Taking action to advance the human rights of persons with disabilities can take many forms and engage a wide array of actors and institutions. Human rights treaties can effect change in society and be a transformative force with thoughtful advocacy planning, careful implementation of the plan, and ongoing monitoring of progress towards the goals of the plan. Human rights advocacy is now understood to encompass a broad range of tactics in public education, media work, lobbying and political action, legal advocacy, and monitoring.

The vision offered by the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) for national level action is far-reaching and potentially transformative if taken up by States Parties and supported by disabled people’s organizations (DPOs), international development actors, and national human rights institutions and mechanisms. The CRPD not only sets forth a host of general obligations familiar to human rights treaties in prompting national law reform and domestic incorporation of its provisions, but it also provides a framework for a holistic approach to national level disability rights advocacy and action. Moving beyond traditional human rights convention frameworks, it lays out a template for comprehensive action. Thus, in addition to requirements relating to international and national monitoring, the CRPD includes an express mandate for law and policy change, education and awareness-raising, and media work. The CRPD clearly envisages the broadest vision for human rights practice of any human rights treaty. Moreover, the CRPD contains several provisions directed at facilitating implementation, for instance in the area of disability data and statistics gathering.

The two sections in Part 3 provide an introduction to advocacy in support of the rights of persons with disabilities and an overview of monitoring the CRPD. Section 1 identifies the wide array of advocacy methods that can be used to advance the CRPD and discusses the process by which successful advocacy is planned, executed, and evaluated. Section 2 provides an overview of national and international monitoring in the CRPD, as well as an introduction to provisions aiming to support CRPD implementation. As set forth in this section, the CRPD offers an innovative framework for fostering change within participating States Parties at the domestic level. This is a transformation in which persons with disabilities and their advocates have a vital role to play.






The background information contained in this section will enable participants to work towards the following objectives:

· Define advocacy in the context of advancing the rights of persons with disabilities under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD);

· Explain the importance of self-advocacy in achieving the human rights of persons with disabilities;

· Understand the wide variety of advocacy methods that may be used to advance the rights of persons with disabilities; and

· Highlight advocacy strategies to advance the rights of persons with disabilities.




Advocacy is organized action to create positive change. Change in the context of human rights advocacy may include enabling and empowering persons with disabilities to have a voice of their own, supporting disability law or policy change and persuading decision-makers to support the proposed law or policy, gaining and exercising power to exert influence over a particular political action concerning persons with disabilities, or mobilizing citizen action in support of institutional change to advance disability rights. Advocacy usually involves many people and/or organizations working together toward a shared vision for change. Advocacy can be used for many purposes: for personal needs, for the needs of others with disabilities, or for the needs of the disability community as a whole. Advocacy can take place at many levels: locally, nationally, regionally, and internationally.

Taking action on disability rights requires self-advocates – persons with disabilities themselves – to design, implement, and evaluate advocacy efforts. Self-advocates who have lived experience of disability are best placed to ensure that the voice of persons with disabilities is heard through advocacy efforts. It is also the case, as in all human rights advocacy initiatives, that self-advocates must be prepared to work with other human rights and social justice allies in collaboration to ensure that human rights are respected and to effectively create social change.



Awareness of Rights

Awareness of Self

Organized Action


Awareness of Rights

In order to ensure that rights are being upheld, it is first important to understand the rights that persons with disabilities are afforded. The first two parts of this manual review and explain the human rights of persons with disabilities as articulated in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). The rights are set out in the first two parts because it is important for disability rights advocates to first understand the human rights to which persons with disabilities are entitled before they can truly conduct effective human rights advocacy. Such awareness increases consciousness and mobilizes people to take action, to advocate against discrimination, and to fight for the rights to which they are entitled. While having knowledge of the existence of laws or policies is not enough to effect change, possessing an awareness of human rights can also be empowering and inspire people to undertake self-advocacy for the first time.

As discussed in Part 2, persons with disabilities have faced many barriers to equal access and full participation throughout the world. In some countries, disability rights advocates are very aware of these violations because they have a deep understanding of the rights of persons with disabilities and have focused advocacy campaigns on promoting rights. In other countries, there is little awareness about these rights and it is important to develop awareness and understanding to promote equal access and full participation. The content provided in Part 2 is meant to help build awareness of rights and the activities in Part 4 of this manual help further this understanding through participatory learning techniques.

Awareness of Self

Self-knowledge and effective communication are key to becoming a strong self-advocate. Persons with disabilities, like all human rights advocates, need to know their own strengths and needs, as well as have the ability to effectively communicate those needs when advocating for their rights. For example, employees with disabilities need to be able to advocate for reasonable accommodations in the workplace. In order to effectively advocate for reasonable accommodation a person with a disability must know:

· That they are entitled to reasonable accommodation;

· The reasonable accommodations they need to complete job tasks; and

· How to request reasonable accommodations from their employer.

Like any skill, advocacy must be practiced and, as a result, it improves with time.

Organized Action

Awareness alone does not create change. Organized action does and a commitment to undertaking advocacy is essential to taking action. It is important to start with small attainable steps. It is also important to effectively organize advocacy action. Defining advocacy goals, developing an advocacy strategy, making decisions about leadership and coordination, crafting communication and messaging, mobilizing and undertaking advocacy activities, and measuring progress towards goals and objectives are all part of effective, organized advocacy.


Advocacy happens at various levels and encompasses a broad range of strategies and tactics. Advocacy should be understood as a process that very often involves several or even many interrelated actions to effect the change that advocates want to make.



