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Implementation of the World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons : interim report of the Secretary-General

UN Document Symbol E/CN.5/1999/5
Convention Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
Document Type Report of the Secretary-General
Session 37th
Type Document

7 p.

Subjects Persons with Disabilities, Equal Opportunity, Children with Disabilities

Extracted Text

United Nations
Economic and Social Council Distr.: General
5 January 1999
Original: English
Commission for Social Development
Thirty-seventh session
9–19 February 1999
Item 3 (b) of the provisional agenda*
Follow-up to the World Summit for Social Development: review of
relevant United Nations plans and programmes of action pertaining
to the situation of social groups
Implementation of theWorld Programme of Action
concerning Disabled Persons
Interimreport of the Secretary-General
I. Introduction
1. The current note has been prepared pursuant to
paragraph 10 of General Assembly resolution 52/82, of 12
December 1997, “Implementation of the World Programme
of Action concerning Disabled Persons; towards a society for
all in the twenty-first century”, in which the Assembly
requests the Secretary-General to submit a report on
implementation of the resolution to the Assembly at its fiftyfourth
session, through the Commission for Social
Development at its thirty-seventh session. The note also
responds to Economic and Social Council resolution 1997/19,
of 21 July 1997, “Equalization of opportunities for persons
with disabilities”, in which, in paragraph 21, the Council
requests the Secretary-General to include in his report to the
Commission at its thirty-seventh session activities of the
United Nations system related to its priority theme of social
services for all.
2. The note emphasizes progress in the implementation
of paragraph 4 ofAssembly resolution 52/82, in which three
“key social and economic policy issues related to the
equalization of opportunities for persons with disabilities”
are identified—accessibility, social services and social safety
nets, and employment and sustainable livelihoods. The note
briefly reviews activities relating to the Asian and Pacific
Decade of Disabled Persons (1993–2002) and progress in the
implementation of its goal of “full participation and equality
of persons with disabilities”.
II. Progress in equalization of
opportunities of persons with
3. In resolution 52/82 the General Assembly reaffirmed
the role of the World Programme of Action concerning
Disabled Persons as a framework for the design 1 and
evaluation of disability policies and programmes. The World
Programme has two goals: full participation; and equality of
persons with disabilities. The experience of countries in
implementing theWorld Programme has contributed to both
increased awareness of the disability perspective in policy
* E/CN.5/1999/1.
99-00155 (E) 210199
design, planning and evaluation and placement of disability lowered the cost of accessing social development information
issues in a broad human rights context. Instead of being services for all.
perceived as the concern of one social group with particular
needs, the rights of persons with disabilities are increasingly
being recognized as a prerequisite to the advancement of the
social, economic, cultural, civil and political rights of all.
4. Progress to date in implementing the priority issues Copenhagen Declaration on Social Development and the
identified in its paragraph 4 of resolution 52/82 is discussed Programme of Action of the World Summit for Social
in paragraphs 4–18 below. Development are located at http://www.un.org/esa/
A. Accessibility
5. The Division for Social Policy and Development
(Department of Economic and Social Affairs, United Nations
Secretariat) is making a major effort to ensure that its social
development information resources are accessible to all. In
the first half of 1998, with expert assistance, the Division
planned and developed, within the United Nations
Headquarters Internet presence, the Internet-based “Gateway
to social policy and development” (http://www.un.org/
esa/socdev). The Gateway design applies international criteria
for accessible Internet-based information services. Within the
Gateway site, the “Persons with disabilities” site
(http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/disabled.htm) fully meets the
Internet accessibility standards developed at the Center for
Applied Special Technology, a non-governmental
organization that analyses web pages for their accessibility
to persons with disabilities (http://www.cast.org/bobby).
6. Two aspects of Internet accessibility were of concern
in the design and development of the “Persons with
disabilities” site :
(a) Key information resources were identified for the
various constituencies for global social policy and
development issues; access to those information resources
was designed and delivered in ways that are user-friendly to
persons with physical or sensorial disabilities so that they can
easily, intuitively and efficiently navigate, use and retrieve
timely and relevant social development information resources;
(b) Social development information resources must
also be accessible to all interested communities, particularly
those that are using information technologies and
telecommunications structures at various levels of
development. Consequently, information resources at the
“Gateway to social policy and development” site are designed
so that anyone interested in social policy and development
issues can access the site in less than one minute, even with
a relatively slow computer modem over a conventional
telephone line. This particular Internet design feature has
7. In terms of accessible information resources, the
Gateway includes references to a number of key social
development instruments in formats that are fully accessible,
in accordance with relevant standards. For instance, the
socdev/wssd.htm; international plans and programmes of
action in the fields of ageing, persons with disabilities and
youth are also available at the Gateway site.
