Two woman smiling at the camera, recap of the year

Another year has come to an end,  so it is time for ENIL’s recap of the year. Without trying to cover everything, just some of the more memorable moments…

After the Covid-19 pandemic, the people of Ukraine and Europe were confronted with another war. Sadly, the war is still raging as this year comes to a close. While ENIL has no members in Ukraine, apart from several individual ones, we tried to help to the extent that we could. Together with Disability Rights International and Validity Foundation, we raised awareness about the situation of disabled children in institutions, and wrote to the European Commission to highlight the rights violations both in Ukraine and EU Member States. We also pointed our members to where they can support DPOs in Ukraine with donations, and passed donations from the US to two NGOs supporting children and families – NGO Maximum (supporting foster carers) and Superhero Schools (providing education to children while they are in hospital).

The highlight of the year for ENIL was definitely the Freedom Drive in September, where around 200 of us came together. It is hard to believe, but this was the 10th edition of the Freedom Drive, and it is growing bigger and stronger. We were happy to see many young disabled activists, new to ENIL and the independent living movement. Our worry was that Covid-19 and the cost of living crisis would prevent many people from travelling, but in the end, the Freedom Drive was a success. We also made sure that those who could not join in person, could join and follow online. We missed and remembered Kapka, whose presence was very much felt even though she is gone.

After our last meeting in Poland, in 2019, it was great to see our members from Central and Eastern Europe at the meeting in Budapest in July. The two days were not enough for all the discussions and ideas about how we can support each other in the struggle for independent living.

This year, we welcomed our new Policy Coordinator, Florian Sanden. Thanks to Florian, we were able to do much more at the EU policy level. Just last month, we put up good opposition to the European Care Strategy. As usual, being few in this opposition, we were not successful, but we made it clear that going back to being “cared for” is not what we want, nor in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

We had not one, but two General Assemblies – for ENIL and ENIL Youth – and elected two new Boards. You can meet the new ENIL Board here. It was the first time we did these GAs online and it was great to connect with so many members who otherwise would not be able to join.

Thanks to our project PAKT and our partnership with ENG-KAD, we did a lot of work on personal assistance in Turkey. It was great to see Melike Bal, an aspiring young law student elected to the Youth Network Board. We hope to see a pilot project on personal assistance in Turkey as the next step.

My own personal highlight of the year was the adoption of the Guidelines on Deinstitutionalisation, including in Emergencies by the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in September. It was great to work with all the colleagues in the Global Coalition on Deinstitutionalisation (GC-DI), and other activists, to support the Committee with this major effort. While we know that no single document will change anything on its own, the Guidelines give us a new momentum and fill some key gaps in interpretation of the Convention. Thanks to support from Disability Rights Fund, we were able to start our dissemination activities and will meet with GC-DI in January to plan the next steps.

For the end, it is worth saying that 2022 marked the 50th anniversary of the independent living movement. 50 years ago, disabled students in Berkeley, California, decided they wanted to be in control of their lives and the way they are supported. They wanted to study, to be equal, active, not pitied and stuck in their rooms. Unfortunately, 50 years later, personal assistance is still denied to many around Europe. While we continue fighting for personal assistance as a right for all who need it, we marked the occasion by working on a special issue of the International Journal of Disability and Social Justice. With a big thank you to Teodor Mladenov (our Independent Living Research Network Coordinator) and Angharad Beckett (University of Leeds), we leave you with a digest of our Special Issue and interviews with independent living activists from around Europe. You read and watch it here.

Before closing, I would like to thank all our Board members, volunteers, everyone who helped with the Freedom Drive, and all the staff for their hard work. Thank you also to our funders –  the European Union for supporting our operating costs, and our members – ULOBA, STIL and GIL, for making sure we have co-funding and are able to do even more.

Happy holidays to all our members and supporters, and a peaceful New Year!

Ines Bulic Cojocariu, Director of ENIL