Report of the second meeting of the Inter-Agency Support Group for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (IASG)
Report of the second meeting of the Inter-Agency Support Group for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (IASG) [WORD]
The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol entered into force on 3 May 2008. Since its first meeting in December 2007, the IASG has adopted its terms of references and its Joint Statement of Commitment to the Convention. As of date 29 Countries have ratified the Convention and 127 have signed it and 17 countries have ratified and 71 countries have signed the Optional Protocol.
The main objectives of the second meeting of the Group were threefold: to review current activities of agencies related to the Convention; to start developing a Strategy and Joint Plan of Action based on the Joint Statement of Commitment; and to start work on preparing a set of guidelines for UN country programming as requested by the United Nations Development Group. The attached document provides a summary of the meeting.
1. The second meeting of the Interagency Support Group for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (IASG) was held in Geneva from 19 to 20 June 2008. The second meeting was convened and hosted by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and co-chaired by the Department of Economic and Social Affairs Department, which together constitute the joint Secretariat of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The objectives of the meeting were threefold: to review current activities of agencies related to the Convention; to start developing a Strategy and Joint Plan of Action based on the Joint Statement of Commitment; and to start work on preparing a set of guidelines for UN country programming as requested by the United Nations Development Group. The attached document provides a summary of the meeting. The agenda of the session and the background note is contained in Annex 1 to the present report.
2. Representatives of the following United Nations and other intergovernmental agencies, funds and programmes and departments attended: International Labour Organization (ILO), Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), World Bank, World Health Organizations (WHO), Regional Commission Africa (ECA), Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), represented by United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS), United Nations Secretariat Department of Management (DM), UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).
A. Opening and thematic discussion
3. The Deputy High Commissioner, Ms. Kyung-wha Kang opened the meeting welcoming the level of engagement of all United Nations agencies with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Since the first meeting in December 2007 the CRPD and its Optional Protocol thereto have entered into force and the Conference of States parties will elect the members of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in autumn 2008, which will meet early in 2009. The IASG for the CRPD has made significant progress towards joint UN action on the Convention by adopting a joint Statement of Commitment. Now is the time to identify the practical steps to ensure that Commitment moves to action. Therefore, during this second meeting, IASG members will work to develop a practical strategy and a plan of action as well as to develop Guidelines on the Convention for UN Country Teams. This year, the International Day of Persons with Disabilities has the theme of the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Making the linkage between the Universal Declaration and the CRPD sends a powerful message. It underlines the shift towards a rights-based approach. Human rights are about human dignity, individual freedoms and entitlements, and State obligations, thus about empowerment. The focus of our strategy must be about the empowerment of persons with disabilities not about disability itself. Our joint work is to spell out the concrete steps to materialize the Convention and to support persons with disabilities to enjoy their rights and States to fullfil their obligations.
4. Mr. Simon Walker, OHCHR Human Rights and Disability Advisor welcomed IASG members and introduced the agenda for the meeting and the working documents that had been circulated in preparation for the meeting.
5. Ms. Nicola Shepherd of the DESA summarized the work of the IASG for CRPD since its establishment and outlined the Group’s mandate and immediate tasks. She noted that since the first meeting in December 2007, the IASG has reached an agreement about the terms of reference for the group, and after several drafting sessions the IASG adopted the “Joint Statement of Commitment to the Convention,” which was released on 30 March 2008, one year after the opening for signature of the Convention. She reminded the group that the United Nations Chief Executives Board (CEB) had mandated the Group to work within the spirit and letter of the Convention to support the inclusion of persons with disabilities in all aspects of society; that the group should be composed of high level staff working at the policy level and that our inter-agency work on the Convention needs to be linked to other inter-agency mechanisms on human rights and development; workshops and training materials will be an essential factor to effectively mobilize the field and headquarters staff and the most appropriate agencies are encouraged to take the lead in priority areas of action; equally important the inclusion of persons with disabilities in the UN itself is an explicit expectation created by the Convention. She also explained the main objectives of the meeting; namely the begin the process of developing a strategy and action plan as well as guidelines for UN country teams on the Convention.
B. Information Exchange on work undertaken by agencies on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
6. Ms. Debra Perry from ILO Geneva noted that the main areas of ILO work on the Convention involved awareness raising on its provisions and steps needed for implementation through the development of standards, publications, research, advocacy initiatives and technical cooperation. ILO has been promoting equality of opportunities of persons with disabilities in employment though the promotion of it standards, and the development of publications such as: The right to decent work of persons with disabilities; legislation guidelines, a curriculum on disability and employment promotion legislation; other guides promoting employment opportunities; a good practice guide on Skills Development through Community-Based Rehabilitation; She also noted that the ILO Bureau for Statistics has agreed to advocate for the inclusion of questions on persons with disabilities in labour market surveys. In the area of research ILO is also carrying out a preliminary study on the national costs of exclusion in selected countries, on the status of inclusive vocational training and on trade union practices related to persons with disabilities. ILO is also actively advocating for decent work for persons with disabilities through the organization of sub regional meetings on this topic in Asia in cooperation with OHCHR and in Africa and celebrating 2007 International day of persons with disabilities. ILO also conducted a two-day pilot disability equality training programme in ILO International Training Centre. At the Country level, ILO has actively promoted the Convention and has developed technical cooperation disability specific projects in Cambodia, African and Asia. In addition, ILO has mainstreamed disability in other projects that address general population and is encouraging further mainstreaming of a disability perspective in ILO tools of action.