Multi-layered Advocacy by the National Association of the Deaf
to Advance Freedom of Expression and Opinion

The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) has engaged in a number of advocacy tactics designed to increase the accessibility of mainstream media for persons who are deaf or hard of hearing in the United States. NAD advocacy efforts include:

· Working with Congress and the Federal Communications Commission to establish new rules on captioning for television broadcasters, in order to increase the number of captioned television programmes;

· Participating in the Coalition for Movie Captioning (CMC), an umbrella organization of disabled people’s organizations (DPOs) that advocates for movies in theatres to be available with quality captions, including on the day and date of release of new movies;

· Bringing legal complaints against companies who refuse to allow customers to communicate with them via telephone relay – a service that enables people to type over the telephone system, facilitating communication between both persons who are deaf and hearing;

· Advocating that broadcasters and others who provide information in emergency situations ensure that such information is accessible to persons who are deaf or hard of hearing;

· Campaigning for the right of children who are deaf to learn sign language.

Source: National Association of the Deaf, available at:

While human rights advocacy tactics are interrelated and overlap, the following categories are useful in capturing the wide array of tactics that persons with disabilities can utilize to advance their rights:

Public Education Advocacy Action:

· Educating ourselves: gathering the information we need to understand the issue and analyzing what we have learned. For example: holding disability rights education workshops for self-advocates on the CRPD and holding intergroup dialogue within the disability community led by experienced facilitators.

· Educating others: drawing the attention of allies and the general public to an issue that needs to be addressed and showing how we want to create change. For example: implementing a public education campaign about the problem of bullying children with disabilities in schools, holding a disability sporting event at a community centre, or working with a local museum to lead a disability rights-themed tour.

· Changing attitudes: addressing stereotypes and misconceptions about a particular issue and about persons with disabilities generally. For example: using participatory human rights education to educate election officials or teachers about the rights and abilities of persons with disabilities.



Public Education Advocacy in Action: Shudarson Subedi’s Story

Shudarson Subedi founded Nepal Disabled Human Rights Center (DHRC-Nepal) in 2000 to pressure the government to enforce existing laws related to persons with disabilities. He brought a successful case in front of the Supreme Court of Nepal to guarantee free and equal education for persons with disabilities. At the same time, Shudarson has made a concerted effort to draw attention to this victory through the media, so that all persons with disabilities may take advantage of this right. More than 2,000 students with disabilities from all over Nepal who had previously been denied acceptance in schools have received free education after the Court ruling. He also sent letters to the Ministry of Education, who then circulated them to the district and regional education officers, putting everyone on notice that persons with disabilities were not to be denied their right to education.

Shudarson knows that disseminating information is the best way to ensure that rights are enforced; too many persons with disabilities do not realize that they are legally entitled to have access to equal education and employment opportunities despite their disabilities, and too many government officials and employers do not realize that they have a legal obligation to accommodate persons with disabilities. Shudarson initiated a weekly radio program in 2002, broadcasting stories produced by journalists with disabilities. Listeners are encouraged to form “Radio Listener Clubs,” which serve as citizen watchdog groups for the rights of persons with disabilities. There are now more than 170 self-motivated Radio Listener Clubs throughout Nepal. Shudarson has also founded Disability Voice, a monthly journal dedicated to the concerns, issues, and rights of persons with disabilities in Nepal.

Source: Ashoka, “Shudarson Subedi” (2005):



Media Advocacy Action:

· Traditional media: presenting information, such as human rights monitoring results, to the news media to influence public opinion on a disability rights issue and to address policy makers. For example: issuing a press release urging action on a disability rights violation, holding a press conference to highlight abuses in institutions, writing a letter to the editor of a newspaper about a policy proposal.

· Online and social media: presenting information on disability rights issues utilizing the new tools of social media. For example: building coalitions to highlight disability rights issues through Facebook and Twitter or spreading information about a violation through YouTube.

· Media training: presenting information and guidelines to media to improve quality of coverage of disability issues in the media. For example: holding participatory workshops to train journalists on disability rights and the appropriate portrayal of the voice and image of persons with disabilities in the media.

Lobbying and Political Advocacy Action:

· Addressing policy-makers: influencing them to consult with and include the concerns of persons with disabilities when making public policies. For example: holding a public forum with decision-makers run by self-advocates on a proposed public policy.

· Addressing law-makers: lobbying for support and fulfilment of the human rights of persons with disabilities. For example: meeting with legislators to educate and lobby on a proposed disability rights law.

· Addressing public officials: pressuring for enforcement of laws and policies that respect and protect the human rights of persons with disabilities. For example: staging a public demonstration to raise attention on a disability rights issue that is being ignored or neglected.

· Social and community service providers: effectively communicating for service delivery. For example: navigating the service delivery system through communication with bankers, grocers, social workers, and/or medical professionals.

Legal Advocacy Action:

· Creating new law: participating in advocacy for new laws on disability rights and taking part in the drafting of such laws. For example: advocating for comprehensive disability rights legislation consistent with international law, including the CRPD.

· Repealing negative law: taking action to repeal laws that stand in the way of the enjoyment of disability rights. For example: advocating to repeal a discriminatory marriage law that bars persons with disabilities from exercising their right to marry.

· Working to implement disability rights law: taking action to ensure that laws are properly implemented and enforced. For example: highlighting non-compliance with accessibility standards in new building construction, training employers on how to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities, filing a complaint before a court or human rights body alleging violations of the rights of persons with disabilities.


Legal Advocacy in India on Election Access

In 1995, persons with disabilities were guaranteed equal opportunities with the passing of The Disability Act in India. Notwithstanding this development, persons with disabilities were unable to vote because of inaccessible facilities and services. In an unprecedented show of strength, India's disability community demanded the attention of political parties and set out their needs in election manifestos. They convened a “National Convention on political rights of disabled people” in New Delhi, organized by the Disabled Rights Group (DRG). In order to make political parties realize the seriousness of their needs, around 700 people from 17 States of India came together in Delhi and submitted their Charter of Demands to the major national Political Parties. The DRG also appealed to the then-President Dr. A.P.J and a document was presented to the Election Commission outlining the problems faced by voters with disabilities and the solutions to them:

Problem 1: Lack of transport facility disenfranchises millions of voters with disabilities.
Government to issue directive to public transport such as buses to pay special attention to voters with disabilities, giving them enough time to board the buses and allowing them to disembark from the bus as close to the polling booth as possible.

