On January 28, in New York at the Executive Board of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) session, the second issue of The Development Advocate magazine was presented. It included 12 winning entries of UNDP’s second annual storytelling competition in an easy-to-read newspaper-style.
The Kazakhstan story on disabilities titled Kazakhstan: Champion for Disabled was among the top stories. The story is about Ali Amanbayev who had to fight for his rights since the age of five when he was diagnosed with a serious spinal injury.
Currently, he is the head of the Kazakhstan Union for the Organizations of People with Disabilities and uses a wheelchair to increase his mobility.
Last summer, he was officially appointed as an adviser to the Minister of Labour and Social Protection of Kazakhstan. He is the first person with a disability to hold this highly ranked position in Kazakhstan.
Amanbayev graduated from the law school at Kazakh State University in Almaty. He has been the chairman of the Kazakhstan Union of for the Organizations of People with Disabilities since 2009.
He is also a member of the International Union of Disability Organizations of CIS, coordinator of the Abilis partner organization fund , Support for People with Disabilities (Finland) in Kazakhstan, a member of Coordinating Council in the sphere of social protection of disabled people of Kazakhstan and the deputy chairman of Coordinating Council on protection of rights and interests of disabled people under the akim (mayor) of Almaty.
Amanbayev actively participates in drafting legislative acts of Kazakhstan affecting people with disabilities.
He was a member of the working group on the draft of the Law of the Kazakh Soviet Social republic “On social protection of disabled people in the Republic of Kazakhstan” in 1991, was a member of the Advisory Council for the development of the draft Tax Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan, a member of the Advisory Council on improvement of the customs legislation of Kazakhstan. He also took part in drafting the National Plan to ensure the rights and improve the quality of life of people with disabilities in Kazakhstan for 2012-18.
He is an organizer of scientific and theoretical seminars, has a number of scientific publications, and he actively participates in the implementation of various projects.
Jointly with the “SABI” fund he has developed and implemented the “Disabled dignity” project organizing transport services in Kazakhstan for people with disabilities (Invataksi). Moreover, he was also awarded the Orders of the Republic of Kazakhstan Kurmet” (Honour) and Parasat (Nobility).
The above mentioned appointment as an advisor to the labour minister came as no surprise for Amanbayev who has watched the rights of the disabled flourish recently in Kazakhstan.
Kazakhstan’s Permanent Representative to the UN Byrganym Aitimova was invited to the event in New York and received the framed story from UNDP head Helen Clark.
Country offices from all over the world submitted more than 120 stories that demonstrate positive changes in the lives of people in their states. The 12-member jury responsible for selecting the winners in the storytelling competition included international development and political journalists, in addition to representatives from the Canadian and Australian Permanent Missions to the UN.
Since 2008, UNDP has been working closely with the Ministry for Labour and Social Protection in Kazakhstan to support the rights of disabled people.
UNDP in partnership with the government has also produced a National Human Development Report that, for the first time in any Central Asian country, advocated an end to exclusion and the promotion of equal rights for those with disabilities.
Kazakhstan signed the International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol in 2008. More recently, UNDP has been working with the government to promote national disability policies and the establishment of basic support services, such as opportunities to receive college degrees though distance learning, in addition to jobs training and rehabilitation services.
With UNDP’s advice, Kazakhstan has amended key laws to improve social services for vulnerable groups, with special attention given to those with disabilities. As a result, US $200 million of government funding has been allocated, allowing over 2,000 people with disabilities to receive special services.
These days, Amanbayev and other NGO leaders are busy lobbying the Ministry of Transport and Communication to revise standards for providing disabled access to public spaces and public transportation. As a result, Amanbayev was invited to take part in several hearings and meetings at the Ministry, where he convincingly pointed out the urgent need for change in a country where such standards lag behind the international norm. The Ministry has reacted, promising to make all railway platforms and trains accessible for wheelchair users within the next two years.
Improving transport infrastructure is just one part of a wider national campaign to provide inclusive access to public spaces. This is bringing fundamental change to Kazakhstan, where more than 70 percent of public infrastructure is inaccessible to the disabled. With UNDP’s help, the government is surveying the accessibility of public buildings and services and making cost estimates for necessary upgrades.
Since its inception, UNDP’s programme has been successful at raising public awareness and fostering a culture of inclusion for those with disabilities.