Belgium (Oct 2019) - Article 33

1 - WILLINGNESS TO APPLY THE CRPD.
Do you feel that the political and administrative authorities of your country are strongly committed to/involved in fully implementing the CRPD?

Belgium ratified the convention in 2009 and wrote a report to the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2011. Widespread knowledge of the existence of the UNCRPD and its general principles are beginning to emerge. When broken down, every political level within Belgium (federal and regional) is showing signs of increased awareness of the UNCRPD, but when it then comes to implementation, there is still a lot of progress to be made.

2 - FOCAL POINTS.
Have the focal points (i.e. points of contact) provided for in article 33-1 of the CRPD been designated in your country?

In theory, appropriate focal points have been identified on both the regional and federal level. Next to this, a coordination mechanism has been put in place that oversees all the actions concerning the UNCRPD. This coordinating framework operates both federally and interfederally. Within every federal administration a reference person has designated to support the transversal principles of the convention.

In practice, reality shows that still a lot of work is needed to match this theoretically situation.

3 - ROLE.

What is, or will be, their role?

More information about the role of the focal points can be found in the answer of question 2.

4 - COORDINATION OF ACTIONS FOR THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE CRDP AND FOCAL POINTS.
How are the focal points and the actions for the CRPD's implementation coordinated?

The different governments installed a federal and interfederal coordination mechanism to oversee all the actions concerning the UNCRPD. The coordination mechanism is within the Federal Public Service Social Security, Directorate General Strategy and Research. This coordinating body is responsible for the final editing of the report (art 35) and is the contact office for Belgium concerning the UNCRPD.

Additionally, it organised in 2013 a first meeting concerning the identification of the focal points and send his its first newsletter to the reference persons.

Although this coordinating body started well, we are a long way from a good working network of focal points and reference persons. Not all the reference persons are fully aware of the importance of this convention, since this process needs time.

This group of indicated focal points and reference persons must be more proactive and they have to stimulate the politicians/governments more. These aspects have not yet been discussed enough by them.

The lack of commitment and motivation of the politicians in general is an aspect that is important enough to mention. This affects both the implementation of the UNCRPD and the coordinating body's effectiveness. The awareness that their decisions can have an influence on the lives of persons with a disability is not high enough.

In September of 2014, the Belgian dossier will be treated by the UN-committee in Genève. Belgium will have to answer the questions of this committee, which will hopefully influence this awareness positively.

5 - PROMOTION OF THE CRPD.
How does your country go about promoting the CRPD?

An independent mechanism (art 33) was designated in 2011. This mechanism wrote a parallel report in 2013.

Until now, no government (regional or federal) has begun a large public promotion campaign around the UNCRPD. Only some small-scale initiatives to inform were taken.

For example: brochure and information on the website of the independent mechanism.

6 - PROTECTION OF THE RIGHTS INCLUDED IN THE CRPD.
Which national authority is responsible for ensuring the effective implementation of the rights included in the CRPD?

In July 2011 the Belgian Centre of equal opportunities, called UNIA, was designated as the independent mechanism to promote, to protect and to monitor the implementation in Belgium.

It took some time to install this mechanism and his accompanying Committee, but in the meantime a parallel report was written on the implementation of the convention. Quietly, this mechanism started to execute its mission, but there is still a lot of work to be done. At this moment, this mechanism reacts only when it is asked for an advise by a minister or an authority, it consequently is not proactive.

7 - MONITORING OF THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE CRPD.
In your country, which authority is in charge of monitoring the implementation of the CRPD?

See question 6.

8 - ROLE OF ASSOCIATIONS OF BLIND OR VISUALLY IMPAIRED PERSONS. How are the associations of blind or visually impaired persons involved in the implementation of the CRPD?

The regional and federal Advice Councils of persons with disabilities and the Belgian Disability Forum are important regarding the representation of persons with a disability. All these councils played an important role during the writing process of the shadow report (see also question 11).

Two associations who represent blind and partially sighted people are member of the National Council. One of them is de Brailleliga. The Brailleliga is member of all the existing regional councils, member of the board of the Belgian Disability Forum and last but not least member of the accompanying Committee of the independent mechanism.

