The United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has published its Draft General Comment No. 7 on articles 4 (3) and 33 (3) of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), namely States parties' responsibility to consult with and involve persons with disabilities, including women and girls and children with disabilities, in decision-making processes through their representative organizations.
You can read the Draft General Comment here:
Rationale: "Throughout the process of drafting, negotiation and adoption of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, persons with disabilities and their representative organizations played a fundamental role. Their opinions, participation and effective involvement in all issues concerning the implementation of the Convention have also been the main feature in the implementation of the Convention and in the mandate and work of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
"Articles 4.3 and 33.3 of the Convention establish the obligations of State parties concerning the effective consultation and involvement of persons with disabilities, including children and women with disabilities through their representative organizations in all decision-making processes concerning issues relating to persons with disabilities. In addition, these obligations entail the full involvement and participation of persons with disabilities through their representative organizations in the monitoring process of the Convention."
It is of course important to point out that, to the best of our knowledge, no autistic persons and no autistic-led organizations were involved in the negotiations of the CRPD. The CRPD was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2006, Autistic Minority International was not founded until 2013. Disability constituencies such as ours face much higher hurdles than others in affirming our rights and needs because, unlike those that were present during negotiations, we are not explicitly mentioned in the CRPD.
They continue: "With this General Comment, the Committee intends to clarify, among others:
"1. The defining elements of 'representative organizations' of persons with disabilities and the distinction between organizations of persons with disabilities and other civil society organizations;
"2. The scope and criteria to fulfil the obligation to 'consult closely' and 'actively involve' persons with disabilities, through their representative organizations in decision-making processes;
"3. The type of decision-making processes concerning issues relating to persons with disabilities, including measures for the implementation of the Convention in the mainstream and disability-specific sectors;
"4. The scope of the involvement of persons with disabilities, through their representative organizations in the implementation and the monitoring of the Convention, in line with the Convention;
"5. General obligations of the State parties, such as to ensure accessibility to all facilities and procedures related to public decision-making; the principle of good faith in the development of consultations and involvement; the prohibition of discriminatory practices in consultation and participation processes, the principle of autonomy, and support, including through funding for facilitating participation processes.
"6. Concrete guidance on the implementation of articles 4.3 and 33.3 at the national level, including the direct engagement with representative organizations of women and girls with disabilities as well as representative organizations of children with disabilities, and the establishment of permanent consultation mechanisms with organizations of persons with disabilities."
The Committee now invites written input on Draft General Comment No. 7.
Written submissions in English, French, or Spanish of less than 5,300 words should be sent in Word format and with the subject line "Draft general comment on art. 4.3 and 33.3" to: email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org
They ask you to please not include comments in the text of the Draft General Comment, but submit them in a separate document, including identification of the submitting entity; the paragraph number(s) to which the submission refers; concise comments; proposed text for amendment, if relevant; additional topic(s) to be included/left out of the Draft General Comment, with a short explanation and, if relevant, proposed text.
Deadline: 15 May 2018
All written submissions will be posted on the Committee's OHCHR webpage.
Autistic Minority International will be preparing a submission, and we call on autistic persons as well as local and national autistic self-advocacy organizations to please send any input you wish us to include as soon as possible to: email@example.com
The Committee also announced that it will be holding a Half Day of General Discussion (DGD) on General Comment No. 7 during the annual Conference of States Parties (COSP) to the CRPD, taking place at UN Headquarters in New York from 12-14 June 2018.
Autistic persons have been historically excluded from participation in COSP due to unduly restrictive accreditation requirements, which are basically the same as for full formal consultative status with the United Nations through the UN Econcomic and Social Council (ECOSOC). Most autistic self-advocacy organizations simply do not meet the requirements for COSP accreditation. We are not accredited ourselves and neither is any other organization run by and for autistic persons.
We are also not a member of any umbrella body that could faciliate our participation. The International Disability Alliance (IDA), for instance, makes it impossible for us to join as any new global member organization would need to represent national affiliate organizations in at least thirty countries on five continents, or forty countries on three continents, and most national umbrella bodies exclude autistic-led organizations in favour of organizations of parents of autistic children. Such exclusionary practices and the resulting lack of true representation of actually autistic persons in decision-making on disability issues at all levels are the precise issues we will seek to address in our written submission on General Comment No. 7.
The situation seems particularly troubling as this is literally a DGD on the widest possible consultation with and participation and involvement of the diversity of representative organizations of persons with disabilities. There are many other groups like ours, as well as disabled persons' organizations (DPOs) from countries that make official registration with national authorities difficult or impossible (though it's an implied requirement for COSP accreditation as every country has the power to veto any request), that will be excluded from the DGD due to it being held at COSP rather than during a regular Committee session in Geneva.
We already contacted the Secretariat and Chairperson of the Committee to inquire whether they had any plans to facilitate the participation of DPOs that do not hold COSP accreditation. They replied thanking us for alerting them to the problem and promised to discuss ways of accommodating organizations that would not otherwise be able to attend COSP.
With the proviso that this has to be worked out by them, please let us know if you would like to participate in the DGD/COSP, representing Autistic Minority International and the autistic community. There will also be a Civil Society Forum on 11 June 2018. Unfortunately, we can't offer funding for travel or accommodation. Write to: firstname.lastname@example.org