On the occasion of 3 December – the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, the Centre for Civic Education (CCE) urges the Government of Montenegro and other relevant institutions to address the position of persons with disabilities with more attention and sensitivity, especially bearing in mind that the coronavirus pandemic further marginalized this social group.
This year’s theme of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities is the fight for rights in the post-corona era, and it seems that the significance of this fight in Montenegro has not yet been recognized. The UN Report on Rapid Assessment of the Social Impact of the COVID-19 outbreak in Montenegro indicates that persons with disabilities are in a very difficult socio-economic situation and one of the groups most exposed to discrimination, but also poverty. Among other things, the report states: “Many respondents in the previous period did not have a job, nor did they manage to find it, so they almost lost their income. The economic aspect was also affected by the increase in food prices and the costs of utilities and electricity (—), thus increasing the cost of living, as well as the suspension or inability to exercise some of the rights in the field of social and child protection.” The EC Report for Montenegro for 2021 states that the corona pandemic and the accompanying crisis further worsened the situation of persons with disabilities “with regard to mobility, accessibility to public services and information, employment, health and education”.
Despite the obviously disrupted living conditions of PWDs, Montenegrin citizens, through the November MNE Pulse of the CCE and the Damar Agency, assess that the Government of Montenegro did not focus on persons with disabilities, apart from the almost symbolic 1%. This does not necessarily mean that the Government and the competent authorities have not done anything in the field of affirmation of the rights of persons with disabilities, but it means that these efforts were not a priority or recognized by citizens as improving the position of PWDs.
Public perception is important for the fight for the equal position of persons with disabilities and independent living in the community, especially because it has long been shaped by a medical and charitable model of observing disability. According to the findings of the 2020 CCE research on attitudes towards PWDs, citizens’ first associations with disabilities and persons with disabilities were persons who need help, who cannot function alone, pity, sadness, developmental disabilities, etc. These are expressions of misunderstandings and misconceptions about persons with disabilities and their position, and they increase discrimination and multiply the effects of barriers and obstacles that persons with disabilities face.
In January 2021, the CCE, through an analysis of the election programmes of political parties and coalitions from the 2020 Parliamentary elections, which resulted with the current Government, warned two out of the three currently ruling coalitions, primarily “For the future of Montenegro“, ignored the issue of persons with disabilities in their election programmes, which cannot be a good basis for the development of new approaches in improving the position of PWDs in Montenegro.
The CCE estimates that it is necessary to return the focus to the groups that are in the long-term effect of discrimination and which are most affected by the coronavirus crisis, of whom among the most endangered ones are undoubtedly persons with disabilities.
The United Nations General Assembly declared 3 December the International Day of Persons with Disabilities in 1992 to promote understanding of disability issues and to gather support for the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities.
Željka Ćetković, Active Citizenship Programme Coordinator