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Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities closes twenty-third virtual session

GENEVA (4 September 2020) - The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities this afternoon closed its twenty-third virtual session. 

Amalia Gamio Rios, Rapporteur of the Committee, presenting a summary of the draft report of the twenty-third session of the Committee, said the Committee, among others, had examined and adopted decisions on seven individual communications submitted for its consideration under the Optional Protocol ; adopted a follow-up report regarding views on individual communications ; established a working group to support deinstitutionalization ; and continued its work to prepare a general comment on article 27 of the Convention, on the right to work for persons with disabilities.  It also decided to organize a day of general discussion on the subject at its twenty-fourth session. 

Ms. Gamio Rios said the twenty-fourth session of the Committee would take place between March 8 and 26, 2021, in Geneva, subject to confirmation by the Administration of the United Nations Office of the viability of the session in person.  During that session, the Committee would consider initial reports from Bangladesh, Djibouti, Estonia, France, Jamaica and Venezuela.  In case of contingencies that did not make the holding of a face-to-face session possible, the President of the Committee, with the support of the Secretary, would decide on the course of action to take.

The Committee then adopted the report and the provisional agenda of the twenty-fourth session.

Danlami Umaru Basharu, Chair of the Committee, said the Committee had come to the end of three weeks of virtual session, the first in its history.  Dedicating his closing remarks to persons with disabilities, who were among the hardest hit by COVID-19 and response actions, the Chair said that the pandemic had exacerbated the pre-existing exclusion and discrimination against persons with disabilities, both those living in their communities as well as those still in institutions.  Measures to contain the pandemic had curtailed persons with disabilities’ access to basic services in the community.  These measures had reportedly broken pre-existing support for persons with disabilities in the community, including support measures and personal assistance.  COVID-19 relief measures, financial aid or cash transfers, were not reaching out to or not including persons with disabilities.  The regression described by persons with disabilities in their independent living had also had an impact on the right to work in open labour markets and on social protection systems.

Mr. Basharu said accessibility in education, health and rehabilitation had become even more challenging, and measures, such as Internet-based home studying or teleworking, had excluded even more children and adults with disabilities.  The Committee also received allegations of different forms of violence against persons with disabilities, including gender-based violence.  Particularly worrying was the reported violence by law enforcement officers in a number of countries.  The Committee was seriously concerned about the situation of persons with disabilities, including older persons with disabilities, and persons with disabilities still in institutions, psychiatric hospitals, care facilities, nursing homes, and dormitories for special schools.  It was appalled by accounts indicating the lack or ineffectiveness of measures to safeguard the right to life of persons with disabilities throughout the pandemic period.

The Chair said the Committee urged States parties to ensure a disability and gender perspective in measures to address the pandemic and recovery, and called on States parties to engage with persons with disabilities through appropriate consultations and dialogue.  It also called on States parties to strengthen the monitoring of impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on persons with disabilities.  It encouraged States parties, when adopting further actions during the crisis, to be guided by its general comment no.  5 (2017) on living independently and being included in the community.

Mr. Basharu thanked and bade farewell to four members of the Committee whose mandate would be concluding at the end of the year : Monthian Buntan, Jun Ishikawa, Laszlo Gabor Lovaszy and Martin Babu Mwesigwa.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said that during 2020, ensuring a disability inclusive response to COVID-19 had been a key priority for UNICEF.  This included supporting continuation of learning for children with disabilities in the context of school closures.  UNICEF was also working to ensure that life-saving information about COVID-19 and prevention was accessible to children with disabilities.  In addition to its COVID response, transformation and closure of residential care institutions and strengthening the prevention of abandonment of children due to disability continued to be a priority for UNICEF. 

A video message by the Global Alliance for National Human Rights Institutions Working Group on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities said the fact that the Committee was meeting today online highlighted the challenges that COVID-19 and long-standing inequalities continued to pose to persons with disabilities.  National human rights institutions were well placed to monitor experiences in their communities and to hold decision makers to account.  These institutions had noted common concerns, like lack of critical information in accessible format, heightened risk for people in certain living situations, and a lack of continuity of essential supports.  The COVID-19 crisis underscored how vital it was to have the full and meaningful involvement of persons with disabilities in the implementation and monitoring of the Convention. 

International Disability Alliance encouraged the Committee, in this challenging year for United Nations treaty bodies, in which the COVID-19 pandemic concurred with a United Nations liquidity crisis, to continue engaging with the treaty bodies strengthening process together with other Committees to remain vigilant and vocal when required to protect and ensure the proper functioning, resourcing and independence of the treaty bodies to fulfil their mission to protect and monitor human rights worldwide.  The current pandemic, the current United Nations financial situation and the constraints of online meetings posed serious challenges to the participation of organizations of persons with disabilities before the Committee and other treaty bodies now and in the near future. 

The twenty-fourth session of the Committee is scheduled to take place from 8 to 26 March, 2021, in Geneva, conditions permitting, and will consider initial reports from Bangladesh, Djibouti, Estonia, France, Jamaica and Venezuela.

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For use of the information media; not an official record