8. The Persons with disabilities site includes links,
regularly updated, to a number of international norms and
standards related to persons with disabilities and to
substantive and parliamentary documents on global disability
policies and programmes. On-line documentary resources
include the second monitoring report of the Special
Rapporteur on Disability and the third review and appraisal
of the World Programme of Action
( h t t p : / / w w w . u n . o r g / e s a / s o c d e v /
9. The use of accessible information resources has allowed
the Division to present in a timely and cost-effective manner
a range of substantive materials to its specialized
constituencies. For instance, Disabled Peoples International,
a non-governmental organization, convened, in cooperation
with the Government of the Dominican Republic, the
Dominican National Federation of Disabled Persons
(FENADID) and the Dominican Association for
Rehabilitation (ADR), a subregional workshop for Central
America and the Spanish-speaking Caribbean on the “training
of trainers in monitoring the implementation of the Standard
Rules on the Equalization of Opportunity for Persons with
Disabilities” (Santo Domingo, 13–18 April 1998). The report
of the workshop, which includes an action plan formulated
by participants to further implement international norms and
standards related to persons with disabilities, is located at
h t t p : / / w w w . u n . o r g / e s a / s o c d e v /
10. In response to a request from the Ministry of Justice of
the Government of Uganda for substantive background to
assist in its drafting of national legislation related to persons
with disabilities, the Division prepared — and has continued
to compile and publish at its “Persons with disabilities” site
— an overview of international legal frameworks for
disability legislation (http://www.un.org/esa/
socdev/disovlf.htm) which provides an introduction to the role
of international norms and standards in the drafting of
legislation and includes electronic links to key international and on planning and design of barrier-free environments. The
instruments related to the rights of persons with disabilities. Division for Social Policy and Development is currently
11. As a means to promote awareness and build capacities
for accessible Internet-based resources, the Division
organized, on request, briefings for interested governmental
representatives on Internet policies, structures and
technologies, and is currently conducting, with the assistance
of consultant specialists, a seminar and on-line workshop on
Internet accessibility (December 1998 to April 1999).
Seminar and workshop materials have been published on the
Internet (http://www.intlmgt.com/internetseminar.html). The
Division placed the seminar and workshop resources on-line
so that the technical exchanges will be open to the larger
United Nations systemand other interested communities. For
instance, specialist staff of the Economic and Social
Commission for Asia and the Pacific, at Bangkok, are
currently following the seminar and workshop by means of
the information technologies available to the Organization;
a number of interested governmental officials, academics and
representatives of non-governmental organizations reportedly
are following the seminar and workshop on-line as well.
12. The work of the Division related to Internet
accessibility was recently recognized by two nongovernmental
organizations. On 2 December 1998 in a
ceremony at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, in New
York, the Non-Profiting Computing Organization presented
the Division with the Howard Silverman Award for its efforts
in making social development information accessible to all;
on 4 December 1998 in a ceremony at the State Department
in Washington, D.C., the People-to-People Committee on
Disability presented the Division with the Bernard Posner
Award for its efforts to promote international Internet
13. A related accessibility issue identified in the third
review and appraisal of the World Programme of Action
(A/52/351) is environmental accessibility, in particular
accessible shelter and urban infrastructure. The Economic and
Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) has been
cooperating with the Ministry of Social Affairs of the
Government of Lebanon and the Lebanese Company for the
Development and Reconstruction of Beirut Central District
(SOLIDERE) in the analysis and planning of the Beirut
Central Area as a barrier-free environment that could serve
as a model for the rest of the country. This is discussed in the
technical monograph, “Accessibility for the disabled in the
urban environment of the ESCWA region: planning and
design solutions” (E/ESCWA/HS/1997/5) and in
“Accessibility for the disabled; a design manual for a barrierfree
environment”. ESCWA provides, on request, advice 2 and
assistance and organizes training activities on accessibility
cooperating with ESCWA in the design and conduct of a
comparative study on the application of accessibility norms
and standards and universal design concepts and methods by
selected developing countries.
