UN human rights recommendations: How to make them a reality?

13 November 2016
Room full of participants

For the first time in history, the EU was reviewed by the United Nations (UN) in 2015 and received specific recommendations on how to improve its work on the rights of its 80 million people with disabilities. 15 European countries have also been reviewed and two more country reviews will be completed in 2017. The UN recommendations are important guidance, but how can they be translated into change that will improve the living conditions of people with disabilities in practice?

EDF and its members discussed this together with representatives from the Slovak EU Presidency, the European Parliament, the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD Committee) and the International Disability Alliance during a European conference in Bratislava. The conference was organised by EDF and its Slovak members, the Slovak Disability Council, with the support of the Slovak EU Presidency, as part of EDF Board meeting.

Many EDF members have been actively involved in the review processes of their countries, through the submission of alternative reports and briefing meetings with the CRPD Committee. EDF members discussed their strategies put in place to follow up to the UN recommendations: what have they done to implement the recommendations? What were the successes and the challenges they faced?

Branislav Mamojka, President of the Slovak Disability Council, opened the conference talking about the timely moment of our event as 15 European countries, including Slovakia have received UN recommendations.

Yannis Vardakastanis, EDF President, referred to the 10th anniversary of the UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and the work of the disability movement to promote its implementation at the European and national level: “When the ratification of the CRPD happened by the EU, we knew that the most difficult work was about to start and that was to make CRPD a reality and bring changes to the everyday lives of persons with disabilities. We need to push decision makers in Europe to support the implementation of the CRPD and to not face it as business as usual. In fact, it is a golden opportunity for governments and societies to change and have a paradigm shift in they way they look at disability rights and the way they involve the representative organisations of people with disabilities. In this period that fundamental values are questioned, we should be there to advocate for full respect to the rights of persons with disabilities.”

Branislav Ondrus, State Secretary of the Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Family , talked about the importance of the CRPD as a legally binding international tool that translates important principles into national legislation. “In the future, we hope that we will manage to change the thinking of society on this. Our ministry is ready to face the challenge that the CRPD brings about and fully supports the implementation of the CRPD in Slovakia with the involvement of organisations of persons with disabilities.

Jana Žitnanská, Member of the European Parliament and Vice-President of the Disability Intergroup, explained that despite the fact that Slovakia has ratified the CRPD, Slovak people with disabilities still face may difficulties: many live in institutions deprived of their rights, access to personal assistance is problematic, only a small number of people with disabilities have work etc. She also described the important role the European Parliament plays in supporting the rights of persons with disabilities, including a quick response to and endorsement of the UN recommendations through the European Parliament’s resolution of July 7th. The adoption of a strong European Accessibility Act, the adoption of the Marrakesh Treaty, as well as the promotion of de-institutionalisation, access to work, information and health care, are some of the priorities she referred to for the next period.

Diane Kingston, Member of the CRPD Committee, explained the role of the CRPD Committee and how the CRPD review process works, via a virtual presentation. She also highlighted the importance of the involvement of the representative organisations in providing independent analysis of whether the UN recommendations have been implemented as well as providing their expertise to their governments to support them to develop an action plan on the implementation of the CRPD and the UN recommendations.

From his side, Juan Ignacio Perez Bello, Human rights officer of the International Disability Alliance, focused on strategies for following up to the UN’s recommendations on the rights of persons with disabilities at the European and national level. EDF members from Slovakia, Lithuania, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Austria, Belgium and Croatia exchanged their experiences from their involvement in the recent reviews of their countries by the UN.

Ana Peláez, EDF Executive Committee member and also a member of the CRPD Committee, concluded on the key points for a successful implementation of the UN recommendations:

  • Representative organisations of persons with disabilities need to prepare strong alternative reports on the situation of persons with disabilities in their countries;
  • A correct translation of the UN recommendations into the national language has to be ensured;
  • The representative organisations of persons with disabilities should develop an action plan for the responsible ministries on how to implement the recommendations, highlighting the most urgent issues and calling for the necessary funding to implement these recommendations;
  • These recommendations should also be widely disseminated and used to provide input to the review of EU countries by other UN human rights mechanisms.

Photos of the conference are also available on dropxbox

Follow the discussion on @MyEDF twitter page using the hashtag #EDFboard


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