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

Committee on the Rights of Persons
  with Disabilities  

24 August 2016

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

In the introduction of the report, Juan Pablo Salazar, Director of the Presidential Plan for the Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities, remarked that Colombia had ratified the Convention in 2011 with full awareness that the cultural change it required could not be achieved in the short term.  This was a historic moment for Colombia which was closer than ever to ending by negotiation the 50-year-long armed conflict.  The 1997 framework law on disability, harmonized with the Convention in 2013, opened a new approach to rights, while the anti-discrimination law adopted in 2015 criminalized discrimination and harassment of persons with disabilities.  Those two landmark pieces of legislation were representative of the level of protection of rights that persons with disabilities enjoyed, and although more laws were needed, Colombia was focused on the implementation of the existing laws and the pursuit of the Public Policy for Disability and Social Inclusion on different fronts.  As a result of this approach, the Government had eliminated segregated education, provided universal access to free health care, extended social protection coverage, and put in place an ambitious digital policy that focused on access to information and communication technology.

Committee Experts welcomed the adoption of the 1997 law on disability and the prohibition of discrimination and harassment of persons with disabilities in the 2015 law, and took positive note of the progress in the peace negotiations in Colombia.  They were, however, concerned about the lack of participation of persons with disabilities and their representative organizations in this process, and at all levels of decision-making in the country.  The Experts expressed concern about the system of care and protection of children with disabilities who were victims of abuse and violence within the family, which was contrary to the Convention as it allowed the State to remove the children, institutionalize them, and even cut family ties, thus condemning these children to a life without their family. 

Experts welcomed the criminalization of incest, but were worried about the limited attention given to cases involving children with disabilities.  Very few children with disabilities were in school, and only 26 per cent of those in the care of the State were in education, so the delegation was asked to explain how the inclusive education system was being implemented and what steps were in place to end the exclusion of children with disabilities.  Experts hailed the signing of the historic peace agreement and urged Colombia to ensure that issues, needs and rights of persons with disabilities were adequately included and addressed in the post-conflict period and reconstruction, in particular in matters of restitution, poverty eradication, and accessibility. 

In his closing remarks, Mr. Salazar said that this dialogue was a chance for Colombia to grow and to get rid of bottlenecks in the implementation of the Convention. 

Maria Soledad Cisternas Reyes, Committee Chairperson, congratulated Colombia on the peace accord, and expressed hope that the referendum on the agreement would take place soon and that it wold have a positive impact on the Colombian people in general and persons with disabilities in particular.

The delegation of Colombia included representatives of the Presidency of Colombia, Ministry of the Interior, Ministry of National Education, Ministry of Health and Social Protection, Ministry of Justice and Rights, and the Permanent Mission of Colombia to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

The concluding observations on the report of Colombia 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, 24 August, to begin its consideration of the initial report of Italy (CRPD/C/ITA/1).
 
Report

The initial report of Colombia can be read here: CRPD/C/COL/1.

Presentation of the Report

JUAN PABLO SALAZAR, Director, Presidential Plan for Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities, said that Colombia had ratified the Convention in 2011 with full awareness that the cultural change it required could not be achieved in the short term.  This interactive dialogue was taking place at a historic moment, with Colombia closer than ever to achieving a negotiated end to the 50-year-long armed conflict, which had originated because of a culture of exclusion.  The 1991 Constitution had established a social, democratic and participatory State of law based on respect for human dignity and human rights, in which persons with disabilities enjoyed special constitutional protection.  The 1997 framework law on disability had opened a new approach to rights; it had been updated and harmonized with the Convention through the statutory law adopted in 2013, while in 2015, the anti-discrimination law had been adopted which criminalized discrimination and harassment of persons with disabilities. 

Those two landmark pieces of legislation were representative of the level of protection of the rights of persons with disabilities and although more laws were needed, Colombia aimed to move forward with the implementation of the existing laws.  This was to be done through the national disability system, composed of various ministries and administrative departments, as well as representatives of civil society and persons with disabilities; the system was linked to territories through a system of provincial and municipal committees. 

