Questions and answers about the 2015 Government response
Does the Government have to make a formal response to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities?
It is usual practice for the Government to respond to any recommendations from a United Nations human rights treaty examination in the next progress report on implementing the treaty. In this case, the next progress report on implementing the Convention is due in approximately 2017/2018.
However, the Government has considered that providing a response earlier will inform the development of the Disability Action Plan and a proposed review of the New Zealand Disability Strategy. It will also be useful to inform future progress reporting.
Responding early is also a demonstration that New Zealand takes seriously its obligations to implement the Convention as an ongoing process and not just as compliance reporting every four years.
What is the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities?
The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is a body of 18 international experts that monitor the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The majority of the members are disabled people. The Committee was established under Article 34 of the Convention. For more information on the Committee, please refer: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/CRPD/Pages/CRPDIndex.aspx.
What are the Concluding Observations?
Every country that has ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has to submit a report to and meet with the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities every four years. After each meeting, the Committee releases Concluding Observations, or recommendations, to the Government of that country.
What is the Independent Monitoring Mechanism?
The Independent Monitoring Mechanism was established by the Government in 2010 to fulfil obligations under Article 33 (National implementation and monitoring) of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. It is made up of the Human Rights Commission, Office of the Ombudsman and the Convention Coalition Monitoring Group (a group of Disabled People’s Organisations that undertake research on the lives of disabled people). The have released two reports monitoring the Government’s progress implementing the Convention. For more information on the Independent Monitoring Mechanism, including its reports, go to: http://www.hrc.co.nz/your-rights/people-disabilities/our-work/making-disability-rights-real/
What did the Committee and Independent Monitoring Mechanism commend the Government on?
The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Independent Monitoring Mechanism commended the Government on the development of the Disability Action Plan 2014 – 2018, establishment of the New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) Board and Fund and that NZSL is one of our official languages. The Committee also welcomed the increase in captioning in the media and the cinema, work underway to increase opportunities for disabled people to attend universities and tertiary institutions and the introduction of telephone dictation voting for the 2014 election. The establishment of the Independent Monitoring Mechanism was also commended.
Why is the Government responding to both the Concluding Observations and the Independent Monitoring Mechanism recommendations?
The Independent Monitoring Mechanism has produced two monitoring reports (2012 and 2014). These include a number of recommendations. The previous Minister for Disability Issues acknowledged these reports, however there has been no formal Government response. Due to the significant overlap in the recommendations from the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Independent Monitoring Mechanism, Cabinet agreed to consider the Government responses to both recommendations at the same time.
This approach was discussed with, and was supported by, the Independent Monitoring Mechanism.
What are the key themes from the recommendations from the United Nations Committee and the Independent Monitors?
There are many similarities between the recommendations made by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Independent Monitoring Mechanism. Key themes running throughout the recommendations are:
- improving access
- justice and self-determination
- community living
- providing reasonable accommodations
- improving data for decision making.
The Government responses have been organised according to these key themes.
How were the responses developed?
The Office for Disability Issues coordinated development of the Government responses. Each government agency involved was responsible for developing the response to recommendations within their area of responsibility. The responses were considered by the Ministerial Committee on Disability Issues on 31 March 2015 and the Cabinet Social Policy Committee on 20 May 2015. The seven national Disabled People’s Organisations and the Independent Monitoring Mechanism had an opportunity provide input into the Government responses. The Government responses were approved by Cabinet on 25 May 2015.
How were Disabled People’s Organisations and the Independent Monitoring Mechanism consulted on the Government responses?
The Government has an obligation under Article 4.3 of the Conventions on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to ensure that disabled people, through their representative organisations, are included in decision-making that concerns them. As such, the seven national Disabled People’s Organisations were provided an opportunity to provide information regarding key priorities across all the Concluding Observations and the Independent Monitoring Mechanism recommendations. The Independent Monitoring Mechanism was also provided the same opportunity, as it was specifically established to provide advice to the Government on implementation of the Convention. Both the Disabled People’s Organisations and the Independent Monitoring Mechanism had an opportunity to discuss some of the recommendations that the Government was not planning to agree to prior the response being approved.
Why can’t the Government agree to progress some recommendations at this stage?
Each response was carefully considered by the Government. In some areas, there is already work underway either directly or closely related to a recommendation. In some cases, there may be an alternative proposal to achieve the underlying issue than proposed in a recommendation. In other cases, the Government has a different interpretation of an issue to the wording and/or the proposition of a recommendation.
How will the Government responses be implemented?
