9 April 2015
The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities yesterday and today considered the initial report of Mongolia on its implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Munkhbaatar Begzjav, Deputy Minister for Population Development and Social Protection of Mongolia, said that persons with disabilities constituted some 3.3 per cent of the population and the Action Plan for the implementation of the Convention had been in place since 2013. The Law on Social Protection of People with Disabilities, adopted in 2005, had been amended three times since then. Efforts were being made to switch from the hospital-based health care to the community-based and the rights-based approach. The income of persons with disabilities mostly consisted of allowances or social welfare pensions, of which the major part was spent for medicines and expensive health care services; thus many persons with disabilities lived in poverty. Mongolia had spent around US$34 million on the social protection of 103,000 persons with disabilities in 2014.
In the interactive discussion that followed, Committee Experts praised the readiness of Mongolia to address multiple issues and reform domestic legislation in line with the Convention. The focus ought to be placed on the implementation of the existing legislation. Experts asked about inclusive education, the prohibition of experimental medical treatments, foster care and the guardianship of children with disabilities, reasonable accommodation and accessibility, as well as the training of judges and teachers. Experts asked about the results of the community-based approach to the care of persons with disabilities. Mongolia was encouraged to ensure that disability-based discrimination was legally prohibited.
In concluding remarks, Hyung Shik Kim, Committee Expert acting as Country Rapporteur for Mongolia, said many issues had been raised, including the situation of women and children with disabilities, cooperation with disability organizations and reforms in the education system. Mongolia was urged to consider those and other issues in the drafting of its new law on the rights of persons with disabilities.
Munkhbaatar Begzjav, Deputy Minister for Population Development and Social Protection of Mongolia, in concluding remarks, said that, five years since joining the Convention, the authorities were trying to involve all sectors of society and improve monitoring mechanisms. The Committee’s recommendations and suggestions would all be considered with utmost seriousness.
The delegation included representatives of the Ministry of Population Development and Social Protection, Ministry of Health and Sports, Ministry of Labour, Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Construction and Urban Development, National Rehabilitation and Development Centre, and the Permanent Mission of Mongolia to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
The Committee will next meet in public at 3 p.m. today, when it will begin its consideration of the initial report of the Cook Islands (CRPD/C/COK/1).
The initial report of the Mongolia can be read here: (CRPD/C/MNG/1).
Presentation of the Report
MUNKHBAATAR BEGZJAV, Deputy Minister for Population Development and Social Protection of Mongolia, said persons with disabilities constituted 3.3 per cent of the population of Mongolia, 11.4 per cent of whom were children. Mongolia had ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2008 and acceded to it in 2009. It submitted its initial report in 2011 and its responses to the list of issues in 2014. The Action Plan for the implementation of the Convention was launched in 2013. The Law on Social Protection of People with Disabilities, adopted in 2005, had been amended three times. By law persons with disabilities were considered to be inactive beneficiaries of public welfare benefits but a new law on the rights of persons with disabilities was currently being drafted which would bring national legislation into conformity with the Convention.
Mr. Begzjav informed the Committee of Mongolia’s efforts to transition from providing hospital-based health care for persons with disabilities to the provision of community-based care, while ensuring a rights-based approach which created equal opportunities for all. Mongolia pursued the principle of inclusive education on the basis of equal development and educational opportunities for children with disabilities. The Government provided full tuition fees to students with disabilities and students who had two parents with disabilities. The Mongolian Sign Language Board was being currently being established. A national programme on the promotion of the employment of persons with disabilities had been implemented since 2012; under it approximately 20 per cent of persons with disabilities were working in family businesses or manufacturing, or had had permanent jobs created by employers.
Regarding accessibility, an action plan aimed to establish accessible infrastructure in housing, educational and service facilities. In the capital, around 36 per cent of Government buildings fully met the standards, and half of all public buildings met the needs of persons with disabilities. Mongolia was exploring the possibility of ratifying the Marrakech Treaty and libraries were among the public buildings that were working towards being fully accessible. The income of persons with disabilities largely consisted of allowances or social welfare pensions, of which the major part was spent on medicines and expensive health care services; thus many persons with disabilities lived in poverty. In 2014 the Government had spent around US$34 million on social protection for 103,000 persons with disabilities in 2014.
