Outcomes of the Fourth Central Asia Child Protection Forum Creating Inclusive Policies, Systems and Services for Children with Disabilities
DUSHANBE, 4 August 2013 - The governments
of the Central Asian Republics, Kazakhstan,
Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, met in Dushanbe,
Tajikistan, to exchange and review for the first time their policies and
practices of inclusion of children with disabilities. The five governments took
strong commitments to reinforce national policies and systems to ensure the full
inclusion of children with disabilities into society and bring visibility to this
Under the auspices of the Tajikistan Deputy
Prime Minister and with support from UNICEF, the Forum provided a platform for high level discussions
on the need to step-up efforts to increase life opportunities and equity for
children with disabilities, in accordance with the UN Convention on The Rights of
the Child (CRC) and the UN Convention on The Rights of Persons with
Disabilities (CRPD). Children with disabilities are first, children
and realizing their rights will improve the lives of all children in Central Asia.
More than 130 participants from Central
Asia attended the Forum, including high-level government representatives from
ministries of health, education, and labour and social protection as well as parliamentarians,
ombudspersons, representatives from associations of parents of children with
disabilities and Disabled
People’s Organizations, civil society organizations working in the field of disability,
bi-lateral donors and other UN agencies.
Experts and resource persons from
around the world and from relevant UN Committees, as well as officials from Armenia,
Georgia and Serbia shared their experiences, in order to support Central Asian
countries to further develop their inclusion plans.
The participating countries agreed that
despite economic and social challenges, the full inclusion of children with
disabilities into society must not be delayed.
They committed to act without delay to strengthen
systems and policies for early identification and rehabilitation, establish
community-based support services for families of children with disabilities,
and fight stigma and discrimination that create barriers for realising the
rights of all children including children with disabilities.
The participants acknowledged that turning
promises into action and real positive change requires the involvement of many
different stakeholders, all of whom were represented at the
Forum. Governments, Parliaments,
Ombudspersons, local authorities, employers, doctors, teachers and other
professionals who work with children, Disabled People’s Organizations and
parents’ associations, all need to work together to develop and enforce inclusive
policies, systems and services and monitor the outcomes of these on the lives
on children with disabilities.
The five Central Asia countries spent three days dialoguing in
constructive ways, exchanging experiences and lessons learned on the best ways
to support children with disabilities to exercise their civil, political,
social, economic and cultural rights, as well as their individual rights to equal
access to health, education, and social participation.
Participants committed to contribute to building a social environment
where all children will have a happy childhood, growing up in nurturing family environments, with peers
in their communities and where they will be safe and secure, enjoy good health
and protection, and obtain an education to fulfil their dreams.
The Forum listened to the voices of civil society with interest and
respect, including the moving testimonies of parents of children with disabilities,
when they pleaded with passion for the creation of more inclusive societies.
Sabohat Khakimzoda, the chairperson of
the coalition of Association of Parents of Children with Disabilities of
Tajikistan said: “I would not have changed my child with severe disability for a
hundred other children. She brought joy and purpose to our lives. We ask our governments to ratify and
implement the CRPD and support us and our children to enjoy their rights as all
The Director of the Centre for Children
with Autism in Tajikistan, Lola Nasriddinova, added “We do not need pity from
others. Our children do not need charity or medicalized approaches. We need acknowledgment of the strengths and
abilities of our children, and immediate removal of the barriers they are
facing in being included in schools, in recreation, in regular life. And this
is what our children also want.”
On 6 August 2013, as a direct outcome of the Forum, the
Government of Tajikistan officially announced that the Prime Minister had requested
that a Working Group be immediately established to move the UNCRPD ratification
The Forum identified
the key priorities to be addressed:
- Transitioning from a medical to a human rights approach to
disability in line with the
social model promoted in of Article 1 of the CRPD. The social model of
disability sees disability as a
secondary and evolving concept, one that results from the attitudinal
and environmental barriers of society. These barriers which reduce the chances for the necessary equalization of opportunities and effective
participation of ALL children
have to be identified. Governments are accountable to remove them from services
and systems and to be involved in shaping societal attitudes and behaviors so
that children with disabilities can develop to their full potential and enjoy
their rights of participation in society.
