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Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities considers initial report of Guatemala

Committee on the Rights of Persons
  with Disabilities

23 August 2016

The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities today concluded its consideration of the initial report of Guatemala on its implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Introducing the report of Guatemala, Leonidez Demetreo Moran Herrera, Vice-Minister for Policy, Planning and Evaluation, Ministry of Development of Guatemala, said that the 2005 survey on disability revealed some of the challenges in the country: only 10 per cent of children with disabilities concluded primary school, 77 per cent did not have access to rehabilitation services and 53 per cent could not read or write.  Guatemala had ratified the Convention in 2008 as the first step in applying a human rights-based approach to disability, and it had enacted laws to ensure compliance, including the law on persons with disabilities and the law on special education.  The policies on inclusive education and on scholarships for students with disabilities were adopted, the inclusion of persons with disabilities in discussions on the country’s social agenda was strengthened, and the technical, financial and human capacities of the National Council for Persons with Disabilities were reinforced.  Furthermore, Guatemala had created the position of the Ombudsmen for the rights of persons with disabilities in the Office of the Ombudsman for Human Rights. 

In the discussion that followed, Committee Experts stressed that the situation of persons with disabilities in Guatemala could not be seen in isolation from the general context marked by the widespread poverty: only 15 per cent of persons with disabilities had income, only two per cent held formal jobs, and 66 per cent of persons with disabilities were indigenous peoples.  Although persons with disabilities suffered from the greatest levels of poverty and discrimination, the focus of the State and its international partners was on consolidating the rule of law and reducing poverty, and not necessarily on ensuring the fundamental freedoms and human rights of persons with disabilities.  The lack of resources could not be used to justify the lack of commitments or actions to implement the Convention and guarantee the rights of persons with disabilities, Experts stressed.  They said that women with disabilities suffered various forms of violence, including forced sterilization, and faced formidable obstacles in accessing justice, and asked about measures in place to address multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination.   

Experts were very concerned about the state of mental health in Guatemala: the law on mental health was not in line with the Convention, the system of substituted decision making was still in place, while an unknown number of persons with disabilities, including children, lived in institutions, where the conditions were grave and contravened the provisions of several human rights treaties.  The welfare and wellbeing of children with disabilities was also a very serious concern. 

In his concluding remarks, Mr. Moran Herrera reiterated that Guatemala had the political will to institute changes and to include disability issues in policies as a matter of priority. 

Ana Pelaez Narvaez, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for Guatemala, in her closing remarks said that the Committee trusted that the concluding observations would be truly borne in mind and would ensure the implementation of the Convention in Guatemala.

The delegation of Guatemala included representatives of the Ministry of Development, Ministry of Education, National Council for Persons with Disabilities, Presidential Commission for Human Rights, and the Permanent Mission of Guatemala to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

The concluding observations on the report of Guatemala will be made public on Friday, 2 September 2016 and will be available here.

The Committee’s public meetings in English and Spanish, with closed captioning and International Sign Language, are webcast at http://webtv.un.org/

The Committee will next meet in public at 3 p.m. today, 23 August, to begin its consideration of the initial report of Colombia (CRPD/C/COL/1).

Report

The initial report of Guatemala can be read here: CRPD/C/GTM/1.

Presentation of the Report

LEONIDEZ DEMETREO MORAN HERRERA, Vice-Minister for Policy, Planning and Evaluation, Ministry of Development of Guatemala, said that 13 per cent of Guatemala’s population of 15 million lived in extreme poverty and 40 per cent lived in poverty.  The most recent data on disabilities came from the 2005 survey on disabilities, which had revealed the challenges faced: only 10 per cent of children with disabilities concluded primary school, 77 per cent did not have access to rehabilitation services, and 53 per cent could not read or write.  Guatemala had ratified the Convention in 2008 which had marked the first step in applying a human rights-based approach to disability; it had also recognized the need to reinforce the capacity of civil society to enable it to fight social exclusion and poverty which affected most persons with disabilities in the country.  The State had enacted laws to ensure compliance with the Convention and respect for the rights of persons with disabilities, including the law on persons with disabilities and its implementing legislation, the law on special education, and others.  In addition to allocating budgets for programmes for persons with disabilities, the State had established monitoring and coordinating mechanisms and had also set up various units to promote disability issues in its various administrative and governmental units. 

