistic statistics on persons with disabilities, particularly with regards to children victims of landmines.  In Iran, more than 50,000 persons had been victims of mine explosions as of 2013.  Would the Special Rapporteur cooperate with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran and others?

International Disability Alliance called upon all States to ensure adequate resources to the mandate of the Special Rapporteur.  It underlined the importance of facilitating synergies and avoiding duplication between different United Nations actors.  It also welcomed the efforts made by the Council to ensure further inclusion of persons with disabilities, but believed important barriers remained to allow persons with disabilities to access its regular sessions.   

Concluding Remarks

CATALINA DEVANDAS AGUILAR, Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities, in her concluding remarks said that this new mandate required all kinds of support to move forward and to identify and highlight challenges that persons with disabilities faced; this would be done in cooperation with all other relevant bodies, including treaty bodies, and with the inclusion of persons with disabilities.  Persons with disabilities were still not included in most human rights discussions, stressed the Special Rapporteur, adding that States needed to carefully examine innovation offered by the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and ensure its domestication.  A lot of effort had been taken at national levels to harmonise the legislation but what was still lacking was the awareness and the knowledge on how to implement the provisions of the Convention, and the mandate had an essential role in this sense. 

Ms. Devandas Aguilar stressed that the Convention was an instrument of both human rights and development and that this synergy must be promoted in dealing with persons with disabilities, particularly in addressing causes of their poverty and ensuring their full participation.  That was why social protection schemes were fundamental, not only to respond to basic needs of persons with disabilities, but to deal with additional costs that arose from disability; consequently, cuts in social budgets in many countries were a source of concern.  The issue of women with disabilities was key in all actions of the mandate and States needed to ensure greater visibility of special challenges experienced by women with disabilities.  The assistance to victims of anti-personnel mines was an important one for the mandate and the Special Rapporteur expected that the situation of persons with disabilities in conflicts and other emergencies would be better included in humanitarian assistance.  The Special Rapporteur expressed satisfaction by the number of ratifications of the Convention in the seven years of its existence, and said that its tenth anniversary would present an opportunity for additional ratification by States.  In conclusion, Ms. Devandas Aguilar said that a lot of work remained to be done concerning the visibility and cross-cutting nature of issues related to disability, while stakeholders at national and international levels needed leadership in how to implement the Convention.

Annual Interactive Debate on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Documentation

The Council has before it a thematic study on the right of persons with disabilities to live independently and be included in the community - report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights  (A/HRC/28/37)
 
Opening Statement

JUAN ESTEBAN AGUIRRE MARTÍNEZ, Vice-President of the Human Rights Council, in his introductory remarks, said that the annual interactive debate on the rights of persons with disabilities would focus on Article 19 of Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, on living independently and being included in the community.  In an effort to render the Human Rights Council more accessible to persons with disabilities and to allow them to participate in the work of the Council on an equal basis with others, the panel would be made accessible through the use of international sign interpretation and captioning, as well as webcast.  Physical accessibility would be promoted by making room facilities wheelchair friendly, and as per established guidelines, braille printing would be available on demand.  The “Accessibility guide to the Human Rights Council for persons with disabilities” was available in the room and on the website of the Council, he noted. 

Statement by the Moderator

JANE CONNORS, Director of the Research and Right to Development Division of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and Moderator of the Panel Discussion, in her opening statement said that persons with disabilities were entitled to enjoy human rights without discrimination and on an equal basis with others, rather than to be recipients of charity, goodwill or medical care.  The human rights-based approach to disability promoted the participation of persons with disabilities in society.  The creation by the Human Rights Council of a Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities had marked an important institutional advancement.  The Convention now had attracted 152 ratifications and its Optional Protocol had been accepted by 85 States parties.  Ms. Connors encouraged States parties to the Convention to take concrete steps to implement its provisions.  Anti-discrimination measures, which could be realized even in situations of emergency and conflict, had to be implemented without delay.  In these efforts, particular attention had to be paid to intersecting grounds for discrimination, including sex, sexual orientation, age, ethnic or religious origin, caste or socio-economic background.   It was essential, in the final stage of negotiations for the post-2015 development agenda that States crafted indicators that enabled persons with disabilities to benefit from and contribute to a broad and inclusive development agenda. 

