Development and human rights for all

Monitoring the implementation of the Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities [A/52/56 - Report on First Mandate of the Special Rapporteur] - part 1

A52/56
Fifty-second session
SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT, INCLUDING QUESTIONS RELATING TO THE
WORLD SOCIAL SITUATION AND TO YOUTH, AGEING, DISABLED PERSONS AND THE FAMILY

Note by the Secretary-General

Annex: Final report of the Special Rapporteur of the Commission for Social Development on monitoring the implementation of the Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities

CONTENTS

  1. INTRODUCTION
  2. BACKGROUND AND FRAMEWORK FOR THE ACTIVITY
    1. Background
    2. The monitoring mechanism
    3. Meetings of the panel of experts
    4. Guidelines issued by the Commission for Social Development
  3. ACTIVITIES OF THE UNITED NATIONS SYSTEM
    1. Human rights and disability
    2. Disability statistics programme of the Statistical Division of the Department for Economic and Social Information and Policy Analysis
    3. United Nations Children's Fund
    4. International Labour Organization
    5. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
    6. World Health Organization
  4. ACTIVITIES OF NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS
  5. ACTIVITIES OF THE SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR
    1. Promoting implementation of the Standard Rules
      1. Meetings with Governments
      2. Conferences
      3. Correspondence and communications
    2. Surveying progress
      1. First survey
      2. Second survey
        1. General policy
        2. Legislation: rule 15
        3. Accessibility: rule 5
        4. Organizations of persons with disabilities: rule 18
        5. Coordination of work: rule 17
    3. C. Related surveys - education: rule 6
      1. Legal regulation of the right to special education
      2. Parents' role
      3. Education forms and the issue of integration
      4. Special education legislation
    4. Related survey - employment: rule 7
      1. Summary of rule 7
      2. ILO Convention No. 159
  6. CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
  1. 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.
  2. In section IV, paragraph 2, of the 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.
  3. In March 1994, the Secretary-General appointed Mr. Bengt Lindqvist (Sweden) as Special Rapporteur. The Special Rapporteur prepared a report for the consideration of the Commission for Social Development at its thirty-fourth session. On the basis of that report and the findings of the Commission's working group, the Commission adopted resolution 34/2, entitled "Monitoring the implementation of the Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities".1 In that resolution, the Commission took note with appreciation of the report of the Special Rapporteur and of his recommendations, and welcomed his general approach to monitoring, including the emphasis to be placed on advice and support to States in the implementation of the Rules.
  4. In section IV, paragraph 12, of the Rules, it is further stipulated that at its session following the end of the Special Rapporteur's mandate, the Commission should examine the possibility of either renewing that mandate, appointing a new Special Rapporteur or considering another monitoring mechanism, and should make appropriate recommendations to the Economic and Social Council. The present mandate of the Special Rapporteur will come to an end in 1997. The Commission is requested to make its recommendations in that regard to the Economic and Social Council and the General Assembly.
  5. The final report of the Special Rapporteur on monitoring the implementation of the Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities, is annexed to the present note.

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I. INTRODUCTION

In his capacity as Special Rapporteur for monitoring the implementation of the Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities, the Special Rapporteur has the honour to deliver his final report to the Commission for Social Development. It has been a privilege and a stimulating task for him to act as Special Rapporteur in this area. He wishes to express his sincere appreciation to the Secretary-General for showing confidence in him by appointing him to this important task. He would also like to thank all the Governments that have contributed financially to this project, including the Swedish Government, which has provided him with office resources throughout the entire exercise.

From the beginning, and during the whole monitoring activity, the Special Rapporteur has enjoyed the full support of Under-Secretary-General Nitin Desai, and excellent professional advice given by Mr. A. Krassowski and his group in the Department of Policy Coordination and Sustainable Development. He also wishes to express his appreciation for the excellent work performed by his colleagues in his Swedish office.

One key element in the monitoring exercise was the panel of experts, established by six major international non-governmental organizations in the disability field. The panel members, five men and five women with different experiences regarding disability, provided valuable guidance. They were also very understanding when limited resources made it impossible to pursue all good ideas and initiatives.