Since Mongolia’s transition to a market economy in the early 1990s its Human Development Index of Mongolia had steadily increased, as had migration of the population from rural to urban areas. The unemployment rate stood at 7.7 percent at the end of 2014, and the country was in a saving mode. Mongolia was doing its best to comply with the Convention, but due to financial and economic conditions, and the lack of trained staff there were still many issues to improve upon and areas for development, Mr. Begzjav said. Mongolia recognized the importance of widening international cooperation in a number of areas and promoting inter-agency cooperation to that end.
Questions from Committee Experts
HYUNG SHIK KIM, Committee Member serving as the Country Rapporteur for Mongolia, said it was encouraging to hear that Mongolia was working to harmonize important pieces of domestic legislation, including laws on education, urban development and transportation. He expressed concern that the current definition of persons with disabilities as inactive burdened the overall approach in implementing the Convention. The concept of disability was still firmly rooted in the medical model, he noted.
Mongolia had an overall prejudicial attitude towards persons with disabilities, he said, because many people believed that people were disabled as punishment for the sins committed by their ancestors. Changing the public perception of persons with disabilities was rather difficult, but vital.
On the rights of women with disabilities, an Expert asked what efforts were underway to provide education, vocational training, employment and independent living, including sexual and reproductive health, for women and girls with disabilities. More effective ways of preventing sexual violence against women and girls was needed.
What support was available to children with disabilities and their families and what steps were being taken to increase the quality of support services to families of children with disabilities in both urban and rural areas asked an Expert. Were there specific training and support provided for parents of such children? How did the State party protect children with disabilities from violence and abuse.
Did the State party plan to incorporate the prohibition of disability-based discrimination in the new law on the rights of persons with disabilities? Mongolia could ask for the Committee’s help in drafting that law. How were people from across the large territory of Mongolia included in decision-making processes that concerned persons with disabilities? Were there any actions taken to tackle intersectional discrimination, the Expert inquired. What could persons with disabilities do if they were suffering discrimination and to whom could they turn? Were there any records of discrimination suffered by persons with disabilities?
There was a lack of training for persons with disabilities and their family members, the Expert noted.
Experts asked for information on measures to improve the accessibility of public transportation and new buildings. How many financial resources had been put in translating the written norms into practice?
Persons with disabilities who lived in rural or remote areas seemed to be neglected. How many programmes for persons with disabilities included those who were still living in line with old nomadic traditions, asked an Expert.
Responses from the Delegation
Regarding legislative reform the delegation explained that it would change its existing laws to comply with the Convention, through a process in which civil sector representatives were widely involved. The draft law on rights of persons with disabilities was supposed to be passed by the Parliament soon. There were efforts to involve the provinces and local governments in the working group engaged on preparing relevant legislation. Mongolia’s policy was to work with non-governmental organizations. There had still not been full shift from the nomadic mentality to the urban one, or from centrally planned system to a democratic society, a delegate noted. There was no direct definition on discrimination based on disability in the current law, but it would be included in future laws, confirmed the delegate.
The law on social protection would be amended, so that it reflected the new definition of persons with disabilities said a delegate, also explaining that the perception of persons with disabilities was largely community-based.
On women and children with disabilities, the delegation stated that 11.7 percent of all persons with disabilities were children. There was a special unit in the Ministry of Population Development and Social Protection dealing with persons with disabilities. A unit in charge of the protection of women and children had also been established. Forums on women and children with disabilities had taken place, in which more than 9,000 people had partaken. In Mongolia, children with disabilities under 16 years of age were identified through an establishment of branch offices in 21 provinces, in what was described as a comprehensive approach.
On employment, a delegate said a person’s work capacity was defined on the basis of the standards of the International Labour Organization. A commission was in place to deal with work-related injuries, in an approach based on the international criteria.
