Yesterday, I attended a high-level conference on the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in the EU and the Member States. The event organised by the European Commission was supposed to represent one of the final steps in a very long process towards the full application of this important piece of global legislation. Because of discriminatory practices, persons with disabilities tend to live in the margins of society and as a result their rights are overlooked. A universal, legally binding standard is needed to ensure that the rights of persons with disabilities are guaranteed everywhere. Further to the CRPD, a progress report of the European Disability Strategy, to be published at the beginning of 2016, is expected to give further attention to the status of persons with disabilities in the EU.

Eurodiaconia and its members’ work closely touch upon the situation of this group. In this respect, our focus on ageing and long-term care issues is very linked to the well-being of persons with disabilities, as disability is often an age-related condition. In addition, many of our members are also committed to the development of innovative Work Integrating Social Enterprises (WISE), where persons with disabilities find an adequate environment to fully integrate into society. Eurodiaconia will in fact be hosting, in partnership with the European Association of Service Providers for Persons with Disabilities (EASPD), and the European Network of Social Integration Enterprises (ENSIE) an event in Brussels on May 18-19 that aims to raise awareness on WISE, build the capacity of WISE in a few key areas and inform members of relevant EU initiatives in order to focus our future advocacy work on this issue.

Moreover, many of the issues raised in the conference resonated with the way in which Eurodiaconia members understand how care and inclusion of persons with disabilities should be. Deinstitutionalization of persons with disabilities, the transition to community-based care and the key role played by the local level were repeated ideas among speakers, as well as the need for a clearer stand on the right to independent living by persons with disabilities or to promote stronger links with mainstream labour markets and society. These are all ideas which are already guiding or have been implemented on the ground work carried out by Eurodiaconia members.

In the end, the element that underpins these initiatives is a simple one. It all comes to serve people from a human rights perspective. Realising yet again the importance of putting people at the core of social policies confirmed my idea that I am at the right place to fight for a more social Europe. As a newcomer to the Eurodiaconia team, I have already witnessed that Eurodiaconia’s humanitarian as well as spiritual aim lies at the very heart of its activities. I would like to take this opportunity to share with you my full commitment to this aim and facilitate your efforts towards better social policies that reinstate persons as their core priority.

Alexander Elu
Policy and Member Development Officer