Photo: Vladimir Valishvili/UNDP

Over fifty representatives of Human Rights and Disabled Persons Organizations got together in Kazbegi on 15-18 July 2019 to discuss the implementation and monitoring of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).

The four-day training was organized by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in close cooperation with the Public Defender’s Office of Georgia.

The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is the first comprehensive international treaty in this area of human rights. It is revolutionary because it rejects the long-held vision of disability as a medical condition that somehow disqualifies a person from equal participation in society and instead requires societies to guarantee all persons with disabilities the full range of human rights, including the right to work, the right to participate in public life and the right to live in the community.

“Civil society monitoring is crucial for the successful implementation of the Convention,” said John Wadham, the international expert who facilitated the exercise. “Many countries ratify the Convention without being able to live up fully to its terms, for example in making public facilities accessible to persons with disabilities or ensuring they can find decent work. Civil society organizations keep track of progress and sound the alarm when governments are falling behind on their commitments.”

Participants were briefed on the monitoring mechanisms available under the Convention. Submitting alternative civil society reports to the UN Committee for Persons with Disabilities is one way to call attention to deficiencies in the full social inclusion of persons with disabilities. In addition, the Convention mandates the participation of Disabled Persons Organizations in all policy debates and decisions that affect persons with disabilities, in line with the principle “nothing about us without us.”

Persons with disabilities face many challenges in Georgia. The 2019 annual report by the Public Defender’s Office cited six main problems: lack of accessibility of public spaces; lack of information and specialized services; lack of quality inclusive education; lack of employment opportunities; poor protection of the rights of people with mental health problems; and lack and inefficiency of habilitation and rehabilitation programs. Data are also a challenge: 125,104 persons are registered as disabled in Georgia, but at only 3.3 percent of the total population, this is believed to undercount the actual number by a huge margin. WHO norms suggest the actual share must be over 10 percent. This suggests that social stigma surrounding disability is leading many families to keep persons with disabilities hidden.

UNDP has been supporting Georgia in implementing the UNCRPD since its ratification in 2013. In 2016, UNDP and the European Union assisted the Government of Georgia to prepare and submit the country’s first report on its implementation of the Convention. Since 2019, UNDP has been working with central and local authorities to promote the implementation of the Convention at national and local levels.

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