7. Ms. Gisela Thater, legal officer of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) explained that UNCHR efforts to strengthen the protection of persons with disabilities falls within UNHCR various areas of work. She noted that UNHCR age, gender and diversity mainstreaming strategy seeks to empower minority and marginalized groups including persons with disabilities. Regarding UNHCR work on identification, and registration, UNHCR has recently revised its risk identification tool, which now includes specific categories relating to persons with disabilities, which will permit identifying those at risk. UNHCR has also established a working group on disability focusing primarily on planning and programming issues, including accessibility of headquarters buildings. In addition, UNHCR together with the Women’s Commission on Refugee Women and Children, has undertaken research on refugees and displaced persons with disabilities in five of its operations in the field. In the area of planning and programming, UNHCR continues to incorporate disability related issues into policy guidelines and handbooks, and discussions with the Executive Committee about the possibility of developing a thematic conclusion on “Persons of concern for UNHCR with disabilities” continue. She noted that some UNHCR operations are providing refugees with disabilities with assistive devices and targeted food assistance where they cannot access food distribution points and are including children with disabilities in their education programs. She also noted that field operations have identified several challenges in including persons with disabilities in their livelihood programs.
8. Ms. Alexandra Yuster, Senior Adviser, Child Protection and Global Disability Focal Point, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), informed the Group that in 2007 UNICEF had issued conceptual guidelines on inclusion of children with disabilities to ensure that disability is mainstreamed cross UNICEF’s areas of work, including in policy, advocacy and programming. She noted that UNICEF’s work on disability is being done in 33 countries, mainly in the areas of inclusive education, data collection, health, child protection and awareness and promotion of the Convention. With regard to inclusive education UNICEF works to ensure that children’s with disabilities access schools and that inclusive education is part of education reform efforts. UNICEF also collects data through Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys, which include a special module on children with disabilities. She noted that colleagues had expressed the need to increase work in the area of early identification, screening and follow-up of children with disabilities. UNICEF is increasingly getting involved in the area of social protection through global dialogue on social protection, which gives an opportunity to work on disability related issues as well as in its work on child protection, which includes efforts to ensure that services are available for children with disabilities and their families, to move away from residential care. UNICEF has produced a child friendly version of the Convention in English, French and Spanish which has been widely distributed and translated in other languages. Last and in view of the imminent establishment of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, she referred to UNICEF’s positive and extensive experience in working with the Committee on the Rights of the Child to lobby at the country level for the realization of the rights of the child.
9. Mr. Lance Clark, UN Resident Coordinator in Serbia, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) noted that while UNDP had been engaged in actions to support persons with disabilities for many years, in recent years most of this work in-country has been on an ad hoc basis. However, in 2007 mention of persons with disabilities was officially included in UNDPs upcoming global five year strategy (which is entitled “Inclusive Development”), and the Administrator followed this in January 2008 with a message to UNDP staff globally confirming the importance of this subject for UNDP, and flagging the importance of promoting ratification and implementation of the CRPD. An internal UNDP Task Force on Persons with Disabilities, based in New York, has been established, with one strong focus being on accessibility and human resources issues, including proactive recruitment of persons with disabilities. He explained that at the regional level, the UNDP Regional Bureau for Europe and the CIS (RBEC) has put in place a regional Action Plan, and on 17-18 June 2008 held the first Regional Workshop in Zagreb for key staff involved in this field. UNDP sees its work in this area in particular linked to capacity development for Government and civil society, and sees increased actions in areas including poverty reduction, democratic governance, gender issues, and human rights. He noted the importance of UN Country Teams using the ratification of the CRPD in-country as a vehicle for promoting increased and more effective work across the range of subjects included in the Convention. He flagged that the UNCT in Serbia is finalizing plans for a Strategic Advocacy Campaign to promote changes in the “mentality” of many in the country about disabilities, to further empower disabled persons organizations (DPO’s), and to build partnerships between DPOs, the UN, the Government, the business community, and others. He noted the surprising lack of any explicit methodology by the UN agencies for such strategic advocacy campaigns (as opposed to public relations campaigns, which are a component of such a larger effort, and for which methodologies do exist).
10. Ms Aiko Akiyama of UN ESCAP explained that it has been actively working on the rights of persons with disabilities through the framework of the Asian Pacific Decade of Disabled Persons. Regarding their work on the CRPD, she noted the recent collaboration with OHCHR and ILO in organizing a commemorative event for the entry into force of the Convention. Prior to the event, ESCAP Commission resolution 64/8 was adopted and it requests ESCAP to support States efforts to ratify and implement the Convention as well as to improve its accessibility. To this end, UNESCAP is assessing its Website with a view to make it accessible for persons with disabilities and is also carrying out CRPD awareness raising activities at the country level, such as in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. ESCAP is in the process of finalizing a regional study on anti-discrimination laws on disability and is also building the capacity of statisticians in the region through the organization of workshops and the publishing of a manual on data collection on disability in collaboration with WHO. For the coming period, ESCAP will establish itself as an information hub on disability related policies. Towards the end, it will open up a web-based country profile on disability policy after August 2008. In terms of issues, ESCAP will be focusing on the theme of accessibility. In 2009, it will organize a conference on accessible tourism in Japan and will develop videos and guidelines on it. ESCAP will also continue to raise awareness on the Convention and on its effective implementation and to facilitate a regional inter- agency exchange of information on their work on the Convention. She noted that working level professionals and persons with disabilities in the region are not yet familiar with the concepts and content of the CRPD, partly due to language barriers. In this regard, ESCAP is planning on publishing a guide book to promote the understanding and implementation of the CRPD in future. Lastly, she mentioned that, together with WHO, UNESCAP will organize a regional conference on community based rehabilitation in December 2008.
