GENEVA (17 August 2016) - The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities today concluded its consideration of the initial report of Ethiopia on its implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Ramadan Ashenafi, State Minister, Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs of Ethiopia, presenting the report, said that the Constitution guaranteed equal rights to all people without any form of discrimination or distinction, and contained a number of important provisions directly and indirectly relevant to the rights of persons with disabilities concurrent with the Convention. The inclusive development agenda was in place for all segments of the society, while specific laws, policies and strategies were in place to ensure that persons with disabilities could benefit from equal opportunities and full participation in development. Ethiopia was actively raising awareness about the Convention, which it had made available in different languages, including Braille. The challenges in the full realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms enshrined in the Convention, namely lack of awareness, necessary skills and technology, could be met with an all-round assistance and cooperation in continued educational and capacity-building efforts.
A representative of the Ethiopian Institute of Ombudsmen said that over the past four years considerable efforts had been invested in expanding the Institute’s major functions and its presence throughout the country. The Ombudsman’s main task was to promote good governance, fight mal-administration against persons with disabilities, and receive and investigate complaints from persons with disabilities for mal-administration.
In the discussion that followed, Committee Experts inquired about comprehensive legislative and policy measures taken to adopt and enforce the prohibition of discrimination on the basis of disability, and to ensure transition to a human rights-based approach to disability. They recognized that the National Plan of Action for Persons with Disabilities 2012-2021 moved toward a social model of disability, but persons with disabilities were still seen as objects and subjects of charity. Experts took note with concern of reports on the situation of children with disabilities, including infanticide, violence and abuse, abandonment, and exclusion, and inquired about measures to ensure that they had a decent life free from violence and disability-based discrimination.
The delegation was asked about the progress made in eradicating harmful traditional practices such as female genital mutilation, and particularly in combatting harmful stereotypes linked to disability, and about steps taken to address rampant sexual violence, including against women and girls with disabilities. Under the former regime, persons with disabilities living in the street had been put in former concentration camps, which were now transformed into rehabilitation centres – Experts wondered how successful the transformation of a concentration camp into a human rights-based institution could be, and asked about concrete steps to ensure that the human rights of persons with disabilities in those centres were upheld.
Mr. Ashenafi, in concluding remarks, said that Ethiopia would give due consideration to all questions and issues raised in the fruitful and constructive discussion with the Committee. Participatory democracy and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons with disabilities, was a matter of priority in Ethiopia, which was committed to the effective implementation of laws and policies, and integrating disability as a cross-cutting issue in development.
Martin Babu Mwesigwa, Country Rapporteur for Ethiopia, said in concluding observations that dwindling external assistance and limited resources would always be there and could no longer be accepted as an excuse for the lack of advancement of protection and inclusion of persons with disabilities. It was the duty of each State to ensure that persons with disabilities were given due cognisance in all aspects of life, and to adopt measures at the level of strategies, resources and policies to alleviate hardships that they had to encounter in their day-to-day lives.
Maria Soledad Cisternas Reyes, Committee Chairperson, in concluding remarks, said that the Committee had decided to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Convention in Africa, namely in the headquarters of the African Union in Addis Ababa, with the support of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The delegation of Ethiopia included representatives of the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, and the Permanent Mission of Ethiopia to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
The concluding observations on the report of Ethiopia will be made public on Monday, 5 September 2016 and will be available here
The live webcast of the Committee’s public meetings in English and Spanish, with closed captioning and International Sign Language, can be accessed via the following page: http://www.treatybodywebcast.org/
The Committee will next meet in public at 3 p.m. today, 17 August, to begin its consideration of the initial report of Bolivia (CRPD/C/BOL/1
The initial report of Ethiopia can be read here: CRPD/C/ETH/1
Presentation of the Report
RAMADAN ASHENAFI, State Minister, Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs of Ethiopia, said that Ethiopia had signed the Convention in 2007 and had become a State party in 2010 upon the ratification by the Parliament. Explaining the report drafting process, Mr. Ashenafi said that the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs was the focal organ responsible for data gathering and coordinating other institutions and ministries involved in the reporting process, while different stakeholders, including government sectors, civil society organizations and organizations representing persons with disabilities, had provided input through consultative workshops. The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission and the Ethiopian Institute of Ombudsman, as independent bodies, had been actively engaged in advising, monitoring and evaluating issues concerning persons with disabilities as stipulated in the Convention, and progress had been achieved in terms of awareness of the society on disability and the Convention as a whole. Ethiopia had made major strides in the promotion and protection of human rights through the adoption of its federal Constitution in 1995 and the ratification of major international human rights instruments. The Constitution guaranteed equal rights to all people without any form of discrimination or distinction, and also stipulated a number of important provisions directly and indirectly relevant to the rights of persons with disabilities concurrent with the Convention.
