Evidence is emerging that persons with disabilities are being disproportionately affected by the Coronavirus pandemic and emergency measures being taken by governments worldwide. As governments rush to respond to the virus, it is more critical than ever to guarantee that measures taken are fully inclusive of persons with disabilities and prevent human rights violations from taking place.
With the endorsements of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, Mr Dainius Pūras, and the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Ms Catalina Devandas Aguilar, a coalition of six disability rights organisations is today launching a major international monitoring initiative entitled “COVID-19 Disability Rights Monitor” to conduct rapid independent monitoring of state measures concerning persons with disabilities. The first element of this global initiative is the launch of two surveys requesting official information from governments and requesting the testimonies of persons with disabilities and their representative organisations. The surveys aim to collect information about what states are doing to protect core rights of persons with disabilities including the rights to life, access to health and essential services.
Beyond this, the initiative seeks to highlight the particular issues faced by persons with disabilities in situations of heightened vulnerability, including those living in institutions and their own homes, children, older persons, those who are homeless and people in rural settings.
A new website has been created to host the surveys at https://covid-drm.org. It will soon contain a dashboard to make the data collected publicly available. Surveys are being made available in fifteen languages initially. It is expected that the information collected will identify common issues facing persons with disabilities worldwide, providing valuable information to inform policy measures at national and global levels, and will highlight promising practices which can strengthen the protection of disability rights during crises.
Endorsing the initiative, Mr Pūras said: “The COVID-19 pandemic and emergency measures taken by States around the world raise many challenges and concerns with regard to persons with disabilities, especially for those in residential care. Measures undertaken to stop the spread of virus may increase risks that the human rights of these people are violated. In such situations, when closed institutions are becoming even more closed, the need for independent monitoring becomes more important than ever before.”
In her endorsement, Ms Devandas Aguilar said: “The COVID-19 pandemic represents a threat to the lives of people with disabilities. COVID-19 is hitting hard in our community, feeding on and deepening the historical and structural discrimination against people with disabilities. Social care institutions, nursing homes and psychiatric facilities, where people with disabilities are often institutionalised or detained against their will, have become hotspots of the pandemic, accounting for half of the fatalities in some countries. Governments across the world must act fast to guarantee that all COVID-19 responses are accessible and disability-inclusive.”
The initiative is being implemented by a Coordinating Group comprised of leading disability rights organisations worldwide who will work closely with their networks to build a comprehensive global picture.
Members of the Coordinating Group:
- The Validity Foundation – Mental Disability Advocacy Centre is an international non-governmental human rights organisation which uses legal strategies to promote, protect and defend the human rights of persons with intellectual disabilities and persons with psychosocial disabilities in Europe and Africa. Validity holds special consultative status with ECOSOC and participatory status at the Council of Europe. Website: www.validity.ngo.
- The European Network on Independent Living (ENIL) is an international network of disabled people, with members throughout Europe. ENIL is a forum for all disabled people, Independent Living organizations and their non-disabled allies on the issues of Independent Living. ENIL represents the disability movement for human rights and social inclusion based on solidarity, peer support, deinstitutionalization, democracy, self-representation, cross disability and self-determination. Website: www.enil.eu
- The International Disability Alliance (IDA) is an Alliance of 14 global and regional organisations of persons with disabilities. Together, the IDA Members promote the rights of persons with disabilities across the United Nations’ efforts to advance human rights and sustainable development. IDA supports organisations of persons with disabilities to hold their governments to account and advocate for change locally, nationally and internationally. Website: http://www.internationaldisabilityalliance.org
- Disability Rights International (DRI) is a human rights advocacy organization dedicated to the protection and full community inclusion of children and adults with disabilities worldwide. DRI documents human rights violations, educates and engages the public through media campaigns, trains and supports activists working to bring change, and conducts strategic litigation to enforce the rights of people with disabilities. DRI’s Worldwide Campaign to End the Institutionalization of Children is dedicated to promoting the recognition and enforcement of the right of all children to live and grow up with a family and not in any form of institution, orphanage, or group home. DRI is an organization led by people with disabilities and their families. Website: www.driadvocacy.org.
- The Disability Rights Unit at the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, is committed to finding evidence-based ways of addressing the rights of persons with disabilities on the African continent. This includes conducting research on international disability rights standards and instruments, building capacity among governments, national human rights institutions, academia, civil society and communities, and engaging with judicial, quasi-judicial and non-judicial redress mechanisms. Website: www.chr.up.ac.za/units/disability-rights-unit.
- The International Disability and Development Consortium (IDDC) is a global consortium of 31 disability and development non-governmental organisations (NGOs), mainstream development NGOs and representative organisations of persons with disabilities (DPOs) supporting inclusive international development and humanitarian action with a special focus on the full and effective enjoyment of human rights by all people with disabilities in more than 150 countries around the world. Website:www.iddcconsortium.net.