The right to live independently and be included in the community was a key aspect of participation, anti-discrimination and development.  It implied three aspects: choice and control over the decision of where and with whom to live; support, if needed, to perform activities in the community; and equal access to services available for the general population.  That right was inherent to the dignity of the person and promoted inclusion in society, enabling persons with disabilities to act as agents of change.  In order to realize that right, sustained and coordinated efforts were required.  No legal provision could allow for the deprivation of liberty on the basis of the existence of impairment.  All legal provisions that restricted or prevented the ability of adults with disabilities to make choices had to be replaced.  The views of children with disabilities had to be taken into account.  All persons with disabilities had to have access to support services and networks, which could be chosen or rejected by the person concerned.  Institutionalization had to progressively be eliminated and replaced by services provided in, and by, the community.  Finally, Ms. Connors emphasized that resources had to be allowed to make general public services accessible to, and inclusive of, persons with disabilities. 

Statements by Panellists

HYUNG SHIK KIM, Member of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, spoke about Article 19 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and said independent living meant respecting the decisions of persons with disabilities, and with as few restrictions as possible.  Independent living meant living alongside others in a community.  Mr. Hyung referred to the specific case of the Republic of Korea and its implementation of the dispositions of Article 19 in Seoul, where a five-year independent living plan had been adopted and would lead to the de-institutionalization of 600 persons by 2017.  He emphasized the importance of international cooperation, which should be geared to building capacity for independent living through exchange and sharing of information, experiences, training programmes and best practices, including facilitation of access to accessible and assistive technologies. 

CATALINA DEVANDAS AGUILAR, Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities, said Article 19 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities gave States the responsibility to ensure that persons with disabilities had equal choices.  The right to live independently in a community would help persons with disabilities regain control over their own lives.  It was insufficient just to avoid interference in a person’s life; positive support from a State had to be implemented.  Such support included in-home services allowing persons with disabilities to live in a community, or accommodation which ensured access to public services.  The right to live independently also required States to provide inclusive education and healthcare, and other public services.  Poverty and social exclusion were major obstacles.  Increased income led to a greater ability to make choices and live independently; inclusive social protection systems were an important means of ensuring independent living, and budgetary cuts in several countries jeopardized that right.  Budget allocations had to be directed at persons with disabilities rather than the providers of services.   

ALINA GRIGORAS, National Human Rights Officer at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the United Nations Partnership on the Rights of Persons of Disabilities had afforded a unique opportunity to raise awareness on the situation of children and adults with psychosocial and intellectual impairments, to consolidate commitments at all levels of State and to initiate thinking on how to address their systematic discrimination, exclusion and segregation.  The main achievements relating to the implementation of Article 19 of the Convention included the adoption of the Law on the Social Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities and explicit protection from discrimination in all areas, including in the provision of reasonable accommodation.  Deinstitutionalization of adults and children with disabilities was high on the Office’s agenda; and a plan for phasing out institutional options and replacing them with services to enable people to enjoy services as community members had been developed.  Major plans for the near future included the development of a targeted National Disability Action Plan and detailed local plans for transferring care out of institutions and into a well-prepared community.

GUNTA ANCA, International Disability Alliance, said that the scope of Article 19 was justified in light of the history of human rights abuses against persons with disabilities and its focus should be on community integration and supporting autonomy, individuality and dignity of persons with disabilities.  It was widely known today that persons with disabilities who were included in community life and mainstream schools from an early age were more likely to contribute to economic, social, political and cultural life.  The Convention called for a change of paradigm; it was urgent to shift from a “care approach” to “person-centred approach” and solutions promoting that approach already existed.  It was necessary to build inclusive public policies with strong public commitment and investment and in close consultation and active involvement of persons with disabilities and their representative organizations.  The post-2015 development framework must be a pivotal instrument in the realization of Article 19; adequate resources must be mobilized and all development policies - especially regarding poverty eradication, social protection, employment and decent work, education and others – were respectful of and considered the potential and rights of persons with disabilities and their needs on an equal basis with others and without discrimination.