Regarding persons with disabilities living in rural areas a delegate said a new law on family had been drafted and was currently being considered by the Parliament, in which particular attention was paid to the needs of women in rural areas. The nomadic tradition was very strong in Mongolia, which was a vast and sparsely populated country. Health care system was moving towards a community-based approach, which would also involve development of public health centres in rural areas.
Regarding awareness-raising, the delegation said that over the previous 24 years, more than two-thirds of local physicians, teachers and local authorities had taken part in training and sensibilization programmes. Radio programmes and other media were also used in that regard, all with the view of providing general public with enough information on their compatriots with disabilities.
There were provisions to include sign language during TV broadcasting, and efforts were now underway to put the provision into practice.
Regarding accessibility issues, a delegate said that changes were implemented in a number of laws, including parking and land laws. Persons with disabilities were exempt from charges for land ownership in the first three years. More than 40 per cent of newly constructed buildings complied with requirements for persons with disabilities. Current accessibility for persons with disabilities might be relatively low, but many improvements were on the way.
Questions from Committee Experts
An Expert asked about the numbers of persons with psychosocial disabilities in Mongolia and how many amongst them were able to exercise their rights, will and preferences.
Access to justice was raised by an Expert who asked about persons with psychosocial disabilities pleading guilty in courts of law and about training for judges. An Expert expressed concern about the restoration of the legal capacity of persons with disabilities. What was being done to ensure that persons with disabilities had access to services in prisons? What steps had been taken by the State party to guarantee that both women and children with disabilities had access to justice, when they were victims of violence or exploitation?
Did persons with disabilities live in the mainstream communities, and, if so, what measures were taken to ensure their effective and meaningful participation in the social, economic and political processes? Was there any data on successful stories of persons with disabilities benefiting from community based services? What kind of community based services did the State party have in mind?
Out of 67 TV channels in Mongolia, only one was providing occasional interpretation in sign language, the Expert noted. What measures was the Government going to take to equalize information accessibility?
A question was asked about prevention of disability-based detention of children and adults with disabilities, including forced institutionalization.
On the disaster risk reduction measures, an Expert enquired whether Mongolia had any plans to look into such framework and apply it in its national policy, when dealing with any future national strategy on that matter. What support was provided to blind persons in institutions in emergencies.
Another Expert raised the issue of abuse of persons with disabilities, and asked whether there were any records of violence against that vulnerable population. How many women and children with disabilities had been subject to violence over the previous year?
Responses from the Delegation
On the disaster risk reduction measures a delegate explained that there was an agency in place overall in charge of emergency situations, which also had branch offices across regions. The Incheon Strategy was being implemented. Programmes were community based, including trainings, all with the view of reducing casualties in disaster situations.
On the subject of accessibility a delegate said generally, all wheelchairs were imported from abroad and now the Government was looking into importing working parts of the wheelchairs, which should make their maintenance in the future. There were around 3,000 public buses in Mongolia, which were completely paid for by the Government. Investment in that sector was quite limited. This year, the Government would be able to purchase special transportation buses from the Republic of Korea, despite their high cost. The Government had also provided US$2 million for the needs of visually impaired persons. Regarding airport accessibility, it was explained that a new large airport was being constructed, 50 kilometres from the capital, which would resolve all of the existing accessibility issues.
The guardianship and adoption of children was regulated by the Family Law, a delegate said. Concerning foster care centres, the delegation explained that Mongolia had adopted a law which followed the guidelines of the World Health Organization. In previous years, more than 5,000 patients had been assisted in such institutions. The goal was to make it possible for patients to be taken care of in their places of residence. More than 300 unguarded street children had been recorded in Mongolia, 10 per cent of whom were children with disabilities. Efforts were made to return those children to their families, many of whom had indeed reunited with their guardians.
Forced medical treatment was prohibited. Mongolian centre for national assistance was implementing a project in that regard. Close to 1,500 staff of medical centres had been trained with relation to the human rights of persons with disabilities. Efforts were being made to support independent living of persons with disabilities, based on their communities.
