Kramatorsk, Donetsk Oblast / Sievierodonetsk, Luhansk Oblast, 9 December 2020 – The annual Interregional “Life without Barriers” Forum was held on 4-5 December for discussion of the development of inclusion and accessibility in eastern Ukraine, the challenges facing people with disabilities, and the search for joint solutions to overcome them.
Held for the first time online this year, the forum was organized under the UN Recovery and Peacebuilding Programme, with financial support from the governments of Denmark, Switzerland, Sweden and the Netherlands.
The topic of inclusion in Ukraine is still an urgent one, as the physical infrastructure in the east and in Ukraine remains inaccessible and does not meet the key needs of people with disabilities and other low-mobility groups. With the COVID-19 pandemic, this problem has only worsened.
The annual forum aims to once again draw public attention to the problems of people with disabilities, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, and together with national and international partners find effective solutions for building inclusive infrastructure in communities in the east and all across Ukraine.
The forum also provided an opportunity to summarize the results of joint work over the year, and the partners had the opportunity to share their impressions and ideas for further cooperation with the UN Recovery and Peacebuilding Programme.
The coordinator of the Social Cohesion and Community Security Component of the UN Recovery and Peacebuilding Programme, Rustam Pulatov, said that building an inclusive environment in Ukraine requires comprehensive and long-term solutions, and providing assistance and support to people with disabilities is a top priority of the programme.
“This year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and quarantine restrictions due to the rapid spread of the virus in Ukraine and around the world, the issue of building inclusion has become particularly acute,” Pulatov said. “We are well aware that quarantine restrictions have made it much more difficult for people in general to live a normal life, and the difficulties in the lives of people with disabilities have increased significantly. This year's forum is a confident step towards building an inclusive society in Ukraine that would be as comfortable and accessible as possible for all, leaving no one behind.”
On the first day of the forum, representatives of the communities of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts shared their successful experiences of implementing inclusive projects, and talked about promoting the idea of inclusion and building a tolerant society based on the principles of human rights, gender equality and integrity. Particular attention was paid to the specifics of building inclusion in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, and participants outlined possible ways for further cooperation between communities and local authorities. On the second day of the forum, participants discussed ways to increase the motivation and involvement of people with disabilities in public life, and representatives of NGOs working in inclusion and providing assistance to people with disabilities presented their best practices and results in community work at the form via exciting video stories. In addition, the participants of the forum had the opportunity to talk live about their inclusive projects and share useful experiences.
Mykola Nadulichnyi, Head of the Luhansk Association of Organizations of Persons with Disabilities, thanked UNDP and the United Nations Recovery and Peacebuilding Programme for organizing the forum for the second year in a row, noting: “Our key goal here at this event this year is to draw public attention to inclusion and needs of people with disabilities who are in a more difficult situation in the conflict-hit in eastern Ukraine. Through events such as this festival, we’re building peace, mutual respect and solidarity in the communities of Donetsk and Luhansk.”
Last year several such thematic events took place – the first inclusive festival “The World for Equality” in Mariupol, which then gathered 500 people with disabilities from different cities and districts, along with more than 1,000 guests from Mariupol, the first “Eastern Forum on Inclusion for strengthening social cohesion, culture of peace, justice”, which was attended by about 300 representatives of partner institutions dealing with inclusion in four oblasts of Ukraine (Donetsk, Luhansk, Odesa, Kharkiv), as well as the festival “World Without Barriers”, which brought together about 200 people with disabilities from Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts.
The United Nations Recovery and Peacebuilding Programme (UN RPP) is being implemented by four United Nations agencies: the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO).
Thirteen international partners support the Programme: the European Union (EU), the European Investment Bank (EIB), the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, and the governments of Canada, Denmark, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK.
Maksym Kytsiuk, Communications Associate, UN Recovery and Peacebuilding Programme, email@example.com, +380 63 576 1839