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Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities examines the report of Niger

Committee on the Rights of Persons
  with Disabilities 

13 March 2019

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

Introducing the report, Amadou Aissata, Minister of Population of Niger, said that the promotion and protection of the rights of persons with disabilities was among the key priorities and that Niger had adopted more than 15 legislative and regulative measures for that purpose.  The principles of equality, social justice, and human rights for all citizens underlined the 2011 national social protection policy, while the national plan for economic and social development aimed to reduce inequalities and increase employment for all.  The draft bill on equal opportunities and integration of persons with disabilities had been tabled; a strategy on their reintegration adopted; and a committee set up to harmonize national texts with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  More than 100 ramps had been installed to increase access to buildings and laws and regulations on accessibility in future constructions had been enacted.  Niger had adopted the national strategy for the education of children with disabilities and set up 58 integration classes in 25 mainstream schools, while more than 2,500 persons with disabilities had been trained in crafts and various vocations.  Niger, the Minister said in conclusion, was looking to the future and taking steps to protect women and children with disabilities, to support its athletes with disabilities and their participation in international sporting competitions, and to legally guarantee the right to equal opportunities for persons with disabilities.

In the discussion that followed, Committee Experts remarked that Niger, with a population of 17 million, was among the poorest countries in the world, but its huge mineral and natural resources were expected to lift the country out of poverty.  They took positive note of the draft law on equal opportunities and integration of persons with disabilities, and urged Niger to reform the definition of disability in line with international standards, eliminate the negative language surrounding disabilities, and replace guardianship with supported decision-making.  Experts raised concerns about the lack of inclusion of persons with intellectual and psychosocial disabilities in the society; the intersecting and multiple forms of discrimination and violence against women with disabilities, especially female genital mutilation; and the high number of children with disabilities who ended up as child beggars.  Most of Niger was rural, the Experts said and asked how in such contexts the country implemented accessibility standards, supported mobility and independent living of persons with disabilities, and provided social protection and support.  All children with disabilities must be in school, they stressed, inquiring about the status of inclusive education and in particular the specific efforts to change attitudes and raise awareness in families concerning the education of their children with disabilities.

In her concluding remarks, Ms. Aissata reiterated her country’s commitment to redoubling efforts to improve accessibility, care for persons with intellectual disabilities, and access to health care, and to see the adoption of the draft law on equal opportunities and integration of persons with disabilities.

Danlami Umaru Basharu, Committee Rapporteur for Niger and Committee Chairperson, in his concluding observations underlined that the consultation, participation, and inclusion were the burning issues, for it was the essence of the Convention which stressed that persons with disabilities were rights-holders and citizens, and as such, should have a seat at the table. 

Jun Ishikawa, Committee Vice-Chair, in his concluding remarks, hoped that the Committee’s concluding observations would guide Niger in the further implementation of the Convention.

The delegation of Niger included representatives of the Ministry of Population, Ministry of Employment, Labour and Social Protection, Inter-Ministerial Committee for the redaction of reports to treaty bodies and to the Universal Periodic Review, a Member of Parliament, and the Permanent Mission of Niger to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

All the documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, can be found on the session’s webpage.  The webcast of the Committee’s public meetings will be available via the following link: http://webtv.un.org/meetings-events/.

The Committee will next meet in public on Wednesday, 13 March, at 3 p.m. to consider the initial report of Turkey (CRPD/C/TUR/1).

Report

The Committee has before it the initial report of Niger (CRPD/C/NER/1) and the replies to the list of issues (CRPD/C/NER/Q/1/Add.1).

Presentation of the Report

AMADOU AISSATA, Minister of Population of Niger, said that the report, which covered the period from 2008 to 2010, had been drafted according to the Committee’s guidelines and with the participation of representative organizations of persons with disabilities.  The promotion and protection of rights of persons with disabilities was a priority in Niger, which had integrated disability issues in its policies and programmes, and was a party to most international human rights instruments.  Niger had adopted more than 15 legislative and regulative measures for persons with disabilities, and had made important progress in the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities since 2015.  The Ministry of Population was the focal point for awareness-raising and advocacy for the effective implementation of the Convention.  The principles of equality, social justice, and human rights for all citizens underlined the 2011 national social protection policy, which was based on the values of solidarity and contained specific measures for vulnerable groups, including persons with disabilities.  A forum on begging in 2015 had formulated recommendations to stakeholders, while the national plan for economic and social development aimed to reduce inequalities and increase employment, which were both at the heart of the structural reformation in the country that aimed to leave no one behind.   

