• 07 May 2014

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    Category : Opinion

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    Progress by Tunisia in disability support policies

    The Director-General of Disability Support Policies of the Ministry of Health, Social Services and Equality, Ignacio Tremiño, analyzes the ‘Support for socio-economic integration of persons with disabilities’ project led by the FIIAPP in Tunisia, of which he was the director on the Spanish side.

    In January of 2012, just after I had started in my position as Director-General of Policies Supporting Persons with Disabilities, I encountered the launch of this project in Tunisia. From the first moment, it seemed like an opportunity for growth and expansion for both the professionals of the Directorate-General and myself. Managing to situate disability policies in the context of the first of the Arab Spring revolutions was a great challenge.

    In the course of these nearly 28 months, Spain has contributed its over 30 years of experience in the development of a disability support system that has given us one of thehighest rates in Europe of inclusive education for children with disabilities, a model of occupational integration that, even in times of crisis like these, has not only maintained employment of this group but actually increased it. Above all, Spain contributed the dynamism and organizational capacity of a civil society that, through the CERMI and the ONCE Foundation, has made disability one of the most important and influential associative sectors with the closest collaboration with the Administration and State institutions in general.

    So I believe that this project has enabled us to expand the influence of the Spain brand in the social context, something that also says a lot about us as a country and as a caring and committed society.

    In my opinion, this project has allowed Tunisia to progress along a path started some time ago, but which is at the same time based on a focus on the rights of persons with disabilities and, for the first time, oriented towards strategic planning and coordination.

    It should be remembered that Tunisia has been creating disability policies for some time; in fact, it has a law on attention to disability dating back to the 80s, similar to our old LISMI. In addition, Tunisia was one of the first countries to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and was the first to voluntarily undergo examination by the monitoring committee for this international treaty. On the other hand, Tunisia has quite an extensive network of assistance and, certainly, is exceptional in terms of its geographic region.

    I believe that, in the first place, this project has allowed Tunisia to advance in an approach based on rights and the autonomy of persons with disabilities. In the second place, it has allowed it to take a step forward in its disability support system and start working on the issue of quality, planning and priorities. One example of these two dimensions can be found in the pilot projects carried out in schools and special education centres, promoting a truly inclusive education and providing possibilities for making equal opportunities for children with disabilities a concrete reality.

    Lastly, I believe this project reached Tunisia at an excellent moment, just after the Revolution and the establishment of a democratic regime, as in this context it was possible to promote the collaboration between the State and civil society, between the administration and associations, and between the State and companies, in an environment of freedom. One example of this can be found in the activities for occupational integration we carried out which led to several agreements between the Tunisian employment service (ANETI) and various companies.

    This project, besides collaborating in the reforms of disability policies being undertaken by Tunisia, has also had a direct impact on citizens, an aspect we were very careful with in order to increase visibility and support and commitment on the ground. Therefore, in addition to the pilot projects in the La Manouba province mentioned previously, which allowed us to work with 10 educational centres, there was field work with associations, companies and persons with disabilities which made it possible to guarantee employment to dozens of persons with disabilities in the private sector in six different regions. This, along with the holding of the first two recruitment drives for persons with disabilities, has changed the situation and job perspectives of persons with disabilities in Tunisia.

    Undoubtedly there is still much to be done, but this project was another step on a road that is a great challenge for all countries and in which we have much to contribute and learn.

    The views and opinions expressed in this blog are the sole responsibility of its author.