Georgia: UN expert welcomes political progress on disability rights and urges practical implementation

GENEVA (September 14, 2023) – A UN expert today praised Georgia’s progress towards an inclusive and rights-based environment for people with disabilities and called for practical implementation of the guidelines.

“In recent years, Georgia has undertaken legislative and policy reforms at an unprecedented pace to apply human rights standards in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which the country ratified in 2014,” said Gerard Quinn, Special Rapporteur on Rights of people with disabilities, in a statement at the end of a ten-day official visit to the country.

“In particular, the Persons with Disabilities Rights Act of 2020 is a groundbreaking step forward that, if put into practice, can bring about concrete change,” Quinn said.

“There is a real willingness to move away from the historical legacy of a medical approach to disability that is based on anti-disability and paternalistic attitudes,” the expert said. “The effort now is to replace them with core values ​​for an inclusive society in which people with disabilities can be active citizens on an equal basis with others,” he said.

Quinn said the outdated medical assessments used to determine disability status play a role in perpetuating misconceptions about disability.

“I welcome Georgia’s plan to move to a biopsychosocial model of disability, which is critical to changing mindsets and ensuring everyone has access to services and supports based on their individual needs and barriers they face faces,” he said.

The UN expert particularly welcomed the willingness of authorities at both central and local levels to closely consult people with disabilities, their representative organizations and civil society. He also noted the importance of transparent and impartial support for all organizations of people with disabilities, especially at the grassroots level.

The expert said that it is difficult to set priorities due to the lack of reliable and disaggregated data about people with disabilities and, in particular, the barriers they face.

“A better understanding of the diverse needs of people with disabilities is paramount to developing effective support services that enable independent living,” he said.

The expert praised Georgia’s commitment to deinstitutionalization and said that to be successful, it must be accompanied by holistic development of community and domestic services.

Quinn recognized the potential of ongoing decentralization reforms to make services more accessible and targeted, as long as sufficient resources are provided to local authorities.

“While recent legislative reforms are moving in the right direction, implementation remains a key challenge. There is still a lot to be done, for example in terms of access to the physical and digital environment, labor inclusion and economic empowerment, education, mental health, legal capacity and access to justice,” the expert said.

The Special Rapporteur will submit a detailed report on his visit with findings and recommendations to the Human Rights Council in March 2024.