By IDA

 - June 19, 2016

COSP9 Session

IDA was strongly engaged and active throughout the Ninth Conference of States Parties to the CRPD last week. The Conference opened with an overwhelming number of Member States affirming support, and calling for increased participation, of civil society in the Conference. The President of the General Assembly had spoken at the Civil Society Forum (CSF) preceding the conference, coordinated by IDA, at the beginning of the week, and cited it as an important dialogue between Member States and civil society. The CSF had given an opportunity to discuss how persons with disabilities and their representative organisations can and should be involved in the implementation of the SDGs, using the CRPD - see last week's update for more details. IDA and the Permanent Mission of Australia also hosted a celebration marking ten years of the CRPD, bringing representatives from governments, civil society and the UN together. Throughout the week, IDA members also organised 23 side events, from topics as varied as digital societies, humanitarian response, self advocacy and bridging the CRPD and the SDGs through implementation and monitoring.

Leaving no one behind means nothing about us without us

In the months leading up to COSP, IDA facilitated coordination across the disability movement to support the full inclusion and participation of civil society in all aspects of the Conference. These efforts resulted in a number of strong engagements by civil society. Yeni Rosa Damayanti spoke in the Opening Session panel on behalf of Civil Society - download the statement here. New Zealand also recommended that the theme for next COSP incorporate inclusive participation of persons with disabilities and their representative organisations, reflecting concerns shared by civil society and many Member States that greater and guaranteed space for participation was required. Civil society also co-chaired a roundtable, with the Permanent Mission of Poland, which included strong participation of civil society representatives, who were called upon to contribute at an equal rate to Member States. Despite these positive steps, and the basis for participation in Article 4.3 of the CRPD, it remains clear that participation of persons with disabilities and wider civil society on COSP cannot be taken for granted. Coordinated efforts across civil society, and determined advocacy with UN bodies and Member States, are still necessary to protect and expand the practice of 'nothing about us, without us.'

The overarching focus of the Conference was on achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for everyone, leaving no one behind. IDA's Members worked to place persons with disabilities at the heart of these discussions: from making assistive technology accessible and tackling poverty and inequality among persons with disabilities to, critically, how to ensure the most marginalized are not left behind.

Self advocacy is key to both the CRPD and SDGs

Two of IDA's members, the World Network of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry and Inclusion International, were especially active in this respect. Self advocates and persons with lived experience of pyschosocial disabilities and intellectual disabilities advocated effectively to be able to contribute to both side event discussions and the main sessions of the Conference with Member States, UN Agencies and others from across civil society. These discussions explored and developed the commitments for governments under the CRPD to guarantee legal capacity, supported decision-making, deinstitutionalization, and the right to be included in all stages of discussions and decisions concerning persons with psychosocial and intellectual disabilities, among others.

In response to concerns about the roundtable discussion and background paper on "Promoting the rights of persons with mental and intellectual disabilities" the disability rights movement advocated for the paper to be amended and the session to be extended into the following day. This led to a revision of the paper, and persons with psychosocial and intellectual disabilities, and others from both civil society and Member States, responded with affirmations of the human rights basis of the CRPD and the right of persons with disabilities to participate meaningfully in these discussions and processes. Organizations and networks of persons with psychosocial disabilities and intellectual disabilities collaboratively released a statement in advance of the roundtable discussion - click here to download.

New CRPD Committee members

On the opening day of COSP, elections were held for nine of the 18 seats of the CRPD Committee. IDA congratulated those re-elected and newly elected members of the Committee and are looking forward to working with each of them. With this election, the CRPD Committee will for the first time include a person with intellectual disabilities, self-advocate Robert Martin from New Zealand; and a deaf sign language user, Valery Nikitich Rukhledev from Russia. This marks the beginning of a new era for the Committee, and the UN system generally, calling for more inclusive and accessible processes, acknowledging the diversity of persons with disabilities.

While this is historic progress, simultaneously there has also been a disquieting drop in numbers of women members of the Committee - which will fall from the current six women members, to just one out of 18 members in 2017.

The CRPD Committee now stands as the treaty body with the fewest number of women members. This is a significant departure from its previous compositions of six women in 2014-2016; seven in 2012-2014; eight in 2010-2012; and five women (out of the then 12 members) in 2008-2010.

At the conclusion of the elections IDA's Chair, Maryanne Diamond, drew attention to Article 34.4 of the CRPD, calling for States Parties electing members of the Committee to consider balanced gender representation, remarking:

“It is alarming that the new composition of the Committee counts but one woman, which raises the questions how we, women with disabilities, will be legitimately represented, and how the Committee can serve as a model for others? This signals a serious disconnect between the Convention's principles of non-discrimination and gender equality within the nominations and elections procedures, as well as an objectionable disengagement on the part of States to ensure and promote gender parity.

"It is the responsibility of us all - States, the disability movement, the women’s movement- everyone, to be proactive in ensuring the inclusion of women and girls with disabilities across all agendas. We can only get there together, leaving no one behind.”

Read a full statement on behalf of IDA and the International Disability and Development Consortium here.

ABC News also reported on activists' reaction.

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