GENEVA (14 September 2023) - A UN expert today lauded Georgia’s progress towards an inclusive and rights-based environment for persons with disabilities and urged practical implementation of the policies.
“In recent years, Georgia has undertaken legislative and policy reforms at an unprecedented pace to apply human rights standards in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which the country ratified in 2014,” said Gerard Quinn, Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities, in a statement at the end of a 10-day official visit to the country.
“In particular, the 2020 Law on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is a ground-breaking step forward that can generate concrete change if practically implemented,” Quinn said.
“There is genuine willingness to move away from the historical legacy of a medical approach to disability based on ableism and paternalistic attitudes,” the expert said. “The effort now is to replace them with core values for an inclusive society in which persons with disabilities can be active citizens on an equal basis with others,” he said.
Quinn said the outdated medicalised assessments used to determine disability status play a role in perpetuating misconceptions about disability.
“I welcome Georgia’s plan to move to a biopsychosocial model of disability which is paramount to shift mindsets and make sure that everyone has access to services and support based on their individual needs and barriers they experience,” he said.
The UN expert particularly welcomed the readiness of public authorities, both at central and local levels, to closely consult persons with disabilities, their representative organisations, and civil society. He further noted the importance of transparent and impartial support to all organisations of persons with disabilities, especially at grassroot level.
The expert said that setting priorities is difficult in the absence of reliable and disaggregated data on persons with disabilities and especially on the barriers they face.
“Better understanding the different needs of persons with disabilities is paramount for the development of effective support services to enable independent living,” he said.
The expert lauded Georgia’s commitment to deinstitutionalisation and said that in order to succeed, it must be accompanied by a holistic development of community and home-based services.
Quinn recognised the potential of the decentralisation reforms underway to make services more accessible and targeted as long as sufficient resources are provided to municipalities.
“While recent legislative reforms are trending in the right direction, implementation remains a key challenge. Much remains to be done, for example on accessibility to the physical and digital environment, labour inclusion and economic empowerment, education, mental health, legal capacity, and access to justice,” the expert said.
The Special Rapporteur will present a detailed report on his visit including findings and recommendations to the Human Rights Council in March 2024.
Gerard Quinn (Ireland) is the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities, appointed by the Human Rights Council in October 2020. Mr Quinn holds two research chairs at the Raoul Wallenberg Institute on Human Rights in the University of Lund (Sweden) and Leeds University (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland). He was the lead focal point for the global network of National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) during the negotiations leading to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and was head of delegation for Rehabilitation International during the UN Working Group (2004). He previously held a chair at the National University of Ireland where he founded and directed the Centre on Disability Law and Policy.
The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.