Ethiopia was promoting an inclusive development agenda for all segments of the society and had laid the foundation for a broad framework for the formulation and implementation of various sector laws, policies and strategies to enable persons with disabilities to benefit from equal opportunities and full participation that included food security, health, education, justice and others. Activities to raise awareness about the Convention included campaigns, workshops, symposia, and availing the Convention in different languages, including in Braille; together with the revision of laws and policies, this had resulted in improved accessibility to buildings, transport, roads, education, and health. During its second cycle of the Universal Periodic Review, Ethiopia had accepted 188 recommendations which directly or indirectly addressed the human rights of persons with disabilities and was in the process of implementing them. In conclusion, Mr. Ashenafi said that challenges in the full realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms enshrined in the Convention included lack of awareness, as well as necessary skills and technology, but those could be met with an all-round assistance and cooperation in continued educational and capacity building efforts.
Questions from the Committee Experts
MARTIN BABU MWESIGWA, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for Ethiopia, said that the Constitution was the foundation of the protection of human rights in Ethiopia and the basis upon which the democratic system in the country was built. The Constitution recognized that international human rights treaties ratified by Ethiopia formed an integral part of the law of the land and this included the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. It also conferred upon the State authorities the responsibility to ensure respect for fundamental freedoms and rights of all people in Ethiopia, including persons with disabilities. The National Plan of Action for Persons with Disabilities 2012-2021 outlined the shift from a medical to a social model of disability, but persons with disabilities were still limited to objects and subjects of charity. Could the delegation confirm that the definition of disability was in line with the Convention and inform on how persons with disabilities were given priority consideration in the provision of services offered by the State? How many organizations of persons with disabilities were supported by the State and how did the National Human Rights Action Plan specifically deal with issues of disability?
The Committee had not been able to interface with civil society organizations and representative organizations of persons with disabilities from Ethiopia, remarked the Rapporteur and said that according to alternative reports, including the report of the Universal Periodic Review on Ethiopia, persons with disabilities were not considered as a group in need of special protection. In relation to inclusive education, the country Rapporteur asked about the strategic directions applicable in the State education sector to ensure equitable access to quality education at all levels, and to take into account the specificities of learners with disabilities. How did the disaster risk management system address the needs of persons with disabilities?
A Committee Expert inquired about comprehensive legislative and policy measures taken to adopt and enforce the prohibition of discrimination on the basis of disability, and to ensure the transition to a human rights-based approach to disability, as well as about steps taken toward drafting the national accessibility plan and how accessibility of public transportation would be therein addressed.
What kinds of incentives or other measures were available to promote the application of reasonable accommodation in the workplace and other areas of life? The 2009 Charities and Societies Proclamation limited the activities of civil society organizations by interfering with the exercise of the right to freedom of association; it required non-governmental organizations to limit foreign funding to 10 per cent of their budgets. This provision severely limited the functioning of civil society organizations of persons with disabilities; what plans were in place to repeal this law? What plans were in place to address the rampant sexual violence in the country and to repeal restrictive abortion laws? The State report was very silent on the situation of children with disabilities; there were reports of infanticide of children with disabilities, children with disabilities were often kept at home, and corporal punishment was not prohibited in all settings, including at home. What steps were being taken to address those issues?