Voting rights were protected under the Mongolian law. The electoral law had been amended, so now all polling stations were accessible to persons with disabilities. Some ballots would be formatted in the special Brail format, and magnifying devices would also be provided.
With regard to remedies for persons with disabilities who were victims of abuse, a delegate stated that there were provisions in place for all persons, regardless of their status or condition.
There were plans to renovate all court houses to make them accessible to persons with disabilities. There was no discrimination against judges and lawyers with disabilities; today there were six judges with disabilities working in the Mongolian justice system. The State party had approved special guidelines on how to provide training for the judges and legal workers, so that they could address the needs of persons with disabilities. Answering the question on sign language interpretation in courts, a delegate explained that a lot of attention was paid to that issue, and efforts were made in that regard.
Concerning prison conditions a delegate informed the Committee that there were some 6,000 prison inmates in Mongolia at the moment, 167 of whom were persons with disabilities, or 2.5 per cent of total inmates. Free of charge orthopaedic devices were provided for certain inmates. In 2014, 99 inmates were provided with a workplace. There were plans to build prison facilities in line with international requirements, to make them fully accessible for inmates.
With regard to sign language broadcasting, the delegation stated that the national broadcaster provided for sign interpretation; it was in place since 2012 and was provided on a regular basis. Persons with disabilities were avid Internet users, and more than 50 per cent of them got their information from the Internet.
Mongolia had a vast territory and was sparsely populated, so in many places groups of families formed smallest administrative units. There were national councils in the capital and all of the provincial areas, who all had responsibilities to handle the issues related to persons with disabilities, informed a delegate. He also said the Government provided very low interest loans to persons with disabilities, making it easier for them to improve their livelihoods, and helping them acquire livestock, if they lived in rural areas.
Questions from Committee Experts
An Expert understood that there were only 40 minutes of sign language broadcasting every day and asked whether there were plans to increase that. Were there plans to codify and recognize the Mongolian sign language?
More information was sought about education of children with disabilities, and what plans were in place in that regard. Was there a strategy in place to make the education system more participatory for children with hearing loss and those using sign language as the first language? What training was given to those working in the area of justice, so that they could take into account all rights which were implicit in the Convention, particularly when it came to the custody of children?
In terms of inclusive education, the Expert said that it seemed that most children with disabilities in rural areas still did not have access to education and spent most of their time at home. What was the State party planning to do in that regard? There was no data on any child with disabilities being denied the right to enrol in school, another Expert noted. Were there any plans to include children with all kinds of disabilities in pre-school education? Questions of teacher education and teacher training were raised by another Expert. Was the subject of inclusive education included in teacher training?
How did the State party come up with the figure of 3.3 per cent of persons with disabilities, which seemed to be a vast underestimation, asked another Expert. Had any ways had been identified in which to engage with the multilateral, bilateral and non-governmental organizations in order to benefit from their expertise in the area of rights of persons with disabilities?
Another Expert recommended that the State party look into the concept of universal design for public buses. She also asked about accessible tourism in Mongolia.
An Expert asked about abortion regulations when it came to women with disabilities. When did the State party plan to remove discriminatory provisions which could lead to forced sterilizations and abortions? Women with disabilities, irrespective of the type of their disability, should be free to enjoy their sexual and reproductive health at the equal footing with others.
What were the tools available to persons with disabilities to help them with finding appropriate employment, the delegation was asked. An Expert asked about the rationale behind reducing work hours for the persons with disabilities, and how the loss in income in such cases would be compensated. How were penalties collected from employers who were not fulfilling court obligations with regard to their employees with disabilities? Hoe was the employment situation of persons with disabilities monitored?
Were social security allowances sufficient in meeting the basic human needs of persons with disabilities? Poverty among the persons with disabilities seemed to be an issue. What was being currently done to bring some social benefits in line with minimal wages and minimal standards of living?
Given that disability needed to be mainstreamed in all services for the general population, an Expert asked how the State party was planning to do that and to prevent side tracking persons with disabilities into rehabilitation services. How was access to information and freedom of expression ensured for deaf and deaf blind persons, an Expert asked.