B. Social security and social safety nets
14. In cooperation with the Economic and Social
Commission for Asia and the Pacific and with substantive
assistance from the National Institute of Development
Administration of Thailand, the Division for Social Policy and
Development organized the expert Workshop on Ensuring
Access to Social Services of Under-served Populations
(Bangkok, 2–6 November 1998). The report of the Workshop
is before the current session of the Commission, in connection
with its consideration of the priority theme, “Social services
for All” (E/CN.5/1999/6).
15. From the disability perspective, the report considers
social service design, planning and delivery and evaluation
in a disability-sensitive context rather than as an issue of
concern to a particular social group. For instance, the concept
of under-served populations is addressed in terms — both
qualitative and quantitative — that pertain to all.
Recommended improvements in social service design,
planning and delivery include strengthening mechanisms for
participation by civil society in the determination and
evaluation of services and strengthening the role that rightsbased
approaches play in ensuring social services for all, in
particular the rights to inclusion, to participation and to
C. Employment and sustainable livelihoods
16. One of the three priority themes considered at theWorld
Summit for Social Development is employment and
sustainable livelihoods. From the disability perspective, it
deals with disability-sensitive policy options that promote
sustainable livelihoods and employment opportunities for all
and with investment options in the social sectors that
contribute to increased accessibility for all in social,
economic and political environments.
17. In connection with the 1998 observance of the
International Day of Disabled Persons, an expert panel
discussion was organized at United Nations Headquarters on
the topic “Lifecycle approaches to sustainable and secure
livelihoods and well-being for people with disabilities”. The
panel was moderated by the Chairman of the Second Caribbean. In addition to a review and analysis of the 22
Committee (Economic and Financial Matters) of the fifty-third rules, in light of conditions prevailing in the countries of the
session of the General Assembly, Mr. Bagher Asadi (Islamic subregion, workshop participants formulated an action plan
Republic of Iran), and included experts in their individual on equalization of opportunities and prepared an analytical
capacity from the academic, non-governmental and private review of proposed revisions to the International
sectors. The Panel’s attention to independent living and Classification of Impairments, Disabilities and Handicaps
sustainable and secure livelihoods reflects the growing (ICIDH). The workshop was co-financed by a grant from the
interest in the political economy of disability and concern with United Nations Voluntary Fund on Disability. The workshop
practical measures that promote and support development of report and ICIDH critique are available on the Internet at
the social, economic and creative potential of all members of http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/disttsre.htm.
18. The role ofmicrocredit in the eradication of povertywas of California at Berkeley (United States) organized, in
considered by the General Assembly at its fifty-third session cooperation with the World Institute on Disability, a non-
(A/53/223). However, the role of microcredit, leadership governmental organization, a consultative expert meeting on
training and institutional development in promoting international norms and standards relating to disability
sustainable and secure livelihoods for specific social groups (Berkeley, 8–12 December 1998). The meeting brought
is a more recent area of policy and programme interest to the together 13 experts in law and policy analysis, representing
Division. A recent contribution to the topic was the Seminar all regions and legal systems, who participated in their
on Microcredit and Persons with Disabilities in Western individual capacity, to review and discuss issues and trends
Africa (Bamako, 25–30 October 1998), organized by the related to the application of international norms and standards
Government of Mali, the Western Africa Federation of in the design and drafting of national legislation and to
Persons with Disabilities (FOAPH) and the Agency for formulate recommendations on drafting disability-sensitive
International Cooperation for Social and Economic national legislation and model legislative texts. Findings of
Integration of Persons with Disabilities (ACIPH), a non- themeeting were considered at a public forum (Berkeley, 11
governmental organization. The seminar brought together December 1998), organized in cooperation with the World
specialists and representatives of organizations of persons Institute on Disability, which included participants from civil
with disabilities from 10Western African countries to review society, academia and the non-governmental community. The
and discuss issues and trends and to formulate meetingwas co-financed by a grant from the United Nations
recommendations for more effective incorporation of Voluntary Fund on Disability. The analytical report of the
disability concerns in policies and programmes on meeting is being published.
microcredit and microfinance. The seminar was co-financed
by a grant from the United Nations Voluntary Fund on
Disability. The report of the seminar is being published.
