Monitoring the implementation of the Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities : note / by the Secretary-General
|UN Document Symbol||E/CN.5/2005/5|
|Convention||Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities|
|Document Type||Note by the Secretary-General|
|Subjects||Persons with Disabilities, Equal Opportunity|
United Nations E/CN.5/2005/5
Economic and Social Council Distr.: General
30 November 2004
04-62755 (E) 250105
Commission for Social Development
9-18 February 2005
Item 3(b) of the provisional agenda*
Follow-up to the World Summit for Social Development and
the twenty-fourth special session of the General Assembly:
review of relevant United Nations plans and programmes
of action pertaining to the situation of social groups
Monitoring the implementation of the Standard Rules
on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons
Note by the Secretary-General
At its forty-eighth session, the General Assembly adopted the Standard Rules
on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities, contained in the
annex to its resolution 48/96 of 20 December 1993.1 These 22 Rules provide a
framework to further implement the goals of equality and full participation of
disabled persons in social life and development set forth in the World Programme of
Action concerning Disabled Persons, adopted by the General Assembly in its
resolution 37/52 of 3 December 1982.2 In section IV, paragraph 2, of the Standard
Rules, it is stipulated that the Rules shall be monitored within the framework of the
sessions of the Commission for Social Development. The appointment of a Special
Rapporteur to monitor their implementation within the framework of the
Commission for Social Development was also envisaged in that paragraph. In
March 1994, the Secretary-General appointed Bengt Lindqvist (Sweden) Special
Rapporteur on disability of the Commission for Social Development. Mr. Lindqvist
prepared three reports for the consideration of the Commission during his mandate,3
which was renewed in 19974 and in 2000.5 In June 2003, the Secretary-General
appointed Sheikha Hessa Al-Thani (Qatar) Special Rapporteur for the period 2003-
2005. The Special Rapporteur submitted an oral report to the forty-second session of
the Commission for Social Development outlining her plan of work.6 In its
resolution 2004/15, the Economic and Social Council requested the Special
Rapporteur to submit a report on the monitoring of the implementation of the
Standard Rules to the Commission for Social Development at its forty-third session.
The Secretary-General has the honour to transmit to the Commission the report of
the Special Rapporteur on monitoring the implementation of the Standard Rules on
the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities during the period
1 Available from http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/enable/dissre00.htm.
2 A/37/351/Add.1 and Add.1/Corr.1, sect. VIII; available from http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/
3 A/52/56, available from http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/enable/dismsre0.htm; E/CN.5/2000/3,
annex, available from http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/enable/disecn003e0.htm, and
E/CN.5/2002/4, available from http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/enable/disecn520024e0.htm.
4 Economic and Social Council resolution 1997/19, available from http://www.un.org/documents/
5 Economic and Social Council resolution 2000/10, available from http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/
6 Available from http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/enable/srcsocd42.htm.
Report of the Special Rapporteur on Disability of the
Commission for Social Development
I. Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 115 4
A. Guiding principles. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 410 4
B. Setting priorities . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1115 5
II. Overview of developments in the implementation of the Standard Rules . . . . . . . . 1651 6
A. Discussions with Governments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1623 6
B. Arab Decade for Persons with Disabilities (2004-2013) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2429 7
C. Disabled persons organizations/government dialogue . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3040 8
D. Monitoring the progress in implementation of the Standard Rules. . . . . . . . . . 4145 10
E. Facilitating the work of legislators . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4647 10
F. Interregional cooperation through joint parliamentary committees . . . . . . . . . 4851 11
III. The Standard Rules, the Supplement and the Convention . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5256 11
IV. Non-governmental organizations: strengthening disabled persons organizations. . 5779 12
A. Conferences and congresses of disabled persons organizations. . . . . . . . . . . . 5759 12
B. The Panel of Experts. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6065 13
C. Regional consultations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6670 13
D. Interregional cooperation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7173 14
E. Raising awareness through the media . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7475 14
F. Changing attitudes through media . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7679 15
V. International and regional organizations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8084 15
A. Networking . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8082 15
B. Disability and development . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8384 16
VI. Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8589 16
VII. Recommendations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 90125 16
A. Recommendations to Governments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 91112 17
B. Recommendation to Governments, disabled persons organizations and
collaborators . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 113116 19
C. Recommendation to international organizations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 117119 20
D. Recommendations to the United Nations and Member States. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 120122 20
E. Recommendation to the private sector . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 124125 21
1. I would like to begin by thanking the Commission for Social Development for
its support and guidance throughout this year, and all the Governments that
supported my activities, especially the Government of Qatar for its continued
financial support to the Office of the Special Rapporteur.
2. One year ago, when I stood here before you to present my first report to the
Commission on Social Development, I was both honoured and awed by the
responsibility entrusted to me and the enormity of the task I was undertaking. I was
also keenly aware of the challenges ahead and eager to meet them.
