IFES Conducts First CRPD Training with Georgian Public Defender’s Office
Persons with disabilities around the world encounter barriers to their political participation, and countries like Georgia are taking steps toward more inclusive policies and practices. In December 2013, Georgia ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), which calls on states to recognize the rights of persons with disabilities and to adopt appropriate measures to ensure that those rights are fully enjoyed. The treaty also requires periodic reporting to the CRPD Committee on the current status of persons with disabilities and encourages governments, disabled persons’ organizations (DPOs), and human rights groups to develop a shadow report. In Georgia, the Public Defender’s Office took the lead in coordinating the drafting of the CRPD shadow report.
The International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) conducted a training with the Public Defender’s Office and local DPOs on monitoring the CRPD from November 14-22, 2015. The training, the first ever conducted by IFES with a Public Defender’s Office, covered the steps required to draft a shadow report for the CRPD Committee and to identify possible gaps in technical knowledge, as well as existing resources and allies within the country. This training had a high impact; as a member of the Ombudsman’s Working Group noted: “Despite the fact that the training lasted only two days, it saved us months of undirected work that we might have done in trying to plan for monitoring the CRPD implementation and to produce shadow report.”
The training provided space for the Public Defender’s Office and DPOs to discuss plans for monitoring the CRPD and any concerns about the process. This program uniquely connected a government body in Georgia responsible for reporting on rights for persons with disabilities with DPOs advocating for those rights. IFES added expertise and support of elections and democratic institutions to that discussion, focusing on several priority CRPD articles during the course of the training, including Article 12 (Equal Recognition Before the Law), Article 24 (Education), Article 27 (Employment and Work) and Article 29 (Participation in Political and Public Life).
“IFES’ support was critical in providing us with the tools we needed to move forward with concrete steps to develop the monitoring report for the CRPD.”
– Ombudsman Working Group Members
The Public Defender’s Office and DPOs utilized their extensive knowledge of the CRPD to produce and adopt a work plan for the shadow report, which acknowledged the importance of including persons with disabilities and DPOs in every step of the process. IFES, facilitating this collaboration, also led a roundtable prior to the workshop that highlighted important aspects about the relationship of the CRPD to experiences of persons with disabilities. The discussion included ten Georgian youth with disabilities, who, through their knowledge of the CRPD and local laws, advocated for greater youth involvement in the disability community and DPOs.
The DPOs and advocates from the Public Defender’s Office who were engaged in this training developed a more substantial understanding of challenges faced by persons with disabilities in the political and legal spheres, as well as developing recommendations for next steps on the CRPD shadow report. The opportunity provided by the IFES-led training allowed DPOs to engage directly with the Public Defender’s Office, allowing for the exchange of ideas and best practices.