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Distinguished members of the Committee,

Ladies and gentlemen, 

Thank you very much for giving the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights this opportunity to contribute to the opening of this session of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

This session is particularly important for the EU. It marks the first time that the Union has been reviewed by a UN human rights treaty body. Not only that, it marks an important step in gaining the feedback the EU needs to ensure that the rights of persons with disabilities are fully implemented in all its Member States.

Such feedback is invaluable. As one of the members of the independent CRPD monitoring mechanism for the EU, FRA very much looks forward to participating in this process in person on 27 August.

The Fundamental Rights Agency was established by the European Union in 2007 to provide independent, evidence-based human rights expertise to the EU and its 28 Member States. We do this in many ways: through comparative legal and social research, through large-scale multinational surveys, and through practical tools for people working on human rights such as our case law handbooks for legal professionals.

Research is the first stage of our work building up a body of objective, reliable data that is the basis for providing evidence-based advice to those responsible for implementing the CRPD at both national and EU level. In our view, timely and relevant research is the foundation that enables better policy-making, better practice, better monitoring, and ultimately greater fulfilment of human rights.

Distinguished members of the Committee,

Providing evidence-based advice on the rights of people with disabilities is a core part of FRA’s research. A few examples will show how FRA’s work has highlighted what more needs to be done to ensure that the aims of the CRPD are brought to life for persons with disabilities:

First, measuring the fulfilment of rights through human rights indicators:

So far, FRA has developed human rights indicators on two articles of the CRPD: on the right to participate in political and public life, and the right to live independently and be included in the community.

By breaking actions down into acceptance of human rights obligations, commitments to desired results, and the outcomes of these efforts, the indicators look at the different stages of rights fulfilment. In this way, they provide a powerful tool to assess how commitments made by duty bearers are transformed into positive changes for rights holders.

Second, looking at specific issues such as the transition from institutional to community-based support:

On-going institutionalisation prevents persons with disabilities from exercising choice and control over their lives. FRA’s current project focuses on what Member States are doing to realise the transition to community-based support, and the barriers and drivers to that process.

Third, highlighting the barriers faced by specific groups such as persons with intellectual disabilities and persons with psychosocial disabilities:

Our socio-legal research addressed issues which the Committee has highlighted as especially important: legal capacity, involuntary placement and treatment, and the right to vote. The findings underlined the wide gap that remains between international standards and the situation on the ground.

Fourth, mainstreaming the rights of persons with disabilities across our work:

We will soon publish findings on violence against children with disabilities, and previously we looked at multiple discrimination in access to healthcare, including on the grounds of disability.

To conclude,

FRA’s research shows that the CRPD is already acting as a driver of change. In a relatively short time it has spurred significant legal changes that are empowering persons with disabilities to be truly included in society.

Building on this progress requires evidence-based legal reforms and policies. By highlighting the barriers people with disabilities still face and identifying ways to overcome them, strong evidence and independent expertise will help to ensure that persons with disabilities are able to enjoy their rights on an equal basis with others.

We wish you a productive and stimulating session, and look forward to engaging with you during the dialogue with the EU later this month.

Thank you.