Finally the Special Rapporteur wishes to thank all those Governments and non-governmental organizations that provided information for his work.

The Special Rapporteur has chosen to describe the entire monitoring exercise. However, as he had delivered an interim report to the Commission for Social Development at its thirty-fourth session, the first year's activities are summarized in the present report. To illustrate how widespread the Standard Rules have become, he has included brief information about activities undertaken by specialized agencies of the United Nations and by non-governmental organizations in the disability field. The main emphasis in the report is on recent activities and on the second extensive survey, which was a main activity during 1996. In the final section of the report - Conclusions and recommendations - he has presented the observations he made during the work on this most stimulating task.

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II. BACKGROUND AND FRAMEWORK FOR THE ACTIVITY

A. Background

To fully understand the importance of the Standard Rules it is necessary to go back to the events that began with the proclamation of 1981 as the International Year of Disabled Persons. Of particular importance in this context was the adoption by the General Assembly of the theme of the Year - "full participation and equality", which meant recognition at the highest possible political level of the right to full participation of disabled people in the societies to which they belong.

During the 15 years that have passed since the International Year, "full participation and equality" has been widely accepted as the overall goal of all development efforts in the disability field. The World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons, adopted by the General Assembly in 1982, also made significant contributions to the clarification and understanding of the policies, programmes and measures necessary to obtain that goal. One such major contribution is the new chapter on equalization of opportunities, which brings a third dimension to the field of disability.

During the subsequent decade of disabled persons, 1983-1992, when the policies and programmes outlined in the World Programme of Action were to be implemented, some significant developments were made. Generally, however, too little occurred. That was the major concern of the group of experts who in 1987 evaluated the outcome of the first half of the decade.

As a result, the international disability community requested that the United Nations should assume a strong leadership role and give more concrete guidelines for development. In response to that request, the Standard Rules were elaborated and unanimously adopted by the General Assembly in its resolution 48/96 of 20 December 1993.

There are mainly three things that distinguish the Standard Rules from the World Programme of Action: the Rules are more concentrated and concrete in form; they directly address the issue of Member States' responsibility; and they include an independent and active monitoring mechanism. B. The monitoring mechanism

One of the most significant features of the Standard Rules is that their implementation should be actively monitored. In section IV of the Rules there is a fairly detailed description of the monitoring mechanism. Its purpose, as set forth in section IV, paragraph 1, is

"to further the effective implementation of the Rules. It will assist each State in assessing its level of implementation of the Rules and in measuring its progress. The monitoring should identify obstacles and suggest suitable measures that would contribute to the successful implementation of the Rules."

There are three actors involved in the monitoring task. The monitoring should take place within the framework of the sessions of the Commission for Social Development. A Special Rapporteur should do the actual monitoring work and report to the Commission. Finally, the non-governmental organizations in the disability field should be invited to establish among themselves a panel of experts, to be consulted by the Special Rapporteur.

In March 1994 the Secretary-General appointed Mr. Bengt Lindqvist (Sweden) as Special Rapporteur. In September 1994 a panel of ten experts, five men and five women, all with personal experience of various disabilities, from different parts of the world, was established by the following six international organizations: Disabled Peoples' International; Inclusion International; Rehabilitation International; World Blind Union; World Federation of the Deaf; and World Federation of Psychiatric Users.

A precondition for the entire monitoring exercise was that extrabudgetary funding could be raised for most of the activities. Eleven Governments altogether have contributed financially to the project. The total amount of those contributions is estimated at $650,000. A special service agreement between the Secretariat and the Special Rapporteur was signed in August 1994 for the period 1994-1997. It was agreed that the Special Rapporteur should carry out his work from a small office in Sweden and that the Secretariat would assist with advice and administrative services.

C. Meetings of the panel of experts

The panel of experts has held two meetings at United Nations Headquarters in New York, the first in February 1995 and the second in June 1996. Through correspondence, members of the panel have continuously been informed and consulted by the Special Rapporteur.

