For the first time, the European Union has subjected itself to a full review by the committee tasked with overseeing the primary international treaty for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities.
In a 12-page report released September 7, an expert committee on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities applauded the EU’s decision to ratify the treaty, as well as its use of European Structural Investment Funds to target disability specific concerns.
However, it sharply criticized the EU’s compliance shortcomings, providing recommendations for improvement under nearly every provision of the treaty.
“This is a historic moment for us. People with disabilities across the European Union have been hit hard by austerity, and face increasing poverty and marginalisation,” said Yannis Vardakastanis, president of the European Disabilities Forum, in a news release. “Today, the UN expert committee has recognised this, and has provided a powerful and comprehensive set of recommendations to the EU.
“This gives a strong mandate to the EU, including all its institutions and agencies to fully address the inclusion of persons with disabilities in all of their work.”
Among its many critiques, the committee accused the EU of failing to take special precautions to protect women, children and the regions’ ever-increasing population of migrant refugees with disabilities.
The Committee raised concerns that students throughout the EU lack opportunities for inclusive education. In regard to health care, the Committee criticized certain countries for failing to expressly prohibit discrimination in health care decision making, as well as encouraged improved cross-border cooperation, as was the case in many other areas.
Throughout the report, the Committee expressed concerns about the continuing negative impact of austerity measures, referring to cuts in government services to reduce the size of countries’ budget deficits in light of the 2008 financial crisis.
Other areas of concern raised in the report include the EU’s disability related employment programs, bioethical guidelines, disaster reduction planning and data collecting efforts.
The next review is scheduled for January 2019.
While more than 150 countries have ratified the treaty, the EU is the only regional body to have done so. In fact, the EU’s ratification in 2010 marked the first time any regional body as a whole ever ratified an international human rights treaty.
The United States has not ratified the treaty, although President Obama signed it in 2009.