11. Mr. Kenneth Eklindh Senior Programme Specialist of UNESCO referred to the 2008 Global Action Week on Education which focused on quality education and exclusion. UNESCO used this forum to bring inclusion and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to the discussion. UNESCO has also sent information materials on the Convention to all its regional offices, and has prepared a 20 minutes DVD on article 24 of the Convention on the right of persons with disabilities to education. He informed the Group about UNESCO’s International Conference on Education (ICE) that will take place in Geneva from 25 to 28 November 2008 and invited all IASG agencies to participate. The Conference which will gather one thousand five hundred up to two thousand participants will address the question of inclusion. The theme of the Conference is “Inclusion, the way of the Future.” One of the stands at the Conference will be devoted to the CRPD. During the Conference, UNESCO will present its revised Guidelines on Inclusive Education, which are in the process of being updated in line with the Convention. In preparation for the Conference, UNESCO celebrated 9 regional conferences and workshops to develop a road map for inclusion in their respective regions. The Conference will focus on the broad aspect of inclusion and will high-light the situation of more than 70,000,000 children in the World presently, who are not provided with any education. Many of them have disabilities and the new Convention is expected to be a powerful instrument in assuring their right to quality education. There will also be a Round Table discussion led by the BBC journalist Tim Sebastian where a number of Ministers will meet and discuss with young persons who have experienced marginalization and exclusion in Education.
12. Ms. Siri Tellier, Director of UNFPA Office in Geneva explained UNFPA’S mandate to meet the needs of persons with disabilities and to eliminate specific forms of discrimination they may face with regard to reproductive rights, including family planning and sexual health, HIV/AIDS, information and education. She noted that UNFPA addresses the sexual and reproductive health needs and rights of person with disabilities in line with CRPD. As part of its efforts to raise awareness on the Convention, UNFPA published in 2008 two advocacy resources entitled “Emerging Issues: Sexual and Reproductive Health of Persons with Disabilities and “Mental, sexual and reproductive health”. UNFPA’s Strategic Plan 2008-2011 also places a special focus on marginalized groups, including women with disabilities and provides guidance to UNFPA staff to ensure that persons with disabilities participate in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the support programmes. In addition, UNFPA strategies to work with countries and partners in promoting gender equality and sexual and reproductive health integrates as well persons with disabilities. UNFPA is working with WHO to produce a guidance note to support Country Offices and partners to promote inclusion of persons with disabilities on a broad array of issues on sexual and reproductive health such as family planning, maternal health, HIV prevention and fight against gender-based violence. UNFPA has also facilitated a number of meetings at the global level, which promote the inclusion of disability in development agendas and at the country level, UNFPA provides technical support to assist countries incorporating the disability perspective into existing health policies. She noted that Luz Angela Melo, UNFPA human rights adviser, would be UNPFA’s focal point to support the drafting of the UN guidelines on the Convention. UNFPA offered to host the third inter-agency meeting in New York.
13. Mr. Sándor Sipos, Sector Manager, Social Protection and Labour of the World Bank explained that the World Bank is supporting the CRPD and mainstreaming disability in development through their work in 6 areas of engagement. The World Bank is improving its evidence base by assisting countries in data collection and analysis for policy development, implementation monitoring and evaluation and by elaborating poverty and disability studies, such as “Economic Implications of Chronic Illness and Disability in Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union” . Second, the Bank is providing advocacy and operational support within the organization, through the elaboration of intra-departmental publications and a disability tool kit for task team leaders as well as through the organization of workshops on specific articles of the CRPD and high level meetings on CRPD and its implementation. Third, the World Bank is mainstreaming Universal Design in its procurement activities and projects ensuring minimum standards, with the challenge that at the moment there are neither World Bank accessibility standards nor international or national standards at least in half of developing countries. He noted that while World Bank is progressing in this area the adoption of an action plan and its implementation will require time and must take local conditions into consideration. Fourth, the World Bank is engaging in partnerships with different actors to promote inclusive development, including Global Partnership for Disability and Development (GPDD), donors, WHO, the Washington City group and IASG. Fifth, the World Bank is increasing the profile of disability within the bank and sixth the Bank is leveraging Governments in their efforts to promote and implement the Convention, and the disability portfolio is increasing both in terms of number of projects and lending commitments that address disability.
14. Ms. Alana Officer, Coordinator of Disability and Rehabilitation of World Health Organizations (WHO) stressed WHO’s continued commitment to actively involve persons with disabilities through their representative organizations so that their views are taken into account in WHO’s work. At the request of the WHO Director-General, WHO has set up a taskforce on disability comprised of representatives from each cluster in headquarters and regional offices. Following an internal mapping exercise, the task force will make recommendations to the Director-General for future Disability Policy across the organization to ensure that WHO global health agenda is inclusive of persons with disabilities, and to make our information, buildings and employment opportunities accessible to persons with disabilities. WHO has audited its website, which provides information on the Convention and its Optional Protocol, and is in the process of improving it to make it accessible and in line with best practice guidelines including the W3C Guidelines. Equally, WHO is carrying out an accessibility audit of its buildings, which will serve as a model for WHO regional offices and has developed a proposed Statement as a means to ensure “decent work” for qualified individuals regardless of their disability. Jointly with the World Bank and others WHO is progressing in the development of a World Report on Disability and Rehabilitation. The report aims to provide with a comprehensive description and analysis of the importance of disability, rehabilitation and inclusion and makes recommendations for action in accordance with CRPD at local, regional and international level. Jointly with UNESCO, ILO, UNFPA, and other partners revising guidelines on community based rehabilitation to help bringing CRPD at the community level. In partnership with UNPFA, WHO is developing a guidance note on disability and reproductive health and in collaboration with UNAIDS, WHO is developing a guidance note on disability and HIV/AIDS. Last in collaboration with Mental Disability Advocacy Center, the UK Institute of Psychiatry and in consultation with service users, WHO is developing an instrument for monitoring human rights in mental health facilities. WHO is also in the process of developing an International Diploma on Mental Health Law and Human Rights.