In these meetings the focus lies mainly on the general principles of the convention and persons with disabilities in general. If necessary, we try to put forward specific items or problems regarding blind and partially sighted people.

9 - ADDITIONAL RESOURCES.
Have any additional resources (human or financial) been been made available for the implementation of the CRPD?

The different governments made an agreement about the partition of the costs of the independent mechanism. No other additional resources have been made available for the implementation of the convention.

10 - CRPD IMPLEMENTATION MONITORING REPORT.
Depending on the date on which your country ratified the CRPD, is it required to submit a report to the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities? If it is, has it done so?

Belgium submitted this report in July 2011 and made also 3 progression reports.

More information about what Belgium already did regarding the convention can you can find on the following site: http://www.socialsecurity.fgov.be/fr/nieuws-publicaties/publicaties/vn_rechten_personen_handicap.htm

11 - SHADOW REPORT.
Have the associations of persons with disabilities presented the so-called shadow report?

On February 20th 2014, the Belgian Disability Forum asbl (BDF) published and sent its alternative report to the Committee of Experts of the UN Convention on the rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).

The alternative report of the BDF is the result of a wide collaboration. Not less than 18 representative organizations of the disabled people (members of BDF) and 4 federal and regional advice councils worked together to produce this 270 pages report.

The alternative report of the BDF thus covers the situation of a wide portion of the Belgian disabled people. All the types of handicap were taken into account. Finally, the fact of having collaborated with 4 advice councils guarantees a realistic consideration of the " political constraints " connected to these realities.

The gathering of information on the reality of the disabled people in Belgium really began on April 7th, 2011. It stopped formally on June 14th, 2013.

The result of these 27 working months is a "snapshot" of the reality of life of disabled people in our country. It constitutes an ideal complement to the official report of Belgium deposited at the end of July, 2011: The reality of life presented in mirror of the cold and distant ideal from laws and regulations.

12 - COMMENTS.

Do you have any comments on the implementation of the CRPD in your country?

Implementation is a process that takes time. Theoretically, a lot of work seems to be done when you read the official reports but regarding the implementation in daily live situations we are only at the beginning of this process.

At this time, there is still not enough knowledge about the consequences of the decisions made by politicians for people with disabilities. The reflex to consider that these decisions can have an influence in the daily live situations of people with disabilities does not exist enough.

The same lack of reflex you can find concerning the participation of persons with disabilities. The convention puts forward the importance of consultation and participation of persons with disabilities. Concerning this, there is still a long way to go.

Update and Additional research notes 2019: (Sarah Woodin)

Although focal points have been designated, the arrangement is complex, with eight focal points at different levels of government. They include at Federal level, the Federal Public Service (FPS) Social Security; for Flanders: the Service for Equal Chances in Flanders; in Wallonia: the Walloon Agency for the Integration of People with Disabilities; for Brussels’ Metropolitan Region: Ministry of Brussels’ Metropolitan Region, Board of External Relations; for the French Community: Wallonia-Brussels International (WBI) Global Multilateral Service; for the German -  speaking Community: the Service for Persons with Disability (Dienststelle für Personen mit Behinderung), for the French Community Committee: the Brussels Service for Persons with Disability Finding Autonomy (Service Bruxellois-Phare) and for the Brussels Joint Community Committee: administration of the Joint Community Committee.

In 2016 the CRPD Committee noted in concluding observations that there was insufficient involvement of disabled people in the monitoring of the CRPD. The Belgium Disability Forum points to problems due to the complexity of organisation and administrative arrangements. They propose that the CRPD committee should ask the government for the review  report due in 2019 and pose the question  “What concrete measures will Belgium take to ensure sufficient consultation and coordination between the levels of power with regard to all important decisions concerning persons with disabilities?”

Other issues noted by the CRPD committee include lack of dissemination of CRPD committee concluding observations to disabled people and their families, in minority languages and accessible formats.

Disabled people’s organisations have also pointed out problems with lack of resources for participation (see 2015 Shadow report).