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Merja Heikkonen: Preparing a national action plan for the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities amid COVID-19 crisis

Ministry of Social Affairs and Health 20.5.2020 13.07
Column

Fundamental and human rights have attracted attention like never before because of the decisions made in response to the coronavirus outbreak. Restrictions on movement and assembly, among others, have been imposed. Human rights issues are not, and should not, be themes that gain relevance during crises; they deserve our full-time attention and dedication.

The Advisory Board for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (VANE), working under the Finnish Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, is showing precisely this dedication as we are preparing a national action plan for the current government term to implement the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Advisory Board for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (VANE) coordinates the implementation

Finland ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in 2016. In accordance with the Convention, Finland set up the Advisory Board for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (VANE) to coordinate its implementation. One of VANE’s key tasks is to prepare an action plan for the central government for the implementation of the CRPD.

The action plan now being prepared is the second one, although the first that covers a full government term. The first action plan was prepared mid-term, for 2018–2019.  
The actual preparation of the action plan is a joint effort involving several ministries but before launching these negotiations VANE conducts an extensive consultation of various interest groups, with special focus on organisations for people with disabilities. 

Organisations for the disabled also participate in the actual negotiations, in accordance with the obligation included in the CRPD to consult with and actively involve persons with disabilities.  People with disabilities themselves and different interest groups are consulted to identify areas most in need of improvement in terms of the rights of people with disabilities, and the action required. VANE’s task is to promote the realisation of these rights by reconciling the needs expressed with the extensive responsibilities of the ministries. 

Every effort is made to use situation awareness as a basis for measures

To serve as background for planning measures, each ministry maintains situation awareness; in other words, they prepare a compact description of key legislation in each content area, of the current developments, and of the experiential or statistical information currently available. Every effort is made to use situation awareness as a basis for measures, as this would ensure measures rely on long-term information-based work.

In the previous programming period, there were more than 80 measures, about half of which were fully implemented and others got off to a good start. Only a few measures were not taken further by the end of the government term. 

We have now set even more ambitious goals, despite the effects of the  coronavirus situation. Finding the time to get together has been a challenge, and videoconferencing solutions have been in active use over the past few weeks. 

Nevertheless, we have made progress, and aim to publish the plan this year. We share a common goal: A more inclusive and equal Finland for people with disabilities.

Merja Heikkonen
Secretary General
Advisory Board for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, VANE