They exchanged experiences and explored new opportunities and services that could help persons with disabilities lead more independent and active lives in the community.
The workshop was organized by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Switzerland.
"Persons with disabilities have the right to live independently, to participate in community life and to work for a living,” said UNDP Resident Representative Louisa Vinton. “It is society’s duty to provide the right conditions and the proper support to make this possible. UNDP and the entire UN system in the country are committed to supporting local and national partners in improving access to public facilities and services, creating the community support services needed to make deinstitutionalization a success, and overcoming the discrimination and prejudice that are far more crippling than any disability.”
Stéphane Tomagian, the Deputy Head of Mission at the Swiss Embassy, highlighted the need for partnership to support social inclusion for people with disabilities: “We are committed to providing stronger support to the most vulnerable groups in society who face social, economic and political exclusion. Persons with disabilities are among the most excluded groups in the society. Partnership among different institutions is very important, because social inclusion is not the duty of only one Ministry, and not only of the central level institutions, but rather a cross-cutting topic, which requires the involvement of civil society and the business sector.”
Local Self-Government Minister Suhejl Fazliu emphasised the need for equal access for persons with disabilities: “All citizens are entitled to equal access to public services. Institutions exist in order to ensure that these conditions are met. Currently, there is a big difference in the capacities of the municipalities, which means that not all citizens are guaranteed equal access to education, health, infrastructure or administrative services. Our co-citizens with special abilities need equal opportunities to access all public services - not more or less access, but equal access.”
Minister of Labor and Social Policy Mila Carevska underlined the new Government’s resolve to complete the process of deinstitutionalisation: “There are currently 10 national institutions that care for a large number of children, elderly and persons with disabilities. However, in order to improve the lives of persons with disabilities, it is important to abandon old methods and apply new, modern methods such as for example independent living. One of the goals of the new Government will be to focus on the deinstitutionalisation of persons with disabilities. Transforming the institutions will not be easy and it has to go hand-in-hand with professional rehabilitation of persons with disabilities. Including them in the labor market will bring many benefits”.
Success stories at local level were presented by the municipalities of Resen, Kumanovo and Karpos and the Vardar Planning Region. Lessons to be learnt from successful experiences of deinstitutionalization in the EU and Scandinavian countries were also presented.