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Presentation of the Human Rights and Disability Advisor, Facundo Chávez Penillas at the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee

7 August 2017

Esteemed members of the Committee,

I very much welcome the invitation to present before this Committee today.

The Human Rights Council since its resolution 7/9 has increased its consideration of the human rights of persons with disabilities by holding an annual debate on the rights of persons with disabilities, mainstreaming the rights of this constituency in other panels, reports and resolutions, and by holding additional meetings specifically on the rights of persons with disabilities like the 2014 panel on international cooperation and persons with disabilities, the 2016 Social Forum or this year’s intersessional seminar on family and persons with disabilities. Up to 2016 the Council negotiated substantive resolutions on an annual basis, these negotiations take place biennially since then.

In addition, 11 specific reports were drafted by OHCHR under the mandate of the Council to support its discussions and negotiations of substantive resolutions1. These reports are made available in easy to read format to facilitate access to persons with intellectual disabilities. OHCHR, additionally, has increased its mainstreaming of the rights of persons with disabilities in its reports as, most recently, the report on mental health and human rights and the report on equal enjoyment to the right to education by every girl. It is advisable that such inclusion on mainstream reports is structurally addressed in Council resolutions to make sure that no one is left behind.

Without a doubt, the creation of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities has been a turning point to the work of the Council on this human rights issue. Since the end of 2014, the Special Rapporteur has contributed politically and substantively to advance the rights of persons with disabilities in the Council and other fora, enhancing cooperation with other Special Procedures mandate-holders on the rights of persons with disabilities, increasing visibility, and guiding on the way forward in several key thematic areas2. Many Member States, UN human rights mechanisms, and civil society have expressed appreciation for her technical cooperation and expertise. Increased collaboration with Ms. Devandas, who this year chairs the Coordination Committee of Special Procedures, further consideration on how to enhance implementation of the recommendations contained in her reports would be advisable.
Since the creation of the Task Force on Secretariat services, accessibility and use of information technology in 2011, much was achieved3. Accessibility measures have more and more be considered in Council resolutions and once adopted, mostly in disability-specific sessions, they were institutionalized by the Council as it was the case of the Social Forum which this year will count with accessibility-related services in a non-disability specific session. This Task Force has been working on an accessibility action plan to push this agenda forward and has reached the point where no further improvements can be made without additional resources. The action plan aims at providing budget estimates to advance accessibility to serve the Council.

It would be advisable to raise political visibility of the Task Force and establish a voluntary fund to improve accessibility, also, in order to build practice in UNOG and beyond. This should be taken as a preliminary measure to build on, while Member States further commit to allocating the necessary resources to provide for the accessibility needs of the Council in the General Assembly.

Importantly, in order to ensure accessibility now, the Council should provide for reasonable accommodation to all persons with disabilities participating in it, upon request. Reasonable accommodation is an anti-discrimination measure to ensure, in this case, the effective participation of persons with disabilities. With the purpose of ensuring compliance with this immediate obligation, it would be advisable to create a reasonable accommodation fund ready to access through simplified administrative procedures to properly provide, as required.

On a more substantive note, the Council has mandated OHCHR on an array of human rights issues, mainly, following the articles of the Convention. This is a very advisable practice as many aspects of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities are still to be developed and better understood. Core aspects of the Convention are still far to be seen from Member States as human rights issues that should interpreted under the principle of non-discrimination and in many cases while these aspects are well addressed to other constituencies this is not applicable to persons with disabilities following charity or medical arguments.

This only shows that the paradigm shift proposed by the Convention from charity and medical approaches to the human rights-based approach to disability is far from being realized. Importantly, issues related to legal capacity, deprivation of liberty (mainly as forced institutionalization and forced treatment in psychiatric institutions), humanitarian action in compliance with human rights law and gender-related issues continue to be the main challenges. In order to tackle these and other aspects of the Convention, it would be advisable that the Council invests on capacity building of its members both at international and national levels as other international organizations are doing, like the European Union. OHCHR stands ready to continue conversations on this regard as the substantive office supporting the Council.

I thank you.

Notes:

1. http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Disability/Pages/StudiesReportsPapers.aspx

2. http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Disability/SRDisabilities/Pages/Reports.aspx

3. http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/RegularSessions/Session23/Pages/TFOnAccessibility.aspx