QUINCY MWIYA, Self-Advocate and Member of the Council of Inclusion International (Zambia), shared his personal experiences of living and being a person with a disability in a developing country.  Persons with disabilities in developing countries affected the stability of households, because they affected women.  Disability led to segregation in the community. Mr. Mwiya said in developing countries he was considered mentally retarded.  He recalled that his mother was unable to work because if she left him alone, he was abused and discriminated against.  In school he had suffered language discrimination and it was difficult for teachers to concentrate on him because they did not have the skill of inclusive education, but thanks to the encouragement of his family he had completed his education.  At work he was given a contract of only one year because he was slow.  If he had reported abuse suffered in the community, the police would not have taken him seriously and the courts would not have heard him out.  Mr. Mwiya said if he had been respected he would have been able to participate in the community, to choose his Member of Parliament, to have the right to vote, to be independent.  Mr. Mwiya appealed to Governments to support  persons with disabilities and encourage inclusive mainstream education.  Governments had to support teachers to enable persons with disabilities to have an education.  In terms of employment, if today one was in a wheelchair it did not mean that he could not be a Chief Executive Officer somewhere.  Persons with intellectual disabilities were slow, but could win, he concluded. 

Discussion

Algeria, speaking on behalf of the African Group, said that disability issues were a major issue on the African continent.  It was important to secure social integration of persons with disabilities which necessitated the adoption of relevant measures and resources.  Civil society played a major role in relevant decision and law-making.  Ecuador, speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean Countries, spoke of the need for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to prompt States to shift to a new model from the care-based one, in order to secure full participation of persons with disabilities in economic, social and political life.  European Union said that equality, non-discrimination, freedom of movement and opportunities for independent living were key priority areas in the promotion and protection of the rights of persons with disabilities, including community-based care and inclusion in the post-2015 development agenda.  Bahrain, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, said that the full integration of persons with disabilities was the essence of human dignity and active participation in society.  Arab communities paid particular attention to that issue, and the Arab Group urged States to avoid the institutionalization of persons with disabilities.  Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, noted that States should eliminate legal and environmental barriers in order to ensure advancement of the right to live independently and be included in the community.  They should implement community-based and non-segregated settings.  Finland, speaking on behalf of the Nordic Group, supported the right of persons with disabilities to live independently.  The Nordic Council of Ministers advised inclusion of persons with disabilities in several focus areas, such as access to high quality services, boosting of independent living, and inclusion of the voices of persons with disabilities in decision-making.

Germany paid special attention to creating inclusive environments, including though adapted housing, use of technology, and removal of structural and communication barriers in access to medical care and participation.  Paraguay had made important legislative progress in moving on from a medical approach, and had created the National Disability Commission which brought together State, civil society and persons with disabilities.  Greece said its constitution guaranteed the right of persons with disabilities to participation and inclusion in the community, as well as the right to independent living and access to medical care.  Ireland said it was in the process of extensive reform of its legislation to maximize decision-making capacities of persons with disabilities.  It asked how States could empower persons with disabilities so that they contributed to the advancement of their rights.  Bahrain was convinced that persons with disabilities were an integral part of a society and that society could not develop unless it developed together.  Nicaragua had taken on major challenges facing persons with disabilities by ratifying the Convention and its Optional Protocol and said that it was important to work on an inclusive policy without discrimination.  Togo said it had adopted a law on the social protection of persons with disabilities in 2004 and ratified the Convention and its Optional Protocol in 2011.  The Government was promoting the inclusive nature of various development programmes in order to take into account persons with disabilities. 

