Participation of Persons with Disabilities and Their Representative Organization

Article 33 (3)

Civil society, in particular persons with disabilities and their representative organizations, shall be involved and participate fully in the monitoring process.

Article 33 (3) stresses the obligations of States Parties in ensuring the participation of persons with disabilities, organizations of persons with disabilities (OPDs) and other civil society organizations in domestic monitoring efforts. While Article 33 (3) only mentions monitoring, it is important to keep in mind that States Parties are also required to involve persons with disabilities in all processes, as per other articles in the Convention, notably Article 4 (3).[1]

Possible channels for participation

States Parties can ensure the participation of persons with disabilities in a number of ways, most of which involve working with organizations of persons with disabilities. OPDs are representative civil society organizations that are led and controlled by persons with disabilities and aim to collectively express, promote, pursue and/or defend a field of common interest.[2]

OPDs can take various forms – from individual organizations to federations – and can operate on local, national, regional and/or global levels. Given their composition and proximity to their constituencies, they are usually the best placed to inform and engage in policy, decision-making and the monitoring processes. Moreover, facilitating the participation of OPDs can also promote other important values, such as agency, empowerment and ownership.[3]

The Committee has recently highlighted the need for States Parties to actively distinguish between OPDs and other civil society organizations that advocate for or provide services to persons with disabilities. For an entity to be considered fully representative, and thus an OPD, persons with disabilities must compose a clear majority of its membership.[4] While Article 33 (3) calls for the broad participation of civil society in the monitoring of the Convention, States Parties should prioritize ensuring the participation of representative organizations over groups that may have relevant expertise but are non-representative.

Participation of persons with disabilities can also take place directly, where individuals are part of an Article 33 entity in their own capacity. In these cases, they may be appointed as experts in coordination mechanisms or executive boards of NHRIs or be selected to be a commissioner or state secretary for disability affairs. Indirect participation occurs when OPDs are involved in policy processes. For example, States Parties can include national advisory bodies on disability or OPDs in their Article 33 (2) set-up, like in Spain where a national OPD federation acts as the country’s independent monitoring framework.[5]

In addition to including persons with disabilities and OPDs as part of a country’s Article 33 institutional structures, governments can consider other modes of engagement, such as: holding public consultations on public policy issues; soliciting inputs and feedback during the drafting of initial and periodic State reports; providing reasonable accommodation during public policy and decision-making processes; ensuring that information on CRPD monitoring and implementation is disseminated in accessible formats; providing training to government officials on engaging with OPDs and vice versa; and investigating laws and policies that were not developed in consultation with persons with disabilities.

In building these various participation pathways, States Parties should keep in mind that OPDs are heterogeneous. Some may represent all disabilities, while others specific types of disabilities. They may also represent different constituencies based on other characteristics, such as women, children or indigenous peoples with disabilities. As such, it is essential to engage with a wide spectrum of organizations so that different groups and interests are included in monitoring and policy processes. In the same vein, States Parties should also consider providing capacity-building support to OPDs, particularly to those representing constituencies that have previously been excluded from civil society or government processes, such as self-advocacy groups for persons with intellectual or psychosocial disabilities and representative organizations of women and girls with disabilities.

In addition to engaging in national implementation and monitoring, persons with disabilities and OPDs also play a significant role in the procedures of the CRPD Committee (see Box 4). These various participation methods are greatly valued and welcomed by the Committee.

Box 4. Participation methods for OPDs and civil society organizations in the work of the CRPD Committee

  • Raise awareness about States’ obligations under the CRPD, including reporting obligations;
  • Provide written submissions to the Committee such as alternative or shadow reports; 
  • Make oral statements during Committee sessions; 
  • Request national or thematic briefings with the Committee; 
  • Participate in the drafting of general comments and days of general debate; 
  • Make contributions to the Committee’s communications procedures;
  • Collaborate with the Committee during country visits; 
  • Request activation of early warning or urgent action procedures;
  • Request inquiries by the Committee on violations of the CRPD.


Source: Report of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on its eleventh session, Annex II “Guidelines on the participation of disabled persons’ organizations and civil society organizations in the work of the Committee” (CRPD/C/11/2).

[1] Article 4 (3) of the Convention states that: “In the development and implementation of legislation and policies to implement the present Convention, and in other decision-making processes concerning issues relating to persons with disabilities, States Parties shall closely consult with and actively involve persons with disabilities, including children with disabilities, through their representative organizations.”

[2] Report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities (A/HRC/31/62), p. 11.

[3]Ibid, p. 9.

[4] General comment No. 7 (2018) on the participation of persons with disabilities, including children with disabilities, through their representative organizations, in the implementation and monitoring of the Convention (CRPD/C/GC/7).

[5] Barriffi, 2013, p. 205.