All members of the panel attended the first meeting, in February 1995. The main purpose of the meeting was to give general advice concerning the monitoring task during the remaining two years. The panel agreed on a set of concrete recommendations, which have been very useful for the Special Rapporteur.

Among the recommendations, the following are of a more general importance:

  1. The relationship between existing United Nations documents in the disability field should be clarified: In the global effort to implement the overall goal of full participation and equality, the panel of experts considers the implementation of the Standard Rules to be the most important task during the next few years. The panel considers that the World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons is providing an important framework for action in the fields of prevention, rehabilitation and equalization of opportunities for persons with disabilities. The long-term strategy, adopted by the General Assembly in 1994, should be regarded as a useful tool in the implementation of the Standard Rules;
  2. The monitoring of the Standard Rules should be carried out in the spirit of cooperation and partnership on the international level between the United Nations and the international non-governmental organizations participating in the panel of experts, and on the national level between Governments, the national non-governmental organizations and the United Nations;
  3. Although the overall goal of the monitoring activity is to implement fully all of the 22 rules, the monitoring efforts should be concentrated on the following six areas: legislation (Rule 15); coordination of work (Rule 17); organizations of persons with disabilities (Rule 18); accessibility (Rule 5); education (Rule 6); employment (Rule 7);
  4. Efforts should be made by the Secretariat and the Special Rapporteur to involve the specialized agencies and the regional commissions in the implementation of the Rules;
  5. Further action should be taken to increase awareness in Governments, non-governmental organizations and the United Nations system.

The second meeting of the panel was held in June 1996. Nine panel members were present. During the preceding months the Special Rapporteur had distributed a comprehensive questionnaire to all Member States and to national non-governmental organizations in the disability field. One major task for the panel at the second meeting was therefore to discuss the outcome of that survey. Despite the fact that the final date for submissions had expired ten weeks earlier, replies were still coming in at the time of the meeting. A broad analysis of the results had therefore not yet been started.

The panel gave advice on issues of special interest for the analysis and on the structure of the report. It noted with great satisfaction the high response rate to the questionnaire, which should provide the United Nations with extensive information in essential policy areas.

In view of the fact that only one year remained of the monitoring period, the panel started to discuss what should follow after 1997. Panel members were of the opinion that three years was a very short time for the worldwide monitoring of the implementation of such extensive policy guidelines as the Standard Rules. The panel therefore decided to recommend to its organizations that they should advocate a prolongation of the monitoring task.

The panel of experts also discussed how the disability component could be integrated into the implementation of the five-year follow-up plan for the World Summit for Social Development, recommended by the Commission for Social Development to the Economic and Social Council. In that context it is urgent to raise the issue of how disability measures can be included into such programmes. Following the adoption of resolution 34/2 of the Commission for Social Development, the panel decided to make the following statement:

  • "The panel noted with some alarm the tendency to disregard the specific needs of individuals with disabilities within Governments, the United Nations and professional groups. This signifies the continued low priority status assigned to the individuals with disabilities on the ladder of progress. It is necessary to build the disability dimension into the existing models of Government and the United Nations in order to make laws and policies specific to the needs of individuals with disabilities."

D. Guidelines issued by the Commission for Social Development

At its thirty-fourth session, in April 1995, the Commission for Social Development received the first report of the Special Rapporteur. In its resolution 34/2 the Commission expressed its support for the approach to monitoring taken by the Special Rapporteur, which is to place emphasis on advice and support to States concerning implementation of the Standard Rules. Moreover, the Commission:

  1. Encouraged the Special Rapporteur to focus his monitoring efforts in the forthcoming two years on an appropriate number of priority areas, bearing in mind that the overall goal of the monitoring activity is to implement the Rules in their entirety;
  2. Called upon the Department for Policy Coordination and Sustainable Development, as the United Nations focal point on disability issues, the United Nations Development Programme and other entities of the United Nations system, such as the regional commissions, the specialized agencies and inter-agency mechanisms, to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur in the implementation and monitoring of the Rules;
  3. Strongly urged States and intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations to continue to cooperate closely with the Special Rapporteur and respond to his second questionnaire on implementation of the Rules;
  4. Called upon States to participate actively in international cooperation efforts concerning policies for equalization of opportunities and for improvement of living conditions of persons with disabilities in developing countries.

