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Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Opens Twenty-Sixth Session

7 March 2022

The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities today opened its twenty-sixth session, during which it will consider the reports of Hungary, Jamaica, Venezuela, Switzerland and Mexico. The Committee made a statement regarding the situation in Ukraine.

In his opening statement, Orest Nowosad, Chief, Groups in Focus Section, Human Rights Council and Treaty Mechanisms Division, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, welcomed Committee Experts to the first in-person session since August 2019, noting that Experts would be able to hold dialogues with five States parties which had accepted to participate in a hybrid mode. The world had witnessed extraordinary humanitarian crisis and war recently, in Afghanistan, Ukraine, Yemen and other countries.

Mr. Nowosad said that since the Committee’s previous session, the international framework to promote the human rights of persons with disabilities had continued progressing, including the adoption of a resolution which called on Member States to take action in areas including multiple forms of discrimination against women and girls with disabilities; enjoyment by children with disabilities of all human rights, and opportunities for persons with disabilities to choose their place of residence.

Rosemary Kayess, Chair of the Committee, made a statement on behalf of the Committee, saying it joined with various human rights experts to call on the Russian Federation to end its aggression against Ukraine and call off its attacks.

Ms. Kayess also presented her report on intersessional activities.

The Committee adopted its agenda and programme of work. During the course of the meeting, Abdelmajid Makni, of Morocco, a Committee Expert appointed to serve the remainder of the term of former Committee member Soumia Amrani, of Morocco, made his solemn declaration to exert his duties as a member of the Committee on Persons with Rights of Disabilities.

Speaking at the opening of the session today were representatives of the United Nations Children’s Fund; International Labour Organization; Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons; the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees; the International Organization for Migration; the World Health Organization; the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention Committee on Victim Assistance; the International Disability Alliance; Women Enabled; the Global Coalition on Deinstitutionalization; the European Network on Independent Living; the Validity Foundation; Coalición Interamericana; The European Disability Forum; Spanish National Committee of People With Disabilities (CERMI); and Center for the Human Rights of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry.

All the documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, can be found on the session’s webpage.

The webcast of the Committee’s public meetings will be available via the following link: https://media.un.org/en/webtv/.

The Committee will next meet in public at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 8 March, to begin its review of the combined second and third periodic report of Hungary (CRPD/C/HUN/2-3).

Opening Statements

ROSEMARY KAYESS, Chair of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, made a statement on behalf of the Committee, saying the Committee joined with various human rights experts to call on the Russian Federation to end its aggression against Ukraine and call off its attacks. The Committee was outraged at Russia’s aggression towards the territory and sovereignty of Ukraine and concerned about the safety and protection of everyone in Ukraine. The Committee urged the Russian Federation to respect the principles of international law and to allow the people of Ukraine to exercise their fundamental rights.

OREST NOWOSAD, Chief, Groups in Focus Section, Human Rights Council and Treaty Mechanisms Division at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, welcomed Committee Experts to the first in-person session since August 2019, noting that Experts would be able to hold dialogues with five States parties which had accepted to participate in a hybrid mode. The world had witnessed extraordinary humanitarian crisis and war recently, in Afghanistan, Ukraine, Yemen and other countries. In Ukraine, the Office of the High Commissioner had noted casualties including women, children and persons with disabilities. The High Commissioner had demanded an immediate cessation of hostilities in Ukraine. Dimensions of the crisis would have disastrous impacts on millions of people in Ukraine, including those with disabilities.

Article 11 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities requested that States parties ensured the protection and safety of persons with disabilities in situations of risk, including in armed conflict, and humanitarian emergencies. At its twenty-fifth session, the Committee had adopted a draft outline of the Guidelines on Deinstitutionalization including during emergency situations. Mr. Nowosad said he was counting on the Committee to continue that work to seek appropriate measures to ensure protection of persons with disabilities, including those still living in institutions, during times of war, ensuring they were not left behind.

Since the Committee’s previous session, the international framework to promote the human rights of persons with disabilities had continued progressing, including the adoption of a resolution which called on Member States to take action in areas including multiple forms of discrimination against all women and girls with disabilities; enjoyment by children with disabilities of all human rights and opportunities for persons with disabilities to choose their place of residence. The unanimous adoption of the Resolution echoed crucial aspects to the Committee which had been promoted throughout its mandate. Mr. Nowosad concluded by wishing the Committee a successful and productive session.

Adoption of the Agenda

The Committee adopted the agenda and programme of work for the session.

The Secretariat informed the Committee that five State party reports had been received from Latvia, Ireland, Panama, Croatia and Romania.

Presentation by the Chair of the Committee of her Report on Intersessional Activities

ROSEMARY KAYESS, Chair of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, highlighted the intersessional online events she had participated in since the last session, in her capacity as Chair. She had participated in the seventy-sixth session of the United Nations General Assembly, briefing the Third Committee where she had highlighted various aspects of the Committee’s work, including its interaction with persons with disabilities and their representative organizations during regional consultations on the right to live independently. During the interactive dialogue with the Third Committee, Mmember States raised many questions addressing the situation of women and girls; and the intersectional approach concerning the rights of persons with disabilities, including during the COVID-19 pandemic, and concrete aspects of the Committee’s work such as the opportunities and risks of moving the Committee’s work online, and how the Committee worked with other human rights mechanisms. She had been continuously involved in her responsibilities as Chair of the Chairpersons meeting. Following the thirty-third meeting of the Chairs held in June 2021, she had submitted to other treaty bodies the proposal endorsed by the Committee on core aspects of the strengthening process. The proposal had been the basis of reflection and engagement of treaty bodies and she was pleased to hear confirmation of consultations to be held among treaty body experts, with a view to identifying and building on commonalities of those proposals and reaching a consensual position.