The Ombudsman of the Republic of Azerbaijan stated that a new social rehabilitation model was being applied in Azerbaijan, and that in accordance with Article 33 of the Convention, the Government had allocated a budget in order to improve housing and provide social inclusion for persons with disabilities.  Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik stated that the problem of accessibility of persons with disabilities was a direct result of discriminatory approaches.  There were many examples of how the lack of accessibility created barriers to the full enjoyment of rights, including the right to participation.  According to a survey conducted on three million people with disabilities, only 600,00 had declared that they been able to secure employment.  Action Canada stated that living independently did not mean living alone, but exercising a choice in that respect.  Violence against women with disabilities was a big problem.  The denial of their sexual rights and involuntary sterilization still persisted.  The move from a medical and charity-based approach to a human rights approach was very important.

HYUNG SHIK KIM, Member of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, responding to questions, said that it was necessary to adopt a sufficient budget to accommodate different types of needs for independent living.  To that end it was also necessary to provide employment guarantees for persons with disabilities.  He warned that quantitative rather than qualitative monitoring was applied in the analysis of independent living of persons with disabilities, and that method needed to change.  Mr. Kim also highlighted the lack of trained personnel to aid persons with disabilities in independent living. 

CATALINA DEVANDAS AGUILAR, Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities, noted that the elimination of segregation and institutionalization of persons with disabilities was important in providing them with full enjoyment of human rights.  Inclusive social protection programmes for persons with disabilities were necessary to fight poverty among that population.  It was important to insist on implementing a new post-2015 development agenda that was participatory rather than charity based, and in that respect, State resources should work towards inclusion.

ALINA GRIGORAS, National Human Rights Officer at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that many States hesitated to carry out legal reforms, adding that substituting decision-making was discriminatory.  The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities had provided extensive guidance on legal capacity which was a good starting point for States because legal capacity was an inalienable right and should remain with the person concerned. 

GUNTA ANCA, Member of the International Disability Alliance, said that Article 19 was a very important part of the Convention which would not be implemented without the implementation of the Convention in general.  Persons with disabilities could not live in a society which was not accessible, without inclusive education and other aspects.  There were still some problems with the definition of terms, and it would be a good idea to find common meaning.   Special services for persons with disabilities, such as allocated spots in theatres, sometimes led to their separation or isolation from their friends and family.

QUINCY MWIYA, Self-Advocate and Member of the Council of Inclusion International, said that the only answers to the questions asked by the European Union were social exclusion and poverty.

Turkey said it was among the first countries to sign the Convention and had since launched a number of measures to ensure the full participation and inclusion of persons with disabilities, including in its national development plan which included disability issues more comprehensively.  Cuba said that in 2012 it had over half a million persons who lived with some form of disability.  Cuba had implemented a Strategy for Development based on principles of freedom, justice and inclusion, which guaranteed the full inclusion of persons with disabilities.  Maldives said its constitution guaranteed fundamental rights and freedoms to all without regard to disability, but enjoyment of rights of persons with disabilities required further improvement and Maldives hoped that this discussion would generate some suggestions.  Austria stated that in line with the National Action Plan on Disability 2012-2010, gainful employment was a top priority in terms of disability policy in Austria.  The Austrian Development Cooperation Programme implemented various projects across the world which provided young persons with intellectual disabilities with access to vocational training.  New Zealand had closed its last large-scale institution where persons with disabilities were placed in 2007.  This was a very important step in breaking down the assumption that persons with disabilities were unable to live in the community.  The Ministry of Health had also introduced Individualized Funding allowing persons with disabilities to choose the budget supports they wished to use.  Brazil had launched a National Plan in 2011 entitled “Living without Limits” aimed at strengthening the participation of persons with disabilities in society by removing barriers and promoting autonomy.  It also launched the “My House, My Life” programme which guaranteed the right to adequate housing adapted to the physical, sensorial and intellectual conditions of persons with disabilities.  Australia was one of first countries to mainstream disability in its development programme.  It ensured that people with disability had access to various forms of support to assist them to live independently, with actions such as the National Disability Insurance Scheme.  This would improve opportunities for persons with disability to determine what was in their best interest.  Albania firmly believed in a pro-choice approach on the issue of the living situation of persons with disabilities.  Action had to be taken to remove all barriers that these persons faced, including stigmatization and related discrimination and segregation from communities.  It agreed with a “deinstitutionalization” and a cross-sectorial approach.  France stated that since the adoption of the law in 2005, France had set ambitious objectives and had continued to reinforce its activities to ameliorate the access of persons with disabilities in public spaces.  States had to act to ensure the full implementation of Article 19, in order to ensure the autonomy of persons with disabilities.

