This year’s European Day of Persons with Disabilities marks the 10th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD). As of today, 27 the 28 EU Member States have ratified the Convention (except Ireland) but a few have done it with reservations and declarations and not all countries fully respect all the rights protected by the CRPD. EDF (European Disability Forum) and EURO-CIU calls the countries to withdraw their Reservations and restrictive Declarations to the CRPD as they are incompatible with the object and purpose of the CRPD. According to article 46 of the CRPD and according to principles of international public law, these Reservations and Declarations shall not be permitted.
This has been the focus of the 2-day conference organised by the European Commission and EDF on 29-30 November 2016. The conference gathered together around 400 participants including people with disabilities and their representative organisations, associations and companies working to improve the life of people with disabilities, government representatives, EU institutions representatives, academics and many others. Together we are discussing and examining the progress which has been made in the European Union (EU) to promote the rights of persons with disabilities in line with the CRPD: each panel gives an overview of the legal and policy framework, and how it has changed, followed by personal testimonies and examples.
At the conference, EDF (European Disability Forum) launched its first issue of a series of European Human Rights Reports. This first issue focuses on the 10th anniversary of the CRPD giving an overview of the state of play and progress made with regards to the CRPD in Europe. An accessible PDF of the report is available on http://www.edf-feph.org/ Easy to Read summary will follow soon.
Opening the conference on 29 November 2016, EDF President, Yannis Vardakastanis, underlined the positive impact of the CRPD in the EU legislation and initiatives since it ratified it in 2011:
“The Web Accessibility Directive was adopted last month, the proposal for the European Accessibility Act was published and is now being discussed, the European Structural and Investment Funds make a clear reference to the implementation of the CRPD ensuring accessibility and non-discrimination. Legislation has been adapted, but more can also be achieved, both in laws and policies, as well as on the ground”.
He also recalled the importance of implementing, promoting and protecting the rights of persons with disabilities in all policies and areas of life, as a society that respects the rights of persons with disabilities is a society that first respects the rights of every person and leaves no-one behind: “The full and meaningful implementation of the CRPD can only be achieved through a comprehensive Disability Agenda that mainstreams the rights of persons with disabilities in all policy areas and ensures a meaningful, structured dialogue with the representative organisation of persons with disabilities”. “For this reason”, he concluded, “it is fundamental to rethink the approach taken so far concerning the implementation of the CRPD. Its implementation is not business as usual and it should not be considered as such by policy makers at the European and national level”.
Finally, Yannis Vardakastanis, proposed to the EU to make 2021 the European Year of Persons with Disabilities since it will then be 10 years since the EU ratified the CRPD.