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III. ACTIVITIES OF THE UNITED NATIONS SYSTEM

In section IV, paragraph 7, of the Standard Rules, the specialized agencies and other United Nations entities are requested to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur in implementing the Rules. The following have responded positively to that request and have taken special initiatives in connection with the monitoring of the Rules.

A. Human rights and disability

Since the publication in 1992 of the report by Special Rapporteur Leandro Despouy, entitled Human Rights and Disabled Persons, several activities have been initiated, including the following:

  1. In paragraph 22 of its Vienna Declaration and Program of Action the World Conference on Human Rights, held at Vienna in 1994, stated that
    • "Special attention needs to be paid to ensuring non-discrimination, and the equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by disabled persons, including their active participation in all aspects of society";
  2. The Subcommission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, in paragraph 1 of its resolution 1995/17 of 18 August 1995, requested the Secretary-General to report in 1996 to the Subcommission regarding coordination endeavours that affect persons with disabilities, with emphasis on activities of the other United Nations organizations and bodies that deal with alleged violations of human rights;
  3. In May 1996 the following three Committees reported activities in the field of human rights and disability: Committee on the Rights of the Child; Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; and Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women;
  4. In all these areas the analysis concerning the protection of the human rights of persons with disabilities has been started. Of particular interest is General Comment No. 5 (1994), issued by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. In its analysis the Committee also related the situation of disabled persons to the general trends of development and discussed necessary means for the protection of the rights of persons with disabilities;
  5. Finally, the Commission on Human Rights, in paragraph 5 of its resolution 1996/27 of 19 April 1996, entitled "Human Rights of persons with disabilities", urged all Governments to implement, with the cooperation and assistance of organizations, the Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities.

B. Disability statistics programme of the Statistical Division of the Department for Economic and Social Information and Policy Analysis

The Standard Rules draw attention to the importance of statistical data on the living conditions of persons with disabilities and to the fact that the collection of such data should be undertaken at regular intervals as part of the official statistical system of countries.

The work is concentrated on three main issues:

  1. Together with States and other participants, improve the methodology for the collection of data by standardizing concepts of disability and establishing new and more effective procedures for the collection of data;
  2. Compile existing data into a database (Distat);
  3. Cooperate with the growing numbers of users of data on disability, such as planning agencies, research institutes and non-governmental organizations.
C. United Nations Children's Fund

The headquarters of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) took an active role in disseminating copies of the Standard Rules in English and other languages to over 150 UNICEF regional and country offices. In addition to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the UNICEF policy paper on children in need of special protection measures, UNICEF officials have also used the Standard Rules in their promotion of human rights and improved conditions for the children of the world.

D. International Labour Organization

As the Special Rapporteur, in consultation with the panel of experts, had decided to study employment policies as one of six selected Rule areas, and as it was considered important to bring up the issue of employment in the final report of the monitoring, the International Labour Organization (ILO) offered to make available data on the monitoring of ILO Convention No. 159, ratified by 56 countries. The material contains Government reports and communication between Governments and ILO experts concerning the practical application of the various articles of the Convention. For the Special Rapporteur's analysis, six articles in the Convention were selected, which all have corresponding sections in Rule 7 on employment. For a summary of the results, see section V.D in the present report. In addition, beginning in 1997, ILO will carry out a general survey of the law and practice of Member States that have ratified Convention No. 159. The results of this extensive survey will be presented to the International Labour Conference in 1998.

E. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization

Since 1980, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has collected information on practice in special education. The latest review, published in 1995, concerns 1993-1994. A great deal of the collected information is highly relevant to the monitoring of Rule 6 on education. According to UNESCO, that study is to be seen as a UNESCO contribution to the monitoring of the Standard Rules.