3. I am pleased to report to you on the progress made during this year it has
been over 10 years since the adoption of the Standard Rules on the Equalization of
Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities and 20 months since my appointment as
Special Rapporteur at a moment in history when the disability movement
worldwide is at its most vital and when Governments and civil society are
collaborating to draft an International Convention aimed at promoting and
protecting the rights and dignity of persons with disability.
A. Guiding principles
4. Throughout my work and regardless of the nature of the activities, there have
been two main principles that guided my work. The first is the approach taken in
carrying out the tasks and activities, and the second is the overarching goal towards
which all activities are aimed.
1. The approach
5. During the past year I have striven to adopt a constructive and affirmative
approach, preferring to highlight the positive and celebrate the successes, while at
the same time emphasizing the need for greater achievement and more concerted
2. The overall goal
6. While continuing to monitor, assess, evaluate and advocate for more
meaningful and deeper implementation of the Standard Rules, I have not lost sight
of the fact that the ultimate goal of all the work being done is the equalization of
opportunities for persons with disabilities.
7. Equalization of opportunities is a universal concept measured against universal
norms, which should apply to all cultures and countries equally. The challenge is
that we live in an increasingly diverse universe where levels of development,
cultural values, attitudes, norms, needs and services differ from one region to
another, one country to another, and even within the same country.
8. While some countries are trying to perfect the conditions of equalization of
opportunities for their disabled populations, there are other countries in which most
have not been able to achieve basic human rights. This makes the job of monitoring
the implementation of the Standard Rules extremely challenging.
9. Add to this the complexity and diversity within the disability movement itself
and among the different types of disabilities. In many cases accessibility takes on a
different meaning for people with different disabilities living in different
geographical areas. This recognition of diversity has given rise to a richer culture
within the disability movement, but it also requires that we monitor the equalization
of opportunities in different ways by applying a variety of methods and looking at it
from different angles and dimensions.
10. It has become increasingly clear to me that there is no one-size-fits-all way of
dealing with and responding to the needs that are important to people with
disabilities. I have attempted throughout my activities to keep this reality in mind.
B. Setting priorities
11. Based on a study of the disability movement, the work of the former Special
Rapporteur and the recommendations he has made over the past 10 years, and in
accordance with the mandate entrusted to me by the Commission on Social
Development, I designed a work plan focusing on the following activities:
(a) Furthering the worldwide implementation of the Standard Rules;
(b) Monitoring and assessing the progress of implementation;
(d) Raising awareness;
(e) Helping Governments identify barriers and obstacles to equalization and
working with them on finding means of removing them;
(f) Strengthening interregional cooperation;
(g) Building the capacity of disabled persons organizations.
12. At the same time, the issues of persons with disabilities in developing
countries, particularly children, women and persons with intellectual, developmental
and psychosocial disabilities, were given special consideration.
13. I have also decided that there is a need to focus on poverty and poverty
reduction as they relate to issues of disability and the life situation of persons with
disabilities. This is, therefore, the rationale behind the focus on specific target
populations in developing countries.
14. The present report will:
(a) Summarize the main activities undertaken during the past year;
(b) Present the new initiatives developed;
(c) Discuss ongoing activities and planned activities;
(d) Identify the challenges faced by the international community, the
disability movement, the emerging new international disability rights movement and
the Special Rapporteur;
(e) Conclude with some recommendations on what I believe needs to be and
can be done.
15. In fulfilling the duties of my mandate, I have undertaken the following
(a) Initiating programmes, projects and activities;
(b) Consulting with Governments and policy and decision makers;
(c) Delivering speeches and lectures;
(d) Strengthening disabled persons organizations and NGOs and
participating in their meetings and congresses;
(e) Conducting regional consultations;
(f) Conducting surveys and in-house research;
(g) Coordinating with international and regional development organizations
(h) Using the media to further the issues and raise awareness, granting
interviews to the media and holding press conferences;
(i) Strengthening the relationship and involvement of the Panel of Experts in
all aspects of the work;
(j) Communicating and corresponding with organizations and institutions
regarding issues of disability;
(k) Supporting the work, initiatives, causes and demands made by persons
with disabilities and their organizations and bringing them to the attention of their
governments, international organizations and the United Nations.
II. Overview of developments in the implementation of the
A. Discussions with Governments
16. In many developing countries the Government is often the major, if not the
sole, actor when it comes to setting policies, enacting legislation and delivering
programmes. Due to the weakness of civil society in some countries in advocating
and the lack of sufficient resources, issues relating to disabilities have often been
pushed to the bottom of the list of government priorities.
17. In the last 12 months, I conducted several country visits. Some were in
response to invitations from Governments or disabled persons organizations, others
were initiated on the basis of information and research or were based on the need to
speed up, support or push forward certain initiatives or programmes.
18. The overall aim of the visits was to:
(a) Promote the Standard Rules;
(b) Advocate in favour of the equalization of opportunities;
(c) Discuss direct action with governments.