Problem 2: Barriers and barricades put up at the polling booths by security agencies.
Election Commission to issue directive to allow vehicles carrying persons with disabilities to go up to the polling booth. Special stickers can be issued to such vehicles.

Problem 3: Polling booths themselves have steps that are difficult to negotiate.
Provide wooden ramps at polling stations.

Problem 4: Visually impaired voters cannot cast their vote in secrecy and have to take the help of someone.
Print numbers in Braille and stick them on the electronic voting machines.

Problem 5: Hearing impaired voters are harassed because of their invisible disability.
Election Commission to send a firm circular sensitizing their staff about such voters.

On April 19, 2004, the Supreme Court passed an interim order for state governments to provide wooden ramps in all polling booths across the country for the second phase of elections, and without fail in the last two phases on May 5 and May 10. While no special arrangements, such as Braille facilities for persons who are blind, were ordered at that time, the Supreme Court mandated that for all future elections, starting from September 2004, Braille labels giving the names and numbers of candidates should be on all electronic voting machines.

Source: Accessible General Elections in India, “History”:

Advocacy efforts benefit from the collective action of individuals and groups working together to achieve a shared goal. Wise advocates recognize that creating lasting change takes time, especially when old attitudes and habits must be overcome. They plan and commit themselves to a sustainable, long-term effort, but they also set short-term goals and benchmarks.




Planning is an essential part of the advocacy process. There are many ways to think about advocacy planning. The following steps represent one approach:

STEP 1, Define the change you want to make: This step calls for advocates to consider and answer a range of questions, including:

· What are the main issues or barriers to the human rights of persons with disabilities in your community?

· If you could create change surrounding any one of these issues or barriers, which would make the most difference in the lives of persons with disabilities?

STEP 2, Articulate the change you want to make: Once you have a clear vision of the change you want to make, the next step is to develop the skills to communicate your vision articulately and convincingly to others, both potential supporters and opponents. Questions to consider at this stage include:

· How does the problem intersect with other kinds of human rights violations many persons with disabilities experience?

· What group(s) of persons with disabilities does it principally affect?

· What are the possible cause(s) of the problem?

· How does the problem connect to the human rights of persons with disabilities, including specific articles of the CRPD and other human rights documents?

· How does the problem affect the lives of persons with disabilities (and their families where relevant)?

· How will addressing the problem improve the lives of persons with disabilities and the community in general?

· What specific actions should be taken to address the problem?

· How can members of the community get involved in addressing the problem?

STEP 3, Prepare for action and gather information: Once you have articulated the change you want to make, it is important to analyze it in terms of you and your organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, referred to as a SWOT analysis, and to collect relevant information needed to make a sound plan.

The following factors should be considered in a SWOT analysis:

Strengths: Consider strengths from your organization’s and/or your personal point of view and from the point of view of the people with whom you deal.

· What are your advantages?
· What do you do well?
· What do other people see as your strengths?
· What unique resources do you have?

Weaknesses: Again, consider this from an internal and external basis: do other people seem to perceive weaknesses that you do not see? It is best to be realistic now and face any unpleasant truths as soon as possible.

· What do you do poorly?
· What should you avoid?
· Where do you have fewer resources than others?
· What are others likely to see as your weaknesses?


· What are the good opportunities facing you?
· What are the interesting trends of which you are aware?
· Who are your potential allies?


· What obstacles do you face?
· Does your group have all the required skills for the job?
· Do competitors or opponents already exist?

A wide variety of information is required to plan an effective advocacy strategy. Questions to consider include:

· What statistics are available about persons with disabilities in your community, your country, and in the world (such as, their numbers, ages, income levels, etc.)?

· What laws and official policies does your country have that directly affect persons with disabilities?

· Has your country ratified and is thus legally bound to uphold any of the international human rights treaties affecting persons with disabilities?

· Does your country have a national human rights commission and/or a national disability commission?

STEP 4, Make the advocacy plan: Once the initial steps of defining, articulating, and gathering information about the action(s) you wish to take, you are ready to make an action plan. Advocates and their organizations may wish to develop more than one plan, perhaps having one action plan for actions aimed at long term goals and several others for individual, short-term actions. In every case, advocates should include a section on follow-up and evaluation.

STEP 5, Take action: After the advocacy plan is adopted, you are ready to implement the action plan(s) and use the skills and information gained to clearly address social change no matter how small the step. Advocates should allocate a reasonable amount of time to accomplish their goal and set a date to follow-up.

STEP 6, Follow-up: Once a group has begun to take action, it is important to meet regularly to evaluate progress, communicate the successes or challenges faced, and make adjustments, if needed, to the action plan(s). Questions to consider at this stage include:

· Did you follow the action plan?

· What successes did you have?

· What challenges did you encounter?

· Does the plan need to be amended?

· If you met your goal:

o What factors contributed to your success?

o How can you build on this success?

o Should you repeat this strategy?

· If your goal was not met:

o What revisions need to be made to the action plan?

o Does additional research need to be completed?

o Are additional resources needed?

· What are your next steps for action?




Working in partnership with human rights allies is an important part of successful advocacy. Disability rights advocates have a wide range of possible partners with whom to work to effect change. These include, but are by no means limited to, the following groups:

Disabled People’s Organizations (DPOs)

Disabled people’s organizations (DPOs), or groups led by and advocating on behalf of persons with disabilities themselves, represent the core of the disability rights movement. They provide an important environment to practice advocacy skills and promote a sense of belonging, identity, and connection to others who share similar life experiences. Membership in disability organizations may also provide a useful way for persons with disabilities to learn more about their own disability and strategies that others have used to advocate for their rights. For example, persons with the same disability type may benefit from discussing how they developed self-advocacy skills and the reasonable accommodations they request to access different realms of society (such as in education, employment, health, transportation).

