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How does the UN disability committee election work?

Ross Gilligan, November 2020
The main debating chamber at the United Nations.

The news is still full of coverage about a certain election in the US earlier this month, but another important election is taking place later in November that will have huge implications for the rights of people with disabilities across the world.

On 30 November, nine new members will be elected to the 18-strong committee that oversees the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Every two years, half of this committee is up for election to serve for a four-year term. Not unlike that other election, an incumbent member can only be re-elected once. Here’s a brief guide to the CRPD election process.

Where does the election take place?

The election takes place at the Conference of States Parties to the CRPD, held at the UN headquarters in New York. The conference is the gathering of countries that have signed and/or ratified (made legally binding) the Convention.

Who is standing?

The candidates can be nominated by any member country that has both signed and ratified the CRPD.  This year, 28 candidates have been nominated – 13 men and 15 women – with a range of different backgrounds and experiences. Each candidate’s information and election pitch can be viewed on the CRPD election website.

How does voting work?

Each country may vote for as many or few candidates as they wish to fill the nine vacant places. The vote is a secret ballot and once all countries have completed their ballot papers, the UN secretariat will call out the name of each country in alphabetical order for a representative to cast them.

How are successful candidates elected?

To be elected, a candidate needs to obtain both the largest number of votes and an absolute majority of votes from representatives of the countries present and voting. So for example, if all 182 eligible countries are present and vote, a candidate needs to ensure that their number of votes is within the top nine of the total and higher than 91.

What happens if there are not enough candidates with a majority to fill all the positions?

If not enough candidates are elected to fill all vacant positions on the committee, additional rounds of voting following the process above will occur until all nine positions are filled.

When do elected candidates begin work on the committee?

The mandates of the nine committee members whose places are up for election expire on 31 December 2020, so the newly elected members’ work on the Committee won’t begin until 2021.

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Ross Gilligan

Ross is Sightsavers’ multilateral adviser, based in Edinburgh.
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