Example 6: Advocating Across Europe for Independent Living for Persons with Disabilities
Project Type: Advocacy
European Coalition for Community Living (ECCL)
In 2005, a group of advocacy organizations established the European Coalition for Community Living (ECCL) to advocate for the development of comprehensive, quality, community-based services as an alternative to institutionalization. A Europe wide cross-disability initiative, ECCL is led by the European Network on Independent Living, the European umbrella organization run by people with disabilities.
Over one million people with disabilities are confined to long-stay institutions across Europe, often for their entire life. Despite recognition that people with disabilities have the right to live in the community as equal citizens, the legal, financial, and other reforms necessary for community living have not been implemented. The development of a wide range of quality community-based alternatives to institutionalization is crucial to realizing community-based living for all people with disabilities.
ECCL’s activities include:
- Publishing position papers and briefings and making recommendations on the right of people with disabilities to live in the community.
- Advocating before European institutions for policies that support community-based services, and highlighting the crucial importance of involving people with disabilities as equal partners in this work.
- Supporting ECCL members in their national advocacy activities.
- Facilitating exchange of information and the promotion of best practice in the development of community based services, through seminars and newsletters for ECCL members and other interested organizations.
- Launching a campaign calling for recognition of the right of all people with disabilities to live in the community and for a shift in government funding from long stay institutions to community-based services.
- Publishing an investigative article and video that highlights the appalling human rights abuses that take place on a daily basis in institutions for people with disabilities in Bulgaria, Romania and Serbia. The article and video also document the lack of real progress towards developing community-based alternatives.
- Yana Buhrer et al., Institutions Remain Dumping Grounds for Forgotten People, Newsletter of the European Coalition for Community Living (Issue No. 10), Oct. 2009, at 3. Available at: http://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/sites/default/files/eccl_20091031.pdf.
- Writing a report, which found that recipients of European Union’s Structural Funds maintain large, archaic institutions for people with disabilities with the funds they receive, instead of using those funds to support community-based programs.
- European Coalition for Community Living (ECCL), Wasted Time, Wasted Money, Wasted Lives—A Wasted Opportunity? (2010). Available at: http://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/sites/default/files/wasted-opportunity-20100325.pdf.
- Video: Dumping Grounds for Forgotten People (Nov. 3, 2009). Available at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=R_juS3m0534.
- Contributing to the work of the European Expert Group on the Transition from Institutional to Community-based Care, established in 2009 at the initiative of the European Commission. Within this group, ECCL made a significant contribution to three policy documents, and has taken part in trainings on the right to community living and developing community-based alternatives to institutional care for the European Commission and national governments.
- Report of the Ad Hoc Expert Group on the Transition from Institutional to Community-based Care (2009). Available at: http://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?langId=ro&catId=89&newsId=614&furtherNews=yes .
- Common European Guidelines on the Transition from Institutional to Community-based Care (2012) and the Toolkit on the Use of European Union Funds for the Transition from Institutional to Community-based Care. Available at: www.deinstitutionalisationguide.eu.
Results & Lessons Learned
- ECCL has provided organizations with information and contacts in planning, providing or advocating for community-based services.
- ECCL has established cooperation with policy and decision makers at the European level and is considered to be an expert on community living and deinstitutionalization by various European disability organizations.
- By insisting on the central role of people with disabilities in the planning and delivery of services, ECCL has gained the trust of user-led organizations and is considered a legitimate representative of their interests.