Human Rights Organizations

Human rights organizations make natural allies for the disability community and are increasingly engaging in disability rights work or collaborating with DPOs in support of specific disability rights issues. While many human rights organizations may not have extensive experience addressing the rights of persons with disabilities, they can clearly build their capacity on disability rights through collaboration with disability advocates and DPOs.

Parent Groups

Parents and family members of children and young persons with disabilities may benefit from joining a parents group to learn more about their child’s rights. Many parents are not aware of the rights of their child and do not know where to find useful information. Membership in a parents group can help raise awareness and help parents become better advocates for their child. Although parents should learn to advocate for their child, it is important to ensure that their child also learns self-advocacy skills. In too many cases, parents and family members become overprotective and do not allow their children to develop the self-advocacy skills that they will need to live independently in the future.

Student Groups

Student groups at universities have executed some of the most effective advocacy campaigns in various countries. In some instances, students with disabilities have created their own student groups to advocate for disability accommodations. Indeed, such a student group at the University of California in Berkeley helped to launch the American disability rights movement during the 1970s.

National Human Rights Institutions

There are now more than 90 national human rights institutions, many of which focus in particular on the rights of marginalized groups and which make natural allies for the disability community. In addition, there are many specialized national human rights institutions, such as disability commissions, that focus exclusively on disability rights. It is important for disability advocates to put disability rights on the agenda of national human rights institutions and to work in collaboration with them given their role in national human rights monitoring.




· The Advocates for Human Rights, A Practitioner’s Guide to Human Rights Monitoring, Documentation, and Advocacy (January 2011):

o Detailed and highly useful human rights advocacy guide.

· New Tactics Human Rights Project, Center for the Victims of Torture, New Tactics in Human Rights: A Resource for Practitioners (2004):

o Handbook detailing wide array of human rights advocacy tactics.




CRPD Key Provisions to Support Implementation

Article 31, Statistics and data collection

Article 32, International cooperation

CRPD Key Provisions on Monitoring and Implementation

Article 33, National implementation and monitoring

Article 34, Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Article 35, Reports by States Parties

Article 36, Consideration of reports

Article 40, Conference of States Parties





The adoption of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) by countries throughout the world and its entry into force is a major step forward in the global recognition of the human rights of persons with disabilities. It also represents a challenge for States and disability rights advocates alike, whose work is far from finished with the adoption of the CRPD. Like other human rights conventions, the CRPD contains important obligations to ensure that States actually monitor their progress in meeting treaty commitments. States Parties are required to participate in the CRPD’s compliance mechanisms at both the national and international level. The role for civil society organizations, especially disabled people’s organizations (DPOs) and other human rights groups, is to undertake independent monitoring of how well States are doing in complying with the CRPD. Such advocacy can take many forms. The sections that follow provide an overview of CRPD monitoring and implementation requirements and suggest some ideas of where disability advocacy efforts can hold States accountable to their CRPD obligations.




Human rights conventions create both monitoring and implementation obligations that have implications not only for States Parties, but also for non-governmental organizations (NGOs), national human rights institutions, and international organizations, among others.

“Monitoring” in the human rights context refers to the process of tracking or checking to determine if States are, in fact, meeting the specific requirements of the treaty. States are responsible for undertaking their own monitoring activities and, in addition, States must ensure that independent monitoring also occurs, for instance, by a national human rights commission. NGOs also have a critical independent monitoring role as an additional check on State compliance with treaty obligations.

“Implementation” in the human rights context refers to the actual carrying out of treaty obligations. This is the action that must follow a State’s adoption of treaty obligations. In a comprehensive human rights treaty such as the CRPD, implementation encompasses all the processes involved in seeing the obligations of the treaty given effect, including law and policy reform, training, ongoing monitoring, adjusting to new conditions, and ensuring progressive realization of economic, social, and cultural rights.

Articles 31-40 of the CRPD set forth the provisions for monitoring and implementing the treaty. They are designed to facilitate the ways States Parties meet the specific human rights obligations set forth in the CRPD and keep systematic track of how they do so. Some of these implementation tools are new and innovative and represent a progressive development of human rights monitoring mechanisms.

Disability Data and Statistics

The collection and analysis of reliable data on disability and related issues plays a significant role in the development of accurate, useful, and implementable laws and policies to protect and promote the rights of persons with disabilities. CRPD Article 31, Statistics and data collection, requires States to collect appropriate information, including statistical and research data, as a basis for formulating laws and policies relating to the rights of persons with disabilities. The CRPD further requires data collection to comply with legally established standards to ensure confidentiality and respect for privacy, as well as internationally accepted norms to protect rights and ethical principles in the collection and use of statistics.

The CRPD also requires this data to be broken down, or “disaggregated,” in various ways (for example, according to gender, age, geographical location, or disability group) to enable it to be used to assess the effectiveness of implementation efforts in any particular area or with respect to a particular group. The CRPD also requires States to ensure that this information is disseminated to persons with disabilities in accessible formats as well as to other interested persons, in particular through DPOs.


The Committee on the Rights of Persons with
Disabilities on Data and Statistics

The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD Committee) issued the following concluding observations in response to the report of Tunisia:

37. The Committee recommends that the State party systematize the collection, analysis and dissemination of data, disaggregated by sex, age and disability, enhance capacity-building in this regard, and develop gender-sensitive indicators to support legislative developments, policymaking and institutional strengthening for monitoring and reporting on progress made with regard to the implementation of the various provisions of the Convention.

38. The Committee regrets the invisibility of children with disabilities in data related to protection of children.

39. The Committee recommends that the State party systematically collect, analyze and disseminate data, disaggregated by sex, age and disability, on abuse and violence against children.

