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Election Access Monitoring Report Spurs Conversations in Kosovo

MEOs are led through a simulation of an inaccessible polling station during one of the workshops held in October 2014

MEOs are led through a simulation of an inaccessible polling station during one of the workshops held in October 2014

There are an estimated 200,000 persons with disabilities living in Kosovo, many of whom encounter numerous obstacles such as inaccessible polling stations and transport options when trying to exercise their right to vote.

To fully identify and understand the barriers to elections for persons with disabilities, the Kosovo Democratic Institute (KDI) and a disabled person’s organization named HandiKOS partnered with the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) to develop a short- and long-term election monitoring program for Kosovo’s National Assembly elections held in June 2014.

For the program, known as the Disability Access Monitoring Mission (DAMM), both KDI and HandiKOS recruited 230 persons with disabilities (of whom 37% were women) as either short- or long-term observers in all stages of the electoral process, including election planning, the dissemination of electoral and political information, campaigns by political parties, and voting on Election Day.

The first DAMM report was released in in three languages and braille. One of its major findings noted that, although Kosovo had laws that supported the political rights of persons with disabilities, there were large gaps in the implementation of these laws throughout the country.

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Ramini Matcharashvili, speaker at the AGENDA 3rd Regional Dialogue

Ramini Matcharashvili speech in AGENDA 3rd Conference

On January 28-29 AGENDA held a two-day conference in Jakarta, Indonesia, on the topic of persons with disabilities and their political rights. Issues discussed included obstacles faced by persons with disabilities when trying to participate and get engaged in electoral processes and how certain obstacles can be overcome. Participants from various countries shared their experiences and ideas about these issues.

What I saw at the conference was that problems are more or less similar in every country: people with disabilities are prevented from invoking their right of participation in elections, which is caused by lack of adapted election precincts, difficulty getting to the polling station and stereotypes in society. In some countries, weak legislation concerning this problem is also an issue. Some countries have not ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and during the conference this issue was also discussed. Problems include education and employment of people with disabilities, which is exasperated by an un-adapted environment and lack of opportunities for persons with disabilities. The same problem is faced by persons with disabilities in Georgia.

Some of the countries represented at the conference have made big steps forward in overcoming some of the above mentioned challenges.

Participating in the conference gave me new insights and increased my capacity as a person working on disability issues and as a founder of an NGO focusing on these issues. I met some interesting people who work in the same field as me, shared experiences, and exchanged contact information so that we can contact each other and share advices and opinions on different issues. I suggested that organizers invite parents of persons with disabilities as they also need to be informed on issues discussed during the conference. This experience made me realize the importance of conferences like this as they serve as an important platform to exchange ideas, plan future partnerships and make tangible impact. At the closing ceremony, the minister of healthcare of Indonesia visited the conference and talked to participants and listened to their advice and suggestions they gave.

Another highlight for me was learning about the experiences of some of the participant countries; I plan to introduce some of their approaches to Georgian NGOs working on these topics. Ideas like electronic voting systems might be useful for persons with disabilities in Georgia. I was introduced to and befriended some very kind people at the conference, such as representative of the Embassy of Georgia to Indonesia Natia Gagua, and IFES representatives Virginia Atkinson and Vasu Mohan.

IDPP Participates in 3rd AGENDA Regional Dialogue

IDPP Program Associate Ms. Della Leonor participated in the General Election Network for Disability Access (AGENDA)’s General Election for Disability Access South Asia Conference held from 28-29 January, 2015 in Jakarta, Indonesia. The two-day conference featured panel discussions and presentations on a wide range of topics within the field of universal election access and political participation with the aim of raising awareness and promoting full and equal participation of persons with disabilities in democratic election processes.

The event also provided a unique networking opportunity for disability advocates, practitioners, policymakers, and academics from the ASEAN region and around the world.

As the IDPP’s representative at the conference, Ms. Leonor actively participated in the conference’s proceedings,where she gained valuable insight on regional, national, and local trategies in supportinguniversal political rights, setting media guidelines on elections, designing inclusive registrationprocesses, and others.She also participated in the BRIDGE “Building Resources in Democracy, Governance and Elections” training on elections and disability rights.

She also interviewed several leading disability advocates for the IDPP Voices podcast series, includingMs. Risnawati Utami, Executive Director of Organisasi Handicap Nusantara OHANA; and Atty. Rene Vergara Sarmiento, Member of the Presidential Human Rights Committee of the Philippines.

Ms. Leonor was also pleased to meet with several IDPP colleagues and faculty during the conference, including Dr. Irwanto, IDPP faculty member and director of the Center for Disability Studies in the Faculty of Social and Political Sciences at Universitas Indonesia; Mr. Joni Yulianto, executive director of Asana Integrasi & Advokasi Difabel (SIGAB); Mr. Christian Dirk Donn, project manager for AGENDA; and Ms. Virginia Atkinson, IFES Access and Inclusion specialist.

One of the many highlights of the event was the Closing Remark Speech of Her Excellency Khofifah Indar Parawansa, Minister of Social Affairs of Republic of Indonesia, in which she iterated Indonesia’s support of universal election access by signing the Bali Declaration.

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Source: http://www.aseanidpp.org/?q=idpp-participates-3rd-agenda-regional-dialogue

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