In April 2016, the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD Committee) reviewed the situation in Serbia, based on the government’s official report. The Center for Independent Living – CIL Serbia, together with the National Organisation of Persons with Disabilities Serbia – NOOIS, has actively participated in the review process, including the preparation and submission of the Alternative report. The report, which is available in English and Serbian, was submitted to CRPD Committee in June 2015 and was presented in Geneva in September 2015. In addition, the two organisations submitted comments (also available in Serbian) on the reply of the Serbian government to the CRPD Committee.
The Serbian DPO delegation participated in the CRPD Committee session on 5 and 6 April 2016 in Geneva, where they presented their views on the State’s response. They decided to focus on the following issues: women with disabilities, accessibility, living independently and being included in the community, and work and employment – which they considered particularly important given the situation in the country.
The CRPD Committee published their Concluding observations on Serbia on 23 May 2016. In these, the Committee recognized a number of positive achievements in the country, in different areas, including legislation. However, the CRPD Committee expressed a number of concerns and made recommendations for improvement in a number of fields.
Some of the main recommendations include:
- The need to take appropriate measures to prevent and combat multiple and intersectional discrimination that women and girls with disabilities face, particularly in access to justice, protection against violence and abuse, education, health and employment;
- The need to strengthen efforts to deinstitutionalize children, in particular those with intellectual and/or psycho-social disabilities, to prevent any new institutionalization of infants under the age of 3, and to ensure a more efficient transition of boys and girls from institutions into families;
- Development of a comprehensive accessibility plan with efficient monitoring, and a roadmap which sets benchmarks for the removal of existing barriers; and promoting universal design for all buildings and public services, public transport, and accessible information and social media, with special regard to electronic media;
- Prohibition of all forms of coercive treatment against adults and children with disabilities, including physical and chemical restraints, as well as excessive antipsychotic therapy and isolation, and ensuring freedom from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment;
- Development of a comprehensive strategy on deinstitutionalisation and allocating resources to enable all persons with disabilities to live independently and to have support in the community, based on their own choice and preference; this includes providing resources for the development of support services, personal assistance services in particular, in local communities;
- Identification of concrete targets in the Action Plan for inclusive education for the period 2016-2020, to meet inclusive education standards and requirements;
- Ensuring access to health, on an equal basis with others, of all persons with disabilities, including access to sexual and reproductive health services. The Committee also recommended training of health professionals;
- Revision of the assessment of working capacity to eliminate the medicalised approach and to promote the inclusion of persons with disabilities in the open labor market;
- Make increased efforts to include persons with disabilities in positions of elected representation and public office, and take measures to ensure that elections are inclusive of and accessible to all persons with disabilities, including voting facilities and campaign materials.
- Ensuring that independent organizations of persons with disabilities (DPOs) are systematically involved in the process of monitoring the Convention, and providing them with efficient budgetary support for this purpose.
CIL and NOOIS find these observations very relevant and will plan follow-up activities to assist in the implementation of recommendations, including the work on development of a new National Disability Strategy 2016-2020. Both organisations will continue cooperating with the Serbian Parliament and the government in the framework of the project Strengthening Political Participation of People with Disabilities and other campaigns.