Another Expert took note of the 45 complaints submitted for discrimination on the grounds of disability and asked about the actions taken to address those complaints and about measures available to persons with disabilities to ensure they were protected from disability-based discrimination. The delegation was asked how it monitored the application of accessibility standards in practice, particularly in new buildings; about the situation of physical accessibility to wheelchair users in Addis Ababa; and about accessibility in the provinces and rural areas?
Experts asked about the role of the media in campaigns on disability issues and how the current campaign impacted on attitudes of the society toward persons with disabilities. They also asked about efforts to eradicate customs and practices which were discriminatory towards persons with disabilities and which were contrary to the Convention, especially to protect women and girls with disability from violence. What was being done to ensure that children with disabilities living in extreme poverty and those living in remote and isolated areas were protected from violence, infanticide, abuse and abandonment, and to ensure they had a decent life free from violence and disability-based discrimination?
A Committee Expert commended Ethiopia for the progressive evolution of the definition of disability, from those seeing persons with disabilities as unable to do something, to a definition aligned with the Convention in the national action plan for persons with disabilities 2012-2021. What plans were in place to ensure that terminology in the civil and criminal code was aligned with terminology used in the Convention?
Experts expressed regret that they were unable to meet with national civil society organizations and representative organizations of persons with disabilities and, in the light of the limitations placed on their budget raised from foreign sources, asked how the State supported their international cooperation and participation as a source of gaining experience in how to deal with disability politics.
There was a lack of recognition of multiple and intersectional discrimination, for example in the case of women with disabilities, refugee women with disabilities, and internally displaced women with disabilities. What progress was being made in eradicating harmful traditional practices such as female genital mutilation, and particularly in combatting harmful stereotypes linked to disability? What steps were being taken to implement targeted campaigns to address those harmful traditional practices?
Ethiopia was a fast growing country and a Committee Expert wondered whether it had adopted any internationally recognized accessibility standards in information and communication technologies. A Committee Expert remarked that the legislation in Ethiopia violated several articles of the Convention and asked whether Ethiopia was ready to accept that Article 5 was being violated and to commit to a comprehensive review of its laws and policies to ensure that all violations of Articles 5 to 10 were removed. To which extent were disability issues included in the national development plans, and in the national poverty reduction strategy?
MARIA SOLEDAD CISTERNAS REYES, Committee Chairperson, asked about steps taken toward the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. It was impossible to unlink human rights from the 2030 Agenda, said the Chairperson, and asked about concrete steps taken to implement the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly Goals N°3 on health and wellbeing, N°5 on gender equality and N°11 on sustainable cities and communities.
Response by the Delegation
In response to the question on persons with disabilities being the object of charity, a delegate said that Ethiopia was moving to the social model of disability and that the charity model was present just as a name in the legal framework. A number of services were being delivered to persons with disabilities by ministries and institutions which were responsible for mainstreaming disability in their work. The implementation of this obligation was monitored by a number of bodies. Persons with disabilities were one of the target groups of the national social protection policy, and were entitled to safety nets; the national social safety net programme was Ethiopia’s flagship and one of the largest such programmes in Africa. Children with disabilities were in focus of the education for all programme and the attempts to achieve universal education coverage, including in early childhood education. The delegate then provided figures of children in school for the period 2010-2014, but could not provide the number of children with disabilities among students as this information could only be collected through a census which would be costly.
The 2009 Civil Society Proclamation did not preclude or prevent representative organizations of persons with disabilities from participating in the work of the Committee and they should not be left out because of financial resources. The Family Code had been revised and had provided greater protection to women and children, and to family members with disability. Ethiopia had endorsed a regulation to allow a tax free import of special vehicles for persons with disabilities. A number of policies were in place, including on social protection, national health and rehabilitation strategy, and education, which took into consideration the needs of persons with disabilities. There was no discrimination on the basis of disability, but there was lack of awareness of disability issues in the society.