Source: Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, “Reporting Guidelines”:


International Cooperation and Disability-Inclusive Development

The CRPD has an explicit social development dimension. It recognizes that persons with disabilities often face the risk of poverty and that many of them experience multiple forms of discrimination based on economic or other status. It also acknowledges the importance of addressing the negative impact of poverty on persons with disabilities.

CRPD Article 32, International cooperation, expressly recognizes the importance of international cooperation to support the national efforts of States Parties to effectively implement their obligations. It requires States Parties to cooperate through partnerships with other States, and/or with relevant international and regional organizations and civil society to support national measures to implement the CRPD. The CRPD also expressly recognizes the importance of ensuring that international development programmes include persons with disabilities and thus supports disability-inclusive development processes. This inclusion is critical, given that the vast majority of persons with disabilities live in developing countries in poverty.

Article 32 specifically identifies a range of measures that States can take within the framework of international cooperation, such as:

· Disability inclusion in international cooperation, including international development programmes;

· Capacity building, including through the exchange and sharing of information, experiences, training programmes, and best-practices;

· Research programmes and the facilitation of access to scientific knowledge; and

· Technical and economic assistance, including the facilitation of access to accessible and assistive technologies.


Multilateral and Bilateral Efforts to Advance Disability Inclusive Development

UN General Assembly: In 2008, as part of an ongoing effort to advance disability-inclusive development in its resolutions, the UN General Assembly adopted the resolution “Realizing the Millennium Development Goals for persons with disabilities through the implementation of the World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.”

UN Secretary-General: In 2009 the UN Secretary-General issued a report focusing on the situation of persons with disabilities with respect to the realization of the Millennium Development Goals and on lessons learned and synergies and complementarities achieved, based on the implementation of the World Programme of Action on Disabled Persons, the Standard Rules on the Equalisation of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities, and the CRPD.

UN Secretariat for the CRPD: In collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO), the UN Secretariat for the CRPD organized the Expert Group Meeting on Mainstreaming Disability in Millennium Development Goals Policies, Processes and Mechanisms: Development for All. The meeting, held in 2009, reviewed existing policy frameworks, resources, and tools, as well as mechanisms for mainstreaming disability in Millennium Development Goals processes. It also provided policy recommendations.

The European Commission:
In 2004, the European Commission issued a “Guidance Note on Disability and Development.” This document provides advice to European Union (EU) delegations on how to address disability within the context of development cooperation and explicitly recognizes that poverty reduction goals cannot be met without accounting for the needs of persons with disabilities. It also recognizes that persons with disabilities are not sufficiently included in international development work funded by the EU. The Guidance Note supports:

1. Understanding the scale and impact of disability in the country setting and recognizing the diversity of the population of persons with disabilities;

2. Advocating and supporting the human rights model of disability, as opposed to the charity or medical models;

3. Pursuing a “twin-track approach,” defined as the need to “mainstream disability issues across all relevant programmes and projects and to have specific projects for disabled people”; and

4. Assessing, as part of the mid-term review, the extent to which country programmes are inclusive of persons with disabilities.

The Australian Agency for International Development (AUSAID): In 2009, AUSAID issued “Development for All: Towards a Disability-Inclusive Australian Aid Program 2009-2014,” a strategic plan to advance disability inclusion in development. The process by which it was developed was purposefully participatory, including consultation not only within and among the Australian disability community, but also including the participation of stakeholders in developing countries where AUSAID works. Principles to guide the strategy include:

1. Ensuring an active central role by persons with disabilities;

2. Recognition and respect for rights;

3. Respect and understanding of diversity;

4. Taking the interaction of gender and disability into account;

5. Focusing on children; and

6. Supporting people and partnerships.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID): In November 2004, USAID made the 1997 Disability Guidelines part of USAID policy. The specific objectives of the USAID Disability Policy are:

1. To advance United States foreign assistance program goals by promoting the participation and equalization of opportunities of individuals with disabilities in USAID policy, country and sector strategies, activity designs and implementation;

2. To increase awareness about disability issues within USAID programmes and in host countries;

3. To engage other U.S. government agencies, host country counterparts, governments, implementing organizations, and other donors in fostering a climate of non-discrimination for persons with disabilities; and

4. To support international advocacy for persons with disabilities.


· United Nations General Assembly, “Realizing the Millennium Development Goals for persons with disabilities through the implementation of the World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities,” GA Res A/RES/63/150 (18 December 2008):

· “Disability and the Millennium Development Goals,” Expert Group Meeting on Mainstreaming Disability in Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) policies, processes and mechanisms: Development for All (WHO, Geneva, 14-16 April 2009):

· European Commission (EC), Guidance Note on Disability and Development (July 2004):

· AUSAID, Development for All: Towards a Disability-Inclusive Australian Aid Program 2009-2014 (2008):

· USAID Disability Policy:





The CRPD stands out among the core human rights conventions because it devotes specific language to the issue of national level monitoring. CRPD Article 33, National implementation and monitoring, requires States Parties to establish specific mechanisms at the national level with a view to strengthening implementation and monitoring of the rights of women, men, and children with disabilities. The CRPD requires States to:

· Designate a focal point or focal points within government relating to implementation – in other words, a designated office or other entity that has primary responsibility for overseeing implementation of the CRPD;

· Consider the establishment or designation of a coordination mechanism within government to facilitate related action in different sectors and at different levels; and

· Establish an independent framework, such as a national human rights institution, to promote, protect and monitor the CRPD.

Article 33 further requires that civil society, in particular persons with disabilities and their representative organizations, be involved and participate fully in all aspects of monitoring. DPOs thus have an important role to play in ensuring that they are effectively engaged in monitoring at the national level.