Although it had been focused on the consolidation of structures and mechanisms of implementation, Colombia was aware that the Convention was a very complex instrument which required progressive incorporation in the national reality.  In that sense, the Government pursued the implementation of the Public Policy for Disability and Social Inclusion on different fronts, and had eliminated segregated education; there was access to free and universal health care, social protection coverage had been extended, entrepreneurship had been promoted, and it had seen the implementation of an ambitious digital policy that focused on access to information and communication technology.  Colombia was also aware of the victims of the conflict with disabilities, and had in place a separate system to provide them with assistance and reparation.  Further, extensive efforts were being made to ensure that professionals in the justice, education and health sectors were trained in the human rights-based approach to disability.  Over the past two years, the Government had allocated more than $70 million to those activities. 

Despite the progress achieved, it was clear that more work needed to be done to improve data collection and analysis and it was hoped that the next census and the efforts to promote the National Voluntary Disability Registry would provide such data to enable Colombia to prioritize activities and align efforts with the Sustainable Development Goals.  The Government understood that the inclusion of all citizens, without distinction, was the pre-requisite for a truly sustainable peace.  That was why the Presidential Plan for the Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities had been adopted to coordinate inter-institutional action for the full implementation of the Convention.  Since the ratification of the Convention five years ago, Colombia had travelled a fascinating path and it recognized that the progress was due to the dedicated work of those who had opened that path.  More needed to be done and Colombia hoped that the dialogue with the Committee and the Experts’ questions would shed light on the steps in that search for dignity for all persons with disabilities in the country.

Questions from the Committee Experts

SILVIA JUDITH QUAN-CHANG, Committee Vice-Chairperson and Rapporteur for Colombia, took positive note of the adoption of the 1997 law on disabilities and the 2015 anti-discrimination law and expressed concern about the fact that courts could order forced sterilization, or determine intellectual and legal capacity of persons with disabilities, including in matters of parenting rights.  Another issue was that children with disabilities represented only a small percentage of children in school; because they were not in the school system or were prevented from enrolling in schools, families were left without unconditional cash transfers, which were paid out to parents who ensured regular health check-ups and whose children with disabilities attended school at least 80 per cent of the time; this particularly affected indigenous families and families of African descent, as well as parents of children with intellectual disabilities. 

It was disappointing that the issues, needs and rights of persons with disabilities had not been considered during the peace negotiations and peace agreement which had ended decades of armed conflict in Colombia.  Also, no services were being offered to persons with disabilities in the wake of the conflict, particularly in rural and remote areas.  Which measures would be adopted to ask forgiveness from the victims of the conflict and ensure reparations?  There was weaknesses in the participation of civil society organizations and representative organizations of persons with disabilities at all levels in the country; administrative procedures were complex and made it very hard for persons with disabilities to be involved in primary and secondary levels of decision-making.

Another Expert noted that the prevention of primary impairment was considered a measure of implementation of the Convention in Colombia, which should not be the case as the Convention was concerned about the rights of people living with disability.  This was not only a policy question but also a budgetary issue, as in many countries resources allocated to persons with disabilities were actually spent on the prevention of impairment.  How many women and girls with disabilities were included in gender policy and disability policy?  Sexual violence and abuse against women with disabilities were ignored and were not investigated.  What was being done for the empowerment of indigenous women with disabilities?  There was an action plan to address the situation of hundreds of children with disabilities who were not in school; what was the state of implementation of this plan and what other data on children with disabilities in Colombia was available?

A Committee Expert welcomed the criminalization of discrimination in the 2015 law and asked whether there were any court cases for disability-based discrimination, how many complaints for disability-based discrimination were submitted in civil cases to the relevant administrative and human rights institutions, and whether the denial of reasonable accommodation was considered illegal.  What system was in place to ensure the monitoring of the implementation of accessibility standards and was there any training provided to architects and engineers on accessibility?  What was the level of accessibility of the capital to persons with disabilities using a wheelchair?

What efforts were being made to harmonize the general obligations arising from the Convention with what was being done in designing and putting together policies for persons with disabilities?  Sexual violence had been used as a weapon of war, which had caused disability in many women and girls victims of such abuse; how did the policies on conflict-related disability address disability arising from abuse?  Many children with disabilities, especially girls, were victims of abuse and rape occurring in the family; the State had a number of measures to address such cases, from removing the child from the family, starting court proceedings and institutionalizing the child, and sometimes even cutting family ties, condemning the victim to live without her or his family for the rest of their life.  What was being done to reverse those practices which were contrary to the provisions of the Convention?

