Damian Tatic is a member of the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and one of the founders of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Center for Independent Living invited him to participate in the National Conference with topic – “UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: Opportunities and Challenges for Bulgaria”.
Damian Tatic gave a special interview to Iva Doychinova from CIL.
Iva Doychinova: What do you know and how do you feel about people with disabilities in Bulgaria, especially after this conference?
Damian Tatic: I think this conference was a truly historic opportunity for all colleagues with disabilities in Bulgaria. I think everything on the table was very important. What really impressed me was the active involvement of people and the movements of people with disabilities not only from the capital, but also from all over the country. I saw some people with disabilities who are in a position to make decisions, which is very good in the context of the “Nothing about us without us” philosophy. This means to me, that civil society in Bulgaria and the movements of people with disabilities are very active, very lively and even sometimes openly criticizing state’s policy now, which is very important for the “health” of civil dialogue.
I.D.: Yes, some of them even strongly criticized the politicians and policy in our country regarding people with disabilities … Do you think they have a reason to speak about discrimination of their rights in our country?
– Damian Tatic: I do not know the situation in Bulgaria well enough to comment … Of course I have been to some disability events and I know that people with disabilities have a lot of problems here and reasons to criticize the government and politicians. This is a very good sign that they have something to say and they made it with very good and strong arguments. I think that is part of democracy.
I.D.: What motivates you personally to lead this fight for the rights of people with disabilities across Europe and around the world?
Damian Tatic: For me, it really is a dream comes true … Because when I was in high school, many years ago, I participated in a program for “modern policies” and how active civil society can be made. I have always been interested in history and modernity of the diplomacy, and have always told myself when I will go to university I will study international public law. Therefore, it happened – I was in the Department of Public International Law at the University of Belgrade, and once we came to the focus of the human rights of people with disabilities around the world. When came the time for my Master graduation, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities begin to be discussed. I worked on the creation of the document from my part in Serbia. It was in this working group that I met one of my favorite professors – it was a really dream comes true – to work with him. Then, following the invitation by the UN to include people with disabilities in this structure, the Serbian authorities sent me as an expert on disabilities to the UN Committee on Disabled Persons. It really is a dream comes true – I have the opportunity to represent my country and to work for human rights at the UN. I really met wonderful people there, and I had the privilege and honor to work with them on the cause – the human rights of people with disabilities. Therefore, I was able to put in this document the theory and the practice in this field, my dreams and beliefs together.
I.D.: And in personal terms? Who influenced you the most and how?
Damian Tatic: My parents, and especially my mother, encouraged me to rush into life, regardless of my disability, to attend regular school and use my intellect …To believe in justice, fairness and values such as honesty and equal rights for all, regardless of the circumstances.
I.D.: I wish you much success, good luck and hope in your work. What would you say to people with disabilities in our country, who are desperate and have no expectation?
Damian Tatic. The first thing I have to tell them is that when someone is determined to change things, he/she must be fully aware of his/her human rights. To know them. People with disabilities must be strongly motivated and determined to engage in civil dialogue and movements. To fight for your human rights is not a sprint at 100 m. It is a marathon. Moreover, it really takes determination, strength and toughness for a tough battle. In addition – it is very important – to celebrate every small victory! I believe in the sentence – “No major change has taken place in one night!” It is a slow process of small steps and small battles. At this high-level conference in Bulgaria today we discuss the problems, policies and ratification of the Convention, which is an extremely important tool for the battle of people with disabilities. Here, people talked to the governors about the convention and its signing and about specific policies and practices on the way to that. You have taken this path and ratification of the Convention will change many things in the near future.
I.D.: Do you have a motto or sentence to guide you in life?
– Damian Tatic: Not exactly a motto, but I wake up in a good mood, do the things I love and like, and I am determined to fight for everything I believe in.