On 7 December 2017, the members of the Committee on Labour, Social Issues, Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction observed the International Day of Persons with Disabilities with a sitting on the topic of “Transformation towards sustainable and resilient society for all”
Committee Chairperson Dr Vesna Rakonjac greeted the guests saying she hoped events like today’s would prove useful to persons with disabilities and contribute to their social and political inclusion. “The objective of International Day of Persons with Disabilities, observed globally since 1992 and by the National Committee and the relevant Committee since 2007, is to promote the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities and support their cause”, said Dr Rakonjac.
The Committee Chairperson said that the topic of today’s event, “Transformation towards sustainable and resilient society for all” is in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals, approved at the UN summit in September 2015. Out of the 17 sustainable development goals at least four fall within the Committee’s purview. She also added that the previous legislation passed three laws governing the area: Law on Use of Guide Dogs, Law on Use of Sign Language and the Law amending the Law on Prevention of Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities.
The participants were also addressed by Biljana Barosevic of the Ministry of Labour, Employment, Veteran and Social Affairs, who said that the Ministry had done a lot to champion PWD causes, among other things Minister Zoran Djordjevic had met with representatives of a great many PWD associations and taken into consideration their suggestions and proposals how to improve the living standards of PWD.
Speaking on the behalf of the Commissioner for Protection of Equality Dragan Djurovic said that the cooperation between the Commissioner and PWD is excellent and hoped it would continue to follow the upward trend.
Vesna Mizdrak, member of the Republic Electoral Commission, spoke about the improvements to the electoral system the Commission is working on. Working with the Centre for Independent Living of Persons with Disabilities, the REC’s Working Group set up to help facilitate the voting process for PWD ascertained the common problems PWD come up against when exercising their voting rights: getting informed, physical accessibility of polling stations, communication access and voting off premises. The laws the passed by the previous legislation had helped PWD take part in the election process.
Ivanka Jovanovic, Executive Director of the National Organization of Persons with Disabilities, said that to mark the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, with the financial help of the Ministry of Labour, Employment, Veteran and Social Affairs, the organization published General Comment No.5 of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to Article 19: Right to Independent Living. The General Comment provides clear guidelines concerning independent living and social inclusion for all levels of state government, as well as PWD, their families and organizations.
Gordana Rajkov, Director of the Centre for Independent Living of Persons with Disabilities, thanked the National Assembly for organizing events to celebrate the International Day of Persons with Disabilities for ten years now. She spoke about empowering PWD to take active part in social and political life and how to improve the election process, with a special focus on the accessibility of polling stations. She commended the establishment of the Working Group for Political Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, made up of 15 MPs from different parliamentary groups.
In the ensuing debate the MPs and representatives of PWD associations listed the problems persons with disabilities face in day-to-day life and a number of suggestions how to address them, concluding that the relevant ministries, parliamentary committees and NGOs should all work together to help improve the lives and promote the social inclusion of persons with disabilities, as the field requires a multidisciplinary approach of the community as a whole.
The sitting was chaired by Committee Chairperson Dr Vesna Rakonjac and attended by the following Committee members and deputy members: Milanka Jevtovic Vukojicic, Aleksandra Maletic, Prim. Dr Branimir Rancic, Prim. Dr Vlado Babic, Dragan Savkic, Ljupka Mihajlovska, Tatjana Macura, Tomislav Zigmanov, Dr Predrag Jelenkovic, Milena Corilic and Marija Janjusevic.