EESC Hearing on CRPD Concluding Observations to EU
Door: Jolijn Santegoeds
17 Mei 2016 | België, Brussel
I arrived during the opening session, after an early morning train ride, and I was just in time to hear Yannis Vardakastanis, Rapporteur SOC/538 (and president of EDF), speak about the present opportunities to put the rights of persons with disabilities on the European agenda, and the need to go beyond business as usual. He highlighted several European developments, such as the European Disability Strategy, web accessibility and the European Accessibility Act, and he stressed the need for meaningful involvement and full participation of persons with disabilities through their representative organizations, in a structural dialogue at all levels of policy making. The EESC Committee (SOC/538) will prepare an own opinion report on the implementation of the CRPD and the Concluding Observations to the EU, which will be ready next month. This meetings aims to give input to that report.
The first panel zoomed in on several European developments with representatives of various EU bodies.
Emmanuelle Grange of the European Commission (EC) elaborated on the steps the European Commission is taking, such as their withdrawal from the EU Monitoring Framework to guarantee the independence of monitoring, the progress on the European Accessibility Act, and the revision of the European Disability Strategy including post-2020 ambitions. The EUs declaration of competence is still being worked on, because this is a more complex process.
She also highlighted the importance of de-institutionalization and the new conditions and monitoring on the use of European Social Funds. Also the role and input of NGOs and DPOs in ECs decision-making is not yet clarified nor subject to any binding legal structure, while support to and from NGOs and DPOs is important, so this is also a point of attention for the European Commission.
Helga Stevens of the European Parliament (EP) spoke about the actions of the European Parliament since EUs ratification of the UN CRPD. The European Parliament also made an own report, which was sent to the European Commission as input for the official EU report to the UN CRPD Committee. In response to the Concluding Observations, the EP will also produce an own initiative report, expected 7 July for plenary voting in the European Parliament, and an informative event is being planned in paralel. It is interesting to see that there are over 10 EC Committees involved in the reporting, which is 50% of the total, while usually there are only 1 or 2 committees involved in any topic. Now there is a high response, and a lot of involvement from both the European Commission and the European Parliament, which is positive. Coordination is of course needed.
Rosita Agnew of the European Ombudsman spoke about the complaints that persons can lodge at the European Ombudsman , which only deals with the performance of EU institutions itself, and stressed that there are still a low number of complaints received related to disability. She stressed that the European Ombudsman is willing to deal with disability-related complaints, yet the procedure seems under-used by persons with disabilities. The EU wants to be a role model in implementing the UN CRPD, which is the first human rights convention the EU has ever ratified. Interaction with civil society is needed.
Ciara O’Brien, head of COHOM, Council of the EU, spoke about external EU actions and foreign policies on human rights and democracy. She mentioned that the EU delegation had played a big role in the negotiations of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the agenda 2030, which now include about 17 targets for persons with disabilities.
Michael O’Flaherty of EUs Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) spoke to us by a short video message, and emphasized the richness of knowledge that the CRPD has brought forward in the past 10 years, and highlighted the need for new laws and policies. FRA offers guidance by their research on issues and reforms that are relevant for the human rights of persons with disabilities in the EU.
As a last speaker of the first panel, Catherine Naughton of the European Disability Forum (EDF) briefly reflected on the 3 issues that the UN CRPD Committee had identified for follow-up in 1 year, which were 1. The independence of the EU Monitoring Framework, which has been taken care of by the immediate withdrawal of the European Commission. 2. The European Accessibility Act, which has also been made public for consultation and following adoption. And 3. The EUs declaration of competence is still being worked on. The review is giving a momentum, and the progress is positive, yet there is still also a need for European non-discrimination legislation, and it is recommended to re-open the consultation and adoption-process for EUs Equal Treatment Directive.
There was just a little bit of time for a few questions, and then there was a 12 minute coffee break.
The second panel started with Didier Dupre who spoke on behalf of EUROSTAT, about the ongoing revision of EUROSTAT’s tools in light of the UN CRPD and the social model. Several disability modules will be periodically added to existing European Social Surveys (such as SILC and EHIS).
Then Adriana van Dooijeweert of the European Network of National Human Rights Institutions (ENNHRI) spoke about the areas of focus: equal treatment, employment, accessibility and standard of living, and gave several examples of good and bad practices. She also mentioned the Sustainable Development Goals, and named a few targets that include the rights of persons with disabilities, while raising the concern that the SDGs still need more human rights based approach, for example refugees are not even mentioned.
