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UN Programme on Disability   Working for full participation and equality

Implementation of the World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons

Report of the Secretary-General

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I. Introduction

II. Overview of recent policy and programme activities

  1. Activities of Governments
  2. Activities of intergovernmental organizations
  3. Activities of the United Nations system
  4. Activities of non-governmental organizations

III. Progress in equalization of opportunities by, for and with persons with disabilities

IV. Regional cooperation for equalization of opportunities

V. Perspective framework for the fourth review and appraisal and emerging issues

Projects supported by the United Nations Voluntary Fund on Disability for the period November 2000-June 2001

II. Overview of recent policy and programme activities

A. Activities of Governments

3. Paragraph 4 of General Assembly resolution 54/121 encourages Governments to take concrete measures for the further equalization of opportunities for persons with disabilities by focusing on accessibility, health, social services, including training and rehabilitation, safety nets, employment and sustainable livelihoods in the design and implementation of strategies, policies and programmes to promote a more inclusive society. In response to a note verbale, the Secretariat received replies from 27 countries: Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, China, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Finland, Italy, Japan, Lebanon, Malta, Mexico, Monaco, Panama, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Maldives, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, the Sudan, Syria, Thailand, Turkey, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America. Information provided suggests that much governmental action centres on measures to implement relevant United Nations resolutions and agreed international standards with special attention being paid to accessibility, health and social services, employment and sustainable livelihoods. Strategies to promote inclusive societies and information campaigns to raise awareness of disability issues receive mention.

1. Accessibility

4. Since the adoption of resolution 54/121, approximately one-half of reporting countries have implemented national plans, specific programmes or legislation addressing environmental accessibility and accessibility to information technology. Many countries have developed stricter accessibility regulations for public buildings and there is a growing trend towards the adoption of regulations and policies to provide increased access to the Internet and to telecommunications systems.

5. In the Czech Republic, accessibility is considered under the National Plan for the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities (Prague, 1998) in its "barrier-free living" chapter, which deals with both environmental, information and communications aspects. Spain also addresses accessibility concerns in connection with independent living and barrier-free access to transportation and communications, in both its policy and legislation (Law 13/82, in particular). In Finland, the Government has incorporated a target to promote accessible environments and independent living in its Target and Action Plan for Social Welfare and Health Care for 2002-2003. Under the Finnish Services for the Disabled Act, persons with hearing or speech impairments are entitled to interpreter services of 120 hours per year and deaf-blind persons are entitled to 240 hours. In Poland, in 1997, the Seym (Parliament) adopted the Charter of Rights of Disabled Persons, which specifies the right to live in environments free of functional barriers. Poland has acted to facilitate access to information and communications by persons with disabilities under its "Computer for Homer" programme, which provides financial assistance for the acquisition of equipment and software. The National Secretariat for the Rehabilitation and Integration of People with Disabilities of Portugal has established a comprehensive site on the world wide web ( providing access to bibliographic information, including legislation and government publications, statistics and information on events, technical aids, accessibility and rehabilitation institutions and programmes. In Malta the National Commission for Persons with Disabilities has published a guide entitled: Access for All (December 2000 —, which provides guidance for the design of new buildings and for modifications to old buildings. The Commission reached agreement with Planning Authority of Malta whereby, from 1 January 2000, major buildings open to the public are granted a permit only if the Commission certifies that its accessibility principle is respected. Removal of physical and social barriers is a key element in the policies of the Republic of Cyprus concerning persons with disabilities and has been reinforced by its law providing for persons with disabilities, which came into force in July 2000. Accessibility to electronic and information technologies has been strengthened considerably in the United States of America with the entry into force, on 21 June 2001, of section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended ( The law requires that electronic and information technologies developed, procured, maintained or used by the Federal Government of the United States must be accessible to people with disabilities.1

6. In the Latin America and Caribbean region, both Antigua and Barbuda and Panama report the existence of national laws on the access to the physical environment establishing design and construction norms for accessible public buildings and spaces. In Mexico, accessible environments, transportation and communications have received new policy impetus and the newly-initiated Sistema e-México ( aims to bring new information and communications technologies to all Mexicans, with special attention directed to persons with special abilities. Among reporting Governments in Asia and the Pacific, in May 2000, Japan adopted a law for promoting easily accessible public transport and infrastructure for the aged and the disabled, which is significant for its comprehensive treatment of the promotion of "barrier-free" and non-handicapping environments. The barrier-free related policies of Government of Japan address not simply the physical environment and information and communications technologies but also the institutional, cultural and psychological barriers that persons with disabilities may face in daily life. In Thailand the Government has established an information technology (IT) subcommittee for persons with disabilities to deal with accessibility issues and promote development of appropriate accessibility technologies.

2. Health and social services

7. Reporting Governments describe a diverse range of social services and safety net programmes that have been developed during the period under review. In Croatia cooperation between the NGO, Association for Promoting Inclusion, and the Ministry of Labour and Social Care led to establishment, in 2000, of the "Home for Independent Living", which offers apartment accommodations and professional support and care to persons with developmental disabilities as an alternative to institutionalization. In Finland, development of social and health services for persons with disabilities has focused on supporting individuals in living independently in their own homes. Finland also has addressed, in its legislation, the status of informal caregivers. The Principality of Monaco has adopted a policy and measures aimed at promoting maintenance of residential living for persons with special needs, including persons with disabilities