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The United Nations

The Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs represents Germany’s Federal Government in the organs of the United Nations (UN) within the scope of its responsibility for Germany's international employment and social policies. The UN bodies that are particularly responsible for issues involving international social development are the UN General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council, the Human Rights Council, the Commission for Social Development and the Commission on the Status of Women. Of similar importance are the treaty bodies of the UN human rights treaties that consider the implementation of the standards laid down in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. These are the standards relevant to the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs.

The UN General Assembly

The General Assembly (GA) is one of the most important multilateral forums of the international community and one of the main bodies of the United Nations. It brings together representatives of all 193 member states to discuss international affairs that fall within the scope of the UN Charter with experts, civil society groups and other institutions. The topics under discussion include international security, global development and international cooperation in the areas of the economy, social policy, human rights, education, health and culture. The sustainability goals of the 2030 Agenda, the digital transformation and questions of climate change are high on the agenda. The General Assembly meets every year from September to December for its regular annual session and beyond that as needed. Resolutions taken by the General Assembly are not legally binding for UN member states but rather have the character of recommendations.

The Economic and Social Council

The United Nations' Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) is comprised of 54 member states which are elected for three-year terms by the General Assembly. It initiates and coordinates important processes in the economic, social, cultural and humanitarian fields. ECOSOC issues recommendations to the General Assembly as well as to specialised commissions such as the Commission for Social Development and the Commission on the Status of Women.

United Nations Commission for Social Development

The task of the United Nations Commission for Social Development (CSocD) is the reduction of the world’s social inequalities. For this purpose, it develops social standards further, shares knowledge from the UN member states and monitors the implementation of existing obligations. Important reference documents are the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (the 17 sustainability goals adopted by the UN member states in 2015) and the goals and obligations contained in the Copenhagen Declaration of the 1995 UN World Summit for Social Development. The UN Commission for Social Development has 46 members and is a specialised committee of ECOSOC. It meets annually in New York at the beginning of February.

UN human rights instruments - standards for a global world

The UN General Assembly also adopts instruments and conventions that individual member states can ratify and transpose into national law. These include the different UN human rights instruments. They provide for committees of experts as accountability mechanisms which are to monitor and thus ensure the protection of human rights in the member states. In country reports, the states parties outline the measures they have taken to implement the provisions of the respective instrument at the national level and the progress they have made and obstacles they have encountered in this connection.

International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

Within Germany’s Federal Government, the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs is the lead ministry for the implementation of the obligations arising from the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The rights enshrined in this Covenant include in particular rights in working life, the right to social security, the right to an adequate standard of living, the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health, the right to education and to participation in cultural life, and the entitlement to exercise these rights without discrimination. The states parties are subject to a progressive implementation obligation regarding the realisation of these rights i.e. it is their responsibility to do their utmost to take appropriate measures for the gradual implementation of the rights laid down in the Covenant.

They must report on their efforts in regular five-year intervals. In 2018, the UN Committee of Experts reviewed the Federal Government’s sixth country report. An interim report was submitted in October 2020.

Currently, the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs is coordinating the Federal Government’s seventh periodic reporting process. The states parties report was submitted to the UN in late 2023. The presentation of the report in Geneva is still outstanding.

Since July 2023, it has been possible for citizens to turn directly to the competent Committee of Experts in Geneva to submit a complaint. The Federal Republic of Germany ratified the Optional Protocol to the UN Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in April 2023 which entered into force on 20 July 2023. Individuals or groups of individuals can now refer directly to the rights laid down in the UN Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in the context of a complaints procedure. The admissibility criteria to be taken into account in this procedure at the competent UN Committee of Experts are laid down in specific rules of procedure.

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

The Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs is also responsible as the government's focal point for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) which the UN General Assembly adopted on 13 December 2006 and for the Optional Protocol to it. This Convention is based on the United Nations' core human rights instruments and spells out in concrete terms the human rights enshrined in these instruments for the lives of persons with disabilities. It prohibits the discrimination of persons with disabilities in all areas of life and guarantees them civic, political, economic, social and cultural human rights. The Convention and the Optional Protocol have been binding for Germany since 26 March 2009.

Starting in 2018, the implementation of the CRPD in Germany has again been considered by the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Federal Government submitted the combined second and third report on the state of the implementation of the rights of persons with disabilities to the UN Committee at the end of September 2019. The constructive dialogue between the delegation of the Federal Republic of Germany and the UN Committee took place in Geneva on 29/30 August 2023. On 8 September 2023 the concluding observations were published by the Committee of Experts.

In the coalition agreement for the 18th legislative period, it was agreed to further develop the National Action Plan (NAP) for the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities with the involvement of persons with disabilities and their representative organisations. The further development of the NAP started at the 2014 Inclusion Days and was concluded when the Federal Cabinet adopted the Federal Government’s National Action Plan 2.0 (NAP 2.0) on 28 June 2016.

The 175 new measures contained in the NAP 2.0 complement the strong, comprehensive first action plan with more than 200 measures that the Federal Government adopted in June 2011 with an implementation period until 2021. During the first review of Germany’s implementation of the UNCRPD, the UN Committee of Experts put together a variety of recommendations but also expressly paid tribute to the adoption of the National Action Plan. Both the first action plan (NAP 1.0) and the new, enhanced NAP 2.0 aim to promote and strengthen the rights of persons with disabilities guaranteed in Germany by the ratification of the UNCRPD in all relevant areas and to improve their practical implementation.

With its federal-level measures, the NAP 2.0 will help establish inclusion as a universal principle in all areas of life. Inclusion within the meaning of the UNCRPD means to enable all individuals to participate in society in all areas of life on the basis of equal rights. For persons with disabilities, inclusion means in particular conditions that allow them to freely choose their place of residence as well as where and with whom they live, to develop their talents and abilities fully over the course of their lives and to earn their living through freely chosen or accepted work. True inclusion offers persons with disabilities space and support for leading their individual lives.

Whereas the Federal Government’s first action plan, NAP 1.0, focused on the use of appropriate measures to close the “gaps between the law and actual practice”, the NAP 2.0 includes important legislative initiatives aimed at helping to improve the participation opportunities and scope for persons with disabilities to lead self-determined lives.

In the NAP 2.0 it was agreed to report on the state of implementation of the measures annually. The first NAP interim report was thus published in 2018. The report analysed the 175 measures from the NAP 2.0 as well as 83 measures from the NAP 1.0 of 2011. The state of implementation of the measures in 13 fields of action has shown that 61 percent of all measures have already been concluded successfully or are being implemented and are ongoing. Many measures have already graduated from a project state and have become an everyday reality.

Therefore, as agreed in the coalition agreement for the 19th legislative period, The Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs updated the NAP 2.0 especially with regard to the topic “digitalisation and inclusion” and published the status report on 4 May 2021. New measures of the ministries were included in the catalogue and information on the current state of implementation of the measures was provided.

Starting in May 2021, the NAP can be updated online at any time and further measures of the ministries can be added. The current catalogue of measures is available online at www.gemeinsam-einfach-machen.de. The NAP continues to be a dynamic instrument and is constantly updated. The Federal Government thus meets a request of the associations to provide the general public with transparent and up-to-date information on the measures.