European Association of Service Providers for Persons with Disabilities: EASPD launches the debate on how the Sustainable Development Goals can support inclusive communities for persons with disabilities.

During the European Association of Service Providers for Persons with Disabilities’s (EASPD) international conference taking place in Podgorica, Montenegro, on the 26-27 October, 170 professionals from Europe and beyond gathered to debate around Sustainable Development Goals and their link to the realisation of supportive and inclusive communities. The event was organised in cooperation with the Petrović Njegoš Foundation, the Centre de la Gabrielle and Egart.

Along the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), the United Nations developed another framework that has the potential to support full inclusion of persons with disabilities in the society: the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In the EASPD international conference “Flourishing lives. Supportive communities and sustainable development” organised on the 26-27 October 2017, the links between these tools were explored and discussed, with the aim to promote the development of inclusive and sustainable communities.

The conference took place in Podgorica, Montenegro, a country whose focus on the role of the broader environment has been concretised in Article 1 of the Constitution, stating that “Montenegro is a civil, democratic, ecological and the state of social justice, based on the rule of law”, making it one of the few countries in the world where the concept of ecology and sustainable development is fully integrated in its law.

Active, lively communities and sustainable societies need to be part of the same discourse and cannot exist without full inclusion of persons with disabilities. Sustainable development prevents disabling conditions and exclusion and, at the same time, it allows to promote flourishing lives. “Supportive and empowering communities are among the prerequisites to ensure human rights enjoyment and full participation in the community. Without a long-term vision, no real sustainable and positive change can be triggered”, pointed out Mrs Sabrina Ferraina, Policy Manager at EASPD.

The discussions during the panel debates made clear that the links between the SDGs and the UNCRPD are very strong from a political, juridical and practical point of view. Supportive communities can drive changes in social protection mechanisms and this can have a positive impact in the change of legal frameworks.

Speakers at the conference included representatives of the United Nations, the Council of Europe, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, local and regional authorities, support providers and disabled peoples’ organisations. Mrs Ana Peláez Nerváez, Vice-President of the European Disability Forum, said that “the SDGs are an additional tool to advocate for the rights of persons with disabilities. The first step is, however, that of making people aware of their rights. Leaving no one behind must go beyond the slogan and is an attitude to put in practice, looking at how and if communities are truly supportive, accessible and open to all its citizens”.

Montenegro has set a positive example by proposing a voluntary national review on the SDGs to the UN, which included references to persons with disabilities, demonstrating a clear engagement in this regard.
In his concluding remarks, Mr Luk Zelderloo, Secretary General of EASPD stated that for EASPD “this is the beginning of further commitment to encourage all relevant stakeholders to take up seriously the challenge of implementing the SDGs and the UNCRPD. Both frameworks will be full part of EASPD’s multiannual strategic plan for the coming years”.

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