19. Other visits were in response to invitations to deliver speeches and lectures at
conferences and congresses of disabled persons organizations. Countries visited
during 2004 include the following:
(a) Egypt (April);
(b) Jordan (April);
(c) Norway (June);
(d) Lebanon (June and August);
(e) Canada (September);
(f) Saudi Arabia (October);
(g) Guatemala (October);
(h) Mexico (October);
(i) Germany (November);
(j) United States of America (December).
20. All visits included meetings with government officials, including:
(a) Presidents and Heads of State;
(b) First Ladies;
(c) Speakers of the House and Congress;
(d) Ministers and deputy ministers in relevant Ministries;
(e) Officials representing the executive, legislative and judicial branches of
21. All meetings provided opportunities to encourage Governments to reaffirm
their moral and political commitments to the implementation of the Standard Rules,
and to share the state of their countries in relation to the issues of people with
22. During these visits, discussions with officials centred on the need for
comprehensive social change in order to achieve the equalization of opportunities
for persons with disabilities and the ways in which to effect that change, including
the importance of involving and listening to disabled persons organizations. The
visits also provided an opportunity to meet with regional, United Nations and
international development agencies to explore ways of mainstreaming disability into
their development programmes.
23. It was important also to meet with local and national disability councils and
rehabilitation centres in order to listen to, learn from and share information with
disabled persons organizations, community-based service providers and parents of
children with disabilities.
B. Arab Decade for Persons with Disabilities (2004-2013)
24. Working closely with the Secretary-General of the Arab League, advocating
for the issues of persons with disabilities in that region, and close consultations with
officials in April facilitated the adoption and declaration of the Arab Decade for
Persons with Disabilities (2004-2013) at the summit meeting of the Arab League in
May 2004. The Arab region is the last region in the world to adopt a decade for
persons with disabilities and thereby place the issues of persons with disabilities
among the priority policy areas of Arab Governments.
25. The adoption of the Decade provided the opportunity to start a dialogue at the
highest levels with policy and decision makers and legislators. For example,
working closely with the Speaker of Parliament of Lebanon and the President of the
Federation of Arab Parliaments led to the formation of parliamentary committees in
Arab Parliaments to legislate on disability issues. The commitment was put into
practice and a decision was adopted at the Federations meeting on 2 September
26. In that same context, and in order to shore up support for the Decade, meetings
in Lebanon included discussions with the President of the Republic and the Prime
Minister to promote and reinforce implementation of the Standard Rules.
27. I also met with the Head of the Parliamentary Committee on Education and
with educators and school administrators working on integration and inclusion of
children with disabilities into mainstream education through parental and
community involvement. I also visited an innovative rehabilitation centre that
provides social, occupational, psychological and physical rehabilitation to persons
28. Within the context of the adoption of the Arab Decade, a meeting was
organized in partnership with the Arab League and the Arab Organization for
Disabled Persons in Lebanon, funded through the United Nations Voluntary Fund on
Disability. The purpose of the meeting was to formulate a plan of action for the
Arab Decade and to strengthen the document by injecting the spirit and philosophy
of the Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with
Disabilities into the articles of the Decade.
29. The meeting brought together:
(a) Disabled persons organizations from across the region;
(b) Regional development organizations (the United Nations Childrens Fund
(UNICEF), the International Labour Organization (ILO), the United Nations
Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the United Nations
Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations High Commissioner for
Human Rights (UNHCHR));
(c) Representatives of the Asian/Pacific Decade and the African Decade;
(d) Members of the Panel of Experts representing international disabled
persons organizations (World Federation of the Deaf, World Blind Union, Disabled
C. Disabled persons organizations/government dialogue
30. Country visits facilitated disabled peoples organizations to establish more
direct dialogue with their Governments about their concerns and issues relating to
the implementation of the Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for
Persons with Disabilities in ways that would produce tangible change in their lives.
31. The visit to Guatemala was made in response to an invitation extended by the
Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman (Division of Disability Rights) and the
Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The visit included meetings with the Vice-President of
the Republic, whose commitment to development and the rights of persons with
disabilities set the tone for very constructive and fruitful meetings in that country.
32. I also discussed health and mental health issues with the Minister of Health
with a focus on prevention and the provision of accessible and affordable health
services for children, women and persons with disabilities, particularly in rural and
33. The Deputy Minister of Labour and the President of the Congress expressed
their support and recognized the need to provide gainful, meaningful employment
for persons with disabilities, particularly the need to activate legislation dealing
with the employment of persons with disabilities.
34. The same understanding and recognition were expressed by experts on
inclusion and integration at the Ministry of Education. However, most initiatives
and intentions remain constrained by the lack of financial resources.
35. A meeting with the Guatemala City Manager centred on disabled access in the
36. At all these meetings, a member of the Ombudsmans Office and the National
Council for Persons with Disability was present.
37. An awareness of the need for change and the importance of the Standard Rules
in Guatemala is constrained by the lack of resources, the enormity of the
development agenda, the scale of the disability problem, particularly in the
aftermath of over 30 years of armed conflict, and the abject poverty in some regions
and communities that exacerbates disability.
