Brief outline of the Concluding Observations

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Brief outline of the Concluding Observations

In 2015, the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN treaty body for the CRPD) examined Germany with respect to the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD) for the first time. Following the session in which it conducted the review in Geneva, the body of independent experts drew up its "Concluding observations on the implementation in Germany". This document, which brought the review procedure to a close, uncovers and identifies problems, raises points of criticism and formulates recommendations for Germany.

The National CRPD Monitoring Mechanism has analysed and evaluated the Concluding Observations:

General structure of the Concluding Observations

After a brief section highlighting positive aspects of the implementation in Germany (see paragraph 4), the Committee raises a great many points of concern and formulates recommendations on how Germany should improve CRPD implementation, noting particular aspects it should take into account in doing so (paragraphs 5–62). In the final section of the document, the Committee discusses measures to be taken to follow up on and disseminate the Concluding Observations (paragraphs 63-67).

Summary of the recommendations

Among other actions, the Committee recommends that Germany do the following:

  • Draw up human-rights based action plans and set human-rights based measures (paragraph 8(b))
  • Develop transparent and inclusive frameworks facilitating the participation of persons with disabilities(paragraph 10)
  • Examine existing laws and regulations with regard to whether they are in line with the UN CRPD and ensure that future laws and regulations are in line with the Convention (paragraph 12(a),(b))
  • Develop protection against discrimination as a “comprehensive, cross-cutting right” (paragraph 14(a))
  • Enshrine reasonable accommodation provisions as an “immediately enforceable right” in the law (paragraph 14(b))
  • Improve the protection of women and girls, particularly migrant and refugee women and girls, against discrimination (paragraph 16(a));
  • Develop a strategy to eliminate discrimination and raise awareness, and ensure that it involves the media (paragraph 20(a))
  • Extend accessibility (freedom from barriers) in all sectors, including the private sector (paragraph 22(a)); this specifically includes, but is not limited to, access to justice (paragraph 28(a))
  • Eliminate all forms of substituted decision-making in the context of legal guardianship and set up forms of supported decision-making in their place (paragraph 26(a))
  • Legally prohibit the sterilisation of adults with disabilities without the free and informed consent of the individual (paragraph 38(a))
  • Improve the protection of the mental and physical integrity of intersex children (paragraph 38(d))
  • Scale down the numbers of segregated schools in the interests of an inclusive society (paragraph 46(b))
  • Repeal laws and regulations that deprive persons with disabilities of the right to vote (paragraph 53)
  • Develop an approach and framework that will ensure that all aspects of German development cooperation – whether in relation to partner countries or to international organisations – are consistently inclusive (paragraph 60)
  • Establish institutional structures (known as focal points) in all Länder and reinforce the independence of the commissioners for matters relating to disabled persons of the Länder (paragraph 62)

Elements raised in the recommendations that are relatively new with respect to the discussion in Germany are an inclusive emergency call system and disaster risk reduction (paragraph 24), as well as the strong emphasis on the perspective of persons with migration backgrounds and refugees.

Major focuses of the recommendations

With regard to inclusion, the Committee called on Germany to make it easier for persons with disabilities to live independently in their communities (paragraph 42(b)) rather than retain dual structures in the spheres of education, housing and employment. This specifically includes but is not limited to scaling down the number of segregated schools (paragraph 46(b)) and gradually phasing out sheltered workshops in favour of employment in the primary labour market (paragraph 50(b)).

The Committee devotes particular attention to protection of the right to integrity of the person. It calls for strengthening protections against violations of physical and mental integrity for women and girls (paragraph 36), older persons in long-term care (paragraph 34), and intersex children (paragraph 38(d)). The rights of persons with psychosocial disabilities and the structural prerequisites for inclusion are major focuses in the document as a whole though.

More than one of the recommendations testify to the Committee’s concern that Germany is having difficulty respecting the rights of persons with psychosocial disabilities. The Committee recommends banning the use of physical and chemical restraints in institutions for persons with disabilities (paragraph 34(b)), for example. It also points out that psychiatric treatments and services must always be performed on the basis of free and informed consent (paragraph 38(b), supported by paragraph 48).

What happens next?

In April 2016, Germany is required to submit information on measures taken to implement the Committee's recommendations to strengthen protection of women and girls against violence (paragraph 36). Germany is be expected to submit its next periodic report by no later than 24 March 2019 (paragraph 67).

Final assessment of the National CRPD Monitoring Mechanism

The Committee's Concluding Observations elucidate the wide range of tasks that Germany must tackle to continue implementing the rights of persons with disabilities in a consistent manner. The Committee succeeds in this context in taking due account of the complexity of German federalism, while also addressing the different levels of government – federal, Länder and local authorities – and identifying activities associated with the three different branches of government (legislative, executive and judiciary).

The wide-ranging character of state obligations makes it clear that implementation of the rights of persons with disabilities is a task for every domain of state authority.

The Concluding Observations provide Germany with an excellent opportunity to clarify social policy issues that have been the subject of controversy here in recent years. The Committee's recommendations constitute the basis and the framework for guiding policy and state action in the coming years.

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