The Federal Government Commissioner for Matters relating to Persons with Disabilities is responsible for a great variety of tasks.
The Federal Government Commissioner for Matters relating to Persons with Disabilities is appointed by the Federal Cabinet for one legislative term. Since 1 May 2002 the Act on Equal Opportunities of Persons with Disabilities (Behindertengleichstellungsgesetz, BGG) has defined the tasks of the Federal Government Commissioner for Matters relating to Persons with Disabilities. The Commissioner shall have a staff of fulltime co-workers to assist with fulfilling these tasks.
According to section 18 of the BGG it is the task of the Federal Government Commissioner for Matters relating to Persons with Disabilities to see to it that the responsibility of the Federal Government to ensure equal living conditions for people with or without disabilities, is complied with in all areas of social life.
Co-shaping political and social framework conditions
Not only framework conditions stipulated by the Federal Government, but also general social changes may have considerable consequences for disabled people. The Commissioner observes these developments, analyses them and intervenes, if necessary.
Within the Federal Government, the Commissioner influences the political decision making process and observes lawmaking in a proactive manner. In the performance of this task, the Commissioner is consulted by the federal ministries on all legislative, regulatory and other major projects with a bearing on the integration of persons with disabilities. Where the applicable legislation has negative consequences for people with disabilities, the Commissioner shall strive for amendments in their interest and shall ensure that their interests are duly taken into account in any new project.
Providing information – raising public awareness – spreading the idea of inclusion
The Commissioner provides information about the legal situation, initiates law change, offers practical tips and explains how persons with disabilities can be integrated into society and the world of work. The Commissioner advocates solidarity and aims at creating an inclusive society all initiatives in the political, public and cultural sector.
The Commissioner is the Federal Government's central contact person in all matters related to persons with disabilities, maintaining close contacts with people with disabilities, their organisations, self-help groups and associations. In this way the Commissioner acquires a detailed knowledge of the types of problems, expectations and demands persons with disabilities have.
The legal limits of counselling
The Commissioner has no power of direction vis-à-vis public authorities and cannot give directives or require specific action. The Commissioner may not ask for a review of the case in specific situations. Only lawyers and advisory organisations may do so.
Also, the Commissioner is not responsible for matters that are covered by the law of the Länder or local or regional regulations. Thus, in cases that are not linked to the federal level, it is recommendable to contact the local or Land Government Commissioners for Matters relating to Persons with Disabilities first so that they can try to find solutions within their sphere of competence.
Moreover, the Commissioner does not have any funds to support projects or individuals.
The state coordination agency
Legal Mandate: Implementation of the Convention in Germany
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities stipulates procedural requirements regarding the implementation of the Convention at the national level. Pursuant to Article 33 of the UN CRPD the following three national agencies shall deal with the implementation of the Convention:
- the state point of contact (Focal Point)
- the independent agency (Monitoring Mechanism) and
- the state coordination agency
Article 33 paragraph 1 of the Convention proceeds on the assumption that the Focal Point and the Coordination Mechanism represent two different institutions:
The state point of contact (Focal Point)
The Focal Point shall be designated for matters relating to the implementation of the Convention. The Convention text does not elaborate on any details, however. But the United Nations have published a “Guide for MPs“ on the Convention. This Guide assumes that either one or several ministries or one or more directorates-general in one Ministry are designated as Focal Points. These ministries or directorates-general are not meant to be physically accessible points of contact, but are rather the competent institutions for the process of implementation of the Convention, i.e. the responsibility for the implementation of the Convention is transferred to an existing state institution. This includes questions related to the implementation strategy, the drafting of national reports as well as the representation at the United Nations and the European Union. Thus, the Focal Point is responsible for the Convention and the steering process required for the implementation of the Convention.
The State Point of Contact or Focal Point has been established at the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (BMAS) and is responsible for matters relating to the implementation of the UN CRPD.
The State Point of Contact pursuant to Article 33 of the UN CRPD has taken the lead in drawing up an Action Plan which identifies measures for the implementation of the Convention and commissions responsible public institutions to implement these measures.
The Federal Government Commissioner for Matters relating to Persons with Disabilities presents ideas and makes proposals regarding the further development of the action plan, indicates where the plan is incomplete and deals in particular with facilitating the implementation of said measures. However, he is not responsible for the final design of the plan.
The independent agency (Monitoring Mechanism)
Apart from the state point of contact and the public coordination mechanism the UN CRPD stipulates in Article 33 paragraph 2 that the State Parties shall maintain an independent mechanism (Monitoring Mechanism). It shall strengthen the rights pursuant to the present Convention and promote the implementation of the Convention at the national level and shall monitor the implementation of the Convention in Germany.
In 2008 the German Parliament (Bundestag) and the Federal Council (Bundesrat) designated the German Institute for Human Rights (DIMR) as the independent mechanism and commissioned it to establish a monitoring mechanism whose tasks would be i.a. to come up with recommendations and proposals regarding the implementation of the Convention as well as the counselling of the Federal Government, the German Parliament or other institutions on matters covered by the Convention.
The state coordination agency is located at the Office of the Federal Government Commissioner for Matters relating to Persons with Disabilities since 2008 and is meant to facilitate the implementation of the measures developed at the Focal Point in various areas and at different levels and shall actively integrate persons with disabilities and the civil society at large into the implementation process.
The state coordination agency
The state coordination agency is located at the office of the Federal Government Commissioner for Matters relating to Persons with Disabilities since 2008. Article 33 of the UNCRPD does not provide any general definition of the tasks of this state coordination agency (Coordination Mechanism). However, the following objectives can be derived from the Convention:
- Promotion of the implementation of the Convention (including the National Action Plan)
- Active involvement of different stakeholders, in particular of persons with disabilities
- Interface between public and civil society level (ensuring an exchange of information / communication at regular intervals)
- Multiplier function (at the local level in the federal states and in the municipalities, in the civil society at large and in the general public)
- Discussion and information forum
- Awareness-raising / PR campaigns (Article 8, UN CRPD)
The State Coordination Agency shall facilitate the implementation of the measures developed in different areas and at different levels at the State Point of Contact and shall integrate persons with disabilities and the civil society at large actively into the implementation process.
The State coordination agency established with the Federal Government Commissioner for Matters relating to Persons with Disabilities has essentially three tasks:
- Inclusion of the civil society, in particular persons with disabilities as well as other relevant stakeholders in different fields of action into the implementation process (providing a forum for information and discussion)
- Interface between the civil society and the state level
- PR and awareness-raising campaigns in order to have a multiplier function at different levels
In order to fulfil these tasks the state coordination agency has established an Advisory Council on Inclusion. The Advisory Council on Inclusion is supported by four special committees in different thematic areas. The work of the Advisory Council on Inclusion and the special committees is coordinated by a secretariat located at the office of the Federal Government Commissioner.