Belgium said it was committed to the full inclusion of persons with disabilities in the society.  The move towards independent living was an important priority for Belgium’s Government, and persons with disabilities received a basic personal assistance budget to be able to live independently.  In that way the Government and regional authorities provided them with autonomy to make decisions.  Portugal attached the highest priority to the adoption of appropriate measures  to create an enabling and inclusive environment for persons with disabilities, which facilitated the full enjoyment of all their human rights.  It was particularly concerned by the multiple forms of discrimination of elderly persons with disabilities.  Croatia said that it was of crucial importance for the Special Rapporteur to closely interact with United Nations agencies, funds and programmes.  Croatia continued to advocate full inclusion of the rights of persons with disabilities in the post-2015 development agenda. 

National Human Rights Council of Morocco said they had issued an opinion on the draft law on the rights of persons with disabilities, launched three relevant studies, and led the first national campaign on autism.  It noted some drawbacks in social inclusion, education in special institutions, and institutionalization of persons with disabilities.

Down Syndrome International advocated for the inclusion and participation of persons with intellectual disabilities in disability discussions in the United Nations system.  It reminded that in the worst cases, those persons were abandoned at birth, or institutionalized once their family members died.  Very often they lived in segregation, and received very poor care.

Namibia reminded that the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities ushered a shift towards a rights-based approach to disability.  Persons with disabilities faced higher poverty and unemployment rates, as well as poorer education and housing conditions.  They should enjoy the same opportunities as others, and should be able to make decisions about their own life.  Mexico stated that its National Development Plan (2013-2018) mainstreamed development and the rights of persons with disabilities.  It included actions to foster the inclusion of persons with disabilities and promoted integration models outside institutions for people with mental disabilities.  Mexico promoted actions to avoid institutionalization and promote de-institutionalization.  United Arab Emirates stated that the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was the convention of the century.  Article 19 was of primordial importance in allowing persons with disabilities to live in communities and to be integrated in society.  The Government had promoted several measures, including personalized medical provision, education, and training of persons with disabilities.  Sierra Leone noted that the special needs of persons with disabilities had often led to the violation of their basic right to choose, especially by their care givers.  States had to strive towards the implementation of the Convention and give persons with disabilities the right to choose how they lived with their different disabilities.

United States said that it had celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.  It was strongly committed to enabling persons to live independently and this included a need for accessible housing and transportation options.  It meant access to education and competitive employment opportunities, and required changing attitudes.  China stated that it had 85 million people with disabilities.  Out of these, there were 12.3 million living in poverty, and another 3.6 million in the countryside.  The average income of persons with disabilities lagged far behind others.  The Act of Disabilities and the Social Security Act, as well as the 5-Year Plan targeted this social aspect of persons with disabilities.  Costa Rica stated that the application of Article 19 was vital to the eradication of discrimination.  Persons had to have the opportunity to choose their place of residence and have access to a range of in-home residential opportunities.  The Government had enacted measures for inclusion without discrimination, including a National Policy 2011-2021 to ensure that the public services and premises were accessible.

