25 March 2015
Re-elects by acclamation María Soledad Cisternas Reyes as its Chairperson
The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities this afternoon opened its thirteenth session with an address by a representative of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The Committee re-elected its Chairperson María Soledad Cisternas Reyes, by acclamation, and adopted its agenda for the session which includes the consideration of the reports of seven countries: Cook Islands, Croatia, Mongolia, South Africa, Czech Republic and Turkmenistan.
Opening the session James Heenan, Chief, Groups in Focus Section, Human Rights Treaties Division of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, highlighted that since the last session two new countries had become party to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, bringing the number of States parties to 153. Furthermore, Denmark had ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention, bringing the total number of ratifications to 85. Mr. Heenan noted that the Committee had a considerable backlog of 58 country reports awaiting examination, while new reports continued to arrive at a fast rate. He expressed confidence that with the hard work of Committee Members, the support of the High Commissioner and the week and a half extra session time granted by the General Assembly, the Committee would be able to achieve its goal of reviewing 14 reports in 2015.
María Soledad Cisternas Reyes, Chairperson of the Committee, reported on the activities of the Committee during the intercessional period, which included participating in the Third Committee of the General Assembly, the Forum on Disabilities in Tokyo, and an informal meeting of the Chairpersons of the treaty bodies at Wilton Park in January. The Committee’s participation in activities for the preparation of the Beijing + 20 Conference was also noted.
A member of the Committee Secretariat said that since the previous session, three new States had ratified the Convention bringing the number of States parties to 153, and 85 States parties to the Optional Protocol following the recent accession of Denmark. The Committee had received 78 initial reports since its inception and had examined 19 to date. It therefore had 59 reports to consider, with a three year delay.
The other officers elected this afternoon were Diane Kingston, Silvia Judith Quan-Chang and Theresia Degener as Vice-Presidents, and Martin Babu Mwesigwa as Rapporteur.
The Committee also held a discussion on cooperation with other United Nations bodies, specialized agencies, non-governmental organizations, organizations of disabled persons on ways of encourage the promotion and protection of the rights of persons with disabilities.
Later in the afternoon the Committee met with High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, in a closed meeting.
The Committee will next meet in public at 11 a.m. on Thursday 26 March to continue its meeting on cooperation with other United Nations bodies, specialized agencies, organizations of disabled persons and other competent bodies. At 3 p.m. it will begin its review of the initial report of Germany (CRPD/C/DEU/1).
JAMES HEENAN, Chief, Groups in Focus Section, Human Rights Treaties Division of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, in his opening statement, highlighted that since the last session two more countries had ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities making a total of 153 States parties. Mr. Heenan noted that the Convention’s backlog of reports was currently standing at 58 and that new reports were coming in at a fast rate. He encouraged the Committee to keep working hard in order to meet the target of 14 reports reviewed in 2015. Mr. Heenan regretted the significant extra-budgetary cuts to resources that took place at the end of 2014 and offered his support in 2015 in assisting Committees to reduce backlogs and reach their targets. The General Assembly recognized that strengthening the treaty body system required increased harmonization of working methods across treaty bodies, which would make them more accessible to States and other stakeholders and would benefit the system as a whole.
Mr. Heenan referred to three important multilateral events. First, the ongoing process for the elaboration of the Sustainable Development Goals within the Post-2015 Agenda. Second, the outcome of World Summit on Indigenous Peoples, held in September 2014, where Member States committed to promoting and protecting the rights of indigenous persons with disabilities and to continue improving their social and economic conditions, including by developing targeted measures for national plans and strategies. Third, the Third World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction which took place earlier this month in Sendai, Japan, at which Member States acknowledged that disaster risk reduction practices needed to be multi-hazard and multisectoral based, inclusive and accessible in order to be efficient and effective.
Outlining relevant developments in the Human Rights Council, Mr. Heenan recalled that Catalina Devandras had been appointed as the first Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Since then, there had been close cooperation between the three mandates with a specific focus on disability rights. The Council held its annual interactive panel on persons with disabilities, focusing on the rights of persons with disabilities to live independently and to be included in the community. He also spoke about the annual meeting of the International Coordination Committee of National Human Rights Institutions, and the organization of training workshops.
Statement by the Chairperson of the Committee
MARIA SOLEDAD CISTERNAS REYES, Chairperson of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities reported on the activities of the Committee during the intercessional period, which included participating in the Third Committee of the General Assembly, the Forum on Disabilities in Tokyo, and an informal meeting of the Chairpersons of the treaty bodies at Wilton Park in January. The Committee’s participation in activities for the preparation of the Beijing + 20 Conference was also noted.
Statements by other stakeholders
A representative of the United Nations Special Envoy on Disability and Accessibility, extended his congratulations to the new members of the Committee and informed them that the Special Envoy would be back in Geneva next week to meet the Committee to discuss joint priorities.
A representative of the Committee on Victim Assistance of the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention underlined the importance of cooperation with other United Nations bodies and other organizations, all of which had been highly relevant actors for the implementation of the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention. The world had physical, attitudinal and other barriers which prevented the full participation of women, girls, boys and men living with a disability, including landmine survivors, in all spheres of their societies on a basis equal to others. Ms. Whyte emphasized the need to foster strong partnerships with those who shared a common agenda and to work together towards the achievement of common goals. Ms. Whyte also recommended exploring ways in which they could work together to support States to implementing the Committee’s recommendations.
A representative of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of persons with disabilities, welcomed the new members and the reelection of the Chairperson of the Committee and appreciated all the steps of collaboration that had been taken. She looked forward to discuss further collaboration with the Committee soon.
A representative of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said he supported the draft resolution, sponsored by Mexico and New Zealand, to organize the annual interactive debate on the rights of persons with disabilities on 10 March 2015. A thematic study on the right to live independently and to be included in the community had been published. The Committee was informed that the 2016 interactive debate would be on the theme of ‘human rights of person with disabilities in situations of risk and humanitarian emergencies’. He encouraged the Committee to contribute to that study. He also informed the Committee that the Office was organizing an expert meeting on the right to liberty and security of persons with disabilities.
A representative of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) updated the Committee on their disability inclusion activities at the global and regional levels. A new global initiative had been established to ensure all printed textbooks were produced in accessible digital formats. The supply of emergency kits had been reviewed and adapted for inclusion and accessibility and guidelines on how to use those kits were being developed. Data collection tools for children with disabilities were being strengthened. Surveys on the most commonly used and important assistive devices and technologies used to reduce barriers for children with disabilities throughout the world had been conducted. Regional offices had held consultations, provided support and collaborated with the local authorities on several issues.
A representative of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) drew attention to the adoption in June 2013 of the Marrakesh Treaty to facilitate access for blind and visually impaired persons to published documents. She stressed that WIPO had spared no effort to educate its Member States of the importance of the ratification of that Treaty.
She also spoke about the ‘Accessible Books’ initiative launched in 2014 to complement the work of the Marrakesh Treaty, to address the barriers which hindered access to accessible work at an operational level, and to increase the number of books available in accessible formats across the world.
For use of the information media; not an official record