The delegation was asked about awareness raising campaigns; systems in place to provide for regular consultations with women with disabilities; efforts to eliminate preferential treatment of some children with disabilities such as children of army and police officers, and ensure that all services to children with disabilities were mainstreamed and that all children in the country enjoyed all services equally; and, considering that Colombia was a middle-income country, how much support was being provided to representative organizations of persons with disabilities. 

What positive measures were being taken to combat prejudices, stigma and discrimination against persons with disabilities and promote the dignity of persons with disabilities in the society and the administration?

SILVIA JUDITH QUAN-CHANG, Committee Vice-Chairperson and Rapporteur for Colombia, asked about measures taken to limit corporal punishment of children with disabilities and steps taken to overturn the decision of the Constitutional Court which allowed forced sterilization of children with disabilities.

MARIA SOLEDAD CISTERNAS REYES, Committee Chairperson, expressed concern over the invisibility of persons with disabilities and noted that they were not consulted, despite the fact that civil society organizations were very well organized and could participate in dialogues.

Response by the Delegation

Responding to questions concerning the participation of women, a delegate said that the national gender policy had been adopted which had set up a standing national bureau for all gender-related issues.  There was recognition that public policies must adopt a differentiated approach which would ensure the priority inclusion of women with disabilities.  Women who were victims of displacement and women with disabilities were recognized as vulnerable.

It was important to stress the achievements since the initial implementation of the policy on children.  Law 1804 of 2016 guaranteed rights to all children in all contexts, inside and outside of the family, and it adopted a differentiated approach to care of children who were victims of abuse and neglect.  The programme to promote and protect the rights of children and adolescents recognized them as rights-holders.  The Colombian Institute for Family Well-being provided support interventions, as well as substitute homes through civil society organizations and host families.  Colombia had recognized 102 indigenous peoples groups, each with their distinct language and culture, and the family services tried to provide children with disabilities from those groups with care which respected the culture they belonged to. 

Female genital mutilation had been identified recently in one particular group; this was an imported practice rather than part of the culture.  Cases were isolated and there was no consolidated data.  The State was working on eradicating the practice by working with midwives of the group, leaders and authorities, and by allocating resources. 

The participation of persons with disabilities and their organizations was ensured during the construction and development of public policy on disability, including indigenous and ethnic persons with disabilities, women with disabilities, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons with disabilities.  Families were involved as well, in their role as support networks, as well as carers, universities, businesses and other stakeholders.  The Ministry of the Interior had undertaken consultations on mechanisms of participation.  The five priority topics identified by the Presidency included legal capacity, autonomous life, accessibility, education and labour inclusion; technical round tables had been set up for each of the topics, in which persons with disabilities regularly participated.

The 2015 anti-discrimination law could be applicable in cases of denial of reasonable accommodation.  Complaints could be filed with the State which had the duty to respond within 15 days, as well as with the Office of the Ombudsman.  The online government initiative promoted transparency and obliged all administrative units to publish rules, and ensure they were accessible to persons with disabilities. 

Leaders of organizations of persons with disabilities and organizations of victims of conflict had participated in the peace negotiations.  The aim of the public policy on social inclusion was to bring together processes in the country to ensure that victims of conflict, regardless of who they were, were not excluded and marginalized.

The Convention was a culturally transformative instrument, and this transformation did not happen overnight, said the head of the delegation, stating that this transformation presented a significant challenge in Colombia.  The Government was working closely with the media and the press to promote a human rights-based approach to disability and the positive and dignified image of persons with disabilities, as well as to promote accessibility to television and radio programmes, and the print media.  Before considering the ratification of the Optional Protocol, Colombia needed to reinforce the institutional structure for the implementation of the Convention and its translation into national realities.

The Constitutional Court defended the human rights of all in Colombia; it was a modern and progressive court which was responsible for much of the progress in the area of human rights.  However, when it came to forced sterilization, the Court did not align with the position of civil society organizations.  The matter was being addressed by the round table or technical working groups on legal capacity of persons with disabilities, in which many ministries, universities and civil society organizations participated.  The aim was to present a draft law to the Congress which would address many concerns related to Article 2 of the Convention.  The Criminal Code codified criminalization of torture, bringing together international standards in this regard. 

