8 March 2021
Elects Rosemary Kayess as Chairperson
The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities this afternoon opened its twenty-fourth online session, hearing solemn declarations by seven new Committee members, electing its Chair and Bureau, and adopting its agenda and programme of work.
Ibrahim Salama, Chief, Human Rights Treaties Branch, Human Rights Council and Treaty Mechanisms Division, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, opening the session, said that this was the second online session for the Committee and would be carried out from today, 8 March until 1 April 2021. He extended a warm welcome to the seven new members of the Committee who started their mandate on 1 January 2021, noting that with the results of the December 2020 election, the gender composition of the Committee had changed to 12 women among 18 members.
Briefing the Committee on the most important recent events and developments related to disability rights at the international level, Mr. Salama said that on 16 December 2020, the General Assembly had adopted resolution A/RES/75/154 on inclusive development for and with persons with disabilities, urging Member States, United Nations agencies, and other stakeholders, in cooperation with persons with disabilities, to ensure that the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was inclusive of, and accessible to, persons with disabilities. In October 2020, the Human Rights Council had appointed Gerard Quinn as the Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities. Mr. Salama said that he understood that since his appointment, the Committee and the Special Rapporteur had been in close contact.
Mr. Salama said that the Bridging the Gap Project within the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights had come to an end and a complete resource package had been launched at the end of December 2020 to ensure that all actions for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals were inclusive of persons with disabilities and were guided by the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The package included numerous tools such as policy guidelines, training materials, human rights indicators to measure implementation of the Convention, and examples of different sources of data to inform human rights indicators.
Mr. Salama said that the time and efforts this Committee had devoted during this exceptional period to avoid a human rights protection gap by participating in online sessions, despite the variations in time zones and technological difficulties, were greatly appreciated. He commended this Committee’s decision, along with that of six other treaty bodies, to test online State party reviews on an exceptional basis while in-person meetings were not possible due to the pandemic. He wished them every success for the first-ever online dialogue that the Committee would hold with Estonia this week. The Office of the High Commissioner was working with its United Nations partners to ensure that online dialogues were interactive, accessible to persons with disabilities, transparent and participatory.
In concluding, Mr. Salama said that the Committee Experts had an intense programme ahead of them. They would engage in a constructive dialogue with Estonia and discuss and adopt crucial recommendations and decisions on individual communications. In addition, the Committee would have a public general discussion on the right to work and employment and would continue their work in working groups and task forces.
Orest Nowosand, Chief, Groups in Focus Section, Human Rights Treaty Bodies Branch, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, then invited the seven new Experts to make their solemn declaration. They are Rosa Idalia Aldana (Guatemala), Soumia Amrani (Morocco), Gerel Dondovdorj (Mongolia), Vivian Fernandez (Panama), Odelia Fitoussi (Israel), Floyd Morris (Jamaica), and Saowalak Thongkuay (Thailand).
Rosemary Kayess (Australia) was elected as Chairperson of the Committee. She welcomed new and returning members of the Committee and wished them a happy International Women’s Day. She thanked the outgoing Chairperson, Danlami Umaru Basharu (Nigeria), for his leadership, exceptional wisdom and patience, and congratulated him on stewarding the Committee through the past 12 months with the COVID-19 pandemic, which was culminating with the upcoming consideration of the report of Estonia.
Elected as Vice-Chairs were Jonas Ruskus (Lithuania), Miyeon Kim (Republic of Korea), and Amalia Gamio (Mexico). Odelia Fitoussi (Israel) was elected as Rapporteur.
The Committee adopted the agenda and programme of work of the session.
A representative of the secretariat informed the Committee that since their last session, the Committee had received the initial reports of Sierra Leone and Afghanistan, and the periodic reports of Mauritius, Ukraine, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Republic of Moldova and Lithuania. This meant that the Committee now had 70 pending reports, 47 initial reports and 23 periodic reports. This represented a backlog of four to five years.
The Committee then heard statements by or representatives of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General on disability and accessibility, the High Commissioner for Refugees, the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, the World Intellectual Property Organization, UN Women, the United Nations Children’s Fund, the Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, a youth with disability, Committee on Victim Assistance, two representatives of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, International Disability Alliance, European Disability Forum, Federation of Anti-Leprosy Associations, Mental Health Europe, Latin American Observatory of the Marrakech Treaty, and Centre for the Human Rights of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry.
The Committee will next meet in public on Friday, 12 March, from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m., to start its dialogue with Estonia.
For use of the information media; not an official record
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