Republic of Moldova said its ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities had triggered a series of reforms aimed at implementing the rights of persons with disabilities, including programmes for inclusive education and access to health.  Republic of Moldavia asked for the panellists views on how to change mentalities and prevent negative stereotypes against persons with disabilities.  United Nations Children’s Fund highlighted the vulnerability of children with disabilities worldwide.  It was crucial that the post-2015 development agenda was inclusive of persons and children with disabilities.  Angola had undertaken initiatives to strengthen the participation of persons with disabilities in all areas of public life and promote their active participation within their communities.  Angola had also undertaken training of personnel working with persons with disabilities.  
South Africa said its Bill of Rights recognized equality before the law without discrimination.  A series of laws provided an inclusive environment for persons with disabilities.  Russian Federation had submitted its initial report to the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and had adopted a programme that sought to allow independent living for persons with disabilities.  The Russian Federation recalled that it had held the Paralympics games last year.  Egypt reaffirmed the interdependence of all rights of persons with disabilities, and said the implementation of the right to independent living still faced challenges around the world.  Egypt still faced challenges, and its national programme for empowering persons with disabilities sought to overcome them.

Montenegro said that the promotion and protection of the rights of persons with disabilities was one of the Government’s priorities, in particular their right to live independently.  Persons with disabilities were the best experts regarding their needs, and thus their inclusion in the planning of policies was mandatory.  Israel emphasized that persons with disabilities were equal, and had the right to live independently and to be included in the community.  However, the recognition of those rights was not sufficient.  States had to ensure that those rights were guaranteed by domestic legislation and accompanied by adequate policies.

Concluding Remarks

HYUNG SHIK KIM, Member of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, in his concluding remarks thanked all speakers for their contributions and comments.   He underlined the importance of adopting a culture of human rights when addressing the issues of disability.  Sometimes governments were conservative and maintained the status quo.  With respect to legal barriers to the full enjoyment of human rights by persons with disabilities, States needed to move towards a more human rights based approach.  There were significant stages in implementing the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  One of them was conducting in-depth interviews with all stakeholders. 

CATALINA DEVANDAS AGUILAR, Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities, underscored the commitment shown by all States that had shared their experiences in implementing Article 19.  She underlined the importance of the comment made by the United Nations Children’s Fund on the need to collect data on children with disabilities.  This would give a more effective response.  It was important to  reflect the mainstreaming of the rights of persons with disabilities in the post-2015 development agenda.  Efforts had to seek the effective participation of this segment of the population, otherwise more barriers would be built for persons with disabilities.  Services had to be mainstreamed, otherwise inclusive development would not be achieved.  Ms. Devandas Aguilar emphasized the fact that she worked from Geneva and would have many opportunities to hold bilateral meetings during which specific interests of States could be addressed.  Regarding the question on older people, this showed that there were different needs for different people, and therefore the need to live independently was crucial.  A basic income was needed for older persons with disabilities.

ALINA GRIGORAS, National Human Rights Officer at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, brought the focus of the debate on the rights of women and girls with disabilities.  This put additional barriers to achieve social inclusion.  The violation of reproductive rights, such as forced abortion, sterilization and the denial of parenting were persistent.  Violence against women with disabilities was higher than against those without disabilities.  This included sexual abuse.  Ms. Grigoras also brought into focus hidden forms of abuse in medical facilities, where forced medication, chemical and physical restraints were practiced.

GUNTA ANCA, Member of the International Disability Alliance, summarized some of the ideas regarding deinstitutionalization.  First it was important to start services before starting deinstitutionalization, so that there was a place to go and a place to get services.  Those who were at home should not be forgotten.  It was important that deinstitutionalization included all persons with disabilities, including those with mental health problems.  Many countries had started the process of deinstitutionalization.  It was a process, and a difficult one.  Ms. Anca asked the countries to include people with disabilities and their organizations in these processes.  These were the people who could give the best ideas on how to help those with disabilities.  She hoped that the rights of persons with disabilities would be mainstreamed in other panels and meetings of the Human Rights Council. 

QUINCY MWIYA, Self-Advocate and Member of the Council of Inclusion International,
in his concluding remarks said he wished that the Human Rights Council gave space to disability every year so that more discussion could take place.

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                                                                                                For use of the information media; not an official record

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