III. Progress in implementation of
international norms and standards
relating to persons with disabilities
19. A great deal of innovative action aimed at building
awareness and promoting implementation of international
norms and standards relating to persons with disabilities is
occurring in training workshops, technical exchanges and
academic meetings, which in turn affect policy processes. As
noted above, the Government of the Dominican Republic, in
cooperation with the non-governmental community, organized
a training workshop on the Standard Rules on the
Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities.
The workshop was the first such technical exchange among
specialists from Central America and the Spanish-speaking
20. Recently, Boalt Hall School of Law of the University
IV. Other priority topics
A. Children with disabilities
21. The question of children with disabilities was
considered by the Commission for Social Development at its
thirty-fifth session. Recommendations for action were
endorsed by the Economic and Social Council in resolution
1997/20. As follow-up to the resolution, the Division for
Social Policy and Development, Department of Economic and
Social Affairs, United Nations Secretariat, participates in
activities of the open-ended International Working Group on
Disability and Development. The Working Group provides
a forum for international organizations, international nongovernmental
organizations, bilateral development
cooperation agencies and national technical departments and
ministries to exchange views and to plan joint actions. Among
its current activities, the Group is formulating a strategy for
information dissemination by interested members among the to translate policy intent into practical, sustained and effective
constituencies concerned with the social and economic action;
situation of children and young adults with disabilities. At the
last meeting of theWorking Group, held atWashington, D.C.,
in September 1998, the consultant to the World Bank on
disability policies, Dr. Robert L. Metts, presented a review
of social and economic aspects of disability and outlined ways
in which the World Bank could assist countries, on request,
to increase participation in development by persons with
22. In August 1998 the Ministry of Health of the
Government of Armenia organized an Interministerial
International Conference on Childhood Disability (Yerevan,
17–18 August 1998) which brought together international
specialists in the field, representatives of concerned
international organizations, the Special Rapporteur on
Disability of the Commission for Social Development,
Mr. Bengt Lindqvist, and national specialists. The Conference
provided a policy-level forum for a comprehensive and
integrated review and discussion of the situation of children
with disabilities.
B. Assistive technologies: the case of wheeled
23. Since the design, testing and evaluation and
dissemination of assistive technologies are major factors in
promoting environmental accessibility for all, during the
period under review, the Division for Social Policy and
Development cooperated with Whirlwind Wheelchair
International (School of Engineering, San Francisco State
University (United States) in the organization and conduct of
comparative studies and technical exchanges on national
capacity-building for wheeled mobility. The data available
according to theWhirlwindWheelchair International suggest
a need for 20,000,000 wheeled mobility devices by the year
2020 to meet the projected needs of persons with disabilities
in developing countries, and the estimated resources for this
task are US$ 4 billion. The cooperative study and informal
exchanges identified three factors that influence action to
promote accessibility and mobility for all:
(a) An institutional setting for mobility and
accessibility, which provides policy priorities and options for
plans, programmes and budgets;
(b) A resource framework for mobility and
accessibility, which includes both financial resources for
investments to develop both human potential and social
infrastructure and technical and managerial resources needed
(c) A coordination framework, which facilitates
coherence between policy intent and action by the various
institutions of society and provides mechanisms for dialogue
among the parties concerned.
As part of the follow-up to the cooperative study, Whirlwind
Women of theWhirlwindWheelchair International organized
a training workshop on wheeled mobility and women with
disabilities, in cooperation with the Ministry of Gender and
Community Development of the Government of Uganda. The
workshop was co-financed by a grant from the United Nations
Voluntary Fund on Disability. Other initiatives in wheeled
mobility, assisted by the Fund, are currently under way in
Ecuador and Guyana.
V. Asian and Pacific Decade of
Disabled Persons (1993–2002)
24. By resolution 48/3 of 23 April 1993, member States of
the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific
(ESCAP) proclaimed the period 1993–2002 the Asian and
Pacific Decade of Disabled Persons, with the goals of full
participation and equality. During the period under review,
the secretariat of ESCAP undertook, in cooperation with
interested member States and the non-governmental
community, a number of practical activities, described in the
paragraphs below.
A. Promoting barrier-free societies
25. Improving the lives of diverse disability groups
continues to be high on ESCAP’s agenda. The Asian and
Pacific Decade of Disabled Persons aims to promote the
active participation of disabled people in the mainstream
development process. Regional networking and cooperation
are in full swing. The main mechanism is the Subcommittee
on Disability-related Concerns of the Regional Interagency
Committee for Asia and the Pacific. ESCAP serves as the
secretariat of the Subcommittee, whose membership includes
United Nations agencies and governmental and nongovernmental
organizations concerned with regional
cooperation on Decade-related matters.