Progress was being made in the areas of education too, including through the establishment of the General Directorate for Special Education, the adoption of policy on inclusive education and scholarships for students with disability, as well as the policy of their inclusion in higher education.  The new administration had strengthened the inclusion of representatives of persons with disabilities in various fora in which the country’s social agenda was examined, in order to ensure the integration of disability issues.  The technical and material capacity of the National Council for Persons with Disabilities had been strengthened, and the new law on elections and political parties which would guarantee the full participation of persons with disabilities had been drafted.  Guatemala had ratified the Marrakesh Treaty and, in cooperation with the National Council for Persons with Disabilities, had created inter-institutional cooperation for the promotion of laws and implementation of actions that properly addressed and created materials for persons with disabilities.  The position of the Ombudsmen for the rights of persons with disabilities had been created in the Office of the Ombudsman for Human Rights. 

Questions from the Committee Experts

ANA PELAEZ NARVAEZ, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for Guatemala, noted that Guatemala was one of the most populous countries in Latin America, with a very high demographic growth.  The attention of human rights organizations, as well as the financing, were often focused on consolidating the rule of law and on poverty reduction, and were not, unfortunately, aimed at ensuring the fundamental freedoms and human rights of persons with disabilities, despite the fact that that was the population group that suffered the greatest levels of discrimination.  Only 15 per cent of persons with disabilities had income, and only two per cent held formal jobs; 66 per cent of persons with disabilities were indigenous.  It was important to recognize that the situation of persons with disabilities could not be isolated from the general context in the country, marked by poverty, and to recognize the role that international cooperation could play in the implementation of the Convention.  The actions of the Government often perpetuated segregation and discrimination against persons with disabilities.  The country Rapporteur expressed her grave concern about the serious violations of the human rights of persons with disabilities detained in the Federico Mora mental health hospital, which also reflected the state of mental health in the country, whereby no support whatsoever was provided to the persons with disabilities and their families.  Serious human rights violations, including torture and ill treatment of persons with disabilities detained in this hospital, had been reported, and there was a great concern about their enjoyment of their rights given that the director of the hospital was their legal guardian. 

Another issue of concern was the situation of women with disabilities, particularly concerning their right to sexual and reproductive health: there was no specified framework for forced sterilization, which was open to interpretation by legal guardians or medical personnel.  Women with disabilities also experienced difficulties in accessing justice.  The country Rapporteur was even more concerned about the situation of children with disabilities: article 27 of the Law on Children and Adolescence only worsened the situation of children with disabilities, in particular girls with disabilities.  According to the recent report by the United Nations Population Fund, 26 per cent of children in Guatemala were born to adolescent mothers, which limited their education opportunities.  Incest was behind 89 per cent of cases of sexual abuse; more than 40 per cent of incest suffered by girls with disabilities under the age of 14 was committed by their fathers.  The Rapporteur denounced several institutions and organizations which detained persons with disabilities and children with disabilities on the basis of their disabilities, and in some of them children with disabilities were kept in cage beds.  Over 900 abandoned children with disabilities lived in deplorable conditions and without any care in houses for abandoned children.  The data on children with disabilities was very scarce and limited, including on their number and situation in care centres, and the system that was in charge of overseeing their wellbeing in such contexts.  The lack of resources could not be used to justify the lack of commitments or actions to implement the Convention and guarantee the rights of persons with disabilities.

A Committee Expert inquired about the funding for the substantive and advocacy work of representative organizations of persons with disabilities, the outcome of the complaints for discrimination on the grounds of disability filed with the Ombudsmen, and the system in place to provide legal remedy to persons with disabilities for the violation of their rights.  The Expert also asked how the application of accessibility standards in the construction of new buildings was monitored, about measures taken to remove access barriers to historic buildings, and accessibility for wheel-chair users in the capital and in rural areas.

