UN disability experts issue new legal guidance

This story was first published on the old Office for Disability Issues website, and was copied onto the Whaikaha site in June 2024. External links may no longer be current.

On 3 October 2018 the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities issued new legal guidance on the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The new guidance, issued as general comment No. 7, upholds the right of all persons with disabilities to participate and be involved in all issues relating to them. It also clarifies States parties’ obligations to ensure the participation of persons with disabilities, through their representative organizations, in the implementation and monitoring of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), in line with articles 4 (3) and 33 (3) of this international treaty.

The comment has been released to provide states parties guidance on why and how to collaborate with organizations of persons with disabilities respectfully and as equals.  “Nothing about us without us” has long been a motto of the rights movement of persons with disabilities. In its general comment, the Committee recalls that when persons with disabilities are consulted, this leads to laws, policies and programmes that contribute to more inclusive societies and environments.

The general comment aims to be a useful tool providing concrete recommendations on how to undertake consultations with persons with disabilities, through their representative organisations. That should include developing accessible information about decision-making processes, establishing inclusive methodologies, and ensuring organisations of persons with disabilities have access to national and international funding for their functioning and advocacy.

The general comment also defines organisations of persons with disabilities and highlights that respecting the rights of persons with disabilities to freedom of association, peaceful assembly and expression are essential for their participation and consultations with them.

The general comment provides some guidance on how the interests of children with disabilities need to be considered and represented.

How does New Zealand give effect to Articles 4 (3) and 33 (3)

Generally, New Zealand’s approach to giving effect to Articles 4 and 33 is well regarded internationally.

The UN Committee, through the second periodic review of the implementation of the Convention, asked the New Zealand Government to explain how New Zealand is implementing Articles 4 and 33.  The explanation in New Zealand’s draft report is that the Office for Disability Issues (ODI) provides $100,000 per year for the Disabled People’s Organisations Coalition to meet regularly and engage with government agencies on the development and monitoring of the Disability Action Plan 2014-2018. The Disability Action Plan 2014-2018 is the primary vehicle for implementation of the New Zealand Disability Strategy 2016-2026 and thus the CRPD.

The Independent Monitoring Mechanism, comprising the Human Rights Commission, the Office of the Ombudsman, and the Disabled People’s Organisations Coalition, monitors the implementation of the CRPD. The Government provides $275,000 per year to fund the Disabled People’s Organisations Coalition to provide disabled people-led monitoring.

Following a review of the operating model, the Disabled People’s Organisations Coalition used the 2017 funding to update the monitoring mechanism to better access the voice of Māori, Pacific people and people who are non-verbal. ODI and the Disabled People Organisations Coalition are negotiating a contract with a new provider to implement the new monitoring framework in 2018.