UN Committee: more EU action and data are needed to address the rights of older persons with disabilities!
For the first time in history, the European Union was under consideration by a United Nations human rights committee.
The first international human rights obligations for the EU
Having ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD) in 2010, the EU has to undergo a periodical examination of how it has implemented the provisions of the Convention and receive recommendations by the related UN Committee. The process of reviewing the state of the rights of persons with disabilities in the EU is an unprecedented exercise – the UN CRPD is the only international human rights treaty to which the EU acceded and the EU is the only regional organisation that is a party to a UN Convention.
The review of the UN Committee was therefore the first exercise to monitor how the EU is putting the UN CRPD principles into practice. Following the evaluation of EU's work to promote and protect the rights of people with disabilities, the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has adopted in the beginning of September its concluding observations, which include guidance for further EU action and raise several serious concerns, for example that the EU has not reviewed all its legislation to verify whether it complies with the Convention, and that proper monitoring mechanisms are not in place. Also, the attention paid to specific groups of persons with disabilities, such as refugees, asylum-seekers, migrants, children, women, but also older persons with disabilities is deemed as insufficient. The latter point is one that AGE has highlighted in its contribution to the review process.
The most relevant recommendations of the Committee for older persons
The Committee reaffirmed that the implementation of the Convention by the EU should not leave aside older people with disabilities and asked the EU:
- To undertake a campaign to raise awareness of the Convention and to combat prejudice against persons with disabilities, including older persons with disabilities.
- To adopt the European Accessibility Act as well as the draft horizontal equal treatment directive.
- To take measures to protect people with disabilities, including older persons, from violence and abuse, in the community and in institutions.
- To make sure that representative organisations of people with disabilities are included all EU decision making processes.
- To ensure that austerity measures in the EU do not infringe the rights of persons with disabilities.
AGE Platform Europe appraisal
AGE welcomes the adoption of these landmark recommendations and the specific reference to older persons with disabilities, which confirm the relevance of the UN CRPD for this group. We however regret that the Committee did not refer to the numerous age barriers faced by older persons with functional limitations and/or support needs in equally accessing disability rights, neither to the EU's important role in addressing these. We however remain confident that the Committee will take into account the challenges faced by older people with disabilities in its consideration of national reports.
We hope that the European Commission will provide guidance of how the Convention should apply to older persons with disabilities and address the prevailing abuse of this group, two of the issues that are included in the Committee's observations. Moreover, we call on the European Commission (EC) to include in its structured dialogue with civil society, representative organisations of older persons, which advocate also on behalf of their members who acquire disabilities as they age. To date older people's organisations are not involved in the EU High-Level Group on Disability and are not consistently consulted by the EC services on disability policies.
The first public dialogue after the adoption of the Committee's observations
At a conference organised by the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), in Thessaloniki, Greece, AGE highlighted the discrimination older persons with disabilities face because of their age. The UN Committee took these concerns into account, calling for better data collection and monitoring of the situation of this group at national level. Ms. Ana Pelaez Narvaez, who represented the UN Committee in this event, also suggested that NGOs can help by raising age-related challenges in their alternative reports to the state review. The Interim Director of the Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA), Mr. Manolopoulos, mentioned that the intersection of age and disability might be one of the themes of the future annual forums organised by the FRA.
On this occasion, the representative of the European Commission, Ms. Maria Luisa Cabral from DG EMPL, explained that the EU intends to swiftly follow up the Committee's recommendations as guidelines and have consultations with NGOs about next steps. She also invited stakeholders to disseminate the concluding observations and explained that a training on the use of Social Funds as well as an interim assessment of the Disability Strategy are already planned.
What are the next steps?
The EU should report within one year on progress achieved in key areas, including the adoption of the long awaited European Accessibility Act. The next review of the EU by the UN Committee is in 4 years, which means that the next EU report on the implementation of the UN CRPD has to be submitted by January 2019.
AGE together with its member organisations will monitor how the Convention is applied by the EU and its Member States. We will look into whether age discrimination affects persons with disabilities, in particular as they reach retirement age and whether in-cash or in-kind benefits are equally available to older people with disabilities. We will work together with the European Commission and the UN Committee on the rights of Persons with Disabilities and call for old age-related recommendations that will ensure that disability rights are applied equally across the life course.
For more information you may contact Nena Georgantzi, Policy Officer, email@example.com