15. Mr. Amr Nour of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) introduced the work of the ECA to include disability issues in its development activities. He stressed the increasing attention that African countries are paying to persons with disabilities, as reflected by the proclamation of the Continental Plan of Action for the African Decade of Persons with Disabiliteis (1999-2009) which prioritized activities targeting persons with disabilities. In May 2008, the ECA organized a joint international conference on disability in collaboration with Leonard Cheshire Disability on the “UN Convention on the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities: a Call for Action on Poverty, Discrimination and Access.” The objective of the conference was to support the ratification of the CRPD by African countries and to make the process of implementation transparent and inclusive. The conference covered three main sub-themes: eliminating poverty of persons with disabilities; combating discrimination against persons with disabilities; and enabling persons with disabilities to access all services, including health and education, without discrimination. The conference also emphasized the importance of building knowledge on specific issues related to persons with disabilities and evaluating the regional implementation of the CRPD, while providing technical support to African countries in the development of their national development policies and programs.
16. Ms. Nicola Shepherd, of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) informed the Group that their work on the Convention falls within the three main areas identified by the SG’s Office: ICT, human resources and physical accessibility. DESA is working with the capital master plan to ensure that the new facilities will be accessible and encouraging the capital master plan officials to go “beyond code” and make UNHQ a as much of a model of accessibility that it can be, taking into account budgetary and historical and safety limitations.. DESA has been working with the web service section of the Department of Public Information and DPI is preparing guidelines on website accessibility that are compliant with the Web Content Accessibility guidelines of the World Wide Web Consortium standards. The aim is to assist UN agencies making their websites accessible to persons with disabilities. So far a draft set of guidelines have been shared with different actors, including IASG members for their comments and feedback. DPI web services team is carrying out a pilot project that will train DESA’s web managers in creating accessible websites and putting documents in an accessible format. DESA and World Bank are looking at developing an Internal Internet knowledge management tool kit for UN Staff focusing on how to implement the Convention. She stressed that the Secretary-General is fully committed towards making the UN accessible to persons with disabilities.
17. Mr. Gustavo Laurie, Liaison Officer of United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) explained that UNMAS will be representing the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) at the IASG for CRPD. He noted that with regards to the Convention, the UNDPKO is focusing its attention in the following areas: advocating for CRPD ratification both at headquarters and in the field; building national capacity, training and planning on the Convention; raising awareness on the rights of persons with disabilities; developing national legal frameworks on disability; employing persons with disabilities; improving physical accessibility of UN premises and establishing inter-agency partnerships to work on the Convention. He noted that UNMAS, as the focal point for mine action activities within the UN system, has taken the lead in the development of an UN inter-agency policy for mine action that includes the pillar of victim assistance, which has adopted a human rights approach for survivors of mines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) within a broader national disability framework. UNMAS has as well encouraged States Parties to mine action related treaties, such as the Antipersonnel Mine Ban Convention or the Protocol on explosive remnants of war (ERW) to the Convention on certain convention weapons (Protocol V), to use the CRPD as a fremework and a means to provide assistance to victims of landmines and explosive remnants of war.. UNMAS has mapped UNDPKO efforts to support and include CRPD in their work. Responses from DPKO colleagues to a questionnaire circulated by UNMAS reflected their general awareness on the Convention, showed that activities mainly focused on CRPD awareness raising and advocacy are taking place and helped in identifying challenges that the field could face in their work on the Convention. UNMAS has actively advocated for the ratification and effective implementation of CRPD in various events, including during the negotiations of the recently adopted Cluster Munitions Convention. In collaboration with the NGO Survivor Corps, UNMAS and other partners in the UN Mine Action Team have prepared an advocacy package on the Convention for UN-supported Mine Action Centres.
18. Mr. Florin M. Ionescu, Chief of Architecture and Engineering of Facilities Management Service (FMS) at headquarters (HQ) of DM represented the Office of Central Support Services (OCSS). He explained that FMS and Capital Master Plan (CMP) are responsible for implementing accessibility standards and guidelines of UN HQ facilities. He explained that the UN entities follow the country building codes where they are located, and in this cases UN HQ in New York follows the Americans with Disabilities Act codes (ADA). He noted that New York HQ is not accessible for persons with disabilities. He noted that making UN buildings accessible is not an easy task that faces many challenges such as: the age of buildings; lack of accessibility codes in some countries where the UN is located; obstacles to carry out works while the facilities are operating; and competing priorities (i.e. security). Following various accessibility audits, UN HQ in New York has: replaced doors hardware and water drinking fountains; remodeled elevators inline with ADA; constructed new accessible bathrooms in the Secretariat building; Refurbished key bathrooms in public areas; improved fire alarm system; improved critical emergency exit areas in evacuation route; installed photo luminescent sign sand exit pathway markings in Braille; designed and built new interior office spaces; provided appropriate furniture and equipment; installed access ramps; redesigned certain public spaces and assisted in the planning and preparation of Meetings and Special Events. FMS continues to address small to medium size ADA related projects, based on the availability of funds and in coordination with the CMP which has already started its work. He explained that CMP will take the lead to work on the accessibility of the UN HQ complex, which will be fully accessible by 2013 in compliance with ADA and ISO standards. He concluded that inter-agency efforts are needed in the development of standards and guidelines for accessibility of facilities and services, to allow its implementation in all UN entities. To this end adequate resources for implementation are needed.