A bit later, in the question time, I addressed a concern to her on the rights of persons with psychosocial disabilities in the SDGs, and my concerns seemed to find recognition by several participants, notably including ENNHRI and Inclusion Europe.
Veronique Ghesquiere of the Belgian Centre for Equal Opportunities (UNIA) reported on their work on complaints, concerns, awareness raising, and giving opinions and recommendations in law reforms. Unia was involved in the parallel report on Belgium to the UN CRPD Committee in 2014, and the concluding observations were firm against segregated education, and also against confinement in institutions such as psychiatry. It called for de-institutionalization of the sector, yet the Belgian society appears not ready yet for this change, so UNIA is continuing the debate with all stakeholders. In December 2016, during the celebration of the 10th anniversary of the UN CRPD, a tender for awareness raising will be launched, particularly focussing on the rights of persons with intellectual disabilities.
There was a little bit of time for questions, and then the floor was given to a number of representatives of the DPOs that had submitted a shadowreport for the EU review by the UN CRPD Committee last year. Every representative had 3 minutes to present their views.
Autism Europe emphasized that the Concluding Observations are good, but much work remains to be done to put these in practice.
The European Union of the Deaf (EUD) called for access to information, accessible formats and the needed recognition of sign language at the national and international level, including at the European level of legislation and policy making.
On behalf of the European Network of (Ex) Users and Survivors of Psychiatry (ENUSP), I called on the EU to make objections against the declarations issued by several EU members states on articles 12, 15 and 25, which are limiting the rights of persons with psychosocial disabilities. Also ENUSP calls on the EU to issue a moratorium on substitute decision-making, forced treatments and forced institutionalization, and apply this prohibition to all member states.
The European Association of Service Providers for Persons with Disabilities (EASPD) stressed the need for a structural long term planning for implementation of the CRPD, and asked for better recognition of the role of support providers, because if services are not available, persons are not able to access or exercise their rights.
The European Network on Independent Living (ENIL) emphasized the impact of austerity measures on persons with disabilities, in their daily lives as well as in terms of organizing in DPOs. Remuneration should be in place for the systematic consultation of DPOs. For successful implementation, it is essential to have clear definitions of key terms, such as independent living, de-institutionalization, support and personal assistance.
Inclusion Europe emphasized that meaningful consultation of persons with intellectual disabilities depends on support and assistance as well as accessibility of information, and a focal point should carry responsibility. Equality and non-discrimination are very important themes in the lives of persons with intellectual disabilities and their families, and capacity building of persons with disabilities and their organizations is needed.
The International Disability and Development Consortium (IDDC) highlighted the duty to leave nobody behind, and called for a workplan to be developed with DPOs. For example, the support to refugees does not take into account accessibility needs, and while we recognize that a lot is being done for refugees, there is no reason to exclude refugees with disabilities.
The International Federation for Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus (IF) highlighted that EUs health programme lacks the disability angle. Also 3 messages from IF’s youth group were shared: 1. More attention to the financial situation of persons with disabilities, young and old. 2. Access of opportunities and 3. More chances for participation, including by stimulating young people with disabilities to get into politics, which is one of the firmest ways to secure the rights of persons with disabilities in legislation, policy and practice.
By then it was already past 1 PM and there was no time left for general conclusions by the organizers. However, a closed meeting was to continue in the afternoon, where the outcomes of the meeting this morning would be taken into account.
On my way out, I met the Dutch chair of Dutch NHRI who had been presenting on behalf of the ENNHRI. It was quite nice, and we seemed to have a number of views in common, which kind of surprised me positively. But when I asked her about possibilities for support concerning my personal struggle against human right violations in the Netherlands, this appeared “likely impossible to deal with individual complaints”, which I found very disappointing again (and it basically ruined my day to hear this rejection again).
After all, I said goodbye to all, and I left to travel back home with the train. It had been quite an interesting meeting, and I am sincerely hoping that the EU is not giving false hope, and that bureaucracy and the list of EUs competence will not exclude the fundamental rights of persons with psychosocial disabilities. I hope the EU will indeed prove to be a role model and a champion in human rights implementation. I am sincerely hoping that. Time will tell...
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Je kunt nu ook Smileys gebruiken. Via de toolbar, toetsenbord of door eerst : te typen en dan een woord bijvoorbeeld :smiley