The delegation was asked about the definition of disability used in Guatemala and about the disability certification process, and how aligned they were with the Convention.  There were reports of punishment, sometimes cruel punishment, of children with intellectual disabilities in homes, under the guise of upbringing, while corporal punishment was still allowed in alternative care settings – what was being done to prohibit corporal punishment in all settings? 

The Office for the Defence of Indigenous Women had been created in 1999 and the Experts asked about the funding of the department compared to funding provided to other departments on the human rights of women, and what impact did the Office have on the lives of indigenous women.  What role was the media playing in awareness raising on disability among the general population, how did it promote a human rights-based approach to disability, how did it create more positive image of persons with disabilities in the country, and were there any awareness raising campaigns in indigenous languages?

Another Expert noted the importance placed on primary impairment prevention measures in Guatemala and stressed that the Convention was focused on the human rights of persons with disabilities and the prevention of disability was not and could not be used as a measure of implementation of the Convention.  The State’s report provided information about gender equality policies and measures to address sexual violence, but little information was available on action taken for the benefit of women with disabilities, particularly in the context of addressing intersecting and multiple forms of discrimination.  A number of persons with disabilities and children with disabilities lived in institutions where the situation was not in compliance not only with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, but with other human rights treaties as well; there were reports on persons with disabilities dying in institutions due to grave conditions there.  How many persons with disabilities and children with disabilities were institutionalized?

The delegation was asked to assess how the global economic crisis had affected the situation of persons with disabilities in Guatemala, when Guatemala would adopt a targeted action plan to adopt disability-related legislation to comply with the provisions of the Convention, about initiatives taken to secure accessibility for women with disabilities to shelters after experiencing sexual violence and abuse, and the provisions in place to ensure that the denial of reasonable accommodation was seen as discrimination in all sectors and not only in employment.

A Committee Expert welcomed the re-establishment of Municipal Offices for Disability and the creation of the follow-up mechanism for the implementation of the Convention and asked about the resources allocated to support their work.  What was the status of the draft law on the rights of persons with disabilities?

Which concrete measures had been put in place to empower organizations of persons with disabilities so that they were able to participate effectively in policy making, implementation and evaluation?  In the area of the buildings environment, each country had its own accessibility standards, but in the area of information and communication technology, internationally recognized accessibility standards were the norm – what legislation was in place to ensure that those accessibility standards were recognized and implemented? 

How was the principle of non-discrimination recognized in the Constitution and what consultation process would be put in place with persons with disabilities and their representative organizations?  Was there a typology of disability by origin and how did it recognize disability as a result of armed conflict?  What system was in place to report, collect and analyse data on disability-based discrimination?

MARIA SOLEDAD CISTERNAS REYES, Committee Chairperson, noted that more than 60 per cent of the population were indigenous peoples and asked how indigenous policies addressed the human rights model for persons with disabilities, and how indigenous issues in general were included in the disability policy.  What was the status of the law on integrated rural development, and how did it address persons with disabilities in rural areas and the poverty among indigenous persons with disabilities?  What measures were in place to ensure that gender equality policies had a positive impact on the lives of women with disabilities?

Response by the Delegation

Responding to questions related to social programmes, a delegate explained that in 2002, the Ministry of Development had adopted the national social development policy which had designated vulnerable groups, and which was regularly updated; persons with disabilities were included as a vulnerable group.  Social programmes therefore focused on vulnerable groups, on extreme poverty, and also focused on 17 priority municipalities.  Persons with disabilities were included in social programmes as a priority group, in unconditional cash grant programmes, food vouchers and grants, education programmes, and others.