Questions by the Committee Experts

In the second round of questions, a Committee Expert noted that significant resources were being spent on institutionalization and protective measures targeting children with disabilities, while at the same time parents received very little support in raising children with disabilities.  The reunification of institutionalized children with their families was very long and complicated, and when an institutionalized child with disabilities turned 18, he or she was deemed legally incapable and detained in an institution.  What steps were being taken to overturn those discriminatory practices?

What measures were being taken to ensure that post-conflict reconstruction efforts included accessibility regulations and standards?  What was the status of the implementation of the order of the Constitutional Court to make judicial buildings accessible?  What was the practical situation of persons with disabilities in need of a high level of support: did they stay in families, what kind of support did they receive to hire personal assistants, and were they institutionalized?

Another Expert noted that substituted decision-making mechanisms were grounded in the law, and asked how the upcoming reform of the law would ensure that those mechanisms were replaced with a system of supported decision-making in which the free will of persons with disabilities would be taken into account.  There were 2,500 incarcerated persons with disabilities – why were they incarcerated, on which grounds, and what was the situation with court proceedings if any?

The delegation was asked to provide more information about the situation of children with disabilities, how public procurement policies promoted accessibility, whether persons with disabilities had the right to buy or own property, measures contained on a gender equality policy that specifically targeted women and girls with disabilities, and how their participation in various decision-making mechanisms was ensured.

Another Expert asked how many persons with disabilities were among internally displaced persons and what protection they enjoyed, and whether incarcerated persons with disabilities had access to mental health or psychiatric services in prisons. 

SILVIA JUDITH QUAN-CHANG, Committee Vice-Chairperson and Rapporteur for Colombia, said that the Office of the Mayor in Medellin had recently adopted a decree which threatened to prohibit living in the street and remove all protection of people who lived in the street including their legal capacity; was this some kind of social cleansing?  This might be replicated by other towns and it would be a good idea to put an end to the initiative.  Prison facilities were not accessible and did not provide rehabilitation services; persons with disabilities serving sentences did not have a possibility to move around or to carry out activities on an equal footing with others. 

MARIA SOLEDAD CISTERNAS REYES, Committee Chairperson, asked about steps to ratify the Marrakesh Treaty, and what procedural adjustments were being taken to make justice accessible to persons with disabilities.   What intentions were there to change the legal provisions which limited the legal capacity of persons with disabilities who were part of judicial procedures?

Response by the Delegation

In response to questions from Committee Experts raising a number of issues concerning peace negotiations and the peace agreement, a delegate said that although persons with disabilities were not systematically included in the peace process, there were persons with disabilities who had participated in the process, both victims of the conflict and members of the armed forces and paramilitary groups.  Furthermore, a webpage called “The Conversation Table” had been developed and was available in accessible formats, in order to disseminate information and receive comments from the public on the talks.  It was important to stress that the real challenge was the post-conflict phase, which was starting, and it was now that Colombia must step up its work to ensure the full inclusion of persons with disabilities. 

With regard to Teleton, a delegate said that this was a complicated issue which had generated a lot of anger among persons with disabilities in the country.  It was not the policy of the State to support Teleton, and despite some ad hoc activities between Teleton and some members of the Government, there was no official partnership with this association.  The association of persons with disabilities had sent letters to Teleton challenging it to prove that its activities conformed to the provisions of the Convention.  Teleton programmes were not broadcast through public channels, but through private ones.  Additionally, it was not a policy of the State to encourage the public to donate to Teleton, although there had been some billboards in Bogotá to that effect; those were the vestiges of the old paradigm of disability, and the lack of awareness of the Convention.

Another delegate took the floor to respond to Experts’ questions on the care and protection of children with disabilities, saying that the administrative design of procedures to reunify children with disabilities removed from the family conformed to due process and the best interest of the child.  The State was therefore removing children from harmful situations, placing them into appropriate pedagogical and care environments, and if needed, adoption.  The care model for children with disabilities in closed institutions was based on several phases, including return to the family and integration into the home; using the diagnostic of the family, programmes would be prepared to strengthen the family and prepare the child for return.  There were 353 children with disabilities in replacement homes; 2,784 children with disabilities in non-governmental organization-run homes; 195 children with disabilities received psychosocial support within their families; and 3,365 children with disabilities who spent half a day in a care centre and the rest of the time at home.  Currently, there were 2,954 children with disabilities who were deemed unadoptable.  The law made it possible to be involved in court on behalf of children whenever a disagreement existed.  The decision that determined the separation of children from their parents was made by the competent authorities on the basis of the best interest of the child.

