Example 5: Advocating for the Implementation of the CRPD in Croatia 

Project Type: Advocacy

The Organization

Association for Self-Advocacy (ASA)
Udruga za samozastupanje 
(Croatian)
Zagreb, Croatia
E-mail:  kontakt@samozastupanje.hr
Web:  http://www.samozastupanje.hr/

The Association for Self Advocacy (ASA), established in 2003, is the first non-governmental organization (NGO) in Croatia run by and for persons with intellectual disabilities.

The Problem

Croatia was one of the first countries to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), yet prsons with intellectual disabilities remain marginalized in Croatian society. Many persons with intellectual disabilities in Croatia are declared legally incompetent and thus denied the right to make any decisions regarding their lives. As a result, many cannot realize their right to education, employment, marriage, ownership of property, voting, or other basic rights.  One in three children and adults with severe intellectual disabilities in Croatia remains institutionalized.

In Focus

Although Croatia is a state party to the CRPD, its progress towards meeting its obligations under that convention and towards deinstitutionalization of the intellectually disabled has been disappointing. According to Human Rights Watch, “research in Croatia found a serious lack of progress with regard to deinstitutionalization, combined with limited investment in development and financing of community-based alternatives to institutional care and housing . . . . [T]he primary reason for the failings described . . . is not lack of financial resources dedicated to deinstitutionalization but rather lack of leadership.” NGOs, like the ASA, are necessary to narrow the gap between Convention obligations and the realization of rights for persons with disabilities.

Source: Human Rights Watch, Once You Enter, You Never Leave: Deinstitutionalization of Persons with Intellectual or Mental Disabilities in Croatia 2, 51 (September 2010). Available at: http://www.hrw.org/reports/2010/09/23/once-you-enter-you-never-leave-0.

Actions Taken

The CRPD has the potential to introduce significant improvements in the lives of persons with intellectual disabilities. The ASA undertakes a variety of activities aimed at promoting the implementation the CRPD:

  • ASA advocates for the development of community-based services as alternatives to institutionalization.
  • ASA trains persons with intellectual disabilities about human rights and self-advocacy, and organizes public awareness campaigns about the human rights of people with intellectual disabilities.
  • Consistent with the CRPD’s guarantee of accessibility, ASA prepares and distributes easy-to-read materials on the rights of persons with intellectual disabilities.

Results & Lessons Learned 

  • ASA, led by persons with intellectual disabilities, is recognized for its expertise in human rights and advocacy.
  • Persons with intellectual disabilities in Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia and Romania who have participated in ASA’s self-determination and self-advocacy training are equipped with the skills to advocate for their rights in their respective countries.
  • ASA works with other self advocacy groups, human rights organizations and NGOs providing community based services for persons with intellectual disabilities to promote implementation of the CRPD.