The Ministry of Education had used a human rights-based approach for the allocation of resources and did not follow the charity model, which was an important transition.  Education was seen not only as a human right, but as a vehicle for promoting social equity and a very effective vehicle of social change.  In order to promote social equity, equality and inclusion, the Ministry had put in place a programme to support access and retention of students with disabilities in the education system.  Over the past seven years, the State had also invested resources in the training of primary and pre-primary teachers in special education needs of students.  In Guatemala today, education was the most inclusive area addressing the needs of different groups of people.  With the support of Germany, Guatemala had undertaken in 2014 research into barriers and obstacles to inclusive education, based on which a number of measures had been undertaken, including the adoption this year of the guidelines for the building of school infrastructure, with the intention to revamp the existing schools to ensure accessibility as soon as resources were available.

The special education school had also been created.  Guatemala had learned that it was not enough to just get the children with disabilities to schools, but that they must be accepted; in order to increase the acceptance in school, guidance had been drafted to identify forms of discrimination and to promote rules for peaceful coexistence among the students.  The guidance would also ensure the participation of children with disabilities and to that end, an inclusive pedagogical tool had been developed.

Following the reports about the situation in the Federico Mora mental health hospital, a delegate explained that a Commission had been created to investigate the conditions there and take measures.  The National Registry of Persons issued identity documents to the citizens of Guatemala, but it did not collect or keep data on disability.  In agreement with the National Commission for Persons with Disabilities, an option was offered to persons with disabilities to indicate disability on their identity cards, on a voluntary basis.  Guatemala had until 2018 to complete work on the classification of disability,  and was already working on the issue with experts supported by Spanish and international cooperation.

A delegate recognized that the legal framework in Guatemala reflected concepts based on assistance and welfare, and said that the draft law on the harmonization of the legal framework with the Convention was in the process of consultation with civil society, and would then be presented to Parliament.  Once adopted, this law would ensure compliance on paper, but there was also the need to address the attitudes to disability and persons with disabilities which limited the aspirations of persons with disabilities, in accordance with Article 5 of the Convention. 

A sustainable awareness raising campaign to address issues of disability was still not possible in Guatemala; activities were being taken on an ad hoc  basis, for example on the day of the National Commission for Persons with Disabilities, but those efforts were diluted and were not sufficient.  Sustainable campaigns for disability did exist, but they were mainly in the work of funding drives.

The Association of the Deaf of Guatemala had recently presented a proposal to Parliament for the recognition of sign language.  Guatemala was developing a system for the dissemination of guides on ensuring accessibility for persons with disabilities to municipalities, especially through Departmental Development Councils.  There were challenges in ensuring accessibility for persons with disabilities, particularly in rural areas; some accessible public transport options existed in the capital.

Questions by the Committee Experts

A Committee Expert inquired about measures to assist persons with disabilities, especially those with mental and intellectual disabilities, in humanitarian situations and emergencies, and those living in very remote rural areas; and also about what was being done to make judiciary premises, prisons, police stations and other buildings accessible to persons with disabilities, and to make information available in Braille and in sign language, in order to remove barriers to access to justice for persons with disabilities.

Were members of armed and security forces trained in the rescue of persons with disabilities, including in communicating with persons with hearing or intellectual disabilities?  How were persons with disabilities in need of a high level of support for daily functioning supported?

The law on mental health of Guatemala was not in line with the Convention, the system of substituted decision making was still in place, and directors of institutions were usually declared legal guardians of patients – what plans were in place to address those issues and to ensure that an independent monitoring and oversight mechanism for all institutions for persons with disabilities was in place?  How many forced sterilizations had been implemented in Guatemala since the ratification of the Convention, and how many involved minors?

What efforts were in place to implement the Sendai framework for disaster risk reduction, to develop a national plan to cope with disaster risk, and to ensure that persons with disabilities were included in the planning, implementing and monitoring stage of disaster preparedness plans?  Did Guatemala have in place an affirmative action plan to support legal training of persons with disabilities as a way to support access to justice?  Guatemala was a transit country for migrants, some of whom were pushed back or could not continue the journey for whichever reason; what policy was in place to support migrants with disabilities, either those in transit or those who had to stay, and to ensure that they were treated in accordance with human rights and humanitarian laws and standards?