38. The visit to Mexico enabled me to look more closely at a project in which
Governments and disabled persons organizations are jointly redesigning the
physical, social and cultural environment to achieve the equalization of
opportunities. The Mexican experience, in all its facets, is a very useful one for
other countries to learn from, particularly in Latin America.
39. It is particularly noteworthy that in Mexico, the National Commission on
Disability is directly linked to the Office of the President of the Republic and is
headed by one of his closest aides.
40. The visit to Mexico was made in response to an invitation from the Ministry of
Foreign Affairs and the Disability Commission in the Office of the President of the
Republic. Meetings were held with several ministries and governmental institutions,
(a) The President of the Republic;
(b) A representative of the Office of the First Lady;
(c) The cabinet minister responsible for disability;
(d) The Ministry of Education (Inclusion and Integration);
(e) The National Statistics Bureau;
(f) The Ministry of Health and experts in rehabilitation;
(g) The Ministry of Transportation.
D. Monitoring the progress in implementation of the Standard Rules
41. The need for accurate statistical data and information on disability has been
reflected in the discussions at the Ad Hoc Committee meetings, in which
representatives of both Governments and disabled persons organizations have
emphasized their importance in developing policies, legislating for disability and
providing services to people with disabilities.
42. In that context, and as follow-up to the work of the former Rapporteur in this
area, a global survey on government action on the implementation of the Standard
Rules has been disseminated worldwide.
43. The survey covers the 22 standard rules, posing two questions in relation to
each rule, covering policy, legislation, programmes, budget allocations, involvement
of disabled persons organizations and their effect on the lives of persons with
disabilities. It has been sent to Governments or government bodies in all Member
States and to two disabled persons organizations per country.
44. In the instructions sent out with the survey, I made a recommendation to
government bodies and departments to hold a workshop to bring together all
governmental organizations involved in legislating on and providing services to
persons with disabilities to answer the questions contained in the survey. This, I
believe, will enhance intergovernmental cooperation and the quality of the
responses. Responses from disabled persons organizations to the same questions
will increase the reliability of the answers.
45. The survey itself is both a monitoring and an awareness-raising tool,
reminding Governments of the Standard Rules and the importance of the
equalization of opportunities and the achievement of full participation in all aspects
of life for persons with disabilities.
E. Facilitating the work of legislators
46. The establishment of committees in Arab Parliaments to legislate on disability
issues does not mean that the laws will be drafted and enacted. In a region that lacks
mechanisms and experience in this field and in which many negative attitudes
towards disability still prevail, there is a need to build capacity and facilitate the
work of these legislators on those issues.
47. Therefore, I am currently collaborating with the UNESCO Regional Office in
the Arab States and ILO to design a series of workshops for legislators and
parliamentarians to explain the concept, importance and impact of and practices
relating to the equalization of opportunities for persons with disabilities and how
these can be strengthened through legislation and relevant rules and regulations.
F. Interregional cooperation through joint parliamentary committees
48. Closely related to this process is the interregional cooperation being developed
between Arab and European Parliaments. Because the equalization of opportunities
is a global concept, it is important to open channels between regions to exchange
information and experience on policies, to learn about legislation and to apply tried
and true methods by example.
49. This exchange forms a basis for joint cooperation between the European and
Arab Parliamentarians. During my recent visit to Germany, a series of meetings
were held with members of the German Parliament specialized in disability
legislation, in order to initiate this collaboration.
50. An agreement has been reached to involve German Parliamentarians in
workshops and exchange programmes with the Arab region. These visits will also
be used as public awareness-raising occasions through extensive media coverage.
51. This activity is also one that will be replicated in other regions of the world.
III. The Standard Rules, the Supplement and the Convention
52. It is impossible to present a report of this sort without touching upon the
relationship between the Standard Rules, the Supplement to the Standard Rules and
the Convention, and the role of the Special Rapporteur.
53. The role of the Special Rapporteur was stipulated in section IV of the Standard
Rules. I believe that this document is a landmark in the history of disability
awareness. The Rules were adopted after a long struggle and are the fruit of the
efforts of the international community and dedicated disability rights advocates.
This document has provided the international community with a set of norms and
guiding procedures with regard to what needs to be done in order to improve the
quality of everyones life in society, including that of persons with disabilities.
54. Ten years of application and implementation of the Standard Rules have
changed the landscape of disability awareness and the attitude of people regarding
the nature, causes and implications of all types of disabilities. Yet this application
revealed some shortcomings, which required the introduction of a Supplement. The
progress made by the Standard Rules also reignited interest in drafting the
55. Today many are expressing uncertainty about the relationship between the
Rules, the Supplement and the Convention.
56. I have no doubt that the two documents are complementary. While the
Convention fulfils the need for a legally binding document, the Standard Rules (and
their Supplement) represent the software for actualizing the text and the spirit of the
IV. Non-governmental organizations: strengthening disabled
A. Conferences and congresses of disabled persons organizations
57. Specialized forums are the best place to reiterate the importance of the
Standard Rules as a tool for achieving the equalization of opportunities. On that
basis, I have tried whenever possible to participate in congresses, meetings and
58. During the past year I have had the opportunity to speak or present papers and
lectures at 12 major international and regional events, and will continue to
participate in many such activities until the end of my mandate.