19. Ms. Tina Tyner, Legal Officer of the Policy Support Unit of the Office of Human Resources Management informed the Group that during the last meeting of the Human Resources Network in March 2008, a working group developed a draft policy statement on the Convention, whereby the network commits to support the employment of persons with disabilities in the UN. Once approved, the policy statement will become the framework for policy guidelines that would be developed during 2009. In the current recruitment policy there are no discriminatory provisions against recruiting persons with disabilities but there are very few working in the UN. Efforts in this regard are focusing on how to reach out to persons with disabilities and proactively recruit them. She noted that one section of the personal history form which requests to provide information about any limitations in traveling is under review. The medical clearance requirement poses many challenges for the recruitment of persons with disabilities and has implications for the health insurance scheme, pension fund, risk assessments and other complex questions. She noted as well the need to accommodate.
20. Ms. Marina Diotallevi, Chief of Section, Cultural, Social and Ethical Aspects of Tourism, of UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) noted that it was the first time that UNWTO, a UN Specialized Agency since 2003, participated in this IASG meeting. She noted that UNWTO works with member States in favor of responsible and sustainable and equitable development of tourism. Within this goal, UNWTO bases its work and activities on human rights principles of non-discrimination, freedom of movement, aiming to make tourism accessible to all and to ensure that tourism benefits all, including local communities, and the people. In 1991 UNWTO General Assembly Resolution adopted a resolution entitled “Creating tourism opportunities for handicapped people in the nineties,” which was later on updated and revised by 2005 UNWTO General Assembly resolution entitled “Accessible Tourism for all.” With this resolution the General Assembly recommended member States to provide clear information about accessibility of tourism services and facilities and about availability of support services for persons with disabilities in tourist destinations. The resolution stressed also the importance of training staff employed by tourism establishments and tourism related services on the special needs of persons with disabilities and also listed common requirements in tourism facilities and sites as well as in specific facilities. On the occasion of the entry into force of the Convention, UNWTO Secretary General, sent out a message to all member States reminding them about their previous commitments by signing and adopting the resolution, and invited them to implement the guidelines and ratify the Convention and its Optional Protocol.
21. Mr. Simon Walker of the Office of the OHCHR noted that OHCHR's work on the Convention and Optional Protocol focuses on awareness-raising and promoting ratification of the Convention, preparation for the new treaty body and improving OHCHR accessibility. In terms of field work, some 15 field offices and 3 regional offices are promoting the Convention through holding awareness-raising meetings, expert seminars to promote ratification, training for representatives of government, national human rights commissions and civil society, undertaking thematic studies on a range of issues and monitoring mental health institutions. At headquarters, OHCHR has sought: to provide information on specific provisions of the Convention through publications such as the IPU/OHCHR/DESA Handbook for Parliamentarians, a Q&A on the Convention and other documents; to encourage other parts of the human rights system to include the rights of persons with disabilities in their thematic and monitoring work through holding expert seminars on the right to education of persons with disabilities and on freedom from torture; to work with partner organizations such as DESA, UNMAS, the Secretariat to the Antipersonnel Mine Ban Convention and Organizations of persons with disabilities to promote the Convention; to raise the profile of the Convention within the Human Rights Council through the organization of in-session panels; and, to improve the accessibility of OHCHR premises, facilities and technology by undertaking two accessibility audits from the perspective of persons with physical and sensory disabilities. OHCHR has been requested to prepare a thematic study for the Human Rights Council on legal measures for ratification and implementation of the Convention to be submitted to the March session of the Council. A letter has been sent to members of the IASG for inputs and those members working on legislation are encouraged to provide OHCHR with relevant information.
Session 2. Strategy and Action Plan: The Way Forward
A. Framework for the Strategy and action Plan
22. Ms. Nicola Shepherd, of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) briefed the Group about the Convention time line, basic concepts of international cooperation in the context of the CRPD, namely on how international cooperation should be inclusive of and accessible to persons with disabilities, and how the Millennium Development Goals will not be achieved if persons with disabilities are excluded. She noted that the CRPD sets out specific actions for States parties, international community and calls for Stases parties to undertake appropriate and effective measures in partnership with relevant international and regional organizations and civil society. With the Joint Statement of Commitment the UN has committed to the purpose, principles, substantive rights and provisions of the Convention, both internally and externally. In putting this commitment into action, the Chief Executive Board mandated the creation of this IASG for the CRPD. OHCHR and DESA are the co-chairs of the Group, though the chair is meant to rotate among its members. Through the IASG, the UN will: support States parties to the Convention, ensure that UN programmes and policies are inclusive of persons with disabilities, and will increase the scale and effectiveness of UN’s involvement in disability issues.
