02/06/2019 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 02/06/2019 17:53
Enhancing the electoral participation of persons with disabilities was the focus of discussion during a conference co-organized in Skopje by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and the OSCE Mission to Skopje on 6 February 2019.
The event brought together 55 participants (30 women and 25 men), including representatives of national authorities and disabled persons' organizations. The participants included officials from the State Election Commission, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy and the Ministry of Education and Science, as well as representatives of political parties, the Interparty Parliamentary Group for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and international organizations. ODIHR invited leading experts in the field from Austria, Slovenia and United States.
The event raised the participants' awareness about the limited participation of persons with disabilities in electoral process. It also helped to identify measures that can reflect OSCE commitments and address ODIHR's electoral recommendations aimed at improving the situation.
Key topics discussed were challenges and obstacles to the inclusion of persons with disabilities in electoral process and how to create an enabling environment based on good practices and lessons learned in the region and elsewhere.
'Electoral processes highlight accessibility issues, different levels of inclusion and legal capacity problems. These processes are an excellent indicator, a litmus test, of how committed a state is to a human rights-based approach to disability and to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities,' said Goran Kustura, Secretary General of the National Council of Slovenian Organizations of Persons with Disabilities.
Ambassador Clemens Koja, Head of the OSCE Mission to Skopje, said: 'We are glad to contribute to the important task of promoting and ensuring accessible voting for persons with disabilities. By protecting their rights and ensuring their full and effective participation in the conduct of public affairs, without discrimination and on an equal basis with others, we encourage their participation in public affairs.'
'The State Election Commission continuously implements activities for ensuring accessibility to electoral processes for persons with disabilities,' said Oliver Derkoski, President of the State Election Commission. However, to ensure comprehensive and equal access for this group of voters, which is our mutual goal, we require open co-operation with other institutions responsible for polling stations, as well as with the civic sector. In this way we can raise awareness of the needs in this area.'
The event part of ODIHR's project Support to Elections in the Western Balkans, which is funded by the European Union and the Austrian Development Agency.