Another Expert raised the issue of free will in giving consent by persons with disabilities before they are subjected to medical experimental treatments. Details on the HIV/AIDS situation in Mongolia were sought, and the delegation was asked to explain if the needs of persons with disabilities were addressed in that regard.
An Expert asked whether there had been any successful cases of persons with disabilities who had received community-based rehabilitation services, so that they could live independently. The sense of independence in Eastern and Western cultures could be different, the Expert noted.
Monitoring and coordination mechanisms was raised by another Expert, who asked what the plans were on mainstreaming disability and strengthening the already existing Human Right Commission. How were persons with disabilities to be involved in the process of monitoring of the implementation of the Convention.
Were there any positive measures taken to promote active political participation of persons with disabilities, asked an Expert. What was the latest status when it came to the right to vote, and were persons with psychosocial disabilities still excluded from voting? Could persons with psychosocial disabilities get married, he also asked.
Responses from the Delegation
Concerning Article 24 of the Convention, the delegation said that according to the Constitution, every person had an equal opportunity to participate in the educational system. Mandatory education was in place until the age of 16 years of age. The Government was in charge of creating an inclusive educational environment. A multi-tiered approach to educational access was in place. Since 2012, a policy had been in place to focus on and develop every single child in Mongolia.
There were many challenges on the road to ensuring inclusive education, including the lack of trained teachers, the lack of accessible places and the overall public attitude. Mongolia had had a positive experience in sending some of its specialists abroad for additional training. There were 46 graduates of a training programme for teachers on how to teach students with disabilities. The number of such teachers was still relatively low, but was increasing. 67.5 percent of children with disabilities attended mainstream schools. There was a special educational fund to support parents of children with disabilities.
In 2011, the definition of rehabilitation services for persons with disabilities was introduced for the first time. Mongolia was trying to organize some training programmes and provide relevant materials in that regard.
Regarding abortion, a delegate said that there was no provision for forced abortion. There were special conditions for any abortions conducted between 12 and 24 weeks of pregnancy. Regulations on guardianship were fully in line with the Convention.
On HIV/AIDS, the delegation said that the State party used the mass media to raise awareness, including through distribution of materials for persons with visual disabilities. The official number showed that there were only 187 persons affected by HIV in Mongolia.
Answering questions on labour and employment opportunities, the delegation stated that any entity with more than 25 employees had to have a certain percentage of employees with disabilities. As of today, some 19,000 persons with disabilities were working; 35 per cent of them were provided with a salary, while 41 per cent were proprietors, many of whom ran family businesses. A more flexible approach to the quota system was needed in the future. Training programmes for improving qualifications were in place and more than 1,000 persons with disabilities had taken part in such trainings.
The Ministry of Population Development and Social Protection was working on improving statistical data collection it was noted. Out of all funds spent on persons with disabilities, 8.5 per cent was provided as financial allowances to such persons, a delegate informed the Committee.
Regarding participation in political processes, the delegation said that nominations for candidates in elections were very open, and gave an example of a Paralympic champion who ran for office in the 2012 election. There were many similar examples and good cases, and no obstacles in that regard.
MUNKHBAATAR BEGZJAV, Deputy Minister for Population Development and Social Protection of Mongolia, said that, five years after signing the Convention, the authorities were trying to involve all sectors of society and improve monitoring mechanisms. The delegation was looking forward to receiving the recommendations of the Committee. Gratitude was expressed to Committee members and Mr. Begzjav pledged that their considerations, recommendations and suggestions would all be taken with utmost seriousness. Mr. Begzjav also thanked non-governmental organizations for their participation and support.
HYUNG SHIK KIM, Committee Expert acting as Country Rapporteur for Mongolia, thanked the delegation for participating in a very productive and cordial dialogue. Every question raised had been responded to. Numerous issues had been raised, including women and children with disabilities, cooperation with disability organizations and reforms in the education system. The State party was urged to include some of the issues raised in the dialogue in the new draft law on the rights of persons with disabilities. The delegation had identified seven major areas for action in the future. Further replies were need to certain questions, and the State party was asked to provide them in writing.