In Dublin, 10 December 2013 – The European Network on Independent Living (ENIL) takes the opportunity of the Human Rights Day to highlight its achievements in advancing and advocating for the rights of disabled people and for Independent Living in the past year. On this date in 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). This has become one of the fundamental texts on human rights worldwide and much of the work that ENIL conducts is influenced by it.
In September, ENIL held its sixth Strasbourg Freedom Drive and celebrated the 10th anniversary of the event with over 150 participants from 21 countries. The European Union made 2013 the European Year of Citizens, dedicated to the rights that come with EU citizenship. Raising awareness of the rights of Europe’s disabled citizens and the barriers they face was one of the central aims of the successful week-long event. Reflecting on the situation of disabled people, Martin Naughton, ENIL’s Co-Executive Director stated: “How long can 80 million disabled people continue to be disenfranchised citizens of Europe? We call for a Commissioner on Disability to help resolve the challenges that disabled people face on a daily basis in Europe today.”
The 2013 Freedom Drive Campaign focused on the rights of disabled people as outlined in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), most specifically Article 19 (Living independently and being included in the community). Using real life examples, it highlighted the many ways disabled people are still being discriminated and excluded from society. A comprehensive Freedom Drive Report, launched today, outlines the rest of the week’s highlights.
Motivated by the worsening situation of disabled people Europe-wide, ENIL has continued to work towards a Resolution on the effects of cuts in public spending on persons with disabilities in the European Union, to be adopted by the European Parliament. The first victory was achieved in February, when the Employment and Social Affairs Committee adopted an oral question based on a proposal by ENIL and other member organisations of ENIL’s working group against the cuts. Next, a debate on the oral question, focusing on the impact of austerity on the living conditions of disabled people, took place at a plenary meeting in the European Parliament on 12 March.
Other achievements to be highlighted include the growing ENIL Youth Network, with another Study Session supported by the Council of Europe planned for June 2014. Jamie Bolling, ENIL’s Executive Director was active as a member of the EU Fundamental Rights Agency’s Advisory Panel and has led on ENIL’s work with the OSCE on disability hate crime. In cooperation with the Stockholm Cooperative for Independent Living (STIL) and the Swedish delegation to the UN, ENIL organised a very successful side event on Independent Living at the UN High Level Meeting on Disability and Development on the 23 September in New York. Importantly, ENIL has continued its work on the use of Structural Funds and at the grassroots level, by coordinating study visits and organising peer training for young disabled people living in a group home in Bulgaria.
On this Human Rights Day, ENIL calls on the European Union to take resolute action to uphold the rights of disabled people and on the remaining three Member States – Ireland, the Netherlands and Finland – to ratify the CRPD without delay.
ENIL would like to thank the European Commission, ULOBA and the Open Society Foundations for supporting our work in 2013 and looks forward to continued cooperation.