Moreover, UNESCO carried out a study on legislation pertaining to special needs education. The information, provided by 52 countries, was compiled in 1994 and published in 1996.

In 1994 UNESCO organized the World Conference on Special Needs Education at Salamanca, Spain. More than 90 countries were represented. The Conference adopted the Salamanca Statement and Framework for Action, which builds on and develops the guidelines in Rule 6 of the Standard Rules.

In 1995 the issue of special needs education was on the agenda of the UNESCO Conference. The Special Rapporteur had the opportunity to address the Conference in his official capacity. In his statement he emphasized the importance of implementing the guidelines presented in the Standard Rules and the Salamanca Statement, which are in harmony with each other in all essential areas.

F. World Health Organization

As a World Health Organization (WHO) contribution to the monitoring of the Standard Rules, the Special Rapporteur and the members of the panel of experts from developing countries were invited to participate in the meeting of WHO regional advisers for rehabilitation, which took place at Geneva in January 1996. The role of WHO in the implementation of the Standard Rules was discussed. Among the recommendations made at the meeting were the following:

  1. WHO should promote the general spirit and direction regarding human rights as stated in the Standard Rules, taking responsibility for monitoring rules 2 and 3 and, partially, rule 4;
  2. WHO should promote a multi-sectoral approach to the analysis of the disability situation in developing countries so that appropriate national policies to guide programme planning can be developed;
  3. WHO should promote the inclusion of organizations of persons with disabilities in the development, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of country-based resources programmes;
  4. Collaboration at the national, regional and international levels should be increased to intensify the fight for and to end discrimination against, persons with disabilities;
  5. A media campaign about disability issues and the Standard Rules should be promoted with the collaboration of various public sectors, non-governmental organizations and organizations of persons with disabilities.

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IV. ACTIVITIES OF NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS

The major international non-governmental organizations in the disability field were, from the very beginning, actively involved in the elaboration of the Standard Rules. Even though some parts of the Rules were agreed upon through compromise, it is important to note that the international non-governmental organizations fully supported the adoption of the Rules.

The unique form of cooperation, where non-governmental organizations, upon the invitation of the United Nations, established a panel of experts to serve as part of the monitoring exercise, meant a direct involvement of those organizations in the actual monitoring process.

The six international non-governmental organizations represented in the panel and a considerable number of other organizations have organized many different activities to support the implementation of the Rules. Several organizations have assembled users' guides and information kits to assist member organizations in the utilization of the Rules. Those materials are being extensively used both on national and regional levels.

The Rules have been presented in articles in many of the organization magazines. In some cases series of articles have been published.

At practically all important events organized by the major non-governmental organizations, the issue of implementing the Standard Rules has been part of the programme.

The major non-governmental organizations have worked together at all the recent world conferences organized by the United Nations, including the Social Summit, to ensure that the implementation of the Standard Rules was included in declarations and reports issued by those conferences.

The following quotation from subparagraph 75 (k) of the report of the World Summit for Social Development may serve as an example of what was obtained through those activities:

  • 75. Governmental responses to special needs of social groups should include:
  • (k) Promoting the United Nations Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities and developing strategies for implementing the Rules. Governments, in collaboration with organizations of people with disabilities and the private sector, should work towards the equalization of opportunities so that people with disabilities can contribute to and benefit from full participation in society. Policies concerning people with disabilities should focus on their abilities rather than their disabilities and should ensure their dignity as citizens".2

The non-governmental organizations have brought up the issue of integrating the disability component, built on the Standard Rules, into the mainstream activities of the various United Nations agencies.

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FOOTNOTES:

  1. Official Records of the Economic and Social Council, 1995, Supplement No. 4 (E/1995/24), chap. I, sect. E.
  2. Report of the World Summit for Social Development, Copenhagen, 6-12 March 1995 (United Nations publication, Sales No. 96.IV.8), chap. 4, sect. D, para. 75 (k))

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