BRUSSELS (31 March 2022) – A UN human rights expert today praised the leadership of the European Union in promoting disability rights, and encouraged the bloc to use its influence beyond Europe’s borders to advocate for better protection of the rights of people with disabilities globally.
“As the only regional organization to be a party to the UN Disability Convention (CRPD), the EU has a key role in supporting Member States in their implementation efforts,” said Gerard Quinn, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities. “The Union is a model for other regional groupings of States,” Quinn said, presenting his preliminary observations at the end of a 10-day visit to Brussels.
The Special Rapporteur welcomed the wide-ranging set of laws and policies that the EU has put in place, covering, among other things, accessibility, protection from discrimination in employment, and draft legislation on harnessing new technology and Artificial Intelligence and avoiding discriminatory impacts.
“I am positively impressed at the recently adopted EU disability strategy as part of its ‘Union for Equality’ action plan. This has evolved considerably from the past and is ambitious for the future,” Quinn said.
“I particularly welcome the fact that the strategy envisions the Union playing an enhanced role in its foreign policy to advance the UN Disability Convention.”
The UN expert also welcomed the engagement of the EU in regional and internationalforums, and noted that the regional grouping had a unique means at its disposal to advance the rights of the CRPD through its extensive funding instruments.
In this regard, he expressed concern that some of these funding instruments still appeared to be used to fund institutions for people with disabilities. “This long-standing issue has to be addressed. Segregation of people with disabilities in the form of institutionalisation is a form of direct discrimination,” Quinn said.
During his visit, the UN expert travelled to Brussels and met representatives of all EU institutions, including the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union. He welcomed the transparency, openness to dialogue and collaboration of the various EU bodies and institutions during his visit. He also met representatives of independent institutions, people with disabilities and their representative organizations who are active at the EU level.
The Special Rapporteur will submit a comprehensive report to the UN Human Rights Council, including the main findings and recommendations from his visit, in March 2023.
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.
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.
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