Ethiopia was already looking into birth registration of children with disabilities and was putting in place a unified birth registration system. It had set up the Data Registration Agency which was advertising the importance of registration among families with children. The Ministry of Education was doing its best to include accessibility issues in the schools, and the Government had committed to ensuring that no child was left behind in education because of lack of food. There was violence at home, but not on a massive scale; all cases of domestic violence were adequately addressed by the authorities. One of the focus areas in the social protection policy was to tackle violence and put in place prevention and redress mechanisms.
In terms of the participation of representative organizations of persons with disabilities, a delegate said that persons with disabilities were a constituency in Ethiopia which was a State of good governance and rule of law, and as such, each ministry had an obligation to consult with key constituencies on a regular basis. There were eight representative organizations of persons with disabilities and one federation of persons with disabilities in Ethiopia and they all were consulted and were involved in policy-making.
Despite some old-fashioned legal provisions, Ethiopia had already undertaken legislative and policy initiatives on disability which aimed to guarantee rights enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Some of the legal framework put in place to promote and protect rights of persons with disabilities included the Constitution, which had given a profound emphasis and had laid the foundation for the protection and welfare of all citizens, including persons with disabilities. Its Article 41 for example embodied article 4 of the Convention.
The employment rights of persons with disabilities were well recognized by the law: in addition to such provisions in different laws, Ethiopia had adopted new Disability Employment Rights legislation. The Civil Servant Proclamation N° 515 gave precedence to candidates with disabilities with equal or similar competencies, while article 8 of the Value Added Tax Proclamation N°285 provided tax incentives to companies employing a certain number of persons with disabilities. Persons with disabilities were free from paying custom duties.
The human rights of persons with disabilities were respected without any distinction, and those rights were guaranteed by the Constitution. Many of the issues raised by the Committee were actually addressed in the course of the implementation of the Convention. Previously, persons with disabilities had been seen as objects of charity and someone who could not contribute to the society; this attitude was now being changed and a human rights-based approach to disability was taking root in the society. Ethiopia had gone through a process of revolutionizing the concept and definition of disability, with the present definition being aligned with the Convention. Ethiopia was trying to harmonize the Civil Code Proclamation which used derogatory language with regard to persons with disabilities. Persons with disabilities in remote areas did not receive the same services as elsewhere because of the lack of infrastructure.
Questions by the Committee Experts
A Committee Expert asked about the outcome of the 45 complaints on the grounds of discrimination submitted to the Institution of Ombudsman, and welcomed the intention to set up a strong monitoring mechanism. The Expert asked about training on disability provided to members of rescue services such as fire fighters, medics and others, and about practical options – services and funding - in place for persons with disabilities who needed a high level of support in daily functioning.
In terms of access to justice, the delegation was asked how information and buildings – courts, police stations and others – were made accessible to persons with disabilities; about action taken to train court officials to uphold the rights of persons with disabilities, including on the right to fair trial and the right to reasonable accommodation; and the measures taken to ensure access to justice for women with disabilities who were victims of violence.
What measures were in place to ensure that children with disabilities in institutions were not deprived of their rights and what was being done to promote self-determination of children and persons with disabilities in terms of inclusive community-based settings?
Under the former regime, persons with disabilities living in the street or who had been abandoned by their families had been put in concentration camps which the Government had transformed into rehabilitation centres. The experience, however, had shown that it was impossible to turn concentration camps into institutions which applied a human rights-based approach, remarked the Committee Expert and asked how Ethiopia ensured that those rehabilitation centres were indeed places in which the human rights of persons with disabilities were upheld; who monitored the staff working in the institutions, had organizations of disabled persons been consulted in the decision to transform concentration camps into rehabilitation centres, and how were persons with disabilities protected from forced institutionalization.
Another Committee Expert welcomed the intention of Ethiopia to revise its Civil Code and asked about the time table for this exercise, and whether other laws, including the relatively new Criminal Code and related legislation, would also be taken into consideration in this exercise.
