Wednesday, September 7, 2011

United Nations to host a series of meetings on the Disability Convention

by Mary Keogh

Over the coming weeks, the United Nations will host a series of meetings focusing on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). The fourth session of the Conference of State Parties (COSP) will be held at the United Nations Head Quarters in New York this week from September 7 – 9. The COSP is an annual meeting at which the countries participate to discuss the implementation of the CRPD.

Since the CRPD entered into international law, there have been three COSP meetings. In 2008 at the first meeting the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was elected. In 2009 and 2010, COSP meetings focused on Accessibility and Reasonable Accommodation, and Inclusion. The theme for the fourth session is “Enabling Development, Realizing the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities”. At the upcoming session a number of roundtable discussions will be held focusing on the role of International Cooperation in realizing the Convention, Political and Civil Participation, and Work and Employment.

In advance of the COSP meeting, a report from the UN Secretary General to the 66th session of the General Assembly has been published. The report notes that currently 102 nations have ratified the Convention, and among these are 26 countries from the African region, 23 countries from the Asian region, 15 from the Eastern European Group, 22 from the Latin American and Caribbean group, and 15 from the Western European Group. The report also provides an overview of the progress made on implementing the Convention on a number of fronts, at the country level, regional level, and within the United Nations. Examples of policy initiatives taken at the country level include: the decision made by Argentina to ensure that all presidential broadcasts on the national television network be interpreted in sign language simultaneously; China issuing a National Human Rights Action Plan for 2009-2010 in which a short-term goal of human rights protection includes protection for individuals with disabilities; and the creation of the National Register on Disability Statistics (RED) in Costa Rica to improve statistics on individuals with disabilities. The COSP provide an opportunity for further discussion on these initiatives and the establishment of similar initiatives in other nations. IDRM staff will be present during the fourth session and will provide updates following its conclusion.

Not long after the COSP meeting in New York, the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities will have its second session this year – its sixth ever. The Committee has 18 members, who are elected for a period of four years before another election is held at the COSP. To date the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has received 25 reports submitted by State Parties. The first report to be considered and receive concluding observations is the Tunisian report, which was considered by the Committee during its 5th session in April 2011.

On the agenda for the 6th session is the adoption of the concluding observation in Spain’s report, but in the interim, the Committee adopted a list of issues on Spain. These issues include: Article 5 (Equality and non-discrimination), specifically whether the need to present a disability certificate to bring a discrimination claim before the courts will be abolished; and Article 11 (Right to life) the Committee has asked Spain to explain whether guardians or caregivers of persons with disabilities can take decisions regarding the termination or withdrawal of medical treatment, nutrition, or any other life support. With regard to Article 12 (Equal recognition before the law) the Committee has asked Spain to provide data on the number of individuals with disabilities who have been placed under guardianship to enable them to exercise legal capacity and on the number of rulings modifying the capacity to act if any; as well as to explain how Spain has ensured that guardianship is exercised to the benefit of the ward, in view of the absence of explicit safeguards in current legislation against undue influence or conflict of interest.

To read more about the fourth session of the Conference of State Parties (COSP) click here.