26. During the biennium 1996–1997, ESCAP issued eight
volumes of technical material in support of the
implementation of the Decade’s Agenda for Action. The
volumes are being reviewed for accuracy and accessibility
prior to publication on the Internet site for the Decade those who may not identify themselves as disabled persons
(http://www.unescap.org/decade). Monograph subjects but who may, nevertheless, be infirmand have the same needs
include assistive devices, legislation, community-based as disabled persons for safety and convenience features in the
rehabilitation, and self-help organizations of disabled built environment.
27. Building on its earlier work in the promotion of non- facilitated the creation of model approaches to promoting
handicapping environments, ESCAP has prepared a draft awareness and understanding of non-handicapping
guide on training disabled persons as trainers for accessible environments for persons with disabilities and older persons.
environments. The draft guide will be field-tested in three In the pilot project sites in these three major metropolitan
cities (Bangalore, India; Penang, Malaysia; and Pattaya, areas, there have been tangible improvements, such as kerb
Thailand). To further networking on accessibility initiatives, ramps for wheelchair users and tactile Braille pathways for
preparations are in progress for a training-of-trainers seminar, the blind and persons with visual impairments. Accessible
envisaged for 1999. facilities for banking, post and telecommunications,
28. Education and technology for disabled children and
youth is a new area of activity for ESCAP. Topics are being
developed in collaboration with Subcommittee partners, and
a regional consultation-cum-exhibition is envisaged for late
1999. 33. In addition to the project sites, of value for technical
29. To date, 36 regional governments have signed the
Proclamation on the Full Participation and Equality of People
with Disabilities in the Asian and Pacific Region.
B. Selected experiences in promoting nonhandicapping
environments in Asia and
the Pacific
30. Participation in mainstream development programmes
is a basic entitlement of all. However, such programmes are
often located in venues that are inaccessible to persons with
disabilities. In most of the ESCAP region, physical barriers
in the built environment prevent disabled persons from using
buildings, the spaces connecting built areas, public transport
systems, and other public facilities and services. This has the
profound negative effect of excluding disabled persons from
society. Exclusion from education and training programmes
for gainful employment and self-employment means that
disability groups are often over-represented among the
illiterate and the poor. Since large numbers of disabled
persons do not enjoy freedom of movement, they cannot be
seen in public places, and there is an observed tendency to
dismiss them as an insignificant minority.
31. Through a series of projects, ESCAP has initiated
action, on the request of interested Governments, to highlight
the need for barrier-free societies. ESCAP studies have
established a clear link between the access needs of disabled
persons and those of rapidly ageing societies and of other
users whose needs have hitherto been neglected. Such users
include children, women, people carrying heavy loads and
32. In Bangkok, Beijing and New Delhi, ESCAP action has
schooling, shopping, leisure and cultural activities are among
other concrete benefits. Improvements have been introduced
outside the pilot project areas. Videos were made of each
pilot project.
cooperation among developing countries, ESCAP has
promoted the indigenous production of technical guidelines
based on its regional guidelines on non-handicapping
environments. Access-related legislative development is well
under way.Models also exist for capacity-building (on access
issues) among professionals and policy makers concerned
with diverse aspects of infrastructure development
appropriate to developing countries.
34. ESCAP plans to use the pilot project videos in its
production of a comprehensive video on barrier-free
environments. Persons committed to access promotion in
many cities in the ESCAP region have agreed to participate
in networking on access initiatives. This networking will
focus on exchanges of information and experiences, including
exchanges in training professionals. ESCAP is field-testing
a draft guide on training disabled persons as trainers for the
promotion of non-handicapping environments.
VI. Concluding remarks
35. Many of the activities described above are of a pilot
nature, and their further development will be considered in
the report that the Secretary-General will submit to the
General Assembly at its fifty-fourth session. Progress in
activities that have only recently been implemented will also
be conveyed to the Assembly, as will the complex technical
issues of statistics on persons with disabilities and
accessibility at the United Nations.
See General Assembly resolution 1 37/52.
2 Beirut, SOLIDARE, in cooperation with the Economic and
Social Commission for Western Asia.
3 Issued by the World Health Organization in 1980, and
currently being revised.