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Protecting children from violence and promoting social inclusion of children with disabilities in Western Balkans and Turkey

REPORT

National seminar “Children with disabilities in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia through the lens of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities”

February, 24th 2017 | Skopje

More than 80 representatives from organizations of persons with disabilities, governmental institutions, service providers and other stakeholders, including the Minister of Labour and Social Policy, the Ombudsman, high representatives from EU Delegation in Skopje, UNICEF and EDF, gathered in Skopje on 24th February 2017, to participate at the National seminar “Children with disabilities in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia through the lens of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities”. The national seminar was organized by the National Council of Disability Organizations of Macedonia (NSIOM) in collaboration with European Disability Forum (EDF) and UNICEF, within the framework of the EU funded and UNICEF co-funded and implemented “Protecting children from violence and promoting social inclusion of children with disabilities in Western Balkans and Turkey” project.

The goal of the seminar, as an introductory event of the project, was to initiate discussion among different stakeholders about the need of comprehensive and flexible support for children with disabilities in order to participate in society on equal terms with other children. Although significant progress has been made on the level of regulatory framework, children with disabilities are still facing significant difficulties in accessing available and quality services. Moreover, violence is a daily reality for hundreds of children in thecountry and across south-eastern Europe.Therefore, the seminar aimed at highlighting the positions, efforts and views of different stakeholders for improvement of this situation, in light of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. 

The seminar was structured around 5 main sessions. The opening session started with welcoming message by the President of NSIOM and continued with statements from the Minister of Labour and Social Policy, the EDF Executive Committee Member, the Deputy Representative of UNICEF in the country, the Head of Operations in the EU Delegation and the Ombudsman. The statements from these high representatives offered information about the project and a strong commitment for joint efforts to bring real changes in the everyday life of children and adults with disabilities in the country. 

The session “Listening to children: Children’s direct testimony” was a successful attempt to put in practise the well-known motto “Nothing about us – without us”. A clear message was sent by the children with disabilities:the basic children’s need is to be provided with adequate support and to be valued without prejudices, in order to fulfil their life dreams. A very concrete support is needed in the educational process: sign language interpreter for deaf and accessible formats for blind students.

 The following sessions, with the presentations “Understanding the UN CRPD” and “Towards full implementation of the CRPD – experiences of EU member states” highlighted the need for urgent action towards full implementation of the UNCRPD. Serious commitment from all relevant parties is essential. Working together is a must in order to achieve sustainable changes in the legislation and policies. The national authorities and DPOs should be proactive in seeking support from the international community, both in regard to the implementation of the UNCRPD and in using the EU funds that are available for improvement of the situation of children and persons with disability in the country. Also, DPOs should work together on building their capacities to be active partners in these processes.

The sessions on “Support services and children with disabilities in the country” and “Education and children with disabilities in the country” were focusing on the current developments and priorities in some of the most important areas of life. The legislation on accessibility, support services, social protection, health care, education etc. should be revised and amended according the UNCPRD provisions. Effective policy making process should be introduced, where all stakeholders will have the possibility to express their views.

CONCLUSIONS

General conclusions

    • Urgent commitment is required from all stakeholder, led by state institutions, for immediate implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
    • Creation of strategy with an action plan regarding the implications and budgetary adhesion that will be challenged by the implementation of the UN Convention (gradually, one at the time, and one area at the time)
    • Coordinated step forward is required for providing multi-sectoral approach in implementing the UN CRPD and realization of the rights of children and persons with disabilities
    • Independent mechanisms for monitoring the conditions are needed regarding the realization of the rights of children and persons with disability as well as promoting systems for protection of the rights of children with disabilities
    • Effective use of the support given by European Union and other international organizations/agencies that work in disability area in Republic of Macedonia
    • Disabled Persons Organizations, according the UN CRPD and the motto “Nothing about us, without us”, must be involved in all planning processes, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of laws, policies and programmes that regulate and implement the rights of children and persons with disabilities

Key priorities for advancing the rights of children with disabilities

    • Accessibility and availability should be sufficiently provided and guaranteed, in accordance with legal possibilities, i.e., it is necessary to overcome the architectural and other barriers that hinder access to services and access to information. It is essential to identify and eliminate obstacles and barriers that limit access to buildings, roads, transportation, indoor and outdoor facilities including schools, residential buildings, medical facilities and workplaces, information, communication and other services, including electronic services, emergency services, etc. Consistent implementation of the Law on Sign Language is required, information and materials are needed in formats accessible for blind children, especially in the educational process.
    • Further development of the network of services is needed for supporting children and persons with disability on local level, in the communities (services for early intervention, rehabilitation and treatment, counselling and advisory services, daily support services and day centers, personal assistance, assistance in educational process, services for independent living, etc.)
    • It is necessary to provide opportunities for education for all children with disabilities, regardless the type and level of disability. The reform process of inclusion for children with disabilities in mainstream education must be a priority and should be planned according the positive practices in more developed countries – members of the European Union, in accordance to the resources and situations in the country. 
    • The state should provide adequate social protection for children with disability and their families by reforming the system for financial allowances. Emphasis is given on the need for equalizing the support to the biological families of children with disabilities to the support and benefits given to foster families. 

Media coverage