In 2016, the Minister continued, Niger had set up the Ministry for Humanitarian Action and Disaster Management and a Division for the promotion of persons with disabilities in the Ministry of Population.  The law 2018/22 laid down the basic principles for social welfare protection and considered persons with disabilities among the groups in a vulnerable situation.  The draft bill on equal opportunities and integration of persons with disabilities had been tabled, and a strategy on reintegration of persons with disabilities adopted.  Niger had set up a committee for the harmonization of national texts governing the protection of the rights of persons with disabilities to ensure the alignment with the Convention.  The national action plan on health 2017-2021 was in place, which aimed to extend health care coverage, particularly for vulnerable populations, and more than 4,000 persons with disabilities and members of their families benefitted from this effort.  Over 100 ramps had been built to increase access for persons with disabilities to buildings, and Niger had adopted laws and regulations to ensure accessibility in the future constructions. 

To date, 58 integrations classes had been set up in 25 mainstream schools, the national strategy for the education of children with disabilities had been adopted, and over 2,500 persons with disabilities had been trained in crafts and various vocations.  The Labour Code and the Statute for Public Function strengthened access of persons with disabilities to employment, while the national social welfare and social security fund provided retirement, invalidity, and other benefits to employees with disabilities in the public sector.  Despite all the progress, challenges to the full and effective implementation of the Convention remained, said the Minister, mentioning specifically access to basic service, dissemination of the Convention, accessibility, reintegration programmes, and eliminating prejudices against persons with disabilities.  Niger, she concluded, was looking to the future and was taking steps to protect women and children with disabilities, support its athletes with disabilities and their participation in international sporting competitions including the Paralympic, and legally guarantee the right of persons with disabilities to equal opportunities.

Questions from the Experts

DANLAMI UMARU BASHARU, Committee Rapporteur for Niger and Committee Chairperson, remarked that Niger, with a population of 17 million, was among the poorest countries in the world, but huge mineral and natural resources were expected to lift the country out of poverty.  The Chair expressed appreciation for the work of representative organizations of persons with disabilities and the national human rights institution, whose information and contributions added great value to the Committee’ work. 

Noting with concern the lack of inclusion of persons with intellectual and psychosocial disabilities in society, the Chair urged Niger to reform the definition of disability in its laws and policies and bring it in line with international standards.  Women with disabilities faced double discrimination and violence, and children with disabilities ended up as child beggars and this was not acceptable.  All children must be in school, including in rural areas, said the Chair, noting with concern that the bulk of educational services provided to children with disabilities was being provided by non-governmental organizations, rather than the Government of Niger.  Niger must take immediate steps to protect women and children with disabilities from violence, and strengthen and support the national human rights institution, including through budgetary allocations, to enable it to effectively implement its human rights protection mandate.

Other Experts asked about the mechanism in place to ensure participation of persons with disabilities and their representative organizations in all policies and programmes that concerned them, and about training and awareness raising activities on the Convention for Government workers, media, social workers, and the justice sector.  Were there specific platforms on which children with disabilities could express their opinion freely, on any issue that affected them, and how women with disabilities could participate in the preparation, development, and implementation of all relevant policies and laws that?

As for the principle of non-discrimination, the Experts asked about the anti-discrimination framework and how it protected persons with disabilities, as well as about the number of complaints of discrimination and rights violation of persons with disabilities filed with the National Human Rights Committee and action taken to address them.  How was reasonable accommodation framed in the law, and was its denial prohibited, both by State and non-State actors?  The Experts took positive note of the equal opportunities bill and the attention it gave to women and girls with disabilities and asked how their needs and specific vulnerabilities were integrated into the national action plan against gender-based violence.  What was being done to protect all children with disabilities from all forms of exploitation, including begging and worst forms of child labour?