Other mechanisms of national monitoring are also relevant for effective implementation of the CRPD. For example, national courts and tribunals can ensure legal protection of the rights in the CRPD. A national process that monitors a national human rights action plan is also effective for the advancement of disability rights.


National Human Rights Institutions and the CRPD

National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) were deeply involved in the process of drafting the CRPD. NHRI representatives from around the world participated in the negotiations and have worked to promote the CRPD through a wide variety of activities. Through its International Coordinating Committee of National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights (ICC), a representative body of national human rights institutions from all parts of the globe, NHRIs have come together to discuss the CRPD and share lessons learned and country experiences.

Two of these meetings were sponsored by the Harvard Law School Project on Disability, which is actively working with NHRIs from around the world to advance CRPD education and treaty implementation. Other CRPD meetings of NHRIs have been sponsored by the Asia Pacific Forum on NHRIs, an NGO dedicated to strengthening the capacity of NHRIs to advance human rights.


Shadow Reporting by NGOs

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs), such as disabled people’s organizations (DPOs) play an essential role in providing both reliable and independent information to UN bodies, such as the Human Rights Council, a Special Rapporteur, or a treaty body like the CRPD Committee. One method of providing inputs to the CRPD Committee and other treaty bodies is through the submission by an NGO or coalition of NGOs of a shadow report, which supplements, and in some cases counters information provided in the official governmental report. Such additional information is often very useful for treaty bodies, provided it is credible. Other reports may not “shadow” or parallel a government report, but may provide human rights reporting and documentation that is helpful to the treaty body or other UN human rights mechanisms.

While there is no single format for shadow reports to a treaty body, it should:

· Be organized according to the articles of the particular treaty, as a commentary on the State Party’s report; and

· Analyze a particular problem rather than merely describe it.

DPOs may find it useful to produce reports that shadow the entire State report, but this is a labour-intensive process. Instead, a disability organization that works on particular problems might produce reports that merely shadow one or a few articles of a treaty, for example the provisions on violence. It is often helpful for NGOs to work in coalitions to create shadow reports, for example a DPO might collaborate with a women’s human rights NGO in drafting a shadow report on the reproductive rights of women with disabilities, with each organization contributing in the area of their expertise. Working in coalitions is also an effective way to ensure that the particular treaty-monitoring body gains a comprehensive view of a situation in a particular country. Advocates should follow basic ethical guidelines and human rights principles in their preparation of shadow reports, taking care to present accurate information, partnering with local organizations and consulting experts with disabilities, and avoiding conflicts of interest (for example, participating in a shadow report without disclosing close links to a government), among others.




At the international level, the CRPD provides for monitoring through the creation of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD Committee), a group of elected independent experts. Such a committee, known as a treaty body, is a common feature of all core human rights conventions. Treaty bodies all perform important oversight functions, including: the review of periodic reports which States Parties are required to make; engaging in dialogue with States regarding their reports; and issuing concluding observations and recommendations to the State Party.

Although recommendations and concluding observations issued by treaty committees are not legally binding, they carry weight and can often lead to changes in law and policy. Moreover, they provide an important basis upon which NGOs can advocate for human rights implementation.

In addition to its creation of a treaty body, the CRPD also provides for an annual Conference of States Parties (COSP) to consider matters related to the implementation of the CRPD. Attended by representatives of all States that have ratified the CRPD, this conference provides an important opportunity for States to share lessons learned and an excellent opportunity for disability advocates to lobby States on CRPD implementation.

The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

The CRPD mandates the creation of the CRPD Committee. It is composed of 18 independent experts and is responsible for monitoring the implementation of the Convention by States Parties. The CRPD Committee meets twice a year in Geneva and has the following functions, similar to other human rights treaty bodies:

· Examination of periodic reports submitted by States;

· Development of list of questions in response to a State’s report;

· Submission of concluding observations on State reports;

· Formulation of general comments that elaborates on a theme or provides interpretive guidance on treaty provisions;

· Recommendations;

· Consideration of individual communications (as provided under the Optional Protocol, considered in more detail below); and

· Undertaking of inquiries (as provided under the Optional Protocol, considered in more detail below);

Periodic Reporting

Periodic reporting, a mechanism written into most human rights treaties, provides a means of systematically monitoring how States Parties are meeting the obligations they undertook when they ratified a treaty. Reporting under the CRPD is an important tool with which governments, national human rights institutions, and civil society can take stock of the state of enjoyment of human rights of persons with disabilities in a particular Member State. Periodic reporting to the CRPD Committee serves the following functions:

· Provides a vehicle for governments, national human rights institutions, and civil society to understand better the objectives and rights included in the CRPD;

· Gives publicity to the CRPD and the human rights situation of persons with disabilities;

· Provides an opportunity for the reporting State to benefit from the expertise of the CRPD Committee and to open dialogue on advancing implementation of the CRPD;

· Highlights good practices that could be shared with other States Parties;

· Allows governments to benefit from the good practices and experiences of other governments as all periodic reports and concluding observations of Committees are public documents;

· Provides essential guidance to governments, national human rights institutions, and civil society for future action to implement the CRPD, giving an authoritative guide for future legislation, policies and programmes; and

· Highlights areas where a State Party might benefit from international assistance.

Within two years after ratification of the CRPD, each State Party is required to submit to the CRPD Committee an initial comprehensive report on measures taken to implement the treaty and progress to date. The CRPD Committee, like other treaty bodies, has established reporting guidelines to direct States Parties in the preparation of their reports. The initial report should do the following:

· Establish the constitutional, legal, and administrative framework for the implementation of the CRPD, which should include identifying laws that advance the CRPD along with those that have been, or still need to be, modified to advance implementation;

· Explain the policies and programmes adopted to implement each of the CRPD’s provisions; and

· Identify any progress made in the enjoyment of the rights of persons with disabilities as a result of ratification and implementation of the CRPD.

