Outcomes of the European Disability Forum online Board meeting 

Outcomes of the European Disability Forum online Board meeting 

The Board meeting of EDF took place on the 8th of March online.  The Board Meeting was preceded by a series of meetings including the membership and credential committee, the finance committee, as well as the Social Policy and Inclusion Committee and the Human Rights and Non-Discrimination Committee.

The meeting also included external experts and presenters including Katarina Ivanković Knežević Director for Social Affairs at the European Commission Directorate General Employment and Social Affairs and Inclusion (DG EMPL), who presented the new  European Union (EU) Strategy on the rights of persons with disabilities 2021-2030, Tastiana Gerasimava Interim Director of the Office for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Belarus, and Dr. Jurij Toplak, Disability Law Expert to discuss the recent judgment of the European Court for Human Rights about the disenfranchisement of voting rights of two persons with intellectual disabilities in Denmark.

The main outcomes of this meeting include:

1. EDF has a new member: The Board voted unanimously to welcome a new associate member CBM Italy to EDF. CBM Italy is a humanitarian organisation committed to the prevention and treatment of avoidable blindness and disability and to the inclusion of people with disabilities in the Global South and in Italy.

2. EDF adopted 2 resolutions on COVID-19:  the road to recovery for persons with disabilities.  The EDF Board discussed the ongoing recovery and vaccination plans in view of the COVID-19 pandemic and adopted two important resolutions: one on priority access to vaccination for persons with disabilities and their support network, and one on the COVID-19 recovery and resilience facility.

EDF board members and observers raised important issues and perspectives on both the COVID-19 recovery and the vaccination roll-out. It was agreed that there is a long path ahead before we can really talk of recovery from the pandemic, as we are still in a state of emergency with closed borders, closed schools, curfews, economies crumbling, and many persons with disabilities still living in isolation with uncertainty about their future.

Unfortunately, the prioritisation of persons with disabilities and their support networks when it comes to vaccination and use of recovery funds is still not being achieved in most EU countries.

Furthermore, the global vaccination roll-out and ensuring vaccination equity in low- and middle-income countries around the world will be a long-term process which we need to continue to advocate for, together with the International Disability Alliance. In this sense, the EDF Board stressed that COVID-19 vaccinations should be a public good, available to all. Barriers to equal access due to vaccine patents should not stand in the way of any country being able to provide vaccines to its people.

EDF Board members reiterated:

  • The right of persons with disabilities to live independently, where and with whom they choose, with the right community-based, person-centered support. The COVID-19 pandemic, and the devastation it has wreaked on people living in closed settings, underscores the importance and urgency of deinstitutionalisation and independent living.
  • Prioritisation of persons with disabilities and their support persons in national vaccination plans, in particular those living in institutions, those who because of their age or pre-existing health conditions are at higher risk, those with high support needs, and those who rely on support services which cannot operate with physical distancing.
  • Free and informed consent to vaccination, including through easy-to-read and understand information on vaccinations.

To read more about COVID 19 and the rights of persons with disabilities, see our Human Rights Report on the impact of COVID-19 (short version). The full report will be published in the coming weeks.

3. The new European Disability Strategy: The Board had a presentation by Ms Katarina Ivanković Knežević Director for Social Affairs at European Commission DG EMPL on the new EU Strategy for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 2021-2030, which was launched on March 3rd.  EDF members will have a workshop on March 17th to discuss the text of the new strategy in detail. You can also read EDF’s first response to the new European Disability Strategy on our website.

4. Human rights topics at the Board:

  • Withdraw Oviedo: As part of the human rights item, the board heard from the chair of EDF Human Rights Committee on COVID-19 monitoring and from Pat Clarke in relation to the campaign against the draft additional protocol to the Oviedo Convention on involuntary treatment and placement in psychiatry. T
  • European Court of human rights: the Board also heard from Dr. Jurij Toplak, a disability law expert from Slovenia, about the jurisprudence on disability rights of the European Court of Human Rights. He raised concerns about cases that are not compliant with the UN Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities.
  • Belarus: The Board invited staff from the Office for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Belarus to present their work. Since the Director, Sergey Drozdovsky and the office’s lawyer Oleg Grablevsky are both still in detention, another staff member presented their work. The EDF Board emphasised the importance of the work of this office and called for the immediate release of its staff.
  • The Board decided to continue the discussion of several human rights items at the Executive Committee meeting on 9th of April, including the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights, the 2000 Hague Convention on the international protection of adults, and the topic of the next EDF Human Rights Report

5. Social Policy: Our Social Policy and Inclusion Committee defined the input it will give to the CRPD Committee’s consultation on a new General Comment of the CRPD committee on Work and Employment.

6. EU Cohesion Policy: The Board learned about EDF’s advocacy success on the use of EU funds, and particularly regarding the recent agreements on the Common Provisions Regulation (CPR), the Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the Social Fund Plus (ESF+). Attention was given in particular to how the agreements pave the way for better investment in deinstitutionalisation, community-based services and support for independent living. We also learned about the improved clarifications in the texts on accessibility for persons with disabilities when using EU funds, how much money will go towards social inclusion, and the role foreseen for civil society in the governance process.

7. EU Presidencies: EDFs members in Portugal, Slovenia, and France updated the Board on the Presidencies of their countries of the European Council.

8. 2020 Achievements: The Secretariat reported on the main achievements of 2020 which were, amongst others, the commitment of the European Commission to publish a new Disability Rights Strategy, the launch of our new website, successful advocacy on the EU’s Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027 and the launch of our Human Rights Report on COVID-19.

9. Our Youth Committee and Women’s Committee reported on their work and achievements for 2020 (Women’s Committee achievements; Youth Committee’s achievements) and planned activities for 2021 (Women’s Committee 2021 action points). On international women’s day, the Women’s Committee announced the publication of 3 articles on EDF’s website including a statement from the committee “A feminist statement: we are women too!

More information

Photos of the meeting

EDF Board Meeting online 8th March 2021