The delegation was asked whether Niger had in place a strategy to ensure accessibility to buildings and services, including in rural areas, and how it envisages the use of information and communication technology in increasing accessibility.

Responses by the Delegation

Responding on questions on resources and support to representative organizations of persons with disabilities, the delegation said that the national support fund was being set up to provide support to all associations and foundations, including representative organizations.  Persons with disabilities and their federations had participated in the drafting of the report, from the initial draft to the approval, and in drafting an answer to the list of issues.

The National Commission for Human Rights had received an A status under the Paris Principles in 2017, which was an evidence the independence of its nine members.  In 2019, Niger had allocated 380 million XOF (West African CFA Francs) for its operation, an increase to the previous year.  The Commission had received many complaints, but the data were collected so that it was not possible to understand how many were submitted by persons with disabilities for discrimination of rights infringement.

There was no specific law on disability-based discrimination, but several other laws prohibited discrimination on various grounds, for example, the Labour Code spoke specifically on discrimination on the grounds of disability.  Niger was a party to all nine core human rights instruments, said the delegation, adding that a manual on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities had been developed for the judiciary and that 352 magistrates had been trained.  Niger was aware of the impasse between the society and some principles and provisions of some human rights treaties, for example on discrimination against women, and was working on raising awareness and was hoping that son it would be able to lift the reservations.

Order N°93, amended by the order N°29 of 26 May 2010, had set down minimum standards relative to the protection of persons with disabilities.  The shortcomings identified in this framework were being addressed through the draft legislation on equality of opportunities which was currently before the Government.  A delegate stressed the importance of the legal framework for the protection of rights of persons with disabilities and in this context emphasized the role of the National Assembly and its legislative activity.  The National Assembly was very much aware of the need to improve the standard of living for persons with disabilities, said the delegate, and it had a parliamentary network which worked specifically on disability issues.  Once the draft law on equality of opportunities for persons with disabilities – currently in the Government - was presented to the National Assembly, it would be promptly adopted, stressed the delegate.

All children in Niger had access to free health care up to the age of five, while the right to free health care beyond the age of five was guaranteed to children with disabilities, who received all health consultations and services for free, except medical prescription.  Niger was committed to ensuring that children with disabilities enjoyed all their human rights on the basis of equality with other children.  Women with disabilities could access all programmes and services for women, including decision-making positions, and enjoyed all advantaged accorded to women.  At the same time, other specific measures were in place to support women with disabilities, said the delegation, mentioning in particular the budget of the national fund for support for persons with disabilities and the 20 per cent of its budget which was ring-fenced to support income-generating activities of women with disabilities who could not go to school, and employment quotas.

The Government was taking steps to fight child labour and exploitation and had set up a department for the purpose in the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection.  It was a party to the International Labour Organization the Convention 189 on the worst form of child labour and other international legal instruments, which had been incorporated in the Labour Code.  Furthermore, the authorities were working on developing a list of dangerous jobs for children, while the national action plan for the fight against child labour had been prepared for adoption by the Government.  Begging was an offence under the Criminal Code, but it was rarely applied, although a marabout had been recently charged and condemned for forcing over a dozen children to beg, including in Nigeria.

Niger was also a party to the International Labour Organization the Convention 111 on discrimination, said the delegation, explaining that its provisions were included in the Labour Code and that labour inspectors paid attention to discrimination against persons with disabilities in places of work.  Niger celebrated national and in days for persons with disabilities, which was an opportunity for all, especially children, to express their needs and concerns.  Also, the country was working on putting a place a platform for child participation, which would, of course, be open to children with disabilities.

The law equality of opportunity and inclusion of persons with disabilities was being currently adopted and it defined disability according to the principles laid down by the Convention.  The law also addressed accessibility in the built environment, transport, and services, and set out the obligation to ensure accessibility in future construction.  Niger had adopted accessibility principles in the fundamental urban planning and in the national transport strategy 2016 to 2025 and took measures to increase accessibility to information and communication technology.  Niger had set up a committee on the rights of persons with disabilities to monitor the implementation of the standards and provisions related to accessibility in the built environment and to information and communication technology.