The State had decided to mainstream women’s issues and to adopt an intersectional approach to women.  The cross-cutting nature meant that disability must be integrated in all policies and programmes.  The High Council for Women’s Affairs ensured the training of public officials on this approach.

The Working Group on legal capacity, or Article 12 of the Convention, had been working for over a year and had so far developed a draft bill, which however was not yet ready for presentation to the Congress as the aim was to propose a law that would address the issue of legal capacity of persons with disabilities in a permanent manner in accordance with the Convention.  Although persons with disabilities had the right to inclusive education, in practice there were still specialized schools, both public and private, which refused entry to students with limited legal capacity.  The deinstitutionalization policy was a challenge, and the issue was being addressed within the Working Group.

The 2014 decree of the mayor of Medellin concerning people living in the streets was not being implemented in practice.  All public institutions must meet technical norms and accessibility standards, which were also included in all public tenders for new construction, including the construction of 30,000 new classrooms.

The army and the police adopted a human rights-based approach and placed respect for fundamental freedoms and human rights as a fundamental guarantee.  Human rights were part of all training programmes provided to the security forces and all protocols were based on human rights.  There was cooperation with civil society organizations to raise the awareness of the police and army officers on the realities of working with persons with disabilities.

The penitentiary system in Colombia was in a deep crisis, with overcrowded prisons and inadequate living conditions.  There were 2,500 prisoners with disabilities in detention, and although detailed information was not available it was clear that they were deprived of liberty because they had committed a crime.  Prisons had a psychiatric block supported by external psychiatric hospitals, but Colombia did not want to hide the reality and the fact that prisoners with disabilities did not live in dignity.

The Law on Victims of Armed Conflict identified different kinds of victims, but the greatest victims were those displaced by the conflict; there were close to seven million internally displaced persons, and three per cent of them, or 200,000, were persons with disabilities.  Colombia was aware of the existence of the Charter on Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action, which was being examined at the moment; there was a high possibility that Colombia would adhere to it shortly.

Questions by the Committee Experts

In their final round of comments and questions, Committee Experts took up the issue of the criminalization of incest and asked how that article of the Criminal Code was being applied in cases of incest involving persons with disabilities, who were not receiving adequate attention; denial of enrolment of students with disabilities in school and about steps taken to ensure full access to inclusive education; steps to encourage employers to provide reasonable accommodation and equal pay for equal work to persons with disabilities; and the system in place to ensure the full participation of persons with disabilities in public and political life, and in the electoral process.

Other Experts remarked that private schools were applying a very rigorous selection of new students, including the use of IQ tests for example, and asked what was being done to ensure that private schools offered inclusive education as well.  Noting that there were very few persons with disabilities in higher education, the Experts asked about measures in place to promote their inclusion in universities, including through the provision of reasonable accommodation. 

Experts asked about the understanding and interpretation of the concept of inclusive education, how Colombia planned to implement it and transform its education system, and whether it would adopt a law with a substantive individual right to education.  It had been recommended to Colombia to put in place a comprehensive plan for inclusive education and the delegation was asked how the plan would include rural and remote areas, where the achievement of targets was very hard and where the impact of the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals needed to be visible.

How would Colombia utilise the Sustainable Development Goal N°17 to improve data collection in order to come with truly disaggregated data that reflected the real number of persons with disabilities in the country?  What plans were in place to implement the Sustainable Development Goal N°8 on employment and decent work for all, including persons with disabilities, and the Sustainable Development Goal N°10 on reducing inequalities?

Only 26 per cent of children with disabilities in the care of the State were currently in school; what was the reason for the exclusion of three quarters of these children with disabilities from education?

There were high levels of poverty among persons with disabilities living in rural areas, exacerbated by the armed conflict; what was being done to mainstream disability in poverty eradication programmes and to ensure that persons with disabilities would be fully included in reparation schemes in the post-conflict period.

MARIA SOLEDAD CISTERNAS REYES, Committee Chairperson, asked about the legal provisions which limited the ability of persons with disabilities to stand trial, which might represent a violation of due process, and what happened if a person with disabilities was declared unfit to stand trial.  

