The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) is the only UN International Convention to be ratified by the EU. On the 29th of April 2015, AGE Platform Europe attended a work forum on the implementation of the UN Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities in the EU. The main areas of focus during this forum were related to deinstitutionalization, EU funding and the role it plays and new or different strategies to help enhance the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities by the EU.
Two main panels took place during the day, the first discussed how to improve the relationship between the EU and the national level in the implementation of the UN Convention and the second talked about what could be done differently to implement the UN Convention in the EU. This year’s Work Forum took place earlier in order to feed into the Union’s review process by the monitoring body of the Convention, the CRPD Committee. Following the first exchange of the views between the European Commission and the CRPD Committee in April, the Committee published the so-called ‘List of Issues‘, which includes requests for further information on how the EU applies certain of aspects of the Convention. Thus, the Work Forum, was particularly concerned with discussing the list of issues and next steps to be undertaken by the EU.
The morning session, focusing on how to improve synergies between the EU and the national level in the implementation of the UN CRPD covered the collection of data relating to disabilities, the role of civil society in data collection and European statistics on disabilities, including current and future plans. Dimitris Skempes from the University of Lucerne & Swiss Paraplegic highlighted that civil society should be involved in the implementation of the UN Convention, not because of the obligation stated within the Convention but because “we work smarter when we work together”.
The following panel focused on how the EU’s structural and investment funds contribute to the implementation of the UN Convention. Andor Urmos from DG REGIO underlined that social inclusion is strongly embedded in the European Social Fund (ESF) 2014-2020, and pointed out the horizontal obligations to promote gender equality and anti-discrimination. The European Network on Independent Living pointed out that there is a major concern surrounding the failure of European structural funds to support development of a properly planned strategy for transition from institutions to community based services.
In the afternoon session, what could be done differently to implement the UN Convention in the EU was discussed with civil society representatives. Catherine Naughton, director of the European Disability Forum stressed the importance of reviewing existing legislation regarding persons with disabilities, of a structural dialogue with organisations of persons with disabilities, raising awareness, staff training and the use of EU funding to end segregation and exclusion in employment, education and institutionalization. Other speakers from this panel, including Joseph de Witte from the Belgian Centre for Equal Opportunities and Oana Georgiana Girlescu from Mental Disability Advocacy centre also highlighted the importance of deinstitutionalization and the role EU funding can play with respect to this issue. Finally Elinor Milne from Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children, proposed that EU external action can actively promote the prohibition of corporal punishment.
During the discussion with the floor AGE highlighted the need to take into account the needs of older people who develop age-related disabilities, to consult with organisations of older people and mainstream the human rights approach to disability across EU’s policies on ageing.
Presentations of the Work Forum on the implementation of the UN Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities are now available on EUROPA website