'Unprecedented' conference on rights of persons with disabilities gets under way at UN

13 June 2017

A major intergovernmental meeting got underway at the United Nations today, bringing together a wide range of stakeholders to ensure the full implementation of a landmark treaty on the rights of persons with disabilities.

“The Convention [on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, or CRPD] is one of the most progressive human rights treaties, recognizing the role of the people it is trying to impact,” Georgi Panayotov, the Permanent Representative of Bulgaria to the UN and the President of the 10th session of the Conference of States Parties to CRPD, said at a press conference today at the UN Headquarters in New York.

“This is the beginning of the second decade of the CRPD, in the first decade it saw nearly universal ratification [and now] we will have to achieve universal ratification,” added Theresia Degener, the Chair of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities – a body of independent UN human rights experts who monitor the implementation of the Convention by its states parties – calling on all stakeholders to protect the normative standard set by the Convention.

Upholding these normative standards and ensuring legal capacity, institutionalization, medical treatment, as well as laws and policies to ensure non-discrimination and full participation of all persons with disabilities are extremely important, she highlighted.

In the same vein, Collin Allen, the Chair of International Disability Alliance, expressed commitment on behalf of organizations of persons with disabilities to work with governments and States parties on the implementation of the Convention.

“We want to ensure that persons with disabilities are heard, and most importantly, involved so that we have meaningful participation and full inclusion,” he said, assisted by sign-language interpreter.

We want to ensure that persons with disabilities are heard, and most importantly, involved so that we have meaningful participation and full inclusionCollin Allen, Chair of International Disability Alliance

“When we say – nothing about us, without us – it is very significant,” he added, recalling the major achievements of the CRPD over the last decade and highlighting that persons with disabilities “as the experts” on the issue are critical to realizing the aspirations of the Convention.

Held under the theme of 'inclusion and full participation of persons with disabilities and their representative organizations in the implementation of the Convention,' the current session of the Conference of the States Parties will also discuss addressing the impact of multiple discrimination on persons with disabilities and promoting their participation for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in line with CRPD.

It will also seek to ensure inclusion and full participation of persons with disabilities in humanitarian action, as well as promoting inclusive urban development and implementation of the New Urban Agenda.

Also speaking today, Catalina Devandas Aguilar, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities termed the Conference as an “unprecedented” one and hailed the efforts of its bureau to ensure that has full and direct participation of persons with disabilities.

However, she also expressed concern over the lack of accurate and complete data on persons with disabilities, calling for a clear recommendation on ensuring disaggregated data as well as methodology to collect it.

“Without baseline data, we will not be able to measure any impact of important tools [such as the SDGs and CRPD on] advancing the cause of persons with disabilities,” said the Special Rapporteur.

Special Rapporteurs are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a specific human rights theme or a country situation. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.


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