On 31 May, the Balkan Disability Independent Framework (BDIF), represented by Suad Zahirović from IC Lotos in Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina, visited the ENIL Office in Brussels. The meeting was a part of the BDIF study visit to Brussels, to increase the NGO network building in the Balkans region. The main focus of the meeting was the potential future cooperation between our respective networks.
The BDIF project started in 2014, with partners from all over the Balkans. Its aim is to facilitate the sharing of experience on the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) at the national level. Four areas are in focus: employment, accessibility, education and health. The project aims to show how national regulations and law can be applied to implement the CRPD, or on how they should be harmonized with the CRPD. There are about 140 organisations involved in the project, which is now in its third year. National coordinators are in place in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro. Regional meetings are taking place four times a year, to exchange experiences on the situation in each country and to plan future activities.
As the next step, a strategic plan for the region will be established. One of the aims of the network is to promote the “new concepts” of Independent Living and personal assistance to the traditional disability organisations in the region. The network is promoting cooperation, rather than the fighting that can happen amongst “ourselves”.
ENIL has members in most of the countries of the region, including: Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Albania. According to BDIF, one of the problems is that many disabled people in the region are still not ready to take control over their lives. The Independent Living movement needs to show people that the only way to be respected is to be in control.
A discussion took place on how to include ENIL in the work of the network. The common issues identified included discrimination, deinstitutionalisation, community-based services and direct payments for personal assistance services. Seminars on Independent Living were requested, as well as research and advocacy. Education and capacity building are considered the most important for empowerment and to avoid replicating bad practice from other countries. Given that some of the countries in the region are in the process of joining the European Union, there are also opportunities for awareness raising and getting decision makers to put Independent Living on the agenda.
The BDIF delegation was composed of: Zoran Mićić (ACED Program Manager), Dražen Barišić (ACED PR Officer) and Suad Zahirović (Bosnian BDIF National Coordinator). ENIL was represented by: Jamie Bolling (ENIL Executive Director), Nadia Hadad (ENIL and EDF Board member), Marco Carnesecchi (ENIL Office Manager) and Natasa Kokic (ENIL ”EU Funds for Our Rights” Campaign Coordinator).