ONCE's Work In the International Field
In general terms, kicking off the year with a visit to ONCE and ONCE Foundation by Michel Barnier, EU Commissioner for the Internal Market, and rounding it off with a visit from the Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion Commissioner, László Andor, provides solid proof of the important work we perform in Brussels.
Pushing to make sure new structural funds for the period 2014-2020 include a social component where disability is a priority action area; lobbying the European Commission to gain support for a United Nations treaty enabling blind people to exchange books; contributing to the Communication on Social Entrepreneurship; or sharing our expertise in drafting guidelines on the rights of persons with disabilities when travelling by air and ensuring e-commerce is accessible - these are just some of the achievements ONCE and ONCE Foundation have secured thanks to our active engagement in over 15 European Commission public consultations and subsequent thorough follow-up work during the stakeholders’ assessment process.
Nevertheless, it is undoubtedly in the field of gaming where major progress for ONCE has been achieved at European Union level. On July 6th last we launched our first European gaming product, Eurojackpot, while just some months later the European Commission agreed to take into account our proposals for regulation in on-line gaming - proposals standing up for the social nature of our business activities within the framework of European lotteries. The agreement signed by the European Disability Forum and European Lotteries has been immensely helpful in corroborating this idea.
The presidents of our regional councils were witness to the great work we perform when they had the opportunity to get to know the European institutions at close hand during a study visit in late February last year. The trip was funded by the European Parliament visit programme. Visiting the capital of the Union also enabled our regional presidents to find out more about the work carried out by the Belgian Blind Federation and its model for attending to the needs of the visually impaired, reminding more than one of the ONCE situation a few years back.
In addition to the above, the Ibero-American Summit for Heads of State in Cádiz was our second key focus area. We were able to provide our expertise through input from the very outset, leading to a presentation on the ONCE and ONCE Foundation model at the 1st Ibero-American meeting on the inclusion of persons with disabilities in the labour market in the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador. Furthermore, we were given the opportunity to put forward the case for including disability in corporate social responsibility at the Business Forum held during the summit. 2013 has been declared the Ibero-American year for the inclusion of persons with disabilities in employment.
Throughout these activities we highlighted the work performed by the ONCE Foundation for Latin America (FOAL), the clearest example of ONCE’s and ONCE Foundation’s commitment to international development co-operation.
In fact, despite the severe financial restrictions in international co-operation we are seeing in Spain, FOAL once again secured external funding amounting to 50% of its budget, ensuring all its projects and programmes for the visually impaired in the region go ahead - and especially those focusing on access to education, rehabilitation, vocational training and employment - and strengthening its position as an outstanding benchmark in the area of development and disability.
Beneficiaries include the 5 038 people who received training, 555 people who also secured a job directly, 398 who were funded to set up micro-business projects, or the 451 technological accommodations carried out in workplaces…these are just some of the positive outcomes and the results are there for all to see on FOAL’s new web site, which features a new more powerful and advanced design and includes social networking features.
In terms of representation, the international community once again placed its trust in ONCE by electing one of our members to serve as an expert on the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and also in the World Blind Union, where, as of November last year, we hold the post of Second Vice-President.
Finally, we concluded the year in Brussels attending the 3rd European Parliament of Persons with Disabilities on December 5th, where we studied in detail the dire consequences of the economic crisis, affecting the lives of over 80 million European citizens with disabilities, and issued a clear call to European authorities to make changes to many of their policies.
Thanks to the efforts of the ONCE and ONCE Foundation International Relations Committee and its working groups, we ensured a unity of purpose and thorough monitoring across the broad range of activities carried out within the organisation.