Harnessing Universal Accessibility for Just, Equitable, & Diverse Communities

Harnessing Universal Accessibility for Just, Equitable, & Diverse Communities

From June 15th to the 17th, 2021 the United Nations held its 14th Conference of States Parties to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (COSP). The COSP is the official mechanism for review of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), the most swiftly ratified Human Rights Treaty in history. The CRPD represents a global imperative to realize the rights of over 1 billion persons with disabilities around the world and highlights the principle of Accessibility as the precondition to the full enjoyment of the rights enshrined within the Convention.

As part of the commitment and recommendations from the Townhall process, adopted by the World Assembly of Local and Regional Governments in 2019, UCLG co organized and sponsored a high level dialogue for the 2nd consecutive year in the framework of the 14th COSP and in direct partnership with the UN Special Envoy on Accessibility and Disability. The event, held on the 15th of June, was the official launch of the UN Special Envoy’s Campaign “For Inclusive Quality Police Services for Persons with Disabilities.

The event was attended by 120 participants and included high-level representation from HE Ambassador Amil Khan , representative of the President of ECOSOC and the Permanent Mission of Pakistan; HE Ambassador Petri Puhakka, Finnish Ministry of Disability and Representative of the President of the 14th COSP; HE Ambassador Milenko Skoknic, Permanent Mission of Chile to the UN; Maria Soledad Cisternas Reyes, UN Special Envoy on Disability and Accessibility; Samuel Kabue, UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; Emilia Saiz, United Cities and Local Governments; Patricia Morla, Municipality of Villa Carlos Paz; Dr Victor S Pineda, World Enabled; and Ana Lucia Arrellano, International Disability Alliance (IDA).

The session highlighted the importance of equitable access to justice and the need to

·       Combat discrimination in access to justice against by ensuring reasonable accommodations and training programs for law enforcement agencies and employees on reasonable accommodations, in line with the principles of justice and accessibility in the CRPD

·       Ensure accessibility of all police facilities, courts detention facilities and to all information on legal and justice system processes with relevant support persons.

·       Prioritize Articles 12 & 13 of the CRPD, improving and ensuring the legal capacity and autonomy of all persons with disabilities and guaranteeing their recognition as persons in front of the law.

·       Support Local and Regional Governments to play a critical role in rethinking and reshaping police systems, through community policing that unites police and the communities.

·       Tell the lived experience of persons with disabilities, raising awareness on the rights of persons with disabilities to equitably access justice and be employed in the justice system.

·       Have governments at all levels enable quality support systems for persons with disabilities to receive legal aid.

·       Train municipal staff and police on how to respectfully interact with and include persons with disabilities in both judicial and municipal proceedings.

·       Have national governments support and work together with local governments to ensure that Article 13, along with the other rights enshrined in the convention, reach the local level.

The UN Special Envoy further highlighted the value that equitable access to justice plays towards the rule of law and the need for training to go beyond the theoretical, to promote in depth knowledge sharing that directly involves and engages the community. Additionally, persons with disabilities must be able to equitably access employment as police personnel, citing this internal process as essential in the paradigm shift towards inclusion in justice proceedings, to culture and employment.

In addition to the above, UCLG participated in the side event Building Financial Empowerment and Cities for All hosted by New York City’s Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, World Enabled and the Workers Lab. This side event explored the actions of city governments in the United States to promote financial empowerment for persons with disabilities and their families, and the cross department collaborations that support more equity in financial sustainability and employment opportunities. Interventions from New York City and Boston highlighted their youth mentorship and internship initiatives, and financial navigation programs that are directly reducing the poverty and health stresses caused by economic exclusion. Closing the discussion, the Secretary General of UCLG highlighted the importance of embedding care and systemic inclusion at the core of public service provision and policy development to trigger the transformation necessary to take accessibility out of the siloes and into the culture of sustainability.

Aside from the official side events, reference to the UCLG’s message and commitment to equity were transmitted to Member States and the Official COSP Bureau during both the opening and closing speech of the UN Special Envoy, highlighting the critical role of local and regional governments towards the realization of the CRPD and universal accessibility.

As part of the commemorations of the CoSP14 the Mayor of Villa Carlos Paz and member of the UCLG Community of Practice on Inclusive and Accessible Cities signed the Global Compact on Inclusive and Accessible Cities reaffirming his and the municipalities’ commitment to the CRPD and determination to remove all barriers, whether attitudinal, communicational, social and architectural.

As the strategic dialogue within the COSP mechanism continues to grow, next year’s 15th session of the COSP presents an important opportunity to bring the voice and presence of local and regional governments further into the recommendations and review of the implementation of the CRPD.