For those Concluding Observations or recommendations that are noted as ‘in progress’, the responsible government agency will lead implementation. Some of the responses note that the issues will be considered during the update of the Disability Action Plan 2014 – 2018 over the coming months. These responses will be considered alongside other submissions from the disability sector by the Disability Action Plan governance mechanism (which is made up of government agencies and Disabled People’s Organisations). Decisions regarding the update will be made by Ministerial Committee on Disability Issues.
What will result from the Government responses?
The Government responses will inform the update of the Disability Action Plan, which sets out priorities for cross-government action impacting on disabled people. As well, the Government responses will inform the planned review of the New Zealand Disability Strategy, and influence the government agencies own business-as-usual.
In addition, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, as well as the Independent Monitoring Mechanism, will hold government agencies publicly to account through their respective monitoring and reporting.
How will reporting on action to implement the Government responses be made?
The annual report to Parliament from the Minister for Disability Issues on implementing the New Zealand Disability Strategy is the main vehicle for reporting progress with implementation of the Government responses. The Government is also required to report to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities every four years on implementation of the Convention and its Concluding Observations.
When happens next with reporting on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities?
The Government has accepted an offer for simplified reporting by the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This means that the second progress report, which was due in 2014, and the third progress report, due in 2018, will be combined and submitted in 2018. The combined 2018 report will be a response to a List of Issues (or questions) from the Committee which it is expected to release in 2017. The Committee develops the List of Issues following submissions from civil society organisations (for example, Disabled People’s Organisations, other NGOs, and the Independent Monitoring Mechanism).
The offer of simplified reporting from the Committee is to address the backlog it faces in considering each country’s report and meeting with the country during the examination process. For example, New Zealand submitted its first progress report in 2011 but did not get the opportunity to meet with the Committee until 2014. For more information about simplified reporting, go to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/CRPD/Pages/Simplifiedreportingprocedure.aspx.
How was New Zealand examined by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities?
New Zealand submitted its first report in March 2011 and was examined by the Committee in Geneva on 15 and 16 September 2014. There was a delay between the submission of the report and consideration due to a backlog in considering countries’ reports.
New Zealand was represented in Geneva by a delegation comprised of senior officials from the Ministries of Social Development, Education, Health, Business, Innovation and Employment, and Foreign Affairs and Trade, as well as the ACC and Crown Law. The head of the delegation was the New Zealand Permanent Representative to United Nations based in Geneva.
The Disability Rights Commissioner from the Human Rights Commission, Paul Gibson, also attended and provided opening and closing statements as part of the examination. The Office of the Ombudsman also represented.
In addition, there was significant representation from civil society organisations, with representatives from Disabled People’s Organisations, the Convention Coalition Monitoring Group and ACCLAIM Otago. They submitted a number of shadow reports and met with the Committee in a private session before New Zealand’s examination.
The Committee released its Concluding Observations of 34 recommendations on 3 October 2014.
How many disabled New Zealanders are there?
About 1.1 million New Zealanders experience some kind of disability according to the 2013 Disability Survey undertaken by Statistics New Zealand.
The definition of disability includes anyone with an impairment that has a long-term, limiting effect on a person’s ability to carry out day-to-day activities. ‘Long-term’ is defined as six months or longer. ‘Limiting effect’ means a restriction or lack of ability to perform.
People were not considered to have a disability if an assistive device (such as glasses or crutches) eliminated their impairment.
What is the relationship between the Convention and the New Zealand Disability Strategy?
The Convention sets out specific instructions to countries on what needs to be done to ensure disabled people can enjoy and exercise rights on an equal basis with others. It does not create any new or special rights. Instead, the Convention provides an understanding that a different way of thinking and doing may be necessary to achieve equality of opportunity for disabled people.
What is the Disability Action Plan?
The Disability Action Plan 2014-2018 sets out strategic priorities that the Ministerial Committee on Disability Issues expect to see progressed over the four year period. It is centred on what disabled people say matters the most to them, with the vision of “All New Zealanders experience equal rights of citizenship”. It follows the example of Better Public Services by focusing on cross-sectoral collaboration to achieve four shared results, which require government agencies to work together with Disabled People’s Organisations, other disability sector organisations and other entities with relevant expertise:
- increase employment and economic opportunities
- ensure personal safety
- transform the disability support system
- promote access in the community.
There is a governance and implementation arrangement in place to support the new way of working together, support and coordinate implementation, and monitor progress. As with previous plans, reporting on progress will be included in the Minister for Disability Issues' annual report to Parliament.
More information is available at: [Link to disability action plan]
What does reasonable accommodation mean?
‘Reasonable accommodation’ is the provision of modifications or adjustments that enable disabled people to participate on an equal basis with non-disabled people, without putting an undue or unreasonable burden on the provider. This covers all areas of life including employment, education and to access to goods and services. The Human Rights Act 1993 is the main basis requiring reasonable accommodation to be provided in New Zealand.
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