The issue of human rights and the main principle of the 2030 Global Agenda “Leave no one behind” have a special meaning and sound when it comes to people with disabilities. Annually celebrated on December 3, International Day of Disabled Persons invoked to admonish about the specific needs of such people, the importance of creating inclusive and barrier-free social environment, the collective responsibility of society for the welfare of each of its members.
Turkmenistan was the first Central Asian state to join the UN Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities in 2008. The country was twice elected to the UN Commission for social development, which develops system-wide social policy and its priorities, and also monitors the implementation of the main international standards in this area. It issues relevant recommendations and expert opinions on such topical issues as social protection of the population, especially the most vulnerable groups, ensuring equal opportunities for people with disabilities, strengthening the role of the family, improving the situation of young people by creating new opportunities for education, employment and decent work, etc.
Special attention is paid to practical measures aimed at improving the social position of people, particularly through the development of the residential sector and housing construction. Turkmenistan participated in this work in the period 2014-2017 and, taking into account its contribution to the Commission’s multidimensional activities, was re-elected for a new term in 2017-2021.
International approaches and standards are also being implemented in national policy, where in recent years more and more attention has been paid to the category of citizens who are particularly in need of social protection. The law of Turkmenistan “On social protection of the population”, adopted in 2013, contains a number of rules and regulations governing benefits for disabled people in the field of education, employment and other areas of life.
In the field of education, the principle of inclusiveness is laid down in such documents as the National Strategy for Early Child Development for 2020-2025 and the Program for improving the activities of preschool institutions in the field of early development and increase of the child preparation for school in Turkmenistan for 2020-2025.
As for practical steps, we can recall that in 2017, a program was implemented for the construction of multi-apartment residential buildings for the disabled in the capital and in all regions of Turkmenistan. They provided the necessary conditions for comfortable living in them for citizens with disabilities, including the placement of new buildings near their employment facilities. Apartments for people with disabilities and citizens in need of social support were provided free of charge.
The state renders material support to vulnerable segments of the population by paying benefits in proper time, granting preferences, providing medical services and promoting social rehabilitation of people with disabilities, introducing them to feasible work and sports.
When discussing the State Budget for 2021 at the government meeting, it was noted that it is important to plan capital investments for the continuation of construction of housing for disabled and needy citizens in cities and regions. This approach is aimed at implementing one of the points of the Statement of the results of the International Seminar on “Financing the Sustainable Development Goals Implementation: the Role of Integrated National Financing Mechanisms”, held this summer in Ashgabat and adopted as a document of the 74th session of the UN General Assembly.
It says, “We recognize that the socio-economic impact of the pandemic may most affect vulnerable groups, including women and girls, youth, children, people with disabilities, elderlies, refugees, displaced persons, migrants and other vulnerable groups, and are determined to implement and expand social protection and other support programs for these groups, in accordance with the principle “leave no one behind”, and to support investments in social services, including healthcare and education, which are crucial for the social and economic well-being of the region’s countries now and in the future.”
Along with the state, public and civil organizations, such as the Ýeňme Turkmen Blind and Deaf society, Support Center for People with Disabilities and others, make an important contribution to the development of an inclusive social environment in the country. Together with international organizations such as UNDP and UNICEF, they implement projects on social inclusion and integration of people with disabilities, and conduct cultural and sports events. This year, the UNDP in Turkmenistan is launching a social media campaign to tell the story of two organizations working to protect the rights and increase the potential of such people – Ýeňme and Support Center for People with Disabilities.
Through social media channels and UNDP websites, everyone can learn about the goals of such organizations and the specifics of working with people with disabilities, as well as find information about what UNDP and its partners are doing for people with disabilities in Turkmenistan.
The country’s sports clubs contribute to the creation of an inclusive society and the introduction of people with disabilities to a healthy lifestyle. So, a few years ago, the Agama Mountaineering Club prepared a mobile wall-simulator for a sports festival organized for people with disabilities, where each participant could test themselves on a vertical wall with insurance.
Last year, the Board of the Agama Mountaineering Club and the Blind and Deaf Society of Turkmenistan, with the sponsorship of the Support Center for People with Disabilities, UN Women, the Children’s Fund of the Central Council of the Makhtumkuli Youth Organization, entrepreneur Jamilya Japarova, held a climbing tournament for people with disabilities, where members of the Ashgabat bard club performed with a concert program.
The purpose of such campaigns, which unite the efforts of various public organizations and businesses, is to remind people with disabilities that they are not alone, promote their rehabilitation, encourage them to be engaged in physical culture and sports, and to attract the attention of the public and the media.
In recent years, this area of rehabilitation and integration of people with disabilities has also acquired an international dimension. Last fall, a delegation of athletes, coaches, and adaptive sports administrators from the United States made a 10-day visit to Turkmenistan. Members of the delegation shared their experience in promoting sports involving people with disabilities and communicated with colleagues from Turkmenistan through seminars, master classes and friendly competitions in Ashgabat, Mary, Turkmenabat, Dashoguz, Balkanabat and Turkmenbashi.
This was a continuation of a similar visit in November 2018, which was supported by the Virginia Commonwealth University, the Ministry of Sports and Youth Policy of Turkmenistan, the Central and Regional Sports Clubs for people with disabilities of Turkmenistan, the US Embassy in Ashgabat and the Office of Sports Diplomacy of the US State Department.
As U.S. Ambassador to Turkmenistan Mr. Klimow noted at the “Personal Development through Sports” Conference held at the Ashgabat Olympic complex, “This was an unprecedented collaboration between the governments of the United States and Turkmenistan, and we are extremely proud of what this program has achieved and will continue to achieve”, since “this is not the end of a one-time event, but the beginning of a long-term dialogue”.