GENEVA / ADDIS ABABA (1 September 2016) – Improving support services for persons with disabilities in Africa will be the focus of a two-day expert meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, hosted by the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities, Catalina Devandas-Aguilar.
“Whether it is targeted or mainstream services, for most persons with disabilities, effective access to support represents an essential condition for the realization of their human rights, while preserving their inherent dignity, autonomy and independence,” Ms. Devandas-Aguilar said. “Education and employment, political participation, decision-making, mobility, communication and leisure, are just a few areas to mention where support is crucial.”
The regional meeting held at United Nations Conference Centre in Addis Ababa from 6 to 7 September will bring together experts, policy makers and advocates from a dozen African countries, including the board members of the African Disability Forum, human rights specialists from the African Union, the United Nations, academia, and civil society.
Participants will discuss existing measures taken by States and initiatives emerging at the grassroots level that demonstrate the way forward on how to support the inclusion and equal participation of persons with disabilities.
The findings of the meeting will inform the Special Rapporteur’s next report to the Human Rights Council, to be presented in March 2017. The report will focus on the provision of support services that are sustainable, qualitative, affordable and accessible to persons with disabilities.
“I am very interested in exploring the roles of social networks and communities in the delivery of support services for persons with disabilities,” Ms. Devandas-Aguilar said. “Support provided at the community level and delivered with the involvement of organisations of persons with disabilities is the best way to ensure their active participation in society,” she added.
Ms. Devandas-Aguilar and Mr. Shuaib Chalken of the African Disability Forum will hold a press conference on 6 September at 8:30 a.m. at the UN Conference Centre, Press Briefing Room on the ground floor, in Addis Ababa to share with the media their expectations for the meeting. Access to the press conference is strictly limited to journalists.
The adoption of the Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities** in 2006, the second most ratified international human rights treaty in Africa, prompted a shift from the medical model to the broader human rights-based approach to the delivery of services. Under the Convention, States have an obligation to provide persons with disabilities with access to support in the exercise of their rights. However, poverty, conflict and post-conflict settings, weak State institutions, lack of political will to allocate resources, and the exclusion of persons with disabilities from decision-making processes hinder the provision of concrete support to persons with disabilities.
(*) The regional expert meeting was made possible thanks to the support of the Government of Finland, the African Disability Forum and the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA)/ Open Society Initiative for Eastern Africa (OSIEA).
(**) Check the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/CRPD/Pages/ConventionRightsPersonsWithDisabilities.aspx
Ms. Catalina Devandas-Aguilar (Costa Rica) was designated as the first Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities in June 2014 by the UN Human Rights Council. Ms. Devandas Aguilar has worked extensively on disability issues at the national, regional and international level with the Disability Rights Advocacy Fund, the UN unit responsible for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the World Bank. Her work has focused on the rights of women with disabilities and the rights of indigenous peoples with disabilities. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Disability/SRDisabilities/Pages/SRDisabilitiesIndex.aspx
The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.
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