The city of Užice in Serbia has a plan to create employment opportunities and make public spaces more accessible for people who are differently abled.
The process began with participants in an ICLD training programme that had a human rights-based approach. The local council and civil society organizations now work close together.
“The goal is to improve the status of people with functional variations and achieving this goal cannot be done only by people who are differently abled”, says Čedomir Cicović, chairman of a disability organization in Užice.
The project is part of the ICLD programme “Local Governance with a Rights Based Approach”.
The process to shape the “Action Plan for Persons with Disabilities” took six months. The city of Užice was supported by the National Organization of Persons with Disabilities of Serbia and the Ministry of Social Policy of Serbia.
“One of the great benefits of cooperation between local self-government and civil society organizations is that the local self-government can better understand the situation at a ground level and the type of problems citizens with different abilities face”, says Deputy Mayor of Užice, Namanja Nesic.
The project formed a target group with representatives of people who are differently abled, representatives of local self-government, public health institutions, social welfare centres, regional development agencies and educational institutions.
A survey pointed out priority actions that need to be implemented in Užice over the next three years.
“The short term plan is to improve the existing, and create new, social protection services according to needs expressed by the target group, enhance health protection and primary health care at local level, create employment opportunities for people who are differently abled through institutional partnerships and cross-sector engagement and improve socio-economic status for persons with disabilities and their families”, says Sara Bozic who works for the municipality.
The action plan has a framework and priorities for identifying barriers to inclusion.
“The necessities for people who are differently abled are thoroughly listed, all relevant stakeholders are identified and we are more confident that a national strategic plan will be translated to local level and applied”, she says.
“The project can create not only changes in the short or long-term, but also set examples of good practice for other cities and municipalities in Serbia”, says Čedomir Cicović.
“After the end of this three-year period the action plan will give a good working direction in this field”, he says.
What has ICLD’s support meant for the process?
“ICLD and their International Training Programme emphasizes human rights approach and local democracy development that have provided comprehensive guidelines for incorporating good governance principles in the public sector in line with the EU’s approach”, says mayor Namanja Nesic.
The programme is a good example of how the Agenda 2030-target #10, “Reduced inequalities” is incorporated in a joint project for vulnerable groups. Through networks, partnerships and the power of the collective, Užice can face the challenge of unemployment among people with functional variations.
“By implementing the knowledge gained within the ICLD programme, we have created a two-way communication between citizens and responsible public authorities on public services provision. By collecting citizens’ feedback on the quality of administration and public services we have ensured a reaction from the responsible authorities”, says Sara Bozic.
The movement of change is initiated. To ensure the rights of persons who are differently abled in a future Užice, Čedomir Cicović is hopeful:
“The priorities that this action plan recognizes are accessibility, social and health care and sustainable and long-term employment for people who are differently abled”, he says. “We firmly believe that through the partnership with ICLD we will contribute to the realization of this, for us, most important priority”.
But, he raises a finger of warning:
“We must avoid the trap that focus on these three priorities will lead to neglect of other areas in the local community that should be improved in parallel. For example, education of people who are differently abled, anti-discrimination measures at the local level, greater and better involvement of people with different abilities in decision-making processes.”