ANA PELAEZ NARVAEZ, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for Guatemala, asked about the plans concerning the framework law on disability which was before the Congress now, and how Guatemala ensured that women and girls with disability had access to redress for the abuse and violence they suffered, particularly for incest which was not being addressed adequately despite the fact that communities were aware of the violations.  With regard to the protection of children with disabilities, the Rapporteur asked about concrete measures in place which aimed to protect children who were institutionalized on the basis of intellectual disabilities; and specific measures to protect them from torture, and cruel and degrading treatment such as the use of cage beds and straightjackets, and from the use of non-consented forms of treatment, such as forced sterilization.  There were 5,400 institutionalized children in Guatemala, and most were children with disabilities; approximately half of them did not have birth certificates or any form of identification.  What plans were in place to develop a deinstitutionalization policy? 

Another Expert asked about involuntary confinement in the Federico Mora mental health hospital and about protection from any form of constraints, and, noting that there was a serious issue with the way in which children with disabilities were treated in Guatemala, asked about the transition from institution to community care.  Experts also asked about the system in place to support independent living in the community, and the use of available resources to facilitate the inclusion of persons with disabilities in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals.

MARIA SOLEDAD CISTERNAS REYES, Committee Chairperson, asked whether a person with intellectual disability who was accused of a crime was considered fit to stand a trial, and if not, what happened; how the national preventive mechanism was being strengthened to monitor mental health institutions; and how the decisions of the Intra-American human rights system concerning the conditions in mental health institutions were being implemented.

Response by the Delegation

The law 4084 on rural development was still awaiting adoption, but the National Development Plan adopted in 2014 was the planning and guiding instrument for development of the country.  It saw persons with disabilities as right-holders and contained actions to ensure their rights in a number of key areas, including in social protection, transformation of health care, ensuring that the population up to the age of 18 was in education, and others.  The priority subject of the rural development policy was the rural population living in extreme poverty and in poverty, especially indigenous peoples and campesinos.

With regard to systems and mechanisms of access to justice for persons with disabilities, and in particular women with disabilities who were victims of violence, a delegate explained that the Penal Code was in place, which was reinforced by the law against sexual violence, and the law against femicide and other forms of violence against women.  A special court was set up to address those as priority cases, while the Supreme Court had adopted guidelines for addressing crimes of femicide and violence against women.  Forced sterilization was not backed by any law or policy; any form of violence against women was criminalized by the above mentioned law.  Victims of violence against women had a high level of protection in any court case, and women with disabilities who were victims of violence had access to sign or indigenous language interpreters.

The State respected the rights and duties of parents and legal guardians to guide and correct the behaviour of children using various forms of discipline, but they were not authorised to hurt the children.  All children had the right to protection from violence, abuse, abandonment and all forms of torture and cruel and ill-treatment.  The State was not therefore exposing children to corporal punishment.  A protocol had been established for identifying and addressing cases of violence against children, while any form of sexual violence against girls was dealt with by another protocol which provided for different measures.

Under the peace agreement, indigenous languages and cultures were recognized; 60 per cent of the population were indigenous peoples, who were disproportionately affected by poverty and social exclusion.  There were numerous factors that presented barriers and obstacles to indigenous peoples having a better quality of life and the State was working to ensure that they enjoyed progress on an equal footing with others in the country.

A delegate explained that 80 per cent of persons with disabilities in the Federico Mora mental health hospital were there by a court order, and that following the review of the conditions in the hospital, the State of Guatemala had requested the hospital to put in place a number of measures, including to separate the patients who were prosecuted for crimes from the rest of the population, to stop the use of various forms of restraint, and others.  Persons with disabilities had the right to provision of free care to enable them to live a quality life, including the right to a carer, and the right to transport to ensure their mobility.