Each State Party must submit subsequent reports at least every four years or whenever the Committee so requests. Subsequent reports should do the following:

· Respond to the concerns and other issues highlighted by the CRPD Committee in its concluding observations in previous reports;

· Indicate progress made in the enjoyment of the rights of persons with disabilities over the reporting period; and

· Highlight any obstacles that the government and other actors might have faced in implementing the CRPD over the reporting period.

Reports may indicate factors and difficulties that States are facing in implementing the CRPD.

States should prepare reports in an open and transparent manner and should consult with and actively involve persons with disabilities and their representative organizations.

The preparation of periodic reports has the following intended effects:

· Encourages governments to undertake a comprehensive review of national law, policies, and programmes on human rights and disability;

· Ensures State Parties regularly monitor the enjoyment of the rights of persons with disabilities;

· Encourages governments to set priorities and indicators by which to judge their performance;

· Provides governments with a benchmark against which subsequent reports may be compared;

· Provides an opportunity for public discussion and scrutiny of the government’s performance; and

· Highlights difficulties in implementation that might otherwise not come to light.

Follow-up to Periodic Reporting

Once the CRPD Committee has considered the report and formulated its concluding observations and recommendations, the Committee may transmit its findings to the various specialized agencies, funds, and programmes of the United Nations for follow-up in the form of technical cooperation. There are many UN agencies whose mandates include activities relevant to the rights of persons with disabilities, such as UNESCO, the International Labour Organization (ILO), the World Health Organization, the UN Development Programme (UNDP), UNICEF, and the World Bank. By engaging these and other organizations, States and the CRPD Committee can help ensure that periodic reporting has an impact beyond the dialogue with the Committee and can lead to sustained improvement in the enjoyment of the rights of persons with disabilities.

Optional Protocol to the CRPD

An optional protocol is an international agreement (treaty) that has a relationship to a “parent” treaty. It introduces procedures and/or addresses issues that the original treaty does not cover. It is called “optional” because States are not required to become parties to the protocol, even if they are party to the parent treaty. Thus a government may have ratified and become a party to the CRPD, but may not have ratified and become a party to the Optional Protocol to the CRPD.

The Optional Protocol to the CRPD introduces two procedures to strengthen implementation of the CRPD:

· An individual communications procedure; and

· An inquiry procedure.

Communications Procedure under the CRPD Optional Protocol

The individual communications procedure permits individuals and groups of individuals whose government has ratified the Optional Protocol to complain to the CRPD Committee that the State has breached one of its obligations under the CRPD. This complaint is known as an “individual communication.”

When the CRPD Committee receives such an individual communication, it will examine the complaint and then formulate its views and recommendations, if any, on the communication and send them to the State in question. Those views and recommendations appear in the CRPD Committee’s public report to the General Assembly. Individual communications procedures are a paper process only - in other words, neither the complainant nor the State appears before the CRPD Committee in person.

Not all communications are admissible. A communication will be considered inadmissible where:

· It is anonymous;

· It is an abuse or incompatible with the provisions of the CRPD;

· The same complaint has already been examined by the CRPD Committee;

· The same complaint has been or is being examined under another international investigations procedure;

· All available domestic remedies have not yet been exhausted – in other words, the complainant has attempted to obtain a remedy through the legal system of the State prior to lodging a complaint at the international level with the CRPD Committee, though if no remedies exist at the domestic level, this requirement may be waived;

· It is ill-founded or not sufficiently substantiated; and/or

· The facts occurred and terminated before the Protocol was valid for State in question.

Inquiry Procedure under the CRPD Optional Protocol

Like some other human rights treaties, the CRPD’s Optional Protocol has a procedure of inquiry that allows the CRPD Committee to initiate investigations regarding “egregious or systematic human rights violations.” In such cases, the CRPD Committee is to call on that State Party to collaborate in an investigation and submit its observations for review. The inquiry is confidential and has to be conducted with the full cooperation of the State concerned.

The CRPD Optional Protocol inquiry procedure mirrors those of other human rights inquiry procedures and proceeds as follows:

· Information is submitted to the CRPD Committee, for example by a DPO or some other non-governmental organization, alleging serious human rights violations;

· The CRPD Committee reviews the information to assess its reliability and whether it does indicate grave or systematic violations of the CRPD;

· The CRPD Committee may invite the State in question to cooperate in the examination of the information, for example, by asking the State to submit its observations on the information received;

· The CRPD Committee reviews any of the State Party’s observations;

· The CRPD Committee reviews other reliable information, for instance, reports received from DPOs;

· The CRPD Committee may choose to designate one or more of its members to conduct an inquiry and report to it on an urgent basis;

· Where the CRPD Committee decides it is warranted, and provided the State concerned gives consent, the inquiry may include a visit to the country by Committee members;

· Following an examination of the findings of the inquiry, the CRPD Committee must transmit the findings and its comments to the State, which has six months to submit its observations to the CRPD Committee;

· After the six month period in which it may submit its observations, the State may be invited to provide details of measures taken to respond to the inquiry and the CRPD Committee may request further information from the State;

· The CRPD Committee will then publish a summary of its findings in its report to the General Assembly and, subject to the agreement of the State concerned, the CRPD Committee may also publish its full report on the inquiry.

It is possible for a State to ratify the Optional Protocol but to “opt-out” of the inquiry procedure. In other words, at the time of signing, ratification, or accession of the Protocol, the State may declare that it does not recognize the competence of the CRPD Committee to undertake inquiries, although it does accept the individual communications procedure. While a State may “opt-out” of the inquiry procedure, all States Parties to the Optional Protocol must accept the individual communications procedure.