59. Papers and lectures presented to date (September 2003-November 2004)
(a) Recent developments in the Standard Rules, International Seminar on
the Convention, Tokyo;
(b) The right to participate and contribute to cultural life, The Right to
Culture Conference, Amman;
(c) Human rights for people with disabilities, UNHCR, Geneva;
(d) The Standard Rules and Convention, Working Group Meeting on the
(e) Rehabilitation for persons with disabilities in developing countries,
Rehabilitation International Conference, Oslo;
(f) Disability in developing countries, keynote address at the Disabled
Peoples International Congress on Disability and Diversity, Winnipeg, Canada;
(g) Including issues of women with disability in womens development
programmes, regional meeting of the ten-year review of the Beijing Platform for
(h) Injecting the spirit and philosophy of the Standard Rules into the Arab
Decade for Persons with Disabilities, Arab Decade Expert Meeting, Beirut;
(i) Children with psychosocial disabilities: global perspective, Conference
on Children with Autism, Riyadh;
(j) Importance of research and statistics, at the launch of the International
Disability Rights Monitor research results, New York;
(k) Equalization of opportunities: a goal for all action, opening address at
the National Rehabilitation Centre, Second Regional Meeting of Experts, Mexico
(l) Disability: reality and aspiration, Presidential Palace, Mexico City;
(m) Updating the Standard Rules, Congress of the Federation of Deaf and
Hard of Hearing People, Helsinki;
(n) The Standard Rules: content, importance and present status, Asian
Blind Union, Damascus.
B. The Panel of Experts
60. A Special Rapporteur on Disability would not be able to fulfil the
responsibilities entrusted by the Commission on Social Development without the
help, cooperation, advice and counsel of organizations of persons with disabilities
and the panel of experts representing those organizations.
61. I was able to share many of my plans with them and have received their
support on many issues. Three members of the panel were instrumental in
supporting the efforts and facilitating the discussions at the meeting of experts held
to formulate a plan of action for the implementation of the Arab Decade.
62. The draft of the Global Survey on Government Action on the Implementation
of the Standard Rules was sent to the members of the panel of experts for their
comments and feedback.
63. An Internet group was established to facilitate communications and exchanges
of views with the panel of experts.
64. In some developing countries, the voices and opinions of disabled persons
organizations are slowly being heard and their views taken into consideration. This
is not always true in all countries.
65. It is one of the priorities of my mandate to support disabled persons
organizations in developing countries to gain a foothold within the political
advocacy system of their countries by providing them with the forums in which to
voice their opinions and increase understanding of their needs and rights, and by
facilitating exchanges between them and government officials and decision makers
whenever disability issues are being discussed.
C. Regional consultations
66. Regional consultations have helped me understand the reality of disability on
the ground from the real experts in the field and identify the challenges facing their
organizations. They also bring together representatives of disabled persons
organizations to exchange views, ideas and information and share experiences. The
aim of the regional consultation with disabled persons organizations that took place
in Mexico and the meeting with members of the National Council for Persons with
Disability in Guatemala was also to listen to the issues brought out by the persons
most concerned and relay, as well as possible, those issues to government officials
and the United Nations development organizations.
67. To that end, disabled persons organizations from the Arab region were invited
to the expert meeting held in Beirut in August 2004 to develop a plan of action for
the Arab Decade for Persons with Disabilities.
68. Participation at the second regional meeting of experts on integrated
rehabilitation in Mexico was an opportunity to hold a regional consultation with
disabled persons organizations from the region. The consultation included
representatives of disabled persons organizations from 25 countries in Latin
America and the Caribbean. Each presented three of the most pressing issues for
people with disabilities in their countries. Detailed reports on those issues are
currently being sent to the Office of the Special Rapporteur and the information will
be used in research that is being carried out on the state of disability in the world.
69. Meetings with disabled persons organizations in Guatemala included member
organizations of the National Council for Persons with Disability and addressed the
concerns of disabled persons, including education, health, sign language,
accessibility, and the issues of disabled persons in rural and indigenous
70. In Mexico and Guatemala, representatives of disabled persons organizations
were present during government negotiations on health, accessibility, rehabilitation
and education with various officials and ministries.
D. Interregional cooperation
71. A dynamic inter- and intraregional exchange on disability issues has been
taking place together with the growing realization that the commonalities and
differences among regions can be used as fertile grounds for learning. As Special
Rapporteur, I am in a position to facilitate this exchange by providing a context for
the learning experience to take place.
72. This was exemplified by the invitation extended to the Asian/Pacific and
African Decades to participate in the meeting to draw up the plan of action for the
Arab Decade. The panel of experts also participated in that meeting.