Responding to questions related to the place of persons with disabilities in the peace accord, the delegation explained that the peace agreement which had ended the civil conflict had been a landmark for the country and a way to promote the rights of persons with disabilities in general.  As a part of the negotiations on the peace accord, it had been proposed to create a mechanism for inclusion in the society of former combatants ,including those with disability due to the war.  The law on persons with disabilities addressed all persons with disabilities and not only war veterans.  The law 795-98 addressed the needs of war veterans; it had created a centre for the care of war veterans, and ensured that they received a regular monthly pension; however, civilians and guerrilla members were not included in this law and did not receive pensions, which presented a specific challenge in the country which needed to find a way for their better inclusion in various mechanisms.

The Disability Act was receiving a significant amount of interest; the Congress would receive inputs from various stakeholders this coming Friday, 26 August.  The revised law had undergone the process of national consultation.  The idea behind the law was to strengthen the protection of persons with disabilities in Guatemala; it would address issues such as the legal capacity of persons with disabilities, and the funding of the process of harmonization of the national legal framework with the Convention.

The investigation into the border crossing in the context of migrants and refugees had revealed that the situation of the so-called “Death Train”, which caused disability in many migrants and refugees, had been addressed, while the Ombudsmen for persons with disabilities had put in place a system of care for disabled refugees and migrants who were forced to remain in the country.  

There was a need to foster a culture of complaint in Guatemala and make it possible for persons with disabilities to make a complaint which would be adequately addressed.  In Guatemala today, persons with disabilities filing complaints were actually denounced by various institutions and this needed to change.

Several initiatives were in place to address the issue of under-registration of persons with disabilities, such as mobile registration days, where the State went to remote and isolated areas to register the people, while there were officials in public and private hospitals who were in charge of the registration of all children with disabilities born in those facilities.  

Guatemala had codified the crime of torture, and was seeking to add to the definition psychological torture and also to add sanctions for torture of persons with disabilities. 

Guatemala had experienced serious political problems in the country, but the new administration was closely following the issue of persons with disabilities and had opened a venue in the cabinet to openly discuss and bring forward disability issues in the country.  Guatemala was aware that much remained to be done.  It was necessary to translate the progress made in legislation into concrete steps on the ground, and to ensure the support of persons with disabilities as one of the avenues to bring about greater levels of development.  There was the political will and the will of the administration to support persons with disabilities. 

Questions by the Committee Experts

In the next round of questions, Committee Experts asked about the implementation of accessibility standards and regulations at the local level; measures to address the very high illiteracy rates among persons with disabilities, such as enabling them to participate in literacy campaigns and to access school on an equal footing with others; the number of forced sterilizations in the country since the signing of the Convention and in particular the number of minors that had to suffer this procedure; and the plans related to the setting up of a national human rights institution in line with the Paris Principles.

The delegation was asked to provide information about access to safe, quality and affordable health care for persons with disabilities, including the accessibility of health structures; the number of children with disabilities of school age not in school and concrete initiatives taken to significantly increase the number of children with disabilities attending school every day; and measures taken to ensure that all teachers were trained in inclusive education and to reroute resources from special to mainstream schools.

Experts noted that more than half the population lived in poverty and inquired about the plans to ensure that persons with disabilities received social pensions and had sufficient income to enable them to live independently and care for their families, and also asked about social protection measures and programmes to ensure that persons with disabilities had an adequate standard of living, including the coverage of disability-related expenses.

When would the Congress pass the bill recognizing sign language as an official language of the deaf and recognize the existence of Braille as a primary code of communication for the blind?  Which percentage of resources allocated to disability issues was devoted to supporting indigenous persons with disabilities?  What was the level of inclusion of persons with disabilities in political parties?

Another Expert asked which concrete measures were in place to support the parents of children with disabilities and avoid the placement of children in institutions, particularly indigenous parents and those living in rural areas, and whether free and informed consent was obtained prior to the administration of contraceptives on women with disabilities in institutions and also prior to an abortion.  What plans were in place to increase the availability of high quality data disaggregated by gender, age, income, sex, race, etc.?
  
