International Conference on Equality of Persons with Disabilities: Achievements and Practices
On March 22, 2016 in Sofia an International Conference on "Equality of people with disabilities. Achievements and practices" was held. The event was part of the Bulgarian chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. The Forum was attended by a high-ranking representatives from Bulgarian and European institutions and experts from over 12 countries involved in the discussions. Mr. Gianluca Esposito, Director of Equality and human dignity, Council of Europe, Mr Dimitrios Nikolski, Chairman of the Special Committee of the Council of Europe on the rights of persons with disabilities and Mr. Luk Zelderloo, Secretary General of the European Association of Service Providers for Persons with Disabilities (EASPD) held the floor for key-note speaches. A team of National Alliance for Social Responsibility also took part in the Conference and the discussions. During the Forum good practices of promoting the participation and equal opportunities for people with disabilities were exchanged. Variouis participants presented different measures in member-states of providing support for independent living of people with disabilities.
"The efforts to meet all international requirements for protection of the rights of people with disabilities is a priority for the Bulgarian government. For this reason, we highly appreciate the significance of this international forum for exchange of good practices,"said the Deputy Prime Minister to the guests of the Forum. He recalled that Bulgaria is a part of many international agreements, aimed at protecting the rights of people with disabilities, including the Recommendation of the Committee of Ministers to the Member States of the Council of Europe, which is linked to the implementation of a specific action plan for promoting the rights and full participation in society of people with disabilities and improving their quality of life (2006-2015). "We are open for cooperation with the Council of Europe on the implementation of the plan and in the next period, from 2017 to 2021," underlined Minister Kalfin. Deputy Minister Lazar Lazarov emphasized the importance of the partnership between governmental and non-governmental sector for the implementation of the successful policies of and for people with disabilities. The coordination of all sectoral policies, creating an accessible environment and changing public attitudes was pointed as the most important strategic objectives for Bulgaria by Deputy Minister Lazarov.
"Creating sustainable policies out of the good practices must be our goal," said the Executive Director of the Agency for persons with disabilities Mincho Koralski. He pointed out the need of improving coordination among the interested stakeholders which it is the implementation tool of effective policies directed towards people with disabilities. "These policies are horizontal. For example, if you keep the dignity of the person in the school but he is daily neglected by the society on the streets, there is no way to achieve the result that each and every one of us wishes ", said he.
In his statement Mr. Zelderloo presented a vision for quality of services, implementing social innovation and approaches for overcoming barriers and creating innovation incentives. A major emphasis was placed on the change of mindsets and consideration of social costs not as a burden in national and European budgets but as an investment in the future with high return potential. Recommendations were made for the continuation of efforts to legislation harmozation with the principles of the UN CRDP, introduction of flexible financing models, shifting the focus to the outcome of service quality by assessing the final result on the quality of life of the users and reaching out to a broader scene of interested and responsible stakeholders in the processes of social inclusion.