Conference President Hails Forum as One of Most Important Mechanisms on Disability
The Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities concluded its work today, took three decisions and laid the groundwork for its next session.
By one of those decisions, the Conference decided to request the Secretary-General to transmit the report of the seventh session report to all States parties and observers. It also decided to hold its eighth session at United Nations Headquarters from 9 to 11 June 2015, which would comprise six meetings over those three days. The Republic of Korea would hold the presidency for the eighth session, and the Committee would have four Vice-Presidents — Brazil, representing the Latin American and Caribbean States; Poland, representing the Eastern European States; and the United Republic of Tanzania, representing the African States. The West European and Other States would nominate their candidate once negotiations were complete.
Closing the three-day meeting, Conference President Macharia Kamau (Kenya), reflected on how the forum had grown over the years, noting that it was now recognized as one of the most important global mechanisms on disability. Today it involved more than 1,000 participants and featured 40 side events covering a wide range of global issues affecting the lives of persons with disabilities and their communities. Expectations were high that the Conference would make the promise of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities a reality, he said.
“There is an African proverb that says ‘When deeds speak, words are nothing,’” he continued. “We must work to translate the best practices and experiences shared during this Conference into a reality in our various countries,” he urged. “Let us work to remove barriers, open opportunities and create enabling conditions that would ensure equal participation by persons as both actors and beneficiaries of development.” Efforts must be made to strengthen the work of the Conference and to make it even more visible. Opportunities to work with other conventions must be explored, he said, citing the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention.
During the session, an interactive discussion on implementation of the Disabilities Convention heard presentations by Thomas Gass, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs; Ivan Šimonović, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights; Maria Soledad, Chair of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; Shuaib Chalklen, Special Rapporteur on Disability of the Commission for Social Development; and Lenin Moreno, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Disability and Accessibility.
Chandra Roy-Henriksen, Chief of the Secretariat of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, spoke on behalf of Mr. Gass, recalling that the General Assembly’s High-Level Meeting on Disability and Development had emphasized the importance of including the needs of those with disabilities in the post-2015 framework. Its outcome document prescribed follow-up actions on accessibility, inclusive education, social protection and employment, as well as disability data and statistics, which gave United Nations agencies a clear mandate to ensure that persons with disabilities were included.
Maarit Kohonen-Sheriff, Deputy Head of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, spoke on behalf of Mr. Šimonović, noting that a multitude of United Nations entities — including the World Health Organization (WHO), UN-Women, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), International Labour Organization (ILO), International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) — had included the rights of persons with disabilities in their work programmes. Regional commissions, such as the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), had also taken specific steps to promote implementation of the Convention at the regional level.
Ms. Soledad said the Conference was moving quickly towards universal ratification of the Convention, with 146 ratifications of the instrument itself and 86 ratifications of its Optional Protocol.
Mr. Chalklen noted that Governments were often reluctant to make the institutional changes needed for successful implementation of the Convention. In particular, countries were slow to embrace independent monitoring mechanisms or to consult with disability organizations. Greater awareness was needed to reduce the stigmatization of those suffering from psychosocial disabilities and to ensure that they were not unlawfully detained, he emphasized.
Mr. Moreno said human rights and solidarity must be reflected in both language and law. The international community must work towards solidarity and focus on common goals. It must bring together its strengths and weaknesses, while sharing its collective joys and hopes.
In a panel discussion, representatives of civil society organizations and youth advocates explored the unique challenges facing disabled young people.
Braam Jordaan of the Youth Section of the World Federation of the Deaf said that effectively addressing the needs of disabled youth called for listening to the voices of young people and proactively engaging them in policy decision-making. They were often overlooked in policy planning and as a result, their programmes were seldom inclusive.
Lucy Meyer, a 15-year-old medal winner at the 2014 Special Olympics Games said that although she could not do the same things that other children could do, she did not think of herself as “disabled”.
The other panellists were Seinep Dykanhaev of the Kyrgyzstan Association of Rights of Children with Special Needs and their Parents; Clare Pelham and Njekelela Michael of Leonard Cheshire Disability International, and Alexander Kelman of the International Coordination Committee’s National Human Rights Institutions.
In the ensuing interactive dialogue, Sierra Leone’s representative said his country was creating educational and rehabilitative programmes to help get disabled youths off the streets.
Austria’s representative said that creating employment opportunities for disabled young people was a key area of concern for his country, adding that training and employment coaching programmes had proven successful in pilot programmes there.
Earlier, the Conference held a general debate during which representatives stressed that the perspectives of disabled persons must be incorporated into policy formulation at the national, regional and international levels. Disabled persons must also have greater access to education, health care and employment. Delegates called for close consultations with and the active engagement of persons with disabilities in the elaboration of the post-2015 framework. Speakers also noted that the private sector and civil society were valued partners in efforts to empower persons with disabilities and to create a more inclusive society, sensitive to the needs of all.
Also speaking were representatives of Uruguay, Switzerland, Egypt, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Costa Rica, Slovenia, Maldives, India, Norway, Barbados, Bahrain, Jordan, South Africa, Pakistan, Mexico, Sudan, Turkey, Chile, Canada, Kenya, New Zealand, Norway, Honduras, Jamaica, Morocco, Belgium, Cuba, Nigeria, Peru, Guatemala, Finland, Togo, Myanmar, and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic.
Other participants were representatives of the National Human Rights Institutions of the International Coordination Committee, Disabled People International Arab, Pacific Disability Forum, International Configuration of Deaf Youth, and Inclusion International.
* The 3rd & 4th Meetings were not covered.