Professor McCallum is held in high regard by CRPD Committee members and this was evident when he was elected as one of the three new Vice-Chairs of the Committee. The new CRPD Committee officer bearers are:
- Ms Maria Soledad Cisteras Reyes (Chile) – Chair
- Professor Ron McCallum (Australia) – Vice-Chair
- Ms Theresia Degener (Germany) – Vice-Chair
- Mr Carlos Rios Espinosa (Mexico) – Vice-Chair
- Mr Martin Mwesigwa Babu (Uganda) – Rapporteur
Following the CRPD Committee elections, the meeting agenda commenced with reports from the CRPD Secretariat, from UN agencies such as UNICEF, WHO, and the International Telecommunications Union, from the International Disability Alliance and from other non-government organisations, such as Human Rights Watch.
During lunch the DPOs from Paraguay conducted a side-event on their key issues of concern for people with disability in Paraguay and CRPD Committee members were able to ask questions directly of the DPOs about their concerns. This was followed by the interactive dialogue or the review of Paraguay by the CRPD Committee. Representatives of the Paraguay government provided information and were asked questions by the CRPD Committee about their progress in implementing the CRPD.
During the day, representatives of the Australian CRPD Parallel Report Group, Therese Sands and Damian Griffis were taking the opportunity to meet CRPD Committee members and discuss key issues for people with disability in Australia.
Here is a summary of the activities from Therese and Damian:
“During meeting session breaks, Damian and I were able to approach CRPD Committee members and introduce ourselves. We were able to have a 20 minute lunchtime meeting with the new Vice-Chair of the Committee, Ms Theresia Degener
. She was very interested to know about the issues for people with disability in Australia and stated that she thought that the Australian parallel or shadow report, Disability Rights Now
was a very useful resource. She also indicated that many on the CRPD Committee view Australia as having a very good human rights record and that it would be important for Committee members to understand our concerns.
We spoke about key areas of concern such as the ongoing practice of forced sterilisation, the use of harmful or restrictive practices in schools, the higher levels of poverty and the lower levels of employment compared with other OECD countries. We highlighted the difficulties in people with disability using anti-discrimination legislation and the recent delay in consolidating this legislation and the implications of the interpretative declarations made by the government under Articles 12, 17 and 18.
We also spoke about the specific challenges and issues for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples with disability and those from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.
We briefly meet with the CRPD Committee member who is the Rapporteur for the review of Australia, Ms Edah Wangechi Maina from Kenya. Her main interest was regarding Australia’s position on Article 12, the specific substitute-decision making system in Australia and the effect of mental health laws. We hope to have a follow-up meeting with Ms Maina later in the week.
We were also pleased to personally congratulate Professor McCallum on his appointment as Vice-Chair of the CRPD Committee. Professor McCallum is unable to discuss our issues regarding Australia as he would have a conflict of interest if he did so.
Later in the afternoon, we were able to meet with Mr Phil Lynch
, the Director of the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
. ISHR supports human rights defenders to use the UN human rights system. We talked about the work of the Australian CRPD Parallel Report Group and the role ISHR could play to assist the Group, particularly during the review of Australia in September. We were very grateful for his offer to use office space, computers and printers to facilitate our work during this and the September review.”
Tuesday 16 April:
- 10am -1pm – Review of Paraguay (cont'd)
Wednesday 17 April:
- 12-1pm – Half day of general discussion on women and girls with disabilities
- 1.15 - 2.45pm – IDA & Disability Rights Fund side event on indigenous women and girls with disabilities
- 3-6pm – Half day of general discussion on women and girls with disabilities (cont'd)
Geneva is eight hours behind Australian Eastern Standard Time.
On behalf of the Australian CRPD Report Project Group