Other mechanisms for monitoring the rights of persons with disabilities

Other human rights treaty bodies: There are currently nine human rights treaty bodies like the CRPD Committee. All are composed of independent experts who monitor implementation of the core international human rights treaties. A tenth treaty body, the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture, established under the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, monitors places of detention in States Parties to the Optional Protocol. The treaty bodies are created in accordance with the provisions of the treaty that they monitor. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) supports the work of these treaty bodies and assists them in harmonizing their working methods and reporting requirements through their secretariats.


Human Rights Treaty Monitoring Bodies

There are ten human rights treaty bodies that monitor implementation of the core international human rights treaties:

• Human Rights Committee

• Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

• Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

• Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women

• Committee against Torture

• Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture

• Committee on the Rights of the Child

• Committee on Migrant Workers

• Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

• Committee on Enforced Disappearance


Because all human rights treaties protect the rights of persons with disabilities, the independent committees of all other UN human rights treaties also have a role in monitoring the rights of persons with disabilities within the scope of each specific treaty. For example, the Human Rights Committee has authority to monitor the civil and political rights of persons with disabilities amongst States Parties to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The Committee on the Rights of the Child has the authority to consider the situation of the enjoyment of the rights of children with disabilities under the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).

Universal Periodic Review Process: The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a unique process which involves a review of the human rights records of all 192 UN Member States once every four years. The UN General Assembly created the UPR in 2006 by resolution 60/251, which also established the Human Rights Council itself. The UPR provides the opportunity for each State to declare what actions they have taken to improve the human rights situation in their countries and to fulfil their human rights obligations.

Special procedures: Special Procedures refer to various mechanisms overseen by the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations or thematic human rights issues across the world. These procedures include:

· Individual Experts: An individual special rapporteur, representative, or independent expert appointed by the Human Rights Council and working on a voluntary basis.

· Working Groups: A group of prominent, independent experts working on a voluntary basis and appointed by the Human Rights Council.

The mandates of these Special Procedures typically task the appointed experts or working group to examine, monitor, advise, and publicly report on human rights situations. Some known as country mandates have the responsibility to focus on specific countries or territories. Others, known as thematic mandates, are assigned to monitor major issues of human rights violations worldwide. Currently, there are some 30 thematic mandates and some 8 country mandates. All report to the Human Rights Council on their findings and recommendations. In some cases, these mandates are the only mechanisms that draw the attention of the international community to certain human rights issues. There are opportunities for disability advocates to engage with these special procedures to ensure that the rights of persons with disabilities are being addressed in all of the contexts within which individual experts and working groups work.

CRPD Secretariat Support

Two offices play unique roles in relation to supporting the institutional arrangements of the CRPD. The CRPD Secretariat, located within the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, based in New York City, services the Conference of States Parties to the CRPD. The CRPD Committee is supported by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), based in Geneva, Switzerland.




COMMITTEE ON THE RIGHTS OF PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES (CRPD COMMITTEE): Committee of 18 independent experts responsible for monitoring the implementation of the CRPD by States Parties and for reviewing communications and initiating inquiries under the Optional Protocol to the CRPD.

CONCLUDING OBSERVATIONS: Document prepared by treaty bodies, such as the CRPD Committee, in response to its review of a report submitted by a State Party as part of the process of reviewing a State’s implementation of a human rights treaty.

CONFERENCE OF STATES PARTIES: Meeting of States Parties to the CRPD in which treaty implementation is discussed and to which non-governmental organizations, including disabled people’s organizations (DPOs), national human rights institutions, observer States, and others are invited.

CRPD SECRETARIAT: Refers to the two offices within the United Nations mandated to provide personnel, policy, research, and logistical support to the CRPD Committee and the Conference of States Parties. The CRPD Committee is supported by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Conference of States Parties to the CRPD is supported by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA).

GENERAL COMMENT: Document adopted by a treaty body that sets forth the committee’s understanding of a particular treaty provision or a particular issue covered by the treaty or its methods of work. General comments often seek to clarify the reporting duties of States Parties with respect to certain provisions and suggest approaches to implementation of treaty provisions. Also called "general recommendation" by some treaty bodies.

INDIVIDUAL COMMUNICATIONS PROCEDURE: A procedure allowing an individual or group to lodge a complaint to a treaty body (or other procedure) that alleges human rights treaty violations. Such procedures result in non-binding recommendations in cases of violation.

INQUIRY PROCEDURE: A procedure allowing a treaty body to initiate an inquiry into grave or systemic human rights treaty violations. Such procedures result in non-binding findings and/or recommendations.

OPTIONAL PROTOCOL: Separate treaty that provides States Parties to the parent treaty with the opportunity to participate or “opt in” with regard to procedures set forth in the optional protocol or additional obligations not found in the parent treaty.




· Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities webpage:

· Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Guidelines on treaty-specific document to be submitted by states parties under article 35, paragraph 1, of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities:

· Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, “Monitoring the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability: Guidance for Human Rights Monitors”:

o Concise manual relating to CRPD monitoring.

· UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN-DESA), the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), Handbook for Parliamentarians on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability: From Exclusion to Equality, Realizing the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2007):

o Overview of the CRPD for legislators and others.

· Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos de México, Network of the Americas, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, National Monitoring Mechanisms of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2008).

o Collection of essays on the CRPD within the context of national monitoring mechanisms.

· Gerard Quinn, Keynote Address, “Implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities - The Institutional Architecture for Change,” Jacobus tenBroek Disability Law Symposium, NFB Headquarters Baltimore, Maryland, USA (17 April 2009):

o Analysis of CRPD implementation challenges by leading commentator.

· International Disability Alliance webpage,

· Julie Mertus, The United Nations and Human Rights (2d edition, 2009).

o Excellent introduction to the UN human rights system.

· Michael Ashley Stein & Janet E. Lord, “Monitoring the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: Innovations, Lost Opportunities, and Future Potential,” 32 Human Rights Quarterly 691 (August 2010).

o Detailed consideration of CRPD monitoring mechanisms.

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