73. This participation brought regional and international experiences to the
meeting and helped enrich the discussions that took place. Lessons learned and
obstacles that may face implementation, as well as ways and means of overcoming
them, helped steer the discussions towards more practical and results-oriented
E. Raising awareness through the media
74. Awareness-raising takes many forms and uses many tools, but none is more
powerful than the media in delivering the message and changing attitudes, outlooks
and mindsets. One of the goals I established for the country visits was to use the
local media at every possible opportunity to effect change.
75. In Egypt, Guatemala, Jordan, Lebanon and Mexico, the media played a
significant role in raising awareness of the Standard Rules and the issues of persons
with disabilities. At every opportunity I also tried to organize and hold press
conferences and media interviews to relate what I had seen and to report on the
issues discussed. At the press conference in Guatemala, the concerns, issues and
needs of the indigenous community of Santiago Atitlan, where parents of children
with disabilities have mobilized an entire community to respond to the needs of the
children, and those of the community of ex-combatants with disabilities, were
brought to the forefront and became the subject of newspaper articles and television
news reports. This helped raise awareness of pressing issues, publicized the
successes achieved by the communities and reminded the authorities of what needs
to be done to live up to the commitments they made during our negotiations.
F. Changing attitudes through media
76. Equalization of opportunities is a concept that requires a change in attitude and
behaviour. Existing attitudes and current behaviour are the result of ideas that
people have inherited about disability and its causes. Changing attitudes requires
ridding society of discrimination and prejudice and breaking down walls of
superstition and ignorance. The media is the most powerful tool to effect this change
and has been successful in changing attitudes at the public and social levels in many
77. Based on this understanding, and in accordance with my mandate to promote
the equalization of opportunities and encourage change at all levels, I have been
promoting a massive media campaign to raise awareness and change both the image
that people have of persons with disabilities and the image that persons with
disabilities have of themselves.
78. The media campaign will be launched on local and satellite stations in the
Arab region, where disability is still shrouded in shame and superstition and thought
to be a curse and a misfortune for the entire family.
79. The campaign will encompass one-minute television spots that will highlight
each of the Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities and demonstrate the
abilities and potentials of persons with disability once opportunities are made
V. International and regional organizations
80. With the advances made in the drafting of the International Convention, there
is growing international recognition of the rights of persons with disabilities as
human rights. There is also a growing recognition that the issues of people with
disabilities are either excluded or marginalized by international or regional
development agencies and organizations.
81. It was brought to light, for example, at one of the meetings, that the United
Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) does not have specific
programmes targeting women with disabilities, nor are the issues of women with
disabilities mainstreamed into the womens development programmes run by
82. Establishing direct contact and encouraging networking between disabled
persons organizations and development organizations has become a priority
activity. In Lebanon, as in Guatemala, meetings held with UNDP, ILO, UNESCO,
UNICEF, UNIFEM, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and the Office
of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) revealed the
need for inter-agency coordination and willingness among United Nations agencies
to find ways to avoid compartmentalization. As a result, joint projects on education
inclusion and employment and training are currently under way with UNESCO and
ILO in the Arab region.
B. Disability and development
83. Furthermore, raising awareness among the various development organizations
on the need and the ways to mainstream and include disability issues in programmes
dealing with poverty, health and nutrition, education, employment and training,
environment and human rights has become a priority activity.
84. Building on the importance of mainstreaming disability issues into
development programmes, a second survey has been distributed to 48 regional
development organizations. The 13-question survey asks whether they have
included disability issues in their programmes, how or why not, what kind of budget
allocations have been made and whether the Standard Rules on the Equalization of
Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities were taken into consideration in
designing their programmes.
85. For me the past year was exciting and full of challenges. Through my work, I
was encouraged by the determination of many dedicated leaders, advocates and
activists. Their work demonstrated the limitless ability of the human spirit to
overcome any obstacle. It is this tireless ability to strive for the betterment of our
world and to create spaces in which all can be accepted as equals that I aspire to
emulate through my work.
86. The task is not an easy one and the challenges are many. Only through a
collaborative effort can we hope to create a world that will accept each of us with
our diverse abilities, our weaknesses and strengths, and allow us to exercise that
diversity in creating such a world.
87. All the achievements to date in this domain constitute only a small dent in the
huge task that needs to be accomplished. Making true progress towards an enabling
world requires the combined efforts of all at every level international, regional,
national, communal and familial.
88. Finally, I would like to say that despite the commitments shown by Member
States to the promotion and protection of the rights and dignity of persons with
disabilities and to the equalization of opportunities for full participation, most have
not matched that commitment with a financial one.
89. I invite and encourage all Member States to make contributions to the United
Nations Voluntary Fund for Disability in order to continue the valuable work of
promoting and advancing the equalization of opportunities for persons with
90. On the basis of the activities of the past and the knowledge gathered through
consultations, I have compiled a list of recommendations.
A. Recommendations to Governments
1. Health and prevention
91. While the past two decades have witnessed a drop in child mortality rates,
communicable diseases and water-borne diseases, the levels are still high in some
African, Asian and Latin American countries. While health care and prevention
have been a target and a priority goal stated by many international, regional and
national programmes, they are not being tackled with any consistency.
