Disability team to travel to UN for international conference

Disability team to travel to UN for international conference

June 1, 2017

This month, Human Rights Specialist Erin Gough will travel to the United Nations in New York to attend the Conference of States Parties (COSP) to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). She fills us in on her upcoming trip.

Everyone has places they want to visit: the Eiffel Tower, the Colosseum, or maybe the Great Barrier Reef. For me and other international law geeks, one of those places is the United Nations.

And in June, I will be lucky enough to get that opportunity when Disability Rights Commissioner Paul Gibson and I attend the Conference of States Parties (COSP) to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

Apart from being able to talk extensively in acronyms, attending annual conferences on international human rights treaties, like COSP, gives human rights experts, academics, and advocates from around the world the opportunity to network, share expertise and best practice, and collaborate internationally.

Some of the discussion takes place as one big group in the General Assembly, but otherwise there are more than 50 90-minute side sessions on a wide range of topics in a variety of formats - from presentations, to panel discussions and debates. These sessions, organised by country delegations themselves, are smaller and more focused than the General Assembly discussions and often involve question and answer sessions. Outside of these sessions, there are forums for particular groups; National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs), of which the Commission is one, have a forum as do Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs).

Attending international human rights conferences like COSP gives the Commission the opportunity to talk about the human rights situation in New Zealand, while also learning about what's happening in other parts of the world. We can hopefully take some of these learnings back to New Zealand and use them to improve the human rights outcomes of people here.

Having never attended COSP, I am very excited to get to meet, learn from, and work alongside hundreds of fellow disability rights advocates from all over the world inside and outside the UN. I am interested to see the diversity of delegates, not only geographically but also in terms of age and experience. As a young disabled woman, I have a feeling my list of mentors will grow exponentially over the course of the week! I'm also looking forward to bringing back what I learn to New Zealand, and thinking about how this can influence the Commission's future disability rights work.

And as for New York City itself, well, I'll just link you to this video of US comedian Zach Anner taking five hours to get from Manhattan to Brooklyn in search of a bagel. It's going to be an accessibility adventure, that's for sure! Key take-outs from the conference and other details of our trip will be in the next newsletter - watch this space!


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