23. She noted that as envisaged by the Group, the Joint Statement of Commitment had been completed and released, the next steps being the development of a Joint Strategy and an Action Plan. According to the Joint Statement of Commitment the Strategy and Action Plan will focus on the internal and external measures that the UN system will need to undertake to be in line with the Convention, and must be based on the obligations laid out in articles 32 and 38 as well as on General Assembly resolution 61/106 and 62/170. She explained the 6 areas of work of the IASG, which are laid out in the Joint Statement of Commitment: Policies, programmes, capacity-building, accessibility, research and access to knowledge, Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. She clarified further that IASG is not a funding mechanism but a coordination and planning mechanism made up of the coordinated actions of its members.
24. With the view to build a common understanding within the Group, the initial discussion focused on the nature and key elements of a strategy and a plan of action are and about their elements and content should be. During the discussion the Group identified the following elements: the importance of ensuring that the notions of partnership with the UN and civil society are understood within its limitations; the importance of identifying the inputs and targets of the IASG strategy, and in so doing the Group noted the UN Mine Action strategy for reference; the need for flexibility in the plan of action; the importance of identifying and prioritizing the areas of both the strategy and the plan of action; the obligation to stop discriminating against persons with disabilities within UN agencies; the possibility of using a strengths, weakness, external opportunities and threats analysis as preparation for the development of the strategy and action plan; the need for validation of the CRPD within our organizations and with the wider UN as well as the importance of defining IASG relationship with the Development Operations Coordination Office (DOCO) UNDG, as well as of establishing partnerships among IASG members.
B. Discussion of the six focus areas identified in the Statement of Commitment
25. Once the Group had a common understanding of the basic elements of the strategy and plan of action the Group decided to advance discussion by dividing into 3 subgroups, each of them discussing the different areas of work identified in the Joint Statement of Commitment, which will be the elements of the IASG strategy. Following this exercise, every subgroup shared with the larger audience the outcomes of their discussions as reflected below:
26. In the area of Policies, the IASG for CRPD identified both internal and external goals. The Group recognized the need for each UN agency to adopt a policy on the CRPD including programming and human resources aspects and to develop and implement a common strategy and action plan addressing common policies on human resources, accessibility, and other relevant areas. The Group also identified as one of its main objectives supporting member States to develop and implement policies that are consistent with the CRPD.
27. Concerning Programming, the IASG for CRPD will aim to make all UN agencies programmes inclusive of and accessible to persons with disabilities and that disability is mainstreamed in all programmes. At the external level, the goal is to provide support to National programs to ensure that they are inclusive of and accessible to persons with disabilities.
28. As to Capacity building the IASG for CRPD will seek to increase the capacity of the UN system to carry out advocacy and public awareness campaigns to promote awareness and knowledge on the Convention. In addition the IASG for CRPD will aim to build the capacity of UN agencies to implement programs in accordance with the Convention and to develop a common training programme for UN staff on the Convention. Externally, the IASG for CRPD will strengthen Government capacity to obtain, analyze and utilize statistics, information and knowledge of the Convention as well as to harmonize legislation, policies and programmes in line with the Convention. The Group will also endeavor to build the capacity of organizations of persons with disabilities for their further creation and strengthening, and it will expand and strengthen partnerships and effective leadership in advocacy on the CRPD.
29. For research and access to knowledge, the IASG for CRPD will aim to identify responsibilities among its members and work to encourage UN agencies:
- to disaggregate data so that it includes information on enjoyment of the rights of persons with disabilities. The Group suggested undertaking a base line study of what relevant information each IASG member already produces.
- to rethink how and what we measure to ensure that data measures enjoyment or non-fulfillment of the rights of persons with disabilities, with a focus on events-based data, rather than measuring medical conditions linked to disability. The Group proposed to 1) undertake a study on data collection and indicators relevant to the CRPD; 2) review existing data collection instruments.
- to improve analysis of existing data relating to disability rights
- to identify new resources to ensure that data collection includes relevant data. The Group advised to: 1) speak with donor countries; 2) and to provide technical cooperation to government statistical departments.
- to provide data and knowledge in accessible formats.
- to disseminate data and knowledge widely. Action point: use the ENABLE website as a clearing house for information and data on the Convention.
30. On the question of accessibility the IASG for CRPD identified that the UN goal is to develop global minimum standards on accessibility of physical facilities and information and communications that are obligatory for all UN entities at the national level unless existing national standards are of a higher quality. In the longer term the UN system could request the International Organization of Standardization (ISO) to develop standards and present them to the Chief Executives Board for approval. In the shorter term, ISO could be requested to inform the head of UN agencies during a regular meeting of the CEB about their plans and activities in the area of accessibility.
31. Regarding the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Group noted that models for inter-agency support for treaty bodies exist, in particular UNICEF's support for the Committee on the Rights of the Child. During the discussion it was identified that the IASG will coordinate inter-agency actions in relation to the Committee by:
- discussing among IASG members how best to interact with the Committee
- forming a small group of members interested in working more closely with the Committee
- meeting with the Committee to discuss expectations on all sides
- forming a clearer strategy on the basis of those discussions.
C. Other issues
32. During discussions the importance of advocacy and awareness-raising on the Convention, both within the UN Agencies and externally was emphasized. Some agencies emphasized the need to share knowledge and expertise in the development of these advocacy and awareness-raising strategies, noting that they are often confused with communication strategies. Proposals were made to include the development of an internal and external UN advocacy strategy on the CRPD as a strategic goal for the Group within the capacity building area of work.