92. Moreover, the programmes for action emanating from the World Summit for
Children, the World Summit for Social Development and the World Conference on
Women have all specified mother and child health, pre-, post- and neonatal health as
priorities. These, too, remain outstanding commitments. Not dealing with these
issues has led to an increase in disability among children.
93. Commitments need to be renewed and efforts doubled to provide
appropriate health care capable of preventing disabilities. For countries that
claim that they do not have the resources to deal with issues of disability, I
would say that addressing the causes and working on prevention can be far less
94. In addition to malnutrition, pollution and environmental factors and the lack of
adequate pre- and post-natal health care, a large percentage of disabilities in many
countries also results from drug abuse and road- and work-related accidents.
95. Targeted, well-defined government and NGO-sponsored awareness-raising
programmes that effect change, alter attitudes and influence behaviour can
play a major role in curbing many behaviours that lead to disabilities.
96. Given that over 60 per cent of disabilities are preventable and can be avoided
through awareness-raising and early intervention, the importance of raising
awareness at the public and national levels regarding the causes of disability, as well
as more serious work at the level of prevention, should be emphasized.
97. Other traditional practices that lead to disabilities among young girls and
children are early marriage and early childbearing.
98. Governments need to get involved in a massive, culturally sensitive and
directed public-awareness campaign addressing traditional customs and
pointing out the fact that even time-honoured practices can be dangerous.
2. Wars and violent conflict
99. In considering disability prevention, we cannot ignore one of the main causes
of disability in many regions of the world today. There are more than 60 wars and
armed conflicts raging throughout the world, to which a large percentage of
disability can be attributed. There may be very little we can do about the realities of
world politics. However, I believe there are lessons we can learn from the disability
100. The root of most violent conflicts is inequality and social injustice, and dealing
with these matters in an equitable and just manner may go a long way in curtailing
some of the violence. The equalization of opportunities is one way of dealing
with unfair and unjust social systems and promoting a non-violent resolution of
101. Expanding our understanding of the equalization of opportunities to
include all people and all aspects of human interaction and human development
will certainly contribute to improving the lives of more than just the 600 million
persons with disability around the world. Using the same rights-based
approach that the disability movement espouses to include and guarantee full
participation for marginalized and neglected groups can make a big difference.
102. Accurate statistical data and precise information on which policies and
services can be based and delivered remain a major challenge for the disability
movement as whole. One consolation is that there is a growing awareness of the
need for accurate statistical information on disability, as demonstrated by the
discussions of the ad hoc Committee meetings. The Disability Rights Monitor
research in Latin America is an excellent source, and other regions need to follow
103. Some of the numbers provided by the United Nations Statistics Division that
are based on government reporting vary from 33 per cent disability in the most
developed countries to 0.5 per cent in the least developed. This does not bode well
for the accuracy of such information. Considering the link between poverty and
disability, such numbers tend to blur the realities and diminish the impact that sound
development and poverty reduction strategies can have on the lives of persons with
104. I would urge Governments, through their national statistical bureaux and
in collaboration with disabled persons organizations and social and human
development organizations, and with the help of regional United Nations
organizations, to conduct specific, targeted, methodical data collection and
analysis and to use that information to formulate policies and provide services
to persons with disabilities. The United Nations Statistics Division can play a
leading role in developing the capability of Governments and organizations to
gather, compile, analyse, publish and disseminate data and statistics on
4. Relationship between Governments and disabled persons organizations
105. Closely related to the failure of awareness-raising to make a significant dent in
the area of prevention is the sometimes adversarial relationship that exists between
NGOs and disabled persons organizations and their Governments.
106. In some countries, disabled persons organizations are seen as adversary
groups trying to undermine the role of Government and are accused by
Governments of exaggerating problems in order to turn people against them and
undermine their authority.
107. In many instances, the task of raising awareness and educating about
prevention falls to NGOs and disabled persons organizations that not only lack the
resources and financial support needed for such a task, but are deprived of suitable
moral support by Governments, which themselves are incapable of reaching all
108. Democratization and participation means allowing others to shoulder some of
the responsibilities and allowing people to speak for and represent themselves.
Disabled persons organizations represent a subculture whose contributions are
valuable to the mainstream culture and also provide opportunities in which persons
with disabilities can grow and develop their potential, advocate for their own issues
and determine their contribution to society at every level.
109. It is important that further progress be made to develop a more
cooperative and supportive relationship between Governments and their
national disabled persons organizations. Such a relationship could be
advantageous not only to persons with disabilities themselves, but to society as
a whole, and in turn to Governments themselves.
5. Inclusion in education and full participation
110. Equalization of opportunity is aimed at creating a society inclusive of all, and
education is the means by which to achieve such inclusion. It prepares society to
accept differences and diversity. It helps individuals gain the knowledge, skills and
mindset to act and interact with others, which is a requirement for full participation.
