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> HISTORY
 

Adopted by the UN General Assembly on 13 December 2006 and opened for signature on 30 March 2007, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities quickly became world’s most quickly ratified human rights treaty. To find the up to date ratifications and signatures of the Convention, visit the UN Enable website.

This unprecedented Convention is the first international treaty that was negotiated with direct participation of its beneficiaries: persons with disabilities and their families. Many crucial provisions of the Convention that will determine the development of human rights policies for decades on, such as the recognition of full legal capacity, right to community living and to inclusive education, have been included thanks to uncompromising pressure of persons with disabilities organised in global networks who were present at the negotiation table.


> WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?

The UNCRPD is sometimes called ‘the Convention of many firsts’. It is the first human rights treaty adopted by the UN General Assembly in the 21st century; the first convention adopted with full and direct participation of the beneficiaries (= persons with disabilities); it is the first human rights convention that has ever been signed and ratified by the European Union, and it is the first treaty that allows for continuous national oversight of the human rights situation, differently from earlier UN human rights instruments.

The UN Disability Convention is known for ‘bringing rights home’: it provides for the establishment, following the rules adopted by the UN, of a national mechanism for independent and transparent monitoring of the country obligations under the Convention. Such mechanism, established by law, must have a very broad mandate to promote, protect and monitor the implementation of the rights protected under the Convention. The continuous monitoring by an independent and pluralistic body of the national human rights situation is an incentive for the government to take seriously the obligations undertaken when ratifying the Convention and show genuine progress in fulfilling them.

Another crucial ‘first’ of the UN Disability Convention is the place that it reserves to its beneficiaries – persons with disabilities. The motto of the disability movement – “Nothing about us without us” – is woven through all articles of the Convention: no decision concerning the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities is legitimate unless it is taken by persons with disabilities or with their active and meaningful involvement. The Convention abolishes the notion of ‘substituted decision-making’ used by many countries to deny disabled people a say about their lives, and replaces it with ‘supported decision-making. This is a novel concept that enables all persons with disabilities access to support in exercising their legal capacity and protects them from abuse and undue influence by third parties.


> CONVENTION IN EUROPE

As of March 2012, the absolute majority of the EU Member States have already ratified the Convention: it now makes integral part of domestic law in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Estonia, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom. In all of these countries except Cyprus, Czech Republic and Denmark, persons with disabilities whose rights have not been respected can petition to the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities by virtue of the ratification by their countries of the Optional Protocol to the Convention.

The European Union acceded to the Convention in December 2010, making it the first human rights treaty to ever have been ratified by the a regional organisation, like the European Union. The EU is responsible for implementation of the Convention to the extent of its competencies that are defined in Council Decision 2010/48/EC and the Code of Conduct between the Council, the Member States and the Commission setting out internal arrangements for the implementation by and representation of the European Union relating to the Convention.


> UN COMMITTEE ON THE RIGHTS OF PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES

At the international level, the respect of the Convention rights is monitored by the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. It is a body of eighteen independent experts who have been nominated by the countries that have ratified the Convention. The Committee members are elected for the period of either two or four years, and serve on the Committee in their individual capacity.

As of April 2012, there have been five European members at the Committee: Stig Langvad of Denmark, Theresia Degener of Germany, Gábor Gombos of Hungary, Damian Tatic of Serbia and Ana Peláez of Spain. The next partial renewal of the Committee membership will take place in September 2012, when the States Parties to the Convention vote for the new members during the yearly Conference of States Parties in New York.

The Committee meets in Geneva twice a year. Following the decision of the UN General Assembly to increase the duration of the Committee sessions to cope with its increasing workload, the Committee will now be meeting for one week in April, and two weeks in September. The Committee sessions are public, unless specified otherwise.


> REPORTING ON THE RESPECT OF CRPD RIGHTS

The principal task of the UN CRPD Committee is the review of the progress in implementation of the Convention. Under Article 35 CRPD, the States Parties are obliged to submit to the Committee an initial report on measures taken to implement the Convention two years after the entry into force of the Convention. Thereafter, periodic reports must be submitted every four years.

On the basis of the State reports, complemented with information from other sources, including the organsiations of disabled people, the Committee assesses the country’s progress and issues concluding observations to the State Party.

As of April 2012, three countries have been reviewed by the CRPD Committee – Tunisia, Spain and Peru. Hungary is the second EU country to be reviewed; its concluding observations are expected in September 2012. Other EU Member States pending for review by the UN CRPD Committee are, in the order submission of their reports, Austria, Sweden, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Czech Republic and the United Kingdom. Croatia is also pending for review. European Union that ratified the Convention in January 2011, and its initial report to the UN CRPD Committee is due in January 2013.

The reports of States Parties and the alternative reports of the civil society organisations, along with the schedule of their review by the CRPD Committee are available on the website of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.


> WHAT IS EDF DOING TO MAKE THE CONVENTION A REALITY FOR ALL EUROPEANS WITH DISABILITIES?
 
 
Full enjoyment of all Convention rights by all persons with disabilities in Europe is the overarching objective of all EDF work. The letter and the spirit of the Convention guides our triennial strategy, annual work programmes as well as individual policy areas and projects that we promote.

Our work on the UN Convention in the European Union is threefold. Firstly, it includes advocacy for an appropriate implementation framework at the EU level, required by Article 33 “National implementation and monitoring” of the Convention. As part of this debate, EDF has made proposals for reinforcement of the European Commission to enable it to perform its functions of the European focal point, for restructuring of the European High-Level Group on Disability to serve as the European coordination mechanism, and for the establishment of a European independent monitoring mechanism consisting of a framework of European bodies and agencies.

The second broad aspect of our involvement is lobbying to make sure that the individual articles are taken into consideration by the EU while designing and implementing its policies. For example, EDF relies on Article 9 “Accessibility” and 19 “Living independently and being included in the community” during its advocacy work on the European Structural Funds, where we argue that the EU is under the obligation to make sure that the national projects funded from the Structural Funds are accessible to persons with disabilities and facilitate life in the community.

The third priority we have is supporting our members in their efforts to implement the Convention at the national level. To achieve this, we organise trainings and seminars to improve our members’ understanding of the new legal order established by the Convention, facilitate their exchanges with the UN CRPD Committee and provide political support vis-à-vis their governments. 
 
EDF implemented in the last decade a number of important projects for capacity building of organizations of people with disabilities in Europe. These projects allowed enhancement of capacities at national level as well as the reinforcement of European DPOs members of EDF. EDF AGA in May 2011 agreed on the creation of a capacity building initiative in the EDF work programme 2012. As a consequence, EDF Executive committee adopted, in December 2011, a detailed strategy on Capacity Building of EDF members.
 
The programme targets National umbrellas as well as European organisations of persons with disabilities full members of EDF. The objective is to reinforce National umbrella organisations as well as ensuring that these organisations are all inclusive and work together with national members of the European organisations, full members and ordinary members of EDF. The activity foresees the organization of one national seminar on areas of special interest for people with disabilities in the country. The preparation of the seminar include a scientific committee led by the applicant member, including the EDPOs members from the country and one representative of EDF secretariat. Initially the activities should focus on articles 4 and 33 of the UNCRPD as well as the Structural Funds negotiations for the country. The impact of the crisis should also be reflected in the implementation of the activity.

Selected candidates for 2012

The 3 candidates selected initially are: Baltic proposal (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania), Iceland and Slovakia.
 
 
> CONTACT
 
ansofie.leenknecht@edf-feph.org


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