33. The Group reiterated the importance of regular information exchange among the agencies about their work on the Convention. DESA’s monthly electronic newsletter compiling the UN initiatives and work on the Convention was seen as the platform that would allow this information exchange.
Session 3. Guidelines for United Nations Country Teams on the Convention
A. Coordination with existing human rights guidelines to UNCTs
34. Mr. Rio Hada OHCHR focal point for UNDG and Action 2, shared his experience in working through interagency processes to develop and integrate a Human Rights Based approach into the UNDG Guidelines for the preparation of Common Country Assessment and United Nations Common Country Programming (CCA/UNDAF). He stressed the importance of developing guidelines that are useful to users and that respond to the needs of the country teams in the field. He encouraged the Group to adopt a twin track approach by working towards integrating disability related issues in existing guidelines and instruments used by the country team as well as by developing specific guidelines for the common country programming process (CCA/UNDAF) and for country teams work on the CRPD and disability related issues. He informed the group about other UN initiatives aiming to integrate different issues in CCA/UNDAF process, such as the recently adopted Guidelines on Indigenous Issues developed by the IASG on Indigenous People’s Issues, and new guidelines in the process of being developed on environment and climate change and so on. For the development of any guidelines on the Convention, he encouraged the Group to become familiar with and understand the CCA/UNDAF process. However he noted that it is the actual implementation of every agency and joint programmes that counts, and where the Group would like to see the Convention and disability related work taking place. In this regard, he noted the important value of this IASG work, as a means to validate the need for every agency to work on CRPD.
35. Mr. Hada noted that that the 2007 guidelines on CCA/UNDAF framework had introduced 5 mandatory interrelated principles that must be integrated in CCA/UNDAF: human rights based approach; capacity development; results based management; gender; and environmental sustainability. In order to influence the CCA/UNDAF process, the Guidelines on the CRPD should aim to address the Convention’s links with these 5 mandatory principles and to respect them. With regard to a human rights based approach he noted that there is a UN inter-agency agreement on what it means namely: that UN development activities should contribute towards the realization of all human rights; all phases of programming process should be informed by human rights principles (non-discrimination, equality, participation) which are reflected in article 3 of CRPD; that the focus should be on capacity development of the right holders and of duty bearers.
36. About the content of the guidelines he encouraged the group to reflect the added value of the Convention for the work at the country level, in particular about the conceptual linkages between the Convention and the mandates of each agency. Second, he advised including a clear explanation of the international standards as defined in the Convention and third to define clearly who the right holders are and their entitlements as well as who the duty bearers are and their obligations. Regarding the process, he suggested the group to involve the field and colleagues working on programming to ensure that they are practical, easy to use and that respond to the needs of the field. Learning from the Action 2 experience, he also encouraged the Group to think of and plan building a critical mass of support capacity to guide the UNCT’s fro the implementation of the guidelines.
B. Lessons learnt from the development of UN Guidelines on indigenous
37. Mr. Burger, Coordinator of the Indigenous Peoples and Minorities Unit at OHCHR presented information about the work of the Inter-Agency Support Group on Indigenous Peoples Issues and the preparations of the UNDG Guidelines on Indigenous Issues. An informal gathering of UN agencies has met regularly to exchange information on indigenous issues since 1991 but with the establishment of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in 2000, the IASG was formally set up. Much of its present cooperation aims at supporting the Permanent Forum. During 2007, the IASG was asked by the UNDG to prepare guidelines to assist UNCTs integrate indigenous issues into country programmes. These Guidelines were approved in February 2008. The IASG is composed of some 30 UN agencies but the preparations of the guidelines was limited to a small group, specifically the OHCHR and ILO to prepare the normative framework and UNICEF together with inputs from UNFPA, the operational part. Other agencies also commented on drafts. JB said he felt that progress on drafting guidelines would be quicker with a small group.
38. The Guidelines are divided in three sections: section I which provides an overview of the situation of indigenous peoples and the exiting international normative framework; section II which presents a table and checklist of key issues and related rights; and section III on the specific programmatic implications for UNCT’s. He highlighted that the Guidelines themselves are not enough and noted that the IASG had prepared a work plan to assist country teams implementing the guidelines. The work plan foresees the following elements:
- a mapping exercise of all agencies activities in a given country,
- the establishment of a series of mechanisms at the country level, including a formalized relationship with indigenous peoples, and their participation in the development of programmes particularly those directly affecting them.
- capacity building of UN Field staff on the rights of indigenous peoples and related issues.
- resource mobilization, including the development of strategies to raise funds to allow the implementation of the guidelines
- advocacy role of IASG in promoting the guidelines. In this regard, he noted that at the IASG is considering creating a management committee (a smaller group of agencies) to promote the guidelines that would be responsible to follow-up their implementation including the work in particular countries.
C. Practical overview of UNCT expectations from Guidelines on the Convention
39. Mr. Lance Clark, UN Resident Coordinator Serbia, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), stressed that the issuance of guidelines, had an important role in validating at the country level the need and mandate of UN agencies to work in a particular area, in this case the CRPD. He recognized though that the guidelines are necessary but not sufficient. Partnership with the field in the development of the guidelines will be essential to ensure not only that the normative framework is included, but to ensure that they are a pragmatic tool that can be implemented. He suggested that two or three agencies drafted an initial set of guidelines that would be later on revised and commented by the IASG at large as well as by the field. In this regard, he proposed identifying through UNDG 10 country teams for the revision process. In terms of the content of the tool Mr. Clark suggested both balancing between mainstreaming disabilities related issues into the agencies programs and specific programs targeting persons with disabilities.
