12th Session of COSP: Putting Policy into Practice

Students lead one another back to class after recess break at the Kadoma School for Children with Visual Impairments in Kadoma, Zimbabwe
Kirsty Smith.
Author:Kirsty Smith
Posted on: Thursday, 13th June, 2019

The Conference of State Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (COSP) meets this week at the United Nations in New York. In its 12th year, this session focuses on ensuring the inclusion of persons with disabilities through the implementation of the CRPD. Government representatives are also participating in roundtable discussions on technology and digitalisation, social inclusion and the right to the highest attainable standard of health, and inclusion through participation in cultural life, recreation, leisure and sports.

Whilst these discussions do not result in formal agreements or commitments, COSP is unusual in that not all human rights treaty bodies have such a reporting mechanism. As with other UN meetings, civil society plays a prominent role and on Monday the civil society forum, hosted by the International Disability Alliance, focussed on the current state of play with CRPD implementation, capacity building and the rights of children with disabilities.

COSP also demonstrates the importance of soft power and involvement of persons with disabilities, who have the opportunity to influence the debate and governments through conversation and a number of side events. This includes the UK Government which has sent officials from DfID as well as the Minister of State for Disabled People, Health and Work, Justin Tomlinson MP. CBM is co-hosting a number of side events, including a workshop on the measurement of disability for Disabled Persons’ Organisations.

The UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, used COSP as an opportunity to announce the UN’s new Disability Inclusion Strategy. Through this, all bodies within the UN will systematically embed the rights of persons with disabilities both internally and externally in programming, and work to build trust and confidence with disabled people to ensure that they can participate on an equal basis with others. This will be done through mainstreaming alongside targeted measures, and with an intersectional approach to ‘address the structural and dynamic consequences of the interaction between multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination’. A system-wide accountability framework will ensure that the policy is implemented and monitored.

While this is to be celebrated, it is ironic that the logistics of COSP itself highlight that this Strategy comes not a moment too soon. A number of wheelchair users were unable to gain access to the opening event in the UN building, and accessibility guidelines for COSP highlighted that room for wheelchair users in the main conference room was limited, resulting in a ‘first come first served’ policy. In addition, a number of preparation documents did not meet good practice guidelines in their formatting. The hope is therefore that the positive and welcome launch of this UN Strategy will greatly reduce this kind of oversight which perpetuates the very exclusion the strategy seeks to reduce - CBM will be monitoring its implementation closely.

To read more about CBM’s engagement at COSP, go to https://www.cbmuk.org.uk/news/speaking-disability-inclusion-un-crpd-conference-opens/

Image: Students lead one another back to class after recess break at the Kadoma School for Children with Visual Impairments in Kadoma, Zimbabwe. © CBM/Hayduk


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