International Conference to Advance Equality for Persons with Disabilities

The United Nations Human Rights Office (OHCHR) this week joined with civil society partner Mental Disability Rights Initiative MDRI-S  to convene the international conference “Equality before the Law and Supported Decision-Making”, held in Belgrade June 29-30.   The conference focussed on legal capacity and possible alternatives to guardianship with particular focus on persons with intellectual, cognitive and psycho-social disabilities.

First day of the conference examined the prospects and challenges of legislative changes and reforming guardianship system to comply with the international obligations coming from the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). The second day of the conference dealt with possible alternatives to guardianship and supported decision-making, and presenting examples from other countries.

The conference gathered policy-makers, representatives of judiciary, centres for social work, legal professionals, academics, independent institutions, civil society organizations, international organizations, and other relevant stakeholders who should initiate and implement reforms. International practices and experiences in changing the legislation and developing supported decision-making models were presented by the experts from Ireland, Bulgaria, and Australia.

Serbia ratified the CRPD Convention in 2009.   At least 10,000 persons in Serbia lack legal capacity. They cannot conclude a work contract, marry or divorce, accept or refuse medication, manage their own finances, own property, vote or stand for election or undertake a broad range of other basic legal acts fundamental to social existence. They are particularly exposed to the risks of harm associated with institutionalization.

In March 2016, the CRPD Committee reviewed Serbia’s compliance with the CRPD Convention for the first time. On the basis of that review, the CRPD Committee concluded that Serbia should harmonize its legislation with the Convention “with a view to replacing substituted decision-making with supported decision-making regimes which respect the person’s autonomy, will and preferences, and establish transparent safeguards.” 

Presentations from the conference can be downloaded at the following link: