Kyrgyzstan has allocated 6.6 billion soms or nearly 94.5 million dollars to implement its obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The amount seems huge, but given the 10-year period of implementation and the whole country, the experts think it won’t be enough even to develop relevant infrastructure.
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Today Kyrgyzstan has 181 thousand people with disabilities (PWDs). Their number increases every year and in the last 7 years it has increased by 21.5 per cent. The ministry of labour and social development said it was mainly due to the population growth. Persons with disabilities account for 3 per cent of all population.
On March 14, 2019, the president of Kyrgyzstan, Sooronbai Zheenbekov, ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The document became effective on March 24. It means that the country is now bound to provide people with disabilities with available environment and infrastructure to involve them in everyday life and to grant them all rights and freedoms.
The state needs to create all conditions to let PWDs access public spaces easily, to attend educational institutions, to take part in social, cultural events and live full life just like other citizens. In other words, people with disabilities should not feel themselves discriminated against.
The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2006. Kyrgyzstan joined it as early as 2011. However, the document was not ratified for 8 years due to the lack of necessary funds.
As of April 2018, the Convention has been ratified by 177 states, as well as the European Union. The following CIS countries have signed and ratified it:
Uzbekistan and Tajikistan have not still joined the Convention officially. Nevertheless, Uzbekistan signed it back in 2009, and Tajikistan – in 2018. However, the document has not been ratified yet.
In 2015, financial experts estimated that 36 billion soms (nearly 515 million dollars) of the state budget were needed to provide equal opportunities to people with disabilities. This impracticable amount has delayed ratification of the Convention for 8 years.
In 2018, the same experts have revised the plan and the budget and reduced the amount 5.5 times. Now the implementation of the norms set forth in the Convention will require 6.6 billion soms (almost 94.5 million dollars) and this amount, according to the authorities of Kyrgyzstan, will be spent in the next 10 years.
According to the ministry of social development, almost 30 billion som (almost 43 million dollars) were deducted due to the removal of housing construction item for PWDs.
First of all, state authorities should bring 75 laws and regulations into compliance, including the programme of state guarantees to provide health care to the citizens of the Kyrgyz Republic, law “On education” and “On medical insurance”. To this effect, a special interagency task force was established. Bringing all laws and regulations into compliance will presumably take three years.
In 2016, Kyrgyzstan analysed social-legal status of people with disabilities and issues of their adaptation. The research has shown that laws on PWDs are poorly implemented in the country and create certain restrictions as to kinds of activity and conditions of work. While “inadequate infrastructure of general services buildings or lack of necessary assistive technology and devices doesn’t make access to social service easier.”
One year before, Kyrgyzstan had studied availability and accessibility of ICT to PWDs. The study showed that PWDs are vulnerable in terms of health care and rehabilitation services; the country has no conditions for wheelchair users; they are not involved in decision-making process and their needs are not taken into account in national policy-making.
Deputy Minister of social development and labour Zhanyl Alybaeva admits that current environment in Kyrgyzstan is unfriendly to people with disabilities, not to speak of compliance with international standards. According to her, the government was implementing an integrated programme to improve quality of life among PWDs in 2014 to 2017:
“After Kyrgyzstan had signed the Convention, the interagency task force worked for 8 years. This task force developed an integrated programme. 36 tasks were set and we completed all of them but accreditation of commercial entities in terms of provision of services to PWDs.”
Intolerable budget burden
Accreditation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities gives hope to the Kyrgyzstanis with disabilities that they will be full-fledged members of the society not only on paper. Seinep Dyikanbaeva, a lawyer of the Association of Parents of Children with Disabilities (ARDI), hopes that life of people with disabilities will improve materially:
“Our predictions are rather optimistic as our civil society is strong and our national policy is open. State authorities are willing to solve important social issues; they understand it’s significant to improve the situation and to solve issues of people with disabilities. Having recognised the rights of PWDs, our country has manifested its political will. This will significantly improve the image of the country in the international community.”
Dastan Alymbekov has used wheelchair since he was 7 years old following two spine surgeries. According to him, conditions for PWDs gradually, yet slowly, are getting better in Kyrgyzstan.
“Many traffic lights in town have sound signals. In some places, there are special signs for people with disabilities, but other people park their vehicles there and obstruct the sign’s visibility. And traffic police officers cannot manage this situation.”
He believes if there’s no corruption, the allocated 6.6 billion soms (nearly 94.5 million dollars) would be enough to change the situation in the country.
“Our country will have to report to the United Nations regarding the Convention implementation. It wasn’t adopted for the sake of appearance only. I hope they will repair the stair lifts in pedestrian subways someday and will build more parking lots for people with disabilities.”
Now the budget of Convention implementation looks as follows:
According to deputy minister of social development Zhanyl Alybaeva, every agency will include necessary funds in the budget to implement the activities necessary under the Convention obligations since 2020.
However, economist Azamat Akeneyev thinks these funds are not enough:
“The suggested 6 billion soms for 10-year period mean that 600 million soms (around 8.6 thousand dollars) will be allocated annually or around 3,300 soms (47 dollars) per year per one person with disability. This amount is obviously not sufficient in this situation to ensure accessible environment to persons with disabilities, not to speak of access to education, healthcare and social welfare.”
Also, Akeneyev added that allocation of this amount is an intolerable budget burden for the country.
Experience of neighbours
Kazakhstan is one of the first Central Asian states that ratified the Convention. The country has more than 670 thousand people with disabilities, including over 10 per cent of children aged under 18 years.
According to the leading expert of the Institute for Systemic Researches Parasat and the alumna of the School of Analytics CABAR.asia Naylia Almukhamedova, the most significant successes in the development of barrier-free environment can be seen in the cities of national status, while in regions these problems are rather pressing:
“In particular, regions need to solve problems of accessibility of residential houses built back in the Soviet period and to transportation infrastructure, service infrastructure (education, leisure, culture, sports, etc.). Moreover, there are issues regarding the quality of inclusive education and employment of this category of people.”
Nevertheless, she thinks that living conditions are being gradually improved and the rights of people with disabilities are being observed in Kazakhstan. This can be seen in the improved infrastructure, introduction of education and employment quotas.
For this purpose, the akimat of Almaty allocated 4 billion tenges (736 million soms or 10.5 million dollars) in 2017 for the development of infrastructure for PWDs in Almaty only.
Main photo: kloop.kg
This article was prepared as part of the Giving Voice, Driving Change – from the Borderland to the Steppes Project implemented with the financial support of the Foreign Ministry of Norway. The opinions expressed in the article do not reflect the position of the editorial or donor.