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The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: what changes are needed at the national and local levels

06/06/2017

The roundtable brought together representatives of state structures, NGOs and international organizations to discuss further steps aimed at implementation of the international document.

Deputy Minister of Labor and Social Protection Alexander Rumak noted that ratification of the convention is a joint achievement.

- Belarus took the first step. Further there will be a difficult path, in which everyone, not just the state, should participate. The Government is to adopt the National Action Plan for the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in the Republic of Belarus, in preparation of which various parties took part. It is strategically important to develop a coordinated position. After all, the national plan should become not a formal document, but a document which really works and is a practically oriented one.

The representative of the ministry also noted that many problems existing today in the sphere of disability can not be solved immediately, it will take some time.

"The key change we will have to work on is ensuring the rights of people with disabilities in various spheres, as well as preventing disability discrimination," the deputy minister said. – In order to do it we need to analyze our experience, as well as to use the best international practices in this field.

Among the key things that are introduced to the national plan today there are the following: introduction of new concepts and provisions, which are used by other countries that have ratified the convention into the Belarusian legislation; the description of ways of integration of people with disabilities in all the spheres of public life, including the sphere of employment. Alexander Rumak also stressed the importance of changing public’s attitude to persons with disabilities.

“The society must finally understand that a person with a disability is a full member of our society," he emphasized.

The director of the Office for the Rights of People with Disabilities, Sergei Drozdovsky, said that the country's way to signing and ratifying the international document is a difficult one, and collective meetings form a field in which everyone can share their experience and discuss problems – state bodies and organizations working with disability topic.

- Provision of a platform for discussion is one of the key goals of the Accessibility Week. And the issue of the discussion is important for many people, we see that more than 30 different organizations have gathered to discuss it, - said the representative of the Office for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

UN representative in Belarus Sanaka Samarasinha stressed that the international community supports Belarus in the implementation of the convention:

- I am happy and proud that this process is a good example of cooperation between the government, NGOs and international organizations and all the parties are ready to contribute in order to achieve the common goal. - It is necessary to understand that now it is necessary to develop the Belarusian anti-discrimination legislation, and all practices should be based on an anti-discrimination approach. The basic postulates of the convention should also become important, for example, the right to an independent way of life, which helps to maintain self-esteem.

Among other problems that Belarus will have to solve first and foremost, national and international experts call a step away from the medical approach in the sphere of disability, when a person having any peculiarities is treated solely as a patient, and not as a person enjoying all the rights and taking important for his life decisions. It is needed to pay more attention to problems of people with mental disabilities - at the moment such people are often thrown overboard because of the formal status of an incapacitated person.

- It is important to talk about the available education opportunities and the subsequent employment of people with disabilities. Policies and legislation should be sufficiently sensitive to such vulnerable categories, the social protection of persons with disabilities in terms of rights should be legalized, "said Senior Disability Specialist of the International Labor Organization Esteban Tromel. - We need to move towards inclusion, not segregation, to get rid of special decisions in favor of universal, eliminating all kinds of barriers. Belarus needs inclusion very much.

By the way, at the local level, the process of implementing the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has already started. For example, the Office for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, in cooperation with other organizations with the support of the European Union, has launched the "Agenda 50" campaign. The campaign is aimed at turning the legislation into real practical steps to change the situation.

As the initiators of the campaign "Agenda 50" explained, a preliminary study was conducted in cities in order to find out which of them are interested in the transformation of the environment and are ready to actively join the process.

- According to this principle of work, cities and city actors independently identify problems, develop strategies, implement and are responsible for it, - experts say.

The following cities have been selected to participate - Schuchin, Volozhin, Stolin, Lepel, and Bobruisk.

- The research was quite interesting, because a researcher had been included in the situation: he had lived for some time in a city, studied the situation, the openness of state bodies, local organizations, readiness to change something in the sphere of accessibility. This helped to define the regions in which work will be most promising, - said the representative of the Office of European Transformation, Elena Zuikova.

At the moment, many of the cities have already started to change something. For example, Volozhin is engaged in transforming the region into a barrier-free tourist region. Lepel has also started its work. By the way, an antidiscrimination festival took place there in the frames of the Accessibility Week. This indicates the interest of both local authorities and public organizations to move in one direction.

- In this regard, the initiatives and projects leading to positive changes in the society, in the sphere of accessibility acquire a special importance. That is why it's important to support them, as well as other projects that work in favour of a fair disability policy formation, "said the representative of the delegation of the European Union, Audronė Urbonavičiūtė.

Prepared in the frames of the campaign "Agenda 50", supported by the European Union. The round table was held with the financial support of the European Union and UNDP.