The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) provides a legal framework for people with psychosocial disabilities to hold their governments accountable for realizing their human rights. Under the CRPD reporting process, country reports should reflect the accountability-seekers’ experiences, as well as any positive or negative developments in the country.
A recent study led by Julian Eaton, Assistant Professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in the UK, assesses the content of the country reports and finds that the CRPD-mandated participation of people with psychosocial disabilities in-country reporting has not yet been realized.
“There is considerable variability in the quality of states’ reporting on psychosocial disabilities when following CRPD accountability processes, despite broad recognition of the importance of the full and meaningful participation of people with psychosocial disabilities,” Eaton and his coauthors write. “We recommend that the first step in addressing disparities in reporting be to improve engagement with representative organizations of people with psychosocial disabilities.”
The CRPD is an international treaty that has consistently been interpreted by the United Nations to prohibit forced psychiatric treatment. The CRPD Committee, an independent “committee of experts,” has been a leader in discussions of global deinstitutionalization, beginning in Central Asia and Eastern Europe earlier this year.
The inclusion of persons with psychosocial disabilities in the CRPD has been subject to debate and controversy. Some argue that expert-driven understandings of psychosocial disability will prevent the full implementation of the CRPD. However, the CRPD Committee’s General Comment 7 clarifies that persons with disabilities are expected to be full participants in the country reporting process, which requires state parties to the treaty to outline their progress in the realization of disability rights in domestic law, policy, and practice.
Eaton and his colleagues evaluated the country reports using criteria based on the CRPD provisions, selecting reports across global regions and income levels. Because a tool for analyzing the reports’ contents did not emerge from a review of relevant literature, the researchers developed their own framework for assessing variables that were particularly pertinent to reporting on the realization of rights of persons with psychosocial disabilities. Five variables based on CRPD principles were used to judge the strengths of the country reports:
Variable 1. The extent of discussion in the report regarding psychosocial disability
Variable 2. Theoretical approaches informing the report’s discussion of psychosocial disability
Variable 3. The extent to which the report distinguishes psychosocial disability from intellectual disability
Variable 4. The extent to which the report addresses CRPD articles considered highly relevant to people with psychosocial disabilities
Variable 5. The extent to which the report’s discussion of accessibility initiatives (such as reasonable accommodation) addresses psychosocial disabilities compared to other disability types
Based on their Variable 1 analysis, the authors found substantial variability in the extent to which country reports discussed psychosocial disability. The Variable 2 analysis demonstrated that “nearly half of the paragraphs discussing psychosocial disability appeared to use a theoretical approach grounded in human rights, although charity, medical, and discriminatory approaches were used in almost all country reports.”
Based on the Variable 3 analysis, it was clear that many countries did not make a distinction between psychosocial and intellectual disability, although this conflation varied substantially between countries.
Disappointingly, it was clear from the Variable 4 analysis that countries did not describe policies ensuring the prioritization of rights of persons with psychosocial disabilities.
Finally, the Variable 5 analysis indicated that “state parties are not implementing, or at least not reporting, reasonable accommodations and accessibility initiatives for persons with psychosocial disabilities (or intellectual disabilities).”
In all, there was considerable variability in the quality of states’ CRPD reporting, with the lower quality of reporting being found in lower-income countries, “which may reflect the effects that limited resources have on reinforcing prejudicial social norms or a lack of exposure to contemporary debates around psychosocial disability in relation to CRPD compliance.”
Based on this research, the authors recommend that the first step in addressing disparities in reporting is to improve engagement with representative organizations of people with lived experiences of psychosocial disabilities.
States must also recognize that meaningful engagement for people with psychosocial disabilities in the CRPD reporting process will require the empowerment of people with psychosocial disabilities to build capacity to participate at the national level.
“Hand in hand with this recommendation is the recognition that meaningful engagement will require the empowerment of people with psychosocial disabilities by providing sufficient resourcing for existing and emerging organizations and building the capacity of national umbrella organizations.”
Without more resources and support for psychosocial disability advocates, the CRPD’s promise of full inclusion of persons with disabilities in the country reporting process will not be fulfilled.
Eaton, J. et al. (2021). “Accountability for the Rights of People with Psychosocial Disabilities: An Assessment of Country Reports for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.” Health and Human Rights Journal, 23:1, pp. 175-189. (Link)