Questions from the Experts

In the next round of questions, Committee Experts asked where most persons with intellectual and psychosocial disabilities lived, the steps taken to remove guardianship law and put place supported decision-making, and eliminate the negative language surrounding persons with disabilities.  How were they were protected from being arbitrarily detained on the grounds of their disabilities and from medical treatment without their consent? 

Experts further inquired about the exercise of legal capacity by all persons with disabilities, especially those with intellectual and psychosocial disabilities who committed a crime; the system in place to ensure access to legal and judicial services for persons with disabilities; and awareness raising on the rights of persons with disabilities among the judicial officials.  

Would Niger adopt a law on torture and cruel and ill-treatment in line with the Convention against torture, an Expert asked, inquiring about sanctions and consequences for spouses who abused their wives with disabilities, and specific steps in place to protect girls with disabilities from female genital mutilation.  The Experts urged Niger to adopt a law specifically prohibiting forced begging since at the origin of this abhorrent practice was stigma and shame of having a child with disabilities.  The delegation had mentioned that women with disabilities always gave birth by caesarean section, an expert remarked, asking why was the case, considering that the World Health Organization aimed to reduce the number of such births.

Taking a positive note of the organizational developments in the area of humanitarian action and disaster response, an Expert asked how persons with disabilities were involved in their design and if a delegation could cite one specific national plan or strategy on disaster risk reduction or management that were inclusive of or accessible to persons with disabilities, in line with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.

The delegation was asked about the services and support available to realize the right of persons with disabilities to live independently within the community, including by providing personal assistance and assistive devices.  What was the situation in this regard in rural areas?

Responses by the Delegation

In response to questions raised on legal capacity, the delegation said that the Criminal Code had a concept of insanity, under which no one could be held criminally responsible, but civil liability remained.  The delegate said that disability could be considered both an alleviating but also an aggravating factor in sentencing as well, noting as an example a case of a person with disabilities who had been caught stealing in which the judge gave a harsher sentence because of disability.  The national agency for legal assistance had been set up which provided support to vulnerable groups, including persons with disabilities. 

A person who had received a death sentence and developed a mental health illness after the convictions could not be excited.  The delegate stressed that since 1976, Niger had not executed anyone, and it had signed a moratorium on the death penalty.  The rights and interests of persons with disabilities in detention were protected by the law, which accorded them special treatment such as a specific diet for example. 

It was true that Niger did not have a specific law prohibiting torture, however, the acts of torture could be prosecuted under other laws.  Niger was a party to the Convention against Torture and had recently submitted its initial report under this the Convention.  The draft bill on torture was currently before the Council of Ministers, and it was expected that it would be soon submitted to Parliament for adoption; the bill was aligned with the Convention on Torture, including in how it defined acts of torture.

With regard to the situation of persons with intellectual or psychosocial disabilities, the delegation said that a mental health programme was being put in place to fight indices that caused disabilities, provide care, and ensure social inclusion of individuals.  An inter-sectorial mental health committee had been set up too.  A person suffering “imbecility, insanity, or uncontrolled rage” did not have legal capacity and it was absolutely right, the delegation said, to appoint a carer to manage the property of such a person and to protect the person.

The Ministry of Population was developing an action plan for the implementation of recommendations crafted during the recent national forum on begging, while the Ministry of Education was developing regulation of Koranic schools to, inter alia, prevent forced begging of children and children with disabilities in particular.  Begging was an offence under the Criminal Code, however, there were so many beggars, at the corner of every street, adults and children, with or without disabilities.  It was not possible to arrest them all, therefore, the State aimed to revise its approach and view them as victims rather than criminals.  The accent was now on prosecuting people, such as witch doctors, who lived off forcing children and adults into begging.  Recently, a witch doctor, who had forced an important number of talibé children into begging, had been arrested and prosecuted.

The physical integrity of persons with disabilities was protected under the country’s general laws under which they enjoyed the same level of protection as everyone else, while a number of laws, such as on trafficking in migrants or on penitentiary administration, provided for specific protections and sometimes preferential treatment of persons with disabilities.  The delegation recognized that female genital mutilation was a serious problem in the country and informed the Committee that this wide-spread practice had been criminalized in 2003, and to date, there had been 220 prosecutions.  Both the State and non-governmental organizations carried out information and awareness-raising campaign on the harm caused to girls, and there were programmes to help professional reorientation of cutters – 193 had been encouraged to take other professions between 2003 and 2016.  Caesareans were free for all women in the country, including women with disabilities, and were only used when natural birth was not medically advised.  

