Amsterdam - European Disability Forum Board meeting (March 2016)
LOCAL COMMUNITIES, REFUGEES WITH DISABILITIES & UK REFERENDUM ON EU MEMBERSHIP
In the weekend of 12-13 March, EDF Board meeting took place in Amsterdam hosted by our Dutch member, Ieder(in), and supported by the Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sports. Representatives of organisations of persons with disabilities from all over Europe discussed, among others, the role of municipalities in implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD), the situation of refugees and migrants with disabilities and the upcoming UK referendum on EU membership.
During this Board Meeting, the Saint Lazarus Foundation, being the charitable arm of the Hospitaller Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem was unanimously voted as Members of the European Disability Forum, after months of close synergy between the organisations.
On the first day, there was a conference entitled "From global to local: Building inclusive local communities with an EU perspective". Martin Van Rijn, State Secretary of the Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sports, talked about the governments' responsibility to promote independent living and full participation of people with disabilities in society on equal terms with others.
Emmanuelle Grange, Head of the Unit for the Disability and Inclusion of the European Commission, emphasised that de-institutionalisation is a top priority for the European Commission and that they count on the contribution of local organisations of persons with disabilities. She also highlighted the importance of the upcoming EU Social Pillar, and the intensity of discussions in Council on the European Accessibility Act.
Representatives of municipalities, local organisations of persons with disabilities and the European Network on Independent Living (ENIL) exchanged their knowledge and experience on how the UN CRPD has been implemented at regional and local level, and how persons with disabilities have been included.
Through the discussion, the need for a simultaneous implementation of the UN CRPD at al all levels, European, national and regional and local level, with the meaningful involvement and participation of organisations of persons with disabilities, was emphasised. Clear leadership at central level, coordination between levels, common strategies, strong legislation and standardisation are also essential.
EDF and its members adopted a resolution calling on the European Institutions to adopt guidelines and provide support to the local and regional authorities on the implementation of the UN CRPD; and to involve persons with disabilities and their representative organisations in the process.
REFUGEES WITH DISABILITIES
Together with Kirsten Lange from the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), EDF's members shared their views and knowledge on the situation of refugees and migrants with disabilities in Europe. In particular, it was underlined that the needs of refugees and migrants with disabilities should be taken into consideration from all the authorities and agencies acting on this issue. Staff involved with the refugee response should be trained on disability issues in order to provide adequate support. For example, sign language interpreters are needed to help deaf refugees to communicate.
"Human rights are for everyone. Not only for a specific category of people. The disability movement supports the fundamental rights of all people. This is also the value on which the European Union was built and the EU leaders should take this into serious consideration and deal with the migration crisis in a human rights way putting the lives of people first", said EDF President, Yannis Vardakastanis.
UK REFERENDUM: A UNITED EU IS STRONGER
Furthermore, EDF and its members approved a resolution concerning the UK referendum on EU membership. While recognising the democratic right of British people to vote freely on this matter, EDF and its members believe in a strong European Union which includes the UK. We believe that a common European human rights agenda is better achieved together, within a strong EU.