* Despite progress made, a lot needs to be done to advance the rights of persons with disabilities especially in times of unprecedented crises.
Governments, international, regional and national organizations, persons with disability and civil society took stock on the achievements made and committed to do more to advance disability inclusion around the world at the second Global Disability Summit in February.
The UN Country Team joined this global endeavor. Together with its partners, the UN reflected on its past and ongoing efforts in supporting inclusive and sustainable development in North Macedonia and launched some new initiatives. Working closely with the Government, independent human rights institutions, persons with disabilities and their representative organizations (OPDs), and civil society at large, the UN supported the creation and implementation of systemic reforms for people with disabilities to enjoy the same standards of equality and rights as every member of society.
Informed by the voices of people with disabilities, UN agencies have contributed to mainstreamed and disability-specific polices and interventions across multiple sectors. In all actions, empowerment and participation of persons with disabilities has been the key principle in line with the Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and the commitments of the Agenda2030 and SDGs.
Today, schools are becoming more inclusive, large-scale institutions for children with disabilities without parental care are closed, and the deinstitutionalization process is underway. A range of individualized support and community-based services are in place to meet their health, social, educational and employment needs and opportunities, including in the field of sexual and reproductive health. The UN is striving to make these services more sensitive to disability, gender, age and culture, and more geographically and ethnically balanced and adjusted to vulnerable and marginalized groups.
Most of these activities have been accomplished through the first joint programme funded by the UN Partnership on Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNPRPD) in the course of 2018-2020. Disability inclusion and rights remain a UN priority and these efforts will continue with the second joint programme throughout 2022-2024. The UN will support policy interventions in education (early functionality assessment), financing analysis, social protection and access to labour market and mainstreaming disability-sensitive sexual and reproductive health and gender-based violence services. People with disabilities will consistently be empowered to enjoy their rights and participate in decisions that affect them to live independently, especially those most likely to be left behind.
The establishment of a national monitoring framework between the Ombudsman and people with disabilities, OPDs, and civil society is another milestone, supported by UN, that will boost CRPD implementation in the country. This new institutional mechanism, launched in April 2021, amplifies opportunities for meaningful and effective participation of persons with disabilities in the promotion and monitoring of their rights.
In early March, jointly with the Ombudsman of North Macedonia, the UN hosted a Regional Conference that encouraged a dialogue on the CRPD independent monitoring mechanisms. More than 120 representatives from national human rights institutions, disability movements and civil society across the Western Balkans and Europe, as well as the CRPD Committee and UN development system shared experiences and good practices, and showcased various models of inclusion and engagement of persons with disabilities and OPDs in the monitoring process. A strong message that by working harder and closer together, our societies could be more inclusive.
Despite progress made, a lot needs to be done to advance the rights of persons with disabilities especially in times of unprecedented crises. I see three priorities.
First, we need more disability inclusive development. Persons with disabilities have remained largely invisible in the mainstream of society, they continue to face barriers and are exposed to stigma and violence.
Second, we need broader and deeper cooperation. Only by working together - across governments, international organizations, civil society, and the private sector - can we effectively implement the CRPD commitments and promises of Agenda2030.
Third, we need persons with disabilities on board. Every action we make need to embed their powerful call ‘Nothing about us, without us.’