United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
Although they account for some 15% of the world population, persons with disabilities currently still face numerous obstacles to active participation in political, economic, social and cultural life. In order to combat the situation, the UN General Assembly unanimously adopted the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) on 13 December 2006.
This text, which was adopted with the massive support of disabled people’s organisations (DPO’s), particularly emphasises two major principles:
- On the one hand, it defines disability as an evolutive and systemic concept: the disability is the product of an interaction between a person with a disability and the obstacles that confront him or her with a non-inclusive society;
- On the other hand, it introduces a genuine shift in attitude: the disabled person is no longer viewed as a person with a disability who is solely in need of help or charity, but rather a person entitled to rights on an equal basis with others.
Another novelty of the UNCRPD is that its Article 33(2) requires all State Parties to appoint independent mechanisms for the promotion, protection and monitoring of the UNCRPD’s implementation. Many Equinet member equality bodies are appointed as independent mechanisms under this provision.
European Union engagement
The UNCRPD is the first human rights treaty to which the European Union (EU) has become a party. In June 2014, the European Commission published its Initial Report on how the EU is giving effect to its obligations under this UN Convention to the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
This Committee, which is meeting from 25 March to 17 April in Geneva, is a body consisting of eighteen independent experts who review progress in the field of disability rights in States that have ratified the Convention. On the basis of State reports submitted by governments, as well as information from other sources such as organizations of disabled persons, the Committee assesses a State’s (or in this case the EU’s) performance and issues concluding observations.
On 2 April, they are scheduled to meet with civil society organisations to identify how the European Union implements the UNCRPD. The organisations attending today include European organisations such as the European Disability Forum, the European Network on Independent Living, and the European Association of Service Providers for Persons with Disabilities. Equinet’s Belgian member, the Belgian Interfederal Centre for Equal Opportunities, will also participate at the meeting.
Belgium signed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on 30 March 2007 and ratified it on 2 July 2009. It came into force at the national level on 1 August 2009. Since 2011, the Centre for Equal Opportunities and Opposition to Racism (now the Interfederal Centre for Equal Opportunities), has been entrusted the mandate of the independent mechanism, which is responsible for promoting, protecting and monitoring the implementation of the Convention according to Article 33 §2 of the Convention. Today, they bring the list of issues relating to the European Union report in the context of the implementation of UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, based on the Belgian (and other equality bodies’) experience.
Civil Society Organisations
- The European Disability Forum (EDF) published an alternative report to give the view of European citizens with disabilities and cover the gaps in the EU report. At today’s meeting, they will present their report, along with the priorities of the Disability Movement, to the UN Committee.
- The European Network on Independent Living (ENIL) and the European Coalition for Community Living (ECCL) will present their report Realising the right to Independent Living, Is the European Union competent to meet the challenges?’, ENIL-ECCL Shadow Report on the implementation of Article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in the European Union (2014). This seeks to provide the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities with information that will be of assistance when assessing the extent to which the EU has complied with its obligations under Article 19.
- European Association of Service providers for Persons with Disability (EASPD) will present an alternative report on the implementation of the UN CRPD by the European Union.The report focuses on the articles that are specifically relevant for the support services sector and gives recommendations to the EU on how to improve its positive influence on the development of disability friendly legislation and practices in the European Union in order to further raise awareness, promote models of good practice and ultimately ensure enjoyment of human rights for persons with disabilities.
For a list of other documents due to be presented by international organisations, please see the UN CRPD page.
Main concerns about the implementation of the CRPD by the EU according to EDF
- EU does not have a specific strategy aimed at the overall implementation of the UN CRPD by all EU institutions and Member States. We call for the development of a European Disability Pact to be included in the EU’s main economic strategy and to mainstream the rights of persons with disabilities in this strategy.
- To date there has been no campaign either in the EU or within EU institutions to raise awareness of the rights of persons with disabilities and the UN CRPD. We call for the EU to launch an accessible, visible, well-organised and resourced public campaign to raise awareness on disability rights.
- There is no clearly structured or documented process for the consultation of persons with disabilities and their representative organisations. We call for the EU to develop a code of conduct for consultation and involvement of persons with disabilities and their representative organisations.in all EU decision making processes.
- Today, the focal point in the EU lacks the necessary resources and the coordinating mandate to mainstream the UN CRPD in all EU policy levels. In addition, the monitoring mechanism lacks independence and funding. We call for an effective focal point within the EU institutions on the implementation of the Convention and for the independence and allocation of resources for the EU monitoring Framework.
- Persons with disabilities need freedom of movement! We call for the EU to publish and swiftly adopt the European Accessibility Act covering a maximum of policy areas including transport, built environment, emergency services, ICTs etc.
- Persons with disabilities face discrimination in all areas of life! We call for the EU to swiftly adopt the Proposed Equal Treatment Directive and to ensure protection against discrimination for all persons with disabilities in line with the Convention in the areas of education, social protection, health and access to goods and services.
- Some Member States have used EU Funds to maintain and promote a system of institutional care. We call for the EU Funds to fund services and support which facilitate the right to live independently in the community by all persons with disabilities.
- Although the EU is the largest donor in the field of international cooperation, it has not yet undertaken all appropriate measures to enhance EU disability-inclusive development policies and programmes. We call for the adoption of an EU Disability and Development Policy and Action Plan.
- Persons with disabilities all over the EU are deprived of their legal capacity, and they are put against their will in institutions, forced to undergo treatment and therefore live in inhuman situations. We call upon the EU to issue guidelines to the member states to ensure that persons with disabilities receive support to exercise their legal capacity, and that compulsory psychiatric detention and/or treatment based on disability is not permitted.
- Women and children with disabilities face multiple discrimination in the EU today. We call upon the EU to fight against all forms of discrimination.