UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)
The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) is a human rights treaty. It spells out universal human rights for persons with disabilities. While the human rights of persons with disabilities are the same as those of any other person, the Convention sheds light on areas that are of particular importance to ensure the realisation of these rights for persons with disabilities.
Introduction: What is the CRPD?
Interesting facts about the CRPD
- The CRPD was adopted by the UN (GA) in December 2006 and entered into force in May 2008.
- The CRPD is one of the most successful human rights treaties in terms of ratification. Find out whether your country or the country you’re working in is a State party to the CRPD or has at least already signed the Convention. Information can be found on the website of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the UN Treaty Data Base.
- Persons with disabilities and their organisations were actively involved in the drafting of the Convention from beginning to end. What is normally a process guided by legal and UN experts, has been influenced throughout by the global disability movement, which had been consistently and successfully calling for “Nothing about us without us!” The active participation of persons with disabilities has significantly increased the ownership for and legitimacy of the contents of the Convention.
- The CRPD is available in many languages, including local languages, Sign Languages, easy to read and accessible formats like Braille. An overview of some of these formats can be found on UN DESA’s Webpage.
- Participation is part of the human rights principles enshrined in Article 3 CRPD and part of the general obligations for States Parties undertaking to ensure and promote the full realisation of all human rights and fundamental freedoms of persons with disabilities (Article 4.3 CRPD). Article 32 CRPD stipulates the obligation of CRPD States Parties to ensure that international cooperation is inclusive of persons with disabilities and calls them to work in partnership with Organisations of Persons with Disabilities (OPDs). Persons with disabilities and their organisations have the right to be involved and participate fully in national implementation monitoring processes (article 33.3 CRPD).
A paradigm shift: the evolving concept of disability
The times when disability was understood primarily as a problem to be treated medically or via rehabilitation are not far behind. Moreover, persons with disabilities have been (and still are confronted with these kinds of attitudes) often treated as objects of charity. Other people, often in good will, have been making decisions on behalf of persons with disabilities, “helping” them without considering their right to be part of any decision affecting them, their right to make wrong choices as anybody else and to be the captains of their own destiny.
The Convention on the Rights of Persons with disabilities looks at disability as a social construct rather than an individual’s problem that needs fixing or deserves charity. It recognises that disability is the result of the interaction of a person’s impairments with barriers in the environment, including attitudinal and communication barriers, and that efforts to improve the lives of persons with disabilities need to focus on removing these barriers. The environment needs to be changed in a way that makes it possible for persons with and without disabilities to live, learn, work, practice sport, travel, vote, enjoy cultural activities etc. together with all others in their community. It is not the person with disabilities who needs to adapt or be fixed or be removed to a separate system, it’s the system and peoples’ attitudes that need to change. The Social Model has since further developed.
Today, we talk about the Human Rights model of disability. It recognises that persons with disabilities are rights holders, with individual experiences, needs and views. The focus, while system change and the removal of barriers is still a big part of it, shifts to efforts to ensure the realisation of the human rights of persons with disabilities, individually and collectively. The participation of persons with disabilities in claiming and enforcing their rights is at the heart of the human rights model.
CRPD States Parties have the obligation to report regularly on their CRPD implementation efforts, including the effective participation of persons with disabilities. These States Reports are discussed in a ‘constructive dialogue’ between the CRPD Committee (a body of experts on the CRPD) and the States Party at the UN in Geneva after the submission of the report. Civil society organisations and representatives of organisations of persons with disabilities get the opportunity to speak and express their points of view on the implementation efforts of their government, including during open sessions of the ‘Constructive Dialogue’ They can also submit a shadow report prior to the States Party review, giving their own assessment of the progress their country is making.
The CRPD Committee is a group of independent experts who monitor the implementation of the CRPD by States Parties. The Committee examines States Parties’ reports and issues recommendations called “concluding observations” to guide States parties towards better compliance with the CRPD. The CRPD Committee also provides general guidance and further interpretation on the Convention, its provisions and how they are to be implemented effectively, by issuing ‘General Comments.’ The CRPD Committee’s General Comment No. 7 on participation interprets articles 4.3 and 33.3 CRPD and explains to what extent and how organisations of persons with disabilities are to be involved in the implementation and monitoring of the Convention. Among other important information, General Comment No.7 reaffirms that participation is a political and civil right and an immediate obligation. It details what further obligations are derived from this and gives further explanations on what makes the participation of persons with disabilities and their organisations meaningful and effective.
- To learn more about the mandate of the CRPD Committee, look at the Introduction on the OHCHR Website
- To access the CRPD Committee’s General Comments on individual articles of the Convention, look at the relevant section on the OHCHR Website
- Watch this video with an interview of CRPD Committee member Robert Martin, the first person with an intellectual disability to sit on a human rights committee (opens on YouTube).
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities is an independent human rights expert with a broad mandate that includes gathering good practices for the realisation of human rights of persons with disabilities and providing advice, e.g., by producing reports with concrete recommendations. These reports are the result of extensive consultations, including with civil society organisations and organisations of persons with disabilities. In 2016, the UN Special Rapporteur presented a thematic study on the right of persons with disabilities to participate in decision-making. The study
- makes clear that the right to participation goes far beyond consultation and includes rights such as the right to vote or be elected, the right to access public service and the right to participate in the conduct of public affairs;
- highlights the benefits of participation for enhanced decisions that incorporate a variety of perspectives, for agency and empowerment and as a component of good governance;
- gives an overview of the status of the realisation of the right of persons with disabilities to participate in decision-making, identifying key elements for full and effective participation like capacity building and adequate funding for OPDs as well as major obstacles, like inaccessible, expensive, and bureaucratic registration procedures that make it difficult to acquire the legal status necessary to obtain funding and additional support;
- makes several recommendations to state actors, international cooperation agencies and the UN to promote the participation of persons with disabilities and their organisations in decision-making at national and international level, including their consultation in public budgeting processes and their participation in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.