Persons with Disabilities Still Face Employment Challenges in Many Countries:

Special Rapporteur Tells Commission for Social Development

Employment remained a challenge for persons with disabilities in many countries, a United Nations expert told the Commission for Social Development, as some delegations described national achievements in that field.

Shuaib Chalklen, the Commission’s Special Rapporteur on Disability, said while presenting his report that the most important event on the global disability agenda during the reporting period had been last September’s meeting of Heads of State and Government which had adopted an outcome document (General Assembly resolution 68/3) under the theme “The way forward, a disability-inclusive development agenda towards 2015 and beyond”.

“The document is so important that I repeat key points,” he said, urging Member States to create more ambitious disability-inclusive national development plans prescribing targeted actions, and backed by increasing international cooperation and support.  He also urged Members States to implement fully the international normative framework on disability and development, in particular the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol.  A total of 158 States had signed the instrument, which had 141 ratifications and accessions.  Of the 92 signatories to the Optional Protocol, 79 had ratified or acceded to it, he said, stressing the importance of implementing both as “human rights and development instruments”.

He said the document also urged Member States to strengthen the inclusion of people with disabilities and their needs in humanitarian responses, and encouraged greater understanding, knowledge and social awareness about them in order to eliminate discrimination and negative attitudes and facilitate their full participation in society.  It also called upon regional, as well as international, development banks and financial institutions to integrate disability across their development efforts and lending mechanisms, because persons with disabilities were disproportionately affected during economic crises.

The Special Rapporteur said he had visited several countries during the reporting period, including the Republic of Moldova, Croatia, Indonesia, Ethiopia and El Salvador.  He had worked with the United Nations country team and a human rights adviser to help the Government of the Republic of Moldova implement articles 12 and 19 of the Disabilities Convention.  One major challenge in that country had been to close facilities for people with disabilities so as to ensure their full inclusion and participation in the community.  In Croatia, the Special Rapporteur had visited the office of the Ombudsman on Disability and learned how an independent ombudsman’s office could play a positive role.  A major challenge in El Salvador was the low level of employment for persons with disabilities and the lack of relevant data.

He recommended to the Commission that the United Nations focal point for disability, with support from other United Nations entities, including regional commissions, take the initiative to establish and improve a mechanism that would better facilitate the sharing of information and experiences among the regional decades for persons with disabilities.  Members of civil society organizations could be invited to contribute where appropriate.  He also recommended that Member States contribute to the United Nations Voluntary Fund on Disability, and to the multi-donor trust fund of the United Nations Partnership to Promote the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  He proposed raising greater awareness about the conditions of refugees with disabilities in conflict areas, saying their needs should be taken into account when planning interventions.  He also voiced support for the establishment in Geneva of a special procedures mandate on disability.

When asked to describe measures that had met with success, the Special Rapporteur stressed the important role played by focal points, as well as the benefits of an independent ombudsman’s office.  However, efforts to create disability-inclusive societies had been least successful in the area of employment.

The Commission then began its general debate on the review of United Nations plans and programs of action pertaining to such social groups as persons with disabilities, youth, older persons and families.

Ukraine’s representative said that over the last five years, more than 725,000 persons with special needs had found employment in her country despite the impact of the world economic crisis.  “It is a substantial number in comparison to those times, when just two decades ago, people with heavy forms of disabilities were prohibited to work,” she noted.  The new national law on employment guaranteed that persons with special needs would receive free public vocational education and re-training, and that their employers would receive subsidies.  The goal was to employ up to 80 per cent of persons with special needs who had received a vocational education, she said.

Zimbabwe’s delegate said that the country’s Government had adopted a policy of equal employment opportunities for persons with disabilities in the public service.  It entailed mainstreaming disability employment regulations that would ensure that there was no discrimination against that group in terms of conditions of employment and deployment.

Also participating in today’s discussion were speakers representing Greece (on behalf of the European Union), Kuwait (on behalf of Gulf Cooperation Council countries), Russian Federation, Austria, Mongolia, South Africa, Brazil, Qatar, Argentina, Sudan, El Salvador, Thailand, China, Romania, Belgium, Malta, Slovenia, Bulgaria and the Republic of Korea.  A representative of the International Federation of Family Development also delivered a statement.

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