Romanian NGOs Protest Use of World Bank Funds to Support "Dormitories" for Disabled Persons
To: Mr. Calin Popescu Tariceanu
Prime Minister of Romania
Dear Mr. Prime Minister,
We are writing to you to express our profound concern about, and disagreement with, the disconnect between the National Strategy for the Protection, Integration and Social Inclusion of People with Disabilities for 2005-2013, approved by Government Decision No. 1175/September 29, 2005 and some recently announced Government plans regarding the reform of social protection services.
Specifically, we would draw your attention to the following two issues: First, the Government has expressed its intention to construct ten (10) new institutions using financing in the form of a loan obtained by Romania from the World Bank for social inclusion (agreement signed July 4, 2006). The plan is to use 7.5€ million to construct ten institutions for fifty residents. The implementation of this plan would represent a gross violation of the human right of each of the future residents to social inclusion. The construction of such congregate care facilities also contradicts the recommendations of the European Commission.
Using the same funds, the Government could purchase one-hundred fifty (150) 4-room apartments in different cities. If this were accomplished, six hundred (600) persons with disabilities could live in the community with appropriate support, without being condemned to the segregation, isolation and discrimination which would be the result of relocating them to institutions with capacity for 50 people each. It is important to point out that there is capacity among civil society organizations in Romania to provide appropriate community-based support to people who are relocated from institutions to community-based programs. Pentru Voi, among other organizations, continues to be at the government’s disposal to discuss how we can collaborate to ensure the social inclusion and the respect for human rights of people with disabilities. There is no need to start from zero. In Romania there are existing models of best practice in community-based care, which can be replicated at the national level.
The second cause for serious concern relates to the Regional Operational Programme 2007-2013. This plan was prepared by the Ministry of European Integration and was submitted to the European Commission for approval. In this plan, in Priority Axis 3.2.2 entitled ‘Improvement of Social Infrastructure’, the Ministry states that "the key areas of intervention [are] . . . Rehabilitation/ modernization and equipment of social services infrastructure." Articulated in this fashion the Programme will not permit the financing and development of new community based social services. On the contrary, it would only permit the rehabilitation of old and existing institutions which have 20% or more damage. The condition of these institutions was the very reason Romania was criticized and condemned by the international media and by many international organizations which advocate for the human rights of people with disabilities. Mr. Prime Minister, investment in the renovation of these institutions would be an extremely poor investment. The plan must be to close these institutions and to begin investment in the development of the community-based alternatives to them. Central to this argument is that while life in an institution can be made more comfortable, it can never be made into freedom and participation. The only means to reach real freedom and participation for people with disabilities is to invest in the community-based alternatives.
Pentru Voi Foundation in Timisoara provides community-based services for adults with intellectual disabilities and promotes their human rights. Together with Inclusion Romania, The National Federation of People with Intellectual Disabilities, we organized a national conference with the theme of promoting community living for people with intellectual disabilities. In attendance were representatives of several prominent and active Romanian Non-Governmental Organizations in the disability field, representatives from international organizations, and representatives from the European Commission Directorate General for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities.
During this conference, all in attendance discussed and appreciated the efforts of the Romanian Government to reform the social protection system for people with disabilities. In fact, the National Strategy for the Protection, Integration and Social Inclusion of People with Disabilities for 2005-2013, approved by Government Decision No. 1175/September 29, 2005, represented a great step forward in promoting disability issues based on a respect for human rights, and it is in line with European legislation and the United Nations Convention regarding the Rights of People with Disabilities. The Convention will be adopted at the end of this year by the United Nations General Assembly, and Romania is expected to be a signatory to the Convention. On the same time, participants have expressed the need that developing community living will be adopted as national priority for Romania.
We respectfully request that the Government take urgent and immediate action ensure that European funds are not spent on programs which will have the effect of violating the human rights of people with disabilities. Until now, the development of community services was blocked because of lack of funds. Now, starting with 2007, you have the unique opportunity to reform the system with the structural funds.
Specifically, we call on you to urge the government to modify the language and the implementation of major intervention domain 3.2.2 of the Operational Programme 2007-2013 so that rather than invest in unsustainable institutions, the Government can finance and develop new community based social services in accordance with the National Strategy of 2005.
We also respectfully request that before taking action regarding the use of the 7.5€ million loan obtained from the World Bank for social inclusion, the Government consult with NGOs that represent the interests of persons with disabilities. If this happens, it will be clear that the only way forward is to develop alternatives to institutions rather than to invest significant amounts of money in archaic institutions.
We look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.
President Inclusion Romania
Director “Pentru Voi” Foundation