Statements on Cooperation with other United Nations bodies, Special Bodies, Organizations of Persons with Disabilities and other Civil Society Organizations

United Nations Children’s Fund noted that a report based on data from 50 countries estimated the global number of children with disabilities to be about 240 million, or 1 in every 10 children. The United Nations Children’s Fund was preparing a disability inclusion policy and strategy to guide its work in programmes and operations on disability inclusion.

International Labour Organization said several commitments had been made to mainstream the issue of persons with disabilities. A separate commitment had been made to promote the employment of persons with disabilities of in the digital economy. Work continued on ‘green jobs’ bringing attention to persons with disabilities and their rights in the context of discussions around the issue of climate change. More attention needed to be focused on persons with disabilities in the informal economy.

On behalf of the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons, a statement was made noting that around 6.8 million people with disabilities lived in situations of displacement caused by armed violence. Internally displaced persons with disabilities encountered physical, environmental and societal barriers, which might be overlooked by aid and development providers.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees noted that persons with disabilities faced barriers to access protection, with solutions needed to address these barriers across all areas of programming, including working with persons with disabilities as agents of change. To achieve results, ongoing capacity building was key. Training was needed to actively identify persons with disabilities and ensure refugees with disabilities had adequate access to health services.

International Organization for Migration, noting that crises throughout the world had resulted in mass displacement, said that persons with disabilities were negatively impacted during displacement events. The International Organization for Migration had secured specific funding for disability inclusion in countries including Nigeria, South Sudan, Mozambique and Ethiopia.

World Health Organization said disability inclusion in the health sector was becoming a political priority for countries. A landmark resolution adopted at the seventy-fourth Health Assembly called on Governments to implement specific actions to contribute to the realization of the right to health for persons with disabilities. A global report aiming to establish disability inclusion as a priority among decision makers in the health sector was being developed, which would provide guidance to make the health sector more inclusive for people with disabilities.

The Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention Committee on Victim Assistance underscored the necessity of responding to the needs of mine victims and protecting their rights. An action plan required State parties to ensure safety and protection for mine survivors in emergency situations. The more information was collected, the more understanding would emerge regarding how the COVID-19 pandemic disproportionality impacted persons with disabilities.

International Disability Alliance said persons with disabilities were facing multiple barriers to accessing safe evacuation in Ukraine, calling on military actions by Russia to end immediately. The time had come for the Committee to consider the adoption of a fixed calendar coordinated with other treaty bodies, and there was a need to ensure that in-person sessions had international sign language interpretation and captioning.

Women Enabled highlighted the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic had had on people with disabilities, especially women and girls. That population had faced difficulties in accessing health care and experienced an increase in gender-based violence. Women and gender minorities with disabilities were still facing accessibility barriers; women and girls with disabilities needed a seat at the table where their rights were decided.

Global Coalition on Deinstitutionalization said that the devastating impact of the pandemic had seen the deaths of many people with disabilities in institutions. Institutions were dangerous places, and strong and practical guidelines were needed, in line with the Convention. People with disabilities in large and small institutions were the most marginalized and that needed to be changed.

European Network on Independent Living expressed concerned that so much money was going into institutions for persons with disabilities, when so few people with disabilities in Europe were able to live independently. Attempts to water down the rights to independent living were worrisome. The situation of people with disabilities in Ukraine was also of concern.

Validity Foundation said persons with disabilities were bearing the brunt of humanitarian crises. Civil society worldwide was calling for an immediate cessation to hostilities in Ukraine, and the Committee’s leadership was welcomed on the issue persons with disabilities in Ukraine who could not flee. The Validity Foundation had submitted shadow reports which showed appalling practices which existed throughout Europe.

Coalición Interamericana said the COVID-19 pandemic had exacerbated the difficult situation of people who were institutionalised. States should comply with their obligations under the Convention and effectively adopt public policies which would bring about changes that would lead to deinstitutionalisation. A campaign would be launched with the goal of raining the profile of the dire need for changing the situation.

European Disability Forum said women and girls with disabilities continued to be marginalized. The Committee should pay attention to new threats, barriers and challenges faced by persons with disabilities in the changing world. Concerns regarding involuntary treatment and placement in psychiatry were reiterated with regard to a draft Additional Protocol to the Oviedo Convention. The war in Ukraine was of grave concern, especially the situation for persons with disabilities.

Spanish National Committee of People with Disabilities said the organization had offered active cooperation to welcome refugees who had arrived in Spain following the conflict in Ukraine. It was important for all Treaty Bodies of the United Nations to be familiar with the rights of people with disabilities as a segment of society.

Center for the Human Rights of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry said it was not acceptable to address human rights under the framework of health care. The authority of the Committees in interpreting the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities must not be undermined.

Link: https://www.ungeneva.org/en/news-media/meeting-summary/2022/03/committee-rights-persons-disabilities-opens-twenty-sixth-session