- Children with disabilities must become visible and accounted for. Reliable
information is urgently needed about who they are and what their needs are.
Only then can we use this information as
the baseline in the Region to monitor progress. UNICEF is committed to supporting
governments in the Central Asia Region to, based on new methodologies that will
be ready for global use by April 2014, improve Census data and support upcoming
household surveys to include indicators on the prevalence of children with
disability in countries of Central Asia. UNICEF is also committed to supporting
the development of Disability Situation Analysis
using global methodologies allowing the voices of children with disabilities to
be heard about their lives, challenges, aspirations, dreams and recommendations
for future policies and actions.
- Cultural and social norms and attitudes towards children with disabilities must be addressed
to overcome stigma and
discrimination. Participants acknowledged that it is not the disability itself, but discrimination that marginalises children. States have been requested to ensure that within their own practices,
discrimination is not perpetuated and behaviors of professionals and service
providers are regulated in such a way as to empower children with disabilities
and their families.
- Families are the
cornerstone of societies and have to be supported so that they can effectively care
for and protect their children. Therefore, they are entitled to the protection of society and the
State. Persons with disabilities and
their families must receive the necessary protection and assistance to enable them
to contribute towards the full and equal enjoyment of their rights.
- States need to shape
ongoing reforms of social protection systems to move away from simple approaches
to mitigate poverty towards
building integrated protection and welfare supports that ensure empowerment, build resilience, capacity and prepare children with disabilities for independent life. This requires that
priority is given towards providing
urgently needed community-based services, removing existing barriers to social
assistance schemes, services (particularly in health and education) and social
work to ensure that children with disabilities are not excluded.
- Priority must be
given to making the environment accessible and inclusive of all, encompassing an array
informational, communicational, attitudinal and assistive devices. Especially important is
making public health and education accessible and inclusive. The inclusion of children with disabilities
requires that protection programmes, shelters, main public services, and
relevant buildings are accessible and in line with universal design standards.
Health, education and social welfare services should be affordable and
reflective of the disability and age-appropriate needs.
efforts are required to ensure
dissemination of all information in accessible formats, such as Braille, sign language and easy-to-read
texts, and equal access to new communications technologies and systems, as well
as facilities, to further improve
the social inclusion of children with disabilities and their family.
action plans must be developed by the governments in the region in order to
implement inclusion policies for children with disabilities. This includes coordination
different ministries on the model of National Councils with participation of ministries
and civil society representatives.
action plans must be developed in consultation
with Disabled People’s Organizations, parents associations, and with children
- Child Rights Ombudsman
Offices need to further monitor and report on key issues and abuses affecting
the realization of rights of children with disabilities. Also, independent human rights monitoring mechanisms with
participation of Disabled People‘s Organisations and parents associations must
be supported. Countries should additionally share annually, thematic reports on children with disabilities in institutions, children
living in alternative settings, and children who have returned to their own
families, with a focus on the most vulnerable and invisible.
- Efforts for putting
into place a system of response to violence
against children with
disabilities must be accelerated covering institutions, schools, families and societies as a whole. Reporting
systems must be combined with access to justice mechanisms, allowing victims to claim for redress.
- Governments need to ensure that
data on children with disabilities are systematically collected, centrally
reported and published, using international classification systems. At a minimum, such data should
be disaggregated by sex, age, disability and, if in residential care, the
reasons for- and the duration of placement. UNICEF encourages governments to use
the MICS household survey including the available modules on disabilities.
- Signing and ratifying the
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) is a fundamental
step for addressing the root causes of exclusion. The CRPD calls for each child
to be recognised as a full member of society. It highlights the need for
investment to remove physical, cultural, economic, communication, mobility and
attitudinal barriers that violate children’s rights.