is an honour to open this seminar on the United Nations Convention on the
Rights of Persons with Disabilities, with focus on the best practices on how to
promote, implement and monitor the Convention.
Convention entered internationally into force on 3 May 2008. It is a major
milestone in the effort to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal
enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms of persons with
obstacles, attitudes and lack of knowledge on the rights of persons with
disabilities have created barriers for the fulfillment of their rights and
their equal participation to society.
Convention views persons with disabilities as ”subjects” with rights,
who are capable of claiming those rights and making decisions for their lives
based on free and informed consent and being active members of society rather
than as “objects” of social protection or medical treatment.
Convention clarifies the obligations and duties of States to respect and ensure
the equal enjoyment of all human rights by all persons with disabilities.
you are all aware, Finland has not yet ratified the Convention but is on a
process of doing so. Finland signed the Convention and its Optional Protocol on
30 March 2007. The intention is to ratify both of them before the end of this year.
speed up the ratification, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs set up an
interdepartmental working group in May 2011 to prepare a report, including a
draft for a Government Bill. The working group consisted of members
representing the relevant authorities and civil society, including disability
organisations. The working group finished its work by the end of 2013, after
which the draft Government Bill was disseminated for further comments to
relevant authorities and civil society organisations. Furthermore, the draft
was published on the Ministry for Foreign Affairs’ web page in order for anyone
interested to be able to access the document and to submit comments of it. Nearly
60 statements were received from different stakeholders.
the draft is being finalized taking into account both the information received
from these statements and the on-going legislation reform processes. The
intention is to submit the Government Bill to the Parliament by autumn.
has the ratification process taken time?
fulfilling its international obligations, Finland aims primarily at harmonizing
its national legislation to be in accordance with the treaty in question.
the said working group identified the necessary measures to be taken before the
ratification of the Convention. Those relate mainly to the new provisions on
the right to self-determination that are being prepared by the Ministry of
Social Affairs and Health. Furthermore, some provisions are related to the
current reform of the non-discrimination legislation. The Government Bill for
the new non-discrimination legislation was submitted to the parliament in
April. Earlier legislative amendments to the Municipality of Residence Act and
the Social Welfare Act concerned the right of persons with disabilities in need
of institutional or residential care to move from one municipality to another. By
harmonizing our legislation, we are in a better position to have a real impact
on the rights of persons with disabilities.
the mere changes to the legislation are not enough. We have to ensure that the
rights of the persons with disabilities are protected also in practice. The
Convention affirms the duty of the States to enact for the promotion and
protection of the rights of persons with disabilities not only at governmental
level but also at regional and local levels. Seminars like the present one are
a very good way of raise the awareness of the Convention among all the
stakeholders on all levels. Awareness-raising is key in promoting the rights of
persons with disabilities.
on to the promotion, protection and monitoring of the Convention and its Article
33 which provides that “States Parties shall maintain, strengthen, designate or
establish within the States Party, a framework, including one or more
independent mechanisms, as appropriate, to promote, protect and monitor
implementation of the Convention”.
has not yet designated such a mechanism since the ratification process is not
completed. However, the aforementioned working group suggested that the
mechanism should be designated to our National Human Rights Institution which
is comprised of the Human Rights Centre and its subordinate Human Rights
Delegation as well as of the Parliamentary Ombudsman. All the statements
received by the Ministry on the draft Government Bill were supportive of this approach.
Indeed, it is important to ensure the full participation of the persons with
disabilities and their representative organizations to the monitoring process
of the Convention.
Finland, we have a well-established practice to cooperate and involve civil
society in all stages of reforming legislation. Also in our reporting practice
regarding our human rights treaty obligations, we encourage the civil society
to actively participate in the reporting process. Usually, when a periodic
report is prepared, civil society is asked to provide written views on the
information to be included in the report. In addition, the interested civil
society representatives are invited to attend a discussion on the draft report
before its finalisation.
organisations of persons with disabilities have actively participated in
international processes related to the human rights of persons with
disabilities, in particular in relation to the drafting of the present Convention.
of persons with disabilities and the National Council on Disability have also
been consulted on the legislative amendments needed for the ratification of the
Convention. In addition to the representatives of the public administration and
the local and regional authorities, the National Council on Disability (VANE),
the Finnish Disability Forum and the Centre for Human Rights of Persons with
Disabilities (VIKE) were represented in the working group set up to outline the
measures necessitated by the ratification of the Convention and its Optional
more example of a good practice is the participation of persons with
disabilities in a Disability Coordination Group established by our Ministry.
The purpose of the Coordination Group is to enable the Ministry for Foreign
Affairs and Ministry of Social Affairs and Health together with disability
organisations to discuss timely matters in the international sphere related to
the rights of persons with disabilities.
I would like to emphasize that the rights of persons with disabilities is a
priority area in our Human Rights Strategy and Action Plan for 2013-2015,
adopted in 2013. Also, in the next Governmental Report to the Parliament on the
human rights policy of Finland, disability rights are emphasized. In the
Report, special attention will be placed in ensuring the possibilities of all
persons to participate in the decision-making processes concerning their
me conclude by wishing you a very productive and interesting seminar here in