111. While some educational institutions and education ministries have accepted
this concept of integration and inclusion in theory, implementation has fallen short.
In many cases, when inclusion is implemented it is done without any training or
grounding for persons with disabilities themselves, other students in the educational
institution or teachers. There have been cases where parents have taken their
children out of school when a child with a disability was introduced, or where
teachers have categorically refused to admit a child with a disability into the
112. Governments need to get involved by legislating inclusion into education
that leads to full participation. Legislation needs to go hand in hand with
guaranteeing all forms of accessibility within the educational system. It also
needs to be coupled with awareness-raising and training for society as a whole
and for staff of the educational system.
B. Recommendation to Governments, disabled persons organizations
113. An encouraging development within the disability movement is the rethinking
and revision of our understanding and practice of rehabilitation. It is not surprising
that one of the unanimous positions taken during the ad hoc Committee meetings
was for rehabilitation to be treated as a separate article from health and medical
114. A new understanding has emerged that community-based rehabilitation needs
to deal with issues related to the lives of disabled peoples in all their aspects and to
take into consideration the context in which people with disabilities live.
115. Some of the most successful community-based rehabilitation programmes are
those in which families and the community play a central and vital role, in addition
to the persons with disabilities themselves. A World Health Organization (WHO)
report stated that 70 per cent of rehabilitation needs in developing countries can be
met at the community and family level if people are given the moral, psychological
and emotional tools and the confidence that they can rehabilitate not only persons
with disabilities, but rehabilitate the community to accept them, to provide them
with equal opportunities and to receive them as productive, active members.
116. Disabled persons organizations, the medical establishment and
Governments need to be made to move away from the purely medical model of
dealing with issues of disabilities and recognize that the disabled are persons
first, and that their inclusion in society should be based on that criterion.
Therefore, rehabilitation should address the person as whole at the social and
professional levels, as well as the medical and therapeutic levels. Additionally,
the medical establishment is called upon to respect, understand and make use
of the psychological, emotional and professional energy available within the
family in support of its members with disabilities.
C. Recommendation to international organizations
117. There is a definite and inextricable link between poverty and disability.
Symptoms of poverty, such as inadequate medical care, unsafe environments and
malnutrition, are all causes and exacerbators of disability. Poverty reduction
programmes have begun to take disability into consideration, and organizations of
persons with disability are being consulted on these issues. One example is the
World Banks Global Partnership for Disability and Development an initiative
aimed at incorporating the issue of disability into mainstream development.
118. However, many of these initiatives, despite their good intentions, have fallen
short of fully addressing the issue. It is worth noting that the World
Bank/International Monetary Fund Millennium Goals do not mention disability as a
target area either overtly or covertly.
119. There is a need to include disability, both programmatically and
financially, in all the poverty reduction and development programmes, and to
specifically spell out targets for persons with disability in the same way that
they are spelled out for other vulnerable and marginalized groups.
D. Recommendations to the United Nations and Member States
1. Routinizing monitoring and evaluation
120. The Standard Rules created a mechanism to monitor their implementation and
provided for the appointment of the Special Rapporteur. However, monitoring the
world situation in relation to the Standard Rules and the lives of persons with
disability in a complex and diverse world, in which cultural interpretations of
equality vary along a spectrum and country specificities dictate realization, should
not be left to the Special Rapporteur alone.
121. A monitoring body at arms length from policy makers and legislators
should be established within each country. It should include representatives
from disabled persons organizations, service providers and educators and be
allocated a budget to conduct its monitoring activities. It should also be given
the authority to issue reports and assessments regarding the measures taken to
equalize opportunities for persons with disabilities.
122. Specific assessment measures should be developed for each country upon
which to base the monitoring activities. In this way, information on the ground
would be made available to the Special Rapporteur to be used in promoting,
raising awareness of and advocating for issues of persons with disabilities.
2. Revising our approach
123. Inter-agency cooperation should be strengthened. Despite the growing
emphasis on disability rights as human rights, the development dimension should
also be further emphasized, and initiatives such as those of the World Bank need to
be strengthened. United Nations development agencies not only need to mainstream
disability issues into their programmes, but should do so by working jointly on
issues where their spheres of competency coincide.
E. Recommendation to the private sector
Including new partners
124. With many countries in the world moving towards a market economy,
Governments can no longer afford the high cost of social programmes. The real
financial power is in the hands of the private sector. Until now in many parts of the
world, and in developing countries in particular, the private sector has been absent
from offering any kind of support. It is time for this vital sector of the economy to
get involved. This kind of involvement represents a social and moral obligation and
would be a sound economic decision.
125. I urge business leaders everywhere to contribute to the equalization of
opportunities for persons with disabilities, not only through financial donations
and contributions. It is necessary to provide career and job opportunities for
persons with disabilities, to enhance workplace accessibility and to sponsor
training programmes to enhance the skills and build the capacities of persons
with disabilities, which would allow them to contribute to the economy and take
responsibility for their own independent lives.