ANA PELAEZ NARVAEZ, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for Guatemala, expressed surprise that the National Register of Persons with Disabilities did not have a category of disability, which made it impossible to account for persons with disabilities in institutions, abandoned and in other situations of vulnerability.  For example, 58 per cent of children with disabilities did not enjoy any form of registration, and they were disproportionately represented among the poor; which concrete steps and measures were in place to ensure the effective protection of children with disabilities in accordance with the law and stated policy?  Given the very high rate of sexual violence in institutions, what plans were in place to develop an HIV prevention policy?  When would Guatemala adopt laws to provide community-based mental health services in line with the Convention?  Would the National Commission for Persons with Disabilities be designated as the lead agency in disability issues, what would be done to enable it to carry out all its designated powers, and when would it establish a transparent mechanism to support representative organizations of persons with disabilities?

MARIA SOLEDAD CISTERNAS REYES, Committee Chairperson, asked if Guatemala had adopted a law to regulate the inclusion of persons with disabilities in labour and whether it had implemented the recommendation on establishing a social protection threshold to expand the social protection coverage?

Response by the Delegation

In response to the questions, a delegate said that the national system for social information had been set up in the Ministry for Social Development, through which some important data was being made available.  Between 2012 and 2015, 600,000 women and 19,000 men benefitted from social protection programmes every year.  There was an effort to include ethnic and indigenous peoples as well, so 382,000 Mayans, 320,000 Latinos, and others had received conditional monetary transfers which aimed to build human capital, to ensure regular health check-ups of children under five, and regular school attendance for children under the age of 15.  The social programmes were paying particular attention to vulnerable groups and accorded priority to the elderly and persons with disabilities.

With regard to inclusive education, a delegate said that research had been carried out two years ago on the issues of access, acceptance and participation of persons with disabilities in the education system.  The national education law guaranteed the right to education to all Guatemalans without any discrimination, and there was also a law on special education for people with special needs.  Specialized education centres had been created, but Guatemala had changed the course towards inclusive education, and a number of inclusive schools had been set up.  Those schools were supported with technical and pedagogical advisors and special teachers.  Children with disabilities were being gradually included in mainstream schools. 

At the moment, there were 1,918 children with disabilities in specialized education, around 3,000 in additional schools with pedagogical advisors, and about 8,500 students in inclusive schools with specialized teachers.  This meant that 82 per cent or 14,000 school aged children with disabilities were in school today.  The Ministry of Education had put in place various training programmes for teachers in inclusive education and had trained graduates to train teachers to ensure that their programmes of study were more suited to the classrooms.  The Ministry had developed material for students with disabilities and kits had been provided to all schools which had students with visual and hearing disabilities.  Since 2009, scholarships were being provided to students with disabilities. 

Chronic malnutrition was one of the key issues to be addressed and the Government had set itself a target of 10 per cent reduction over the next four years.  To achieve this, it was promoting water and sanitation programmes, providing subsidies and intervening with socio-economic measures to support those in need.  In 2014, a bill on inclusion in labour of persons with disabilities had been presented to the Congress, but had not been approved; the National Commission for Persons with Disabilities was currently working on the new bill which would propose two per cent quotas for persons with disabilities.  The law on political parties would be soon amended; the reform would focus on seven key areas including on accessibility to polling stations, and accessibility of voting materials, quotas, and others.

Concluding Remarks

LEONIDEZ DEMETREO MORAN HERRERA, Vice-Minister for Policy, Planning and Evaluation, Ministry of Development of Guatemala, reiterated that Guatemala had the political will to institute changes and to include disability issues in policies as a matter of priority.  There were significant dialogue arenas in the country in which those discussions could take place, which would allow great strides forward.

ANA PELAEZ NARVAEZ, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for Guatemala, thanked the delegation for their frank responses and expressed appreciation for civil society, especially those representing persons with disabilities.  The Committee trusted that the concluding observations would be truly borne in mind and would ensure the implementation of the Convention in Guatemala.

MARIA SOLEDAD CISTERNAS REYES, Committee Chairperson, thanked the delegation and said that the sincerity of their responses was a source of great satisfaction.