Report from the Zero Project 2015 Conference held at the United Nations building in Vienna, February 25 – 27, 2015
Zero Project Conference 2015 was held in Vienna, February 25 – 27, 2015. As in previous years, this year’s conference dealt with the presentation of the latest innovative practices and policies for persons with disabilities. It is a major event which brings together delegates from countries from all over the world who, after the prior selection, get a chance to present their own program under the category of innovative practices or innovative policies. Zero Project initiative was launched in 2010 by the ESSL Foundation. World Future Council (WFC) joined them in 2011 and the European Foundation Centre (EFC) in 2013. The mission of Zero Project is to work on creating a world without barriers, in accordance with the principles and articles of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The idea of the project is to promote social change by applying innovative policies that affect all levels of government, from local up to the regional and national levels, regarding all aspects of articles 19 and 29 of the Convention. The goal of this year’s Zero Project Conference is therefore to raise awareness using innovative practices and policies from around the world which promote independent living and political participation of persons with disabilities.
Conference in Vienna has been held every February for the past three years. The past two conferences focused on the themes of Employment (2013) and Accessibility (2014). On this year’s conference, which focused on independent living and political participation, 450 participants from 150 countries took part, and 50 were nominated for examples of best practices.
One of the main assumptions upon which the concept of Zero Project conference relies on is that of social innovation. Social innovation is, in fact, necessary for making a change that the implementation of the UN Convention demands. Innovation is viewed in terms of achieving recognizable improvements and positive dynamic changes that can easily serve as a model and be replicated in many other countries. It is important to point out the main aim of Zero Project – to find and identify models that work in practice. Experts, but also the people with disabilities, both participate in the decision making on the best practices.
Zero Project therefore represents a platform where innovative and effective solutions to the problems that people with disabilities face are being shared. Recognition of the Association for Promoting Inclusion, which participated in Zero Project conference for the first time, is in this sense is a very important step.
Prof. Borka Teodorovic, PhD, President of the Association and a representative of the ‘Independent living with individualized support’ program used this opportunity to present the work and activities of the Association for Promoting Inclusion. She informed the participants about the organized housing program as a new type of service for which the need was recognized in 2000 from when it began to develop as part of the social welfare system.
Our program was nominated for one of the good examples of innovative practice among 50 others, and it won an award.
Zero Project conference will be held again in 2016 and the main focus will be Education. Until then, we will continue to work on creating a world without barriers.