The Sendai Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction had recognized the role of persons with disabilities not just as recipients of assistance as a vulnerable group but as people who could contribute in many ways to disaster risk reduction and preparedness. The impact of climate change on the agricultural sector, particularly on coffee production, was being mitigated by assistance from the Government, but it seemed that persons with disabilities were not included in disaster risk reduction, planning and management, or in community resilience programmes.
How was Ethiopia providing reasonable accommodation and access to rehabilitation for prisoners with disabilities, including those with psychosocial disabilities?
MARTIN BABU MWESIGWA, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for Ethiopia, recognized the important role of Ethiopia as a host country to the African Union, and remarked that, as a leader on the continent, Ethiopia had an important role to play in the implementation of the Convention by many African countries, and in addressing issues of persons with disabilities.
MARIA SOLEDAD CISTERNAS REYES, Committee Chairperson, asked what measures were being taken to amend the Civil Code and harmonize it with the provisions of the Convention, and, in the light of some situations in which the physical integrity of persons with disabilities was compromised, whether torture was criminalized and how it was prosecuted.
Statement by the National Human Rights Institution
A representative of the Ethiopian Institute of Ombudsmen said that Ethiopia had expended considerable political will to establish an independent human rights institution 15 years ago. In the last four years, the Institute had expanded its presence throughout the country and had also expanded major functions of the director and regional offices. Consultative workshops had been conducted with the aim of promoting governance and fighting mal-administration against persons with disabilities. The Institute also encouraged institutions to adopt mechanisms to promote good governance, and it had the mandate to receive and investigate complaints from persons with disabilities for mal-administration.
Response by the Delegation
Harmful traditional practices in Ethiopia, particularly female genital mutilation, were the result of lack of awareness and Ethiopia was addressing the issue through awareness-raising activities aimed at women, religious and traditional leaders, midwives and others. A survey indicated that the practice was decreasing from 75 per cent in 2005 to 65 per cent in 2008 and to 37 per cent in 2010. Ethiopia had adopted the National Plan of Action to combat any form of violence and sexual abuse of children, which also included children with disabilities. The Supreme Court had issued sentencing guidelines to ensure conformity in sentencing of crimes against women and children and to close legal loopholes that existed and were used by perpetrators.
Ethiopia was playing an active role in the adoption of the 2030 Agenda and had hosted a conference for financing for development which had produced the Addis Ababa ground-breaking agreement on financing for the Sustainable Development Goals.
The delegation confirmed that article 25 of the Constitution which prohibited discrimination also included the prohibition of discrimination on the grounds of disability, even though disability was not specifically mentioned, but the article referenced “any other status”; Ethiopia therefore considered that the Constitution used the language of the Convention and that there was no need to amend it. Ethiopia did not violate any articles of the Convention, and was even ahead of the Convention in many aspects.
Persons with mental disabilities who could not manage property were supported by their relatives or guardians, so that their property was protected; persons with mental disabilities could not sign checks or manage property not because of discrimination but to protect them and their interests. The planned amendments to the Civil Code would confer full property rights to persons with disabilities. The Government was trying to discourage institutional care, but not much was being done to support persons with disabilities living in communities. Families with members with disabilities received the necessary support from regional to federal levels.
Responding to questions related to access to justice for persons with disabilities, a delegate confirmed that judicial, police and legal professionals were provided with training on disabilities. Sign language interpreters were available in the courts and the Ministry of Education was working on setting up a training college for sign interpreters. The revision of the Civil Code was under consideration, but because of the time needed to prepare and conduct a consultative study, the delegation could not provide the Committee with the time-frame.
When the Government had come into power, just after the civil war, it had decided to deinstitutionalize and reintegrate children who were in orphanages, including children with disabilities. Currently there were no orphanages, and children with disabilities were institutionalized as a last resort. The focus in the approach to care for children with disabilities was on families, who were targeted by social protection nets; in addition, communities were supported to provide care for persons with disabilities.
