Final conference held within the project: “Strengthening professional capacities to combat discrimination against persons with disabilities”
People with disabilities (PWDs) in Montenegro are in a very difficult socio-economic situation. They are exposed to discrimination and there is a need to monitor the effectiveness of measures aimed at their social inclusion.
This was announced at the final conference of the project: “Empowerment of Professional Capacities to Combat Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities”, conducted by the Center for Democracy and Human Rights- CEDEM, in partnership with the NGO Ekvista, funded by the Ministry of Human and Minority Rights.
CEDEM’s director, Milena Bešić, said there were still serious shortcomings when it cames to implementing legal solutions, as well as measures defined in the Strategies and Action Plans.
“There are no comprehensive quantitative and qualitative data relating to persons with disabilities. In this way, it is almost impossible to monitor the effectiveness of measures and activities aimed at the social inclusion of persons with disabilities and their protection, ”Bešić said.
According to CEDEM’s research, she said that PWDs in Montenegro are in a very difficult socio-economic situation and are one of the groups most exposed to discrimination.
“The prohibition of discrimination and the principle of equality are considered to be so fundamental to the protection of human rights that they are incorporated into all key international human rights instruments.
However, PWDs face discrimination on a daily basis, and despite good legal solutions in practice, access to all public facilities and institutions that they are referred to in daily life is still not adequately provided, ”Bešić said.
She pointed out that in the area of employment, employers would rather pay the prescribed amounts of money to the Fund for Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment of PWDs than to hire persons with disabilities.
CEDEM’s program manager Ognjen Marković, presenting the survey “Position of persons with disabilities in Montenegro: identification of practices and patterns of discrimination”, conducted in March this year by the method of group interviews, said that the respondents agreed that it was necessary to raise awareness and the responsibilities of not only the institutions of the system but also of all other actors who directly or indirectly participate in the implementation of the laws and policies in order to boost effective implementation of the adopted laws.
“There are very few cases of discrimination, which doesn’t mean that there is no discrimination, but that citizens do not know their rights enough and are not always able to recognize discrimination or to be afraid to report it. That is why it’s necessary to inform and educate the population, “Marković pointed out.
When asked how the Ombudsman institution, as a sui generis institution, acts in the field of protection of human rights and freedoms of PWDs, all interlocutors, both from state institutions, non-governmental organizations and LSI themselves, noted a high level of respect the contribution that the Ombudsman institution provides in this field.
“On the other hand, one of the leading objections to the work of the institution is reflected in the low visibility of its activities Marković said.
When asked about the media’s coverage of the rights of PWDs, he said, he noted the negative attitude of almost all interviewees.
“Participants overwhelmingly think that this issue is sufficiently represented in the media, however, they see the problem in the way they report it, in a sensationalist approach that characterizes the “path from mercy to heroism”. Often the impression is that the media reports on PWDs only when they need to fill their media space”, Marković said.
He said that members of the NGO sector, as well as all institutions dealing with the rights of PWDs, noticed that, both and parents and carers of persons with disabilities were insufficiently informed.
“Therefore, parents are insufficiently informed, do not know their rights, nor the rights of their children, and what steps they have to take to exercise their rights, and often the parents themselves do not want to present the problem to the public.
On the other hand, referral syndrome often occurs with persons who are informed about their rights, but they are unwilling to do anything since bureaucratization of the system.
Presenting the results of the project, he said that two publications were published within the project: “Prohibition of Discrimination and Exercise of Employment Rights: Achievements, Problems and Recommendations” and “Guide to Legal and Institutional Protection Against Discrimination against LSI“.
Also, a media campaign was conducted and three seminars on European anti-discrimination law and national substantive procedural law were held for representatives of the judiciary, NGOs, inspection services and the Secretariat for Social and Legal Normative Activities of the municipalities from the northern part of Montenegro.
Protector of Human Rights and Freedoms of Montenegro, Siniša Bjeković, said PWDs are high on the list of those at risk of discrimination.
He stated that there are another number of vulnerable groups within the PWDs population, such as women and children with disabilities. The key state commitment, he said, is to implement positive obligations and create all conditions for PWDs to be equal to all other members of society.
A professor at the Law and Faculty of Political Science of the University of Montenegro and a member of the Judicial Council, Vesna Simović-Zvicer, emphasized that employment is crucial for the social integration of persons with disabilities.
“One of the basic principles underlying the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is that we are all born equal in rights and dignity. And that equality should be ensured for persons who for some reason were discriminated against in the previous period”, said Simović-Zvicer.
She said that in the previous period, there were numerous measures taken by the state in relation to persons with disabilities, aimed at encouraging them to participate in educational programs, especially in higher education institutions.
Zvicer said that in the previous period it was present that the funds paid by employers to the Professional Rehabilitation Fund were not in all cases spent as they should have been spent.
“We had a terribly bad situation in practice. We had e.g. the situation that an employer who employs a PWDs can use the funds for job adjustment from the Professional Rehabilitation Fund. However, he had no restrictions on the length of the employment contract. He could hire a PWD for a month and he would receive these funds. Later, no one controlled him for whether he had intentionally used those funds. And then the question is whether we have fulfilled what was the goal”, Simović-Zvicer said.
The Secretary of the Ministry of Human and Minority Rights, Valon Dasharami, said that once again the successful cooperation that the ministry has achieved with the non-governmental sector is confirmed, adding that the level of discrimination of PWDs in the society is regularly monitored through the research of NGOs and based on PWDs protection policy.
“In the last two years, the Ministry of Human and Minority Rights has published five open calls for proposals to support the NGO sector. Last year, we allocated one million and 13 thousand euros, while this year we distributed one million and 513 thousand euros. In terms of PWDs, last year we supported a total of 21 projects worth 440 thousand euros, while this year we supported a total of 25 projects in the amount of 491 thousand euros, said Dasharami.