Response by the Delegation

Responding to questions on the incapacity to stand trial or being unfit to plea because of intellectual disability, a delegate said that the purpose was to protect persons with disabilities and ensure their integration in the society.  The decision was made by a judge and implemented by a local health authority which was in charge of directly liaising with psychiatric institutions which housed people legally unfit to plea.  Such persons received various services that they needed, had the right to visits by their family, and where possible, they received services where they already lived.  In order to address the issue of criminal responsibility and change the law limiting legal capacity, there was a need to change the legal framework throughout domestic legislation.

Sexual abuse and incest were issues of importance to all persons in the country, and not only to persons with disabilities.  The 2009 law had introduced the strictest sentences for sexual relations with minors, particularly those under 14 years of age, and it included perpetrators who were a family relation to the victim.  The main weapon to fight incest, in addition to legislation, was a change in the culture.  The Government had set up a 24-hour help line open to victims of incest and sexual abuse within family, which was staffed with an interdisciplinary team in charge of investigating the complaints and assisting victims of sexual abuse, incest, child prostitution and child sex tourism.  This year, a total of 2,827 complaints had been received through this mechanism.

Colombia was committed to ending the 50 year-old armed conflict and was ready to accept things which were difficult to accept, all that in the service of peace.  The people needed to build Colombia and were ready to face the many challenges of the post-conflict period.

A delegate stressed that the budget allocated to education, for the first time, was higher than the war budget.  Colombia was setting out to implement the inclusive system of education, which was an obligation for all schools in the country, public and private alike; there were still some private schools which were not implementing the system.  In 2012, 30 per cent or 107,000 children with disabilities were in school, while this year, the coverage had been increased by 60 per cent, with 171,000 children with disabilities going to school.  Today, 70 per cent of the schools had students with disabilities, which meant that segregation was gradually being phased out.  A major challenge at the moment was the lack of trained teachers and interpreters; resources were available for the training programmes and Colombia was finalizing plans for the opening of a university course for the training of teachers in inclusive education. 

There were 450 interpreters in the country; however, since they were not professionals, Colombia would start the professional certification of sign language interpreters in October 2016.  In addition, there were currently 4,995 teaching assistants, or one per 30 students with disability.  Colombia was heading toward inclusion, but could not achieve it overnight.  The curriculum needed to be adapted to various forms of disabilities and each case needed to be examined individually.  Private schools had admission requirements, but no child with disabilities had been denied access because of disability; 90 per cent of students with disabilities were in public education, and almost 20,000 children and youth with disabilities were in further education.  Some 60,000 persons with disabilities had received various forms of technical or technological training.

During elections, persons with disabilities received help from their fellow citizens; the participation of persons with disabilities in the electoral process was more due to citizen cooperation and solidarity rather than to universal design.  In terms of participation in public and political spheres, 4.6 per cent of civil servants were persons with disabilities, including in managerial and decision-making posts.  The law 1145 would be reformed to facilitate the candidacy for national councillors at different levels and to ensure that civil society organizations and persons with disabilities were among those electing people to departmental levels.  There were experts on disability in the Office of the Ombudsman.

Last year, Colombia had adopted the law 1751 on the fundamental right to health, which guaranteed special protection for persons with disabilities.  based on the law, the new policy for comprehensive health care had been developed which focused on primary health care and recognized specificities of various regions and populations, and based on those specificities, it had developed different routes for ensuring access to health care.  Efforts were being put in place to humanize the health service through human rights training provided to health professionals and the adoption of free and informed consent protocols.  The work was also ongoing with families of persons with disabilities to ensure full respect for the rights of persons with disabilities, including in health.  Forty-six per cent of persons with disabilities participated in at least one of the social protection programmes, and those programmes were now being consolidated to strengthen the effectiveness of the fight against poverty. 

Concluding Remarks

JUAN PABLO SALAZAR, Director, Presidential Plan for the Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities, said that this dialogue was a chance for Colombia to grow and to get rid of bottlenecks in the implementation of the Convention.  It was delightful to see civil society organizations from Colombia following this dialogue because they were the ones who had put pressure of the Government and had demanded their rights. 

MARIA SOLEDAD CISTERNAS REYES, Committee Chairperson, congratulated Colombia on the peace accord, and expressed hope that the referendum on the agreement would take place soon and that it would have a positive impact on the Colombian people in general and persons with disabilities in particular.