There were no concentration camps in Ethiopia, what existed were rehabilitation centres for persons with disabilities and people living in the street. The residents received training and were helped to find jobs: last year, 10,000 youths had been taken off the streets, trained and placed in jobs. The Government did not like the use of the term “concentration camp”.
The aim of the Government was to create a resilient society; it had one of the largest social protection programmes, which assisted eight million people a year – the equivalent of the population of Switzerland. Ethiopia was moving into a system based on social protection and hundreds of millions dollars were budgeted annually, with full accountability and responsibility.
Questions by the Committee Experts
In the next round of questions, Committee Experts inquired about the steps taken to repeal legislation which restricted the right to free and informed consent in health care for persons with disabilities, including those with intellectual and psychosocial disabilities. On inclusive education, they asked about the interpretation of the concept in Ethiopia, how it would be implemented, the role that special schools should play in supporting the implementation of inclusive education, and whether it was legally possible for any school to deny the enrolment of a student with disabilities, and if so, under which conditions.
The law prohibiting disability-related discrimination in employment only covered the public sector and was not extended to the private sector – were there any measures taken to correct this situation and to ensure the protection of persons with disabilities from any form discrimination in employment in both public and private sectors? It seemed that the 2009 Civil Society Proclamation limited international cooperation and collaboration of civil society organizations from Ethiopia and as such was not aligned with the provisions of article 32 of the Convention.
The delegation was asked to inform about resources allocated for reasonable accommodation, cooperation and concrete projects with foreign donors and how accessibility was mainstreamed in those projects, and accessibility of the most important cultural and historic monuments in the country.
MARTIN BABU MWESIGWA, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for Ethiopia, took up the issue of HIV/AIDS and recalled that Ethiopia had hosted the Sixteenth International Conference on HIV/AIDS in Africa in 2011 and also recalled the success in bringing the prevalence rates down, from around 2.7 million to about a million. How was HIV/AIDS mainstreamed in issues of concern to persons with disabilities?
What practical steps were in place to ensure the political participation of persons with disabilities and especially those with intellectual and psychosocial disabilities, as well as accessibility for the deaf and blind before, during and after elections?
There was lack of knowledge and awareness of sexual and reproductive health issues among young persons with disabilities, Experts remarked and asked about measures taken to ensure that young persons with disabilities developed a successful approach to their reproductive life and that they were fully accepted by health institutions. What measures were in the pipeline to further support families with disabled members, including early intervention, rehabilitation services and others?
Ethiopia had good laws in place but their implementation was an issue of concern; the concept of reasonable accommodation seemed not to be very well understood, there were no disability benefits, and a clear assessment of disability seemed to be lacking in unconditional cash transfers. Ethiopia was planning a revised census in 2017: how would it define disability to take account of persons with disabilities?
A Committee Expert took positive note of the opportunities for training in sign language, including for primary school teachers, in order to make education inclusive for students with hearing impairments. Was the training targeting only teachers from special schools? How many teachers had been trained and how many pupils had benefitted?
Many in Ethiopia lived below the poverty line and there were many who did not get a decent meal every day. What measures were in place to ensure that persons with disabilities could pay for disability-related measures; how were they economically independent from their families; and how did they transition to independent living? What system was in place to ensure that all teachers were trained in dealing with children with disabilities in inclusive education, so as to ensure that all children with disabilities in inclusive schools had the right support? What guarantees were in place to ensure that the Institute for the Ombudsmen and the Human Rights Commission systematically consulted persons with disabilities and their representative organizations in all aspects of monitoring the Convention?
The situation of women and girls with disabilities needed special attention by the State party, including in issues of marriage and access to education. Rehabilitation played a critical role in ensuring that persons with disabilities lived and worked in dignity: what programmes were in place to ensure the presence and availability of rehabilitation professionals? What measures were being taken to ensure that disability issues were taken into consideration in all actions and plans in Ethiopia, particularly in the area of employment and education?
