1991 - The Rapporteur reports to the Sub-Commission biannually on the human rights
situation of the disabled, submitting his last report in 1991. He recommends the
establishment of an international ombudsman.
The General Assembly adopts the Principles for the Protection of Persons with Mental
Illness and for the Improvement of Mental Health Care. Twenty-five principles define the
fundamental freedoms and basic rights of persons with mental illness.
1992 - The end of the Decade of Disabled Persons is marked by the General Assembly with
the declaration of 3 December each year as International Day of Disabled Persons. The
General Assembly also summarizes the United Nations' goals in the field of disability,
once again emphasizing the importance of the full integration of disabled persons into
society and encouraging future United Nations conferences to include discussion of
disability issues. The Economic and Social Council welcomes the proclamation by the
Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific of the Asian and Pacific Decade of
Disabled Persons, 1993-2002.
The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development mentions the
interdependence of sustainable social and environmental development, emphasizing the
integration of all groups of society including the disabled, in an overall development
1993 - The Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with
Disabilities are adopted by the General Assembly. The Rules summarize the message of the
World Programme of Action and state preconditions for equal opportunity. They also target
areas of equal participation and promote implementation measures and monitoring
The World Conference on Human Rights reconsiders universally recognized human rights
instruments in light of contemporary issues and adopts the Vienna Declaration and
Programme of Action. The Conference recognizes that all human rights and fundamental
freedoms are universal, and thus should unreservedly include persons with disabilities.
1994 - The International Conference on Population and Development is held in Cairo. It
recognizes the importance of equalizing opportunities for people with disabilities.
1995 - The World Summit for Social Development is held in Copenhagen in March. It
adopts the Copenhagen Declaration on Social Development and the Programme of Action of the
World Summit for Social Development.
From 4 - 15 September the Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing, focuses on
gender-related issues in the overall development scheme, and concerns relating to
disability are raised in the Beijing Declaration and The Platform for Action, which
recognizes that women face barriers to full equality and advancement because of factors
such as their ... disability. As part of the programme for the International Day of
Disabled Persons, an inter-agency meeting is held on 7 December 1995 by the Department for
Policy Coordination and Sustainable Development in collaboration with the Department for
Public Information, of the United Nations Secretariat. Various agencies working with the
disabled present their current projects.
1996 - The Preparatory Committee for the United Nations Conference on Human
Settlements, held in Istanbul, Turkey, in June 1996, issues a draft statement of
principles and commitments and a global plan of action, which pay particular attention to
persons with disabilities deserving of affirmative governmental action.
A human rights approach: the 1970s
"There are currently some 5.6 billion different people in the world. Some have a
difference called disability." --Disability Dimension in Development Action: Manual
on Inclusive Planning
The 1970s marked a new approach to disability. The concept of human rights for disabled
persons began to become more accepted internationally.
Two major declarations on the disabled were adopted by the General Assembly in the new
decade. The Declaration on the Rights of Mentally Retarded Persons of 20 December 1971,
provided a framework for protecting rights through national and international action. The
Declaration stated that mentally retarded persons had, to the degree feasible, the same
rights as other human beings, including a right to proper medical care and education, to
economic security, to a qualified guardian, as required, to protection from exploitation
and to access to legal procedures. The Declaration stated that, if possible, mentally
retarded persons should live with their families or with foster parents and should
participate in various aspects of community life. Essentially, the Declaration paved the
way for future comprehensive sets of principles, which would eventually seek to integrate
persons with disabilities into society.
The Declaration on the Rights of Disabled Persons, adopted by the General Assembly on 9
December 1975, encouraged national and international protection of the rights of the
disabled. Recognition was given to the fact that disabled persons were entitled to the
same political and civil rights as others, including measures necessary to enable them to
become self-sufficient. The Declaration reiterated the rights of disabled persons to
education, medical services, and placement service. It further recognized their right to
economic and social security, to employment, to live with their families, to participate
in social and creative events, to be protected against all exploitation, abuse or
degrading behaviour, and to avail themselves of legal aid. Realizing the need to promote
the full participation of the disabled in the social life and development of their
societies, on 16 December 1976, the General Assembly declared the year 1981 International
Year of Disabled Persons (IYDP), stipulating that it be devoted to integrating disabled
persons fully into society.
"We share in 1981 a responsibility which will be historically judged by future
generations. Persons with disabilities shall be treated as true citizens of their
respective countries, enjoying all the rights man is heir to...If we are to live up to the
principles embodied in the goals of the Year
Governments must work to equalize
opportunities...in all aspects of daily life....This requires the development of new
approaches towards rehabilitation which de-emphasize the institutional approach".
--Mrs. Leticia Shahani, Assistant Secretary-General, Chief of the Centre for Social
Development and Humanitarian Affairs, United Nations secretariat