Accessing employment was a problem for all the people in the country and not of persons with disabilities specifically.  Together with international partners, the Government had put in place youth employment programmes for all rather than for persons with disabilities specifically.  There were many other groups that were vulnerable, such as women or migrants.  The Labour Code contained a five per cent quota for employment of persons with disabilities in the public and private sectors.  To date, 538 persons with disabilities with diplomas had been recruited in civil service.  The Ministry of Employment was raising employers’ awareness of the importance of employing persons with disabilities, which was done through labour inspections.  As for mobility of persons with disabilities, the delegation said that draft law on equal opportunities for persons with disabilities provided for an exemption for medical and assistive devices and equipment, while 20 per cent of the national fund for support for persons with disabilities was earmarked for rehabilitation and it particularly targeted persons using the prosthesis.

The delegation clarified that 20 per cent of the national fund for support for persons with disabilities was allocated for their health hand rehabilitation needs; 30 per cent went to fund education, training, vocational training, scholarships, and to support the establishment of schools and vocational training centres and provide school support for children with disabilities; 15 per cent was earmarked for food aid and disaster relief; 20 per cent for commemoration of relevant international days; and five per cent each for the National Committee for the Promotion of Persons with disabilities, for capacity-building of the organizations of persons with disabilities, and for other expenditures.

In order to mainstream accessibility standards in new constructions, a committee had been set up to issue new building licences, while mayors and local authority leaders were involved too. 

Questions from the Experts

In the final round of questions, the Experts noted that social protection programmes did not seem to adequately address the specific needs of persons with disabilities, and inquired about the system in place to mainstream gender in all such programmes and initiatives.  They asked about the support available to persons with disabilities in rural areas to achieve adequate standards of living as well as maximum independence.  How many persons with disabilities were benefitting from social protection programmes and what disability-based benefits did those programmes provide?

The delegation was asked about measures taken to eliminate discrimination against persons with disabilities in all matters related to marriage, family, and parenthood, and to provide support to parents with disabilities and to parents of children with disabilities, in order to effectively realize their rights to parenthood and to family life.

The Constitution of Niger guaranteed the right to freedom of expression and opinion, the Experts remarked, asking about the legal status of Braille, as well as measures envisaged to recognize Braille, sign language, easy read, and any other form of accessible language.  How was Niger supporting persons with disabilities to enjoy the right to vote, as well as to participate in political and public life?  The Constitution currently discriminated against persons with disabilities in running for the President, they remarked and asked whether the electoral code would be revised to enable persons with disabilities to take part in the political life on the basis of equality with others.

Turning to inclusive education, the Experts asked the delegation to update the Committee on the status of development of policies and practices to ensure that all children with disabilities could enter mainstream schools and to outline measures to change attitudes and raise awareness in families concerning the education of their children with disabilities.  How far did Niger progress in setting up a system for collecting and analysing data on children with disabilities and accessibility of existing school infrastructure in order to inform the development of inclusive education policies?

The Experts were concerned about the level of poverty of persons with disabilities in the country that itself was among the poorest in the world, and asked about strategies and approaches the Government adopted in addressing this problem and achieving the Sustainable Development Goal 1, both through the national efforts and with international cooperation.

DANLAMI UMARU BASHARU, Committee Rapporteur for Niger and Committee Chairperson, remarked that Niger was considering the ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty (to facilitate access to published works for persons who are blind, visually impaired or otherwise print disabled) and asked what measures had been taken so far.

Responses by the Delegation

Concerning the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the delegation said that the Global Goals were integrated in the national development strategy 2012-2015 and its second phased 2017-2021.  This strategy aimed to strengthen the resilience of the economic and social structures, increase employment, and reduce inequalities, said the delegation, stressing that those elements were at the core of the structural transformation process in the country.  In order to leave no one behind, specific actions would target the most vulnerable sectors of the society, which included women, persons with disabilities, youth, and elderly.  The strategy’s aims would be achieved through the improvement of the social protection, strengthening the income generation activities, and generating employment.