MARIA SOLEDAD CISTERNAS REYES, Committee Chairperson, remarked that article 15 of the Constitution recognized the mother tongues of all those living in Ethiopia - 80 official languages and 200 dialects. Would Ethiopia soon officially recognize sign language? Electoral law required that all citizens of Ethiopia were included in an electoral census, with the exception of those with clear loss of intellectual capacities – what measures were being taken to remedy this and ensure that all persons with disabilities were included in electoral lists?
Response by the Delegation
The Institution of the Ombudsman had the mandate to receive and investigate complaints by citizens; it had received more than 45 complaints on the ground of disabilities – 45 was the number of complaints that had been resolved in favour of the complainant. The Government cooperated with national and foreign organizations which worked on disability issues; for example Irish Aid was providing legal aid in cooperation with the Faculty of Law.
A delegate confirmed that children with disabilities could not be refused entry into a mainstream school and children with disabilities and their families were encouraged to attend school as part of inclusive education in order to reach the goal of universal education. Challenges remained, however, such as lack of infrastructure, which meant that some children with disabilities were left out of school.
Resources were being invested into creating inclusive and accessible environments in which persons with disabilities could enjoy free access to information. A new building code ensured that all new buildings, including in rural areas, must meet at least minimum accessibility standards. The Ministry of Education was opening training programmes for teacher training in sign language.
Lack of professional staff in rehabilitation services had been a real issue some 15 years ago, when the Government had decided to invest in building the capacity of staff. There were now physical rehabilitation centres with trained staff and required equipment, but more work needed to be done to strengthen the referral system. The physical rehabilitation strategy was in place and bachelor degrees in physical rehabilitation were available through local universities. Proclamation 377-2003 on Employment stipulated protection from discrimination on the grounds of disability in both the public and private sectors; however, the private sector was market-driven. The Electoral Law 2002 guaranteed the rights of persons with disabilities to elect and to be elected. They had the right to choose their personal assistants.
The Charities and Societies Proclamation did not contradict article 29 of the Convention on international cooperation; there were thousands of civil society organizations in Ethiopia, which received licences after their proposals had been accepted by the Government, and they had significant budgets. Another factor to take into account was that Ethiopia had invested more than four billion dollars in the social protection net; the money came mainly from development partners and had been accepted because the investment had a real potential to spur socio-economic development; Ethiopia had invested $500 million of its own in this programme.
RAMADAN ASHENAFI, State Minister, Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs of Ethiopia, thanked the Committee Experts for their comments and constructive engagement with the delegation. The discussion was fruitful and comprehensive, and Ethiopia would give due consideration to all questions and issues raised. Participatory democracy and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons with disabilities, was a matter of priority in Ethiopia, which was committed to the effective implementation of laws and policies and integrating disability as a cross-cutting issue in development. Ethiopia was a country of many cultures and traditions which sometimes maintained practices which were harmful to persons with disabilities. The Government was committed to building a disability-friendly democratic system and to continue to build a resilient society, in an equitable and sustainable manner.
MARTIN BABU MWESIGWA, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for Ethiopia, said that Ethiopia, like any other developing country, was grappling with a range of challenges, setting of proprieties and dwindling external assistance. It had to be understood that the limitation in resources would always be there and therefore the excuse that the protection and rights of persons with disabilities, and their inclusion, could not be advanced because of lack of resources could no longer be accepted. It was the duty of the State to ensure that persons with disabilities were given due cognisance in all aspects of life, and to adopt measures at the level of strategies, resources and policies to alleviate hardships that persons with disabilities had to encounter in their day-to-day lives. The failure to take specific measures to promote the inclusion of all, including persons with disabilities, could only be understood as a systematic form of human rights violation of certain sectors of the population.
MARIA SOLEDAD CISTERNAS REYES, Committee Chairperson, said that the Committee had decided to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Convention in Africa, namely in the headquarters of the African Union in Addis Ababa, with the support of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The primary goal of the Committee during the ceremony would be to call for universal ratification of the Convention.
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