Dec 10th is Human Rights Day, observed to mark the adoption in 1948 by the UN of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
On Human Rights day in 2021 Constance and I were two of thirty people invited to participate in a meeting of Europe Direct in Faro. The meeting was a discussion of the Future of Democracy in Europe. We were invited because our continuing advocacy for equal rights for people with reduced mobility (PWRM) in the Algarve is being noticed.
Due to the pandemic it was touch as go as to whether the meeting would go ahead in person or by videoconference. The day before the meeting we were given the go ahead and we headed with difficulty by train from Lagos to Faro. Note: we are still working to make the regional trains in the Algarve accessible to all.
The meeting in Faro was hosted by the Algarve Regional Development and Coordination Commission, (CCDR) You can contact them with questions about EU policies, programs and priorities and participate in events about the future of the EU. A big thank you to Ana Burnay at the CCDR for inviting, coordinating with and welcoming us. https://www.ccdr-alg.pt/site/
When we arrived at the Europe Direct building we realized that both the building and the meeting room were not accessible. Later we were given an explanation, the building was under renovation and when the work is complete it will be fully accessible.
The meeting was attended by members of both the European Parliament and the Portuguese Parliament, they saw first hand the difficulty Constance had getting into the building and the conference room. Only because of the determination and courage of people like her will progress be made.
I had prepared and practiced a three minute speech in Portuguese to address the lack of access for (PWRM) to their democracy. Many meeting rooms in the Algarve where official government meetings are held, are to this date completely inaccessible. We reasoned that there can be no real future for democracy in Europe until all citizens are able to participate and have their voices heard. See speech
Europe Direct is a project of the EU Commission to make Europe accessible to people and engage them in debates outside of Brussels and Strasbourg.
After my presentation I asked if everyone could understand my Portuguese, the moderator, a journalist Daniela Ferreira Pinto from RTP replied that she could understand me well. Thanks to our friend and supporter Ana for helping me with some of the grammar and pronunciation.
Before the end of the meeting the Elsa Cordeiro, Vice President of the CCDR, publicly apologized to Constance for the lack of access to the meeting room. She pledged that EU money in the form of grants would be available to municipalities to come into compliance with the law and provide access to PWRM to government buildings and meetings. True to her word in January Elsa sent the grant guidelines for the municipalities to us. The funds are available through the EU Plan for Recuperation and Resilience.
Elsa also pledged to invite us to future discussions with Europe Direct on these issues.
We believe our efforts were well worthwhile and as it was human rights day it is apporiate when taking local action to remember these inspirational words from Eleanor Roosevelt:
"Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home, so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world."
If you wish to support our continuing work please subscribe and if you can please make a donation.