As for the social protection of persons with disabilities, the delegation said that Niger had adopted the International Labour Organization recommendation on social protection floors and had committed to extending social protection to rural areas and to informal economy.  The Ministry for Social Protection had been set up to implement this commitment, supported by the 2018 law on the fundamental principles of social protection and its implementing legislation.

Inclusive education was among key concerns of the Government.  The system was composed of inclusionary classes, which aimed to promote inclusive education so that children with disabilities were educated alongside their pears and to train teachers to provide them with the specific support, while special schools catered to children with visual or hearing impairments.  Introducing inclusive education was a process and Niger was stepping up the pace of reforms.  The statistics could only be based on national surveys; the latest data were from 2012, which shoved that over one-third, or 34 per cent of heads of households with disabilities were not educated.  The situation however, had considerably improved since 2012, the delegation said, and the new national survey was to take place soon.  Niger recognized the importance of accurate and adequate data on persons with disabilities in order to craft policies and design measures to enable the effective implementation of their rights.

Persons with disabilities were represented in all structures and committees set up to promote and protect the rights of persons with disabilities, and represented a majority in the National Commission for Persons with disabilities, a federation under the Prime Minister.  The National Human Rights Commission was a constitutional institution, composed of nine members which included representatives of the justice sector, bar association, civil society organizations, women’s organizations, teachers, and social workers.  The Commission was independent and fully financially autonomous; it had the A status and confirmed in every way to the Paris Principles.

The position of the president of Niger was open to all citizens of good physical and mental health and of good moral standing, said the delegation, stressing that did this not exclude persons with disabilities because they could still enjoy good levels of physical and mental health.  Persons with disabilities were not excluded from public and political life, the delegate said, noting that one of the previous Ministers of Justice was a blind person.  The delegate also stressed that persons with disabilities had equal rights to marriage and family, without any discrimination on law or in practice.

Niger ensured that persons with disabilities and their families living in poverty had access to public assistance and information to meet their needs.  They and their representative organizations were often involved in the monitoring and evaluation of various assistance programmes.  With the support of the World Bank, the social safety nets had been set up throughout the country to provide support to all vulnerable groups in form of monthly allowances; in 2015, their budget was 6.5 billion West African CFA Francs.  Other forms of social assistance included cash transfers and cash-for-work programmes; 4.3 billion West African CFA Francs had been injected into the system in 2017, from which more than 55,000 households had benefited.  In 2019, Niger hoped to transfer over 3.5 billion West African CFA Francs into the social safety net budget and allocate over 1 billion for the support to beneficiary communities and villages.  The second phase of the national poverty reduction programme was being implemented, which also included vulnerable groups.  Health was an important part of the social protection, another delegate said, explaining that the Government was assessing the utility and possibility of setting up mutual health associations.

Concluding Remarks

AMADOU AISSATA, Minister of Population of Niger, in her concluding remarks, reiterated her country’s commitment to redoubling efforts to improve on accessibility, care for persons with intellectual disabilities, and access to health care, to ensure that data and statistics on which to base future policies were available, and to see the adoption of the draft law on equal opportunities and integration of persons with disabilities.

DANLAMI UMARU BASHARU, Committee Rapporteur for Niger and Committee Chairperson, concluded by commending the highly constructive dialogue which he hoped would be but the beginning of the positive transformation in the lives of persons with disabilities in Niger.  The Rapporteur underlined that the consultation, participation, and inclusion were the burning issues in the mind of the Committee, for it was the essence of the Convention that stressed that persons with disabilities were rights-holders and citizens, and as such, should have a seat at the table.  The education was the key concern, especially for girls with disabilities who often missed out due to ignorance of their parents or fear of abuse, and Niger must take steps to protect women with disabilities from female genital mutilation and support their livelihoods.

JUN ISHIKAWA, Committee Vice-Chair, in his concluding remarks, hoped that the Committee’s concluding observations would guide Niger in the further implementation of the Convention.

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