40. He suggested that the guidelines should be a tool kit rather than a manual. Their scope should not be limited to address exclusively CCA/UNDAF. They should seek to include specific actions that agencies may carry out in relation to their mandates, as well as more general ones in partnership with others. The guidelines could also include a more generic common menu of actions that Country teams could undertake such as: data collection and analysis; advocacy and attitude change; promotion of the CRPD; antidiscrimination, justice and human rights; national planning and policy development; capacity, strengthening and empowerment of organizations of persons with disabilities; capacity strengthening of national Government’s in implementation of the Convention; bringing down physical barriers, including those within the UN recruitment and premises; focus on girls and women, post-conflict areas and families with disabilities. He concluded by stressing the importance of utilizing the momentum created by the adoption and entry info force of the Convention to act and come up with draft guidelines shortly. He also highlighted the importance of making use of this process to get the buying of the Head of Agencies so that they write a letter to their heads of agencies in the field encouraging them to work on the Convention and disability related issues.
D. Discussion on the structure and elements of the Guidelines for UNCT’s on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
41. During the discussion it was clarified that a time bound task team under UNDG had been established to develop the Guidelines on the Convention, and that it would be composed of a smaller group of members from the IASG for the CRPD yet to be formed. The Group conceived the guidelines as a crucial activity of the Group, which should be framed within the Strategy and Plan of Action. The Group widely supported the principle of consulting with organizations of persons with disabilities in the elaboration of the guidelines by sharing the draft approved by the Group with organizations of persons with disabilities for their comments. Regarding the structure and content, the Group foresaw that the Guidelines should comprise a normative and an operational part. The normative part should clearly reflect the paradigm shift of the Convention towards a social and a human rights model of disability, whereby disability is understood not as an impairment to be fixed, but as the interaction between someone’s condition and the attitudinal, physical and environmental barriers. Second, the normative part would also need to explain the different articles of the Convention. With regard to the operational part, the Group agreed on some general elements: the Guidelines should help mainstreaming the Convention into existing programming and giving guidance on specific programming on the Convention. They should also address the internal obligations of UN agencies emanating from the Convention, including the question of accessibility, recruitment of persons with disabilities, changing attitudes towards persons with disabilities. The guidelines should also include examples, should address capacity building and should increase the knowledge on the convention both of governments and organizations of persons with disabilities.
Session 4. Conclusions and recommendations - way forward
A. Agreement on the drafting procedure for the Strategy and Action Plan as well as for the Guidelines for UNCT’s on the Convention
42. During the second meeting of the IASG for CRPD, the Group had identified important elements of the Strategy, action plan as well as UN Guidelines. The Group decided to prioritize the elaboration of a Strategy and Plan of action during 2008 and to proceed later during the first half of 2009 with the development UNDG Guidelines for UNCT’s on the Convention in close coordination with UNDG. The understanding is that the UNCT’s Guidelines would be an element of the IASG strategy and plan of action, and their development would be lead by the UNDG Office.
43. The Group welcomed and agreed to OHCHR’s proposal to host and fund a 2 day smaller meeting to be facilitated by an expert qualified for the development of strategies and action plans. Such meeting should take place before October 2008. In preparation for the meeting UN agencies will be asked to provide information on their key priorities and issues that would need to be included in the Strategy given their mandates, their strengths and weaknesses as well as the opportunities and challenges that they thought they might be faced with when working with other agencies in the context of the IASG. The outcome drafts strategy and plan of action elaborated by the smaller group would then be shared with the wider group for its revision, with the view to adopt them during the third meeting of the IASG for CRPD.
B. Agreement on the third meeting of IASG for CRPD
44. The Group welcomed UNFPA’s proposal to accept the rotating chair from Dec 2008 and to host the third meeting of the IASG for CRPD and Group during the year, with the support of the Joint Secretariat for the CRPD composed by DESA and OHCHR. The third meeting will take place in New York .
C. Other potential areas of work for IASG for CRPD
45. This year’s theme for the celebration of the International Days of Persons with Disabilities on 3 of December is “The Universal Declaration’s sixtieth anniversary: dignity and justice for all of us.” The Group agreed that UN agencies should seek to mainstream the Convention and disability related issues in all other events related to the celebration of the Human Rights Day on 10 December on the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. It was noted that the 3 of December coincided with the date of the opening for signature of the new Convention on Cluster Munitions, which makes references to the CRPD in its preamble and includes an important provision on Victim’s assistance. The UN Mine Action team noted that they will make the link with the CRPD in the celebration of this event.
46. In the area of recruitment the Group highlighted the importance of engaging the medical sections of the respective UN Organizations with the work of the IASG for CRPD, including by inviting them to participate in IASG meetings. Given that various agencies are already engaged in internal discussions with their medical sections to address the shortcomings of the current medical clearance models in the context of recruiting persons with disabilities, it was suggested that the Group could facilitate the creation of an e-mail group with the different medical sections.
47. The Group made the following recommendations on the way forward :
- to draft a letter explaining what the relationship is between IASG and UNDG.
- through the CEB getting the head of agencies writing a letter to their own organizations to encourage accessibility and mainstreaming of the Convention in their work on the ground and at headquarters.
- to elaborate an advocacy package on the Convention. UNHCR’s offered to take the lead on this and existing materials including UNMAS and OHCHR advocacy package for UN Mine Action Centers and other civil society manuals.