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NHRIs spotlight efforts to advance disability rights

Graphic: Teacher with student with a disability, India

NHRIs from across the globe have described their work to promote the rights of people with disabilities at a special UN side event in New York.

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National human rights institutions (NHRIs) from across the globe have described their work to promote and protect the rights of people with disabilities at a special side event held in conjunction with the 9th Session of the UN Conference of State Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Speakers from the NHRIs of Costa Rica (Americas), Finland (Europe), Morocco (Africa) and New Zealand (Asia Pacific) shared stories of working in partnership with disabled peoples' organisations, advocating for greater respect for the rights of people with disabilities, and monitoring domestic implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Disability Discrimination Commissioner Paul Gibson from the New Zealand Human Rights Commission spoke of his Commission's work to "add value" in complex areas of law and policy, such as supported decision making for people with disabilities, and in relation to bioethical questions that range from pre-natal issues to end-of-life matters.

He also highlighted the Commission's initiative to promote the election of the first person with an intellectual disability to serve on the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which he said reflected the Commission's commitment to fostering there was a broad range of voices speaking on issues that concern people with disabilities.

Representatives from civil society also addressed the side event and noted the value of forming genuine partnerships with NHRIs in their respective countries.


Presenters at the NHRI side event

The well attended side-event – held on 14 June 2016 – was hosted by the APF and the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) and co-sponsored by the Permanent Missions of Australia, Germany, Ireland, Morocco, Mongolia and New Zealand.


The side event also sought to promote the value of NHRI participation in the Conference of State Parties and in other New York-based UN bodies and mechanisms.

The participation of NHRIs in international human rights discussions was warmly welcomed by the Government of Australia, who praised the "transparency and accountability" that NHRIs generate through their domestic monitoring efforts.

These comments were echoed by the Government of Germany who described the involvement of NHRIs in helping to draft the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities as "exemplary of what NHRIs can contribute when they get the opportunity".

Professor Gerard Quin, who represented NHRIs in that drafting process, said the Convention helps "put in place an architecture for sustained change" by establishing clear roles for government, civil society and NHRIs, the latter who can use their monitoring responsibilities to provide a "reality check" on the human rights situation of people with disabilities

Professor Quinn also discussed the draft guidelines developed by the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on the establishment of independent monitoring frameworks and on their participation in the work of the Committee.

Professor Beate Rudolf, GANHRI Chairperson and Director of the German Institute for Human Rights, chaired the side event, while Rosemary Kayess, human rights lawyer and Director of the Human Rights and Disability Project, facilitated the general discussion.

Date: 17 June 2016


Woman with vision impairment boards a train

The APF will shortly publish a manual for NHRIs on promoting and protecting the rights of people with disabilities, which will be used in a blended learning training course for staff of APF member institutions.


Image credits

  1. Teacher with student with a disability, India - - engelsmannen, Flickr; http://bit.ly/219tZmP
  2. Presenters at the NHRI side event - Screenshot, UN video
  3. Woman with vision impairment boards a train - APF video series on national inquiries