UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (Disability Rights Convention, UN CPRD) is an international treaty in which the signatory states commit themselves to promote, protect and guarantee the rights of people with disabilities.
The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has been in force in Austria since 26 October 2008. It has to be taken into account in legislation and its enforcement (administration and judicature).
Optional Protocol (additional voluntary commitment)
In addition to the UN CRPD, Austria has also signed the additional protocol. This grants individuals and groups the opportunity to submit an individual complaint to the UN Disability Rights Committee in Geneva.
In the course of implementing the Optional Protocol of the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT), since July 2012 the Ombudsman’s Office and its commissions has also been entrusted with the task of preventing the exploitation, violence and abuse of people with disabilities (Article 16 para. 3 of the Convention).
To this end, it efficiently monitors all institutions and programmes for people with disabilities, such as long-term stay facilities for people with disabilities or psychosocial issues, as well as day centres for disabled persons (mechanism to prevent violence). A human rights committee has been established by the Ombudsperson’s Office as an advisory body.
General comments of the UN committee
The UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities publishes general comments on fundamental questions of the interpretation and understanding of the UN CRPD.
General comments of the UN Committee can be viewed on its website.
The German Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs has created German versions of the general comments which can also be viewed online.
Implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Austria
With regard to the national implementation and monitoring of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the following points have to be fulfilled according to Article 33 of the UN CRPD:
- the establishment of one of more state ‘focal points’ for issues related to the implementation of the UN Disability Rights Convention;
- the creation or definition of a state coordination mechanism which is designed to facilitate the realisation of the relevant measures in various areas and at various levels, and
- the creation of an independent mechanism to promote, protect and monitor the implementation of the Convention.
In Austria, the federal government’s focal point is the Ministry of Social Affairs. The provinces have established their own focal points for their sphere of responsibility in accordance with Article 33 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
The coordination work in relation to the implementation of the UN CRPD is carried out via the Ministry of Social Affairs. Particular attention is paid to the required involvement of civil society (participation).
There has been a federal monitoring mechanism – the Monitoring Committee – since December 2008 (Sections 13g ff Federal Disability Act). The provinces have also established monitoring committees for their sphere of responsibility.
The Monitoring Committee
The Austrian Monitoring Committee is an independent body which monitors adherence to the UN CRPD in matters which are federal issues in terms of legislation and enforcement (administration and jurisdiction).
Tasks of the Monitoring Committee
The Monitoring Committee
- can obtain statements from bodies of the administration in individual cases;
- issues recommendations and statements regarding the rights of people with disabilities in relation to matters in the field of the UN CRPD;
- regularly provides reports to the Minister of Social Affairs on its consultations, and
- is in an ongoing process of dialogue with civil society in matters relating to the UN CRPD.
Structure of the Monitoring Committee
The members of the committee are:
- Four representatives of organisations of people with disabilities (and one stand-in for each member)
- A representative of an NGO from the field of human rights (and one stand-in)
- A representative of an NGO from the field of development cooperation (and one stand-in)
- A representative of academia (and one stand-in).
The Ministry of Social Affairs and the ministry affected in the respective case or executive body of the federal administration affected in individual cases (only in an advisory capacity).
Monitoring of the signatory states: Country reports
Austria sent its first Country Report to the United Nations in October 2010, in which it assessed the first two years since the coming into effect of the Convention in Austria.
The so-called periodic review of Austria took place in September 2013 in Geneva. This was the first official dialogue between the UN Disability Rights Committee and an Austrian delegation made up of representatives of the ministries and the provinces.
On the basis of the first Austrian Country Report on the implementation of the UN Disability Rights Convention, the answers to a list of open issues in June 2013, and the first periodic review, on 30 September 2013 the committee published some concluding observations containing a total of 58 points and 23 recommendations.
Until Austria’s next country report – presumably in 2020 – these 24 UN recommendations should be have been implemented.
Legal opinion: Austria’s obligations arising from the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
The University of Innsbruck was commissioned by the Ministry of Social Affairs to draw up a legal opinion on the question of obligations have arisen for Austria due to the ratification of the UN Disability Rights Convention.
Austria’s obligations were examined with regard to international law, constitutional law and general law on the basis of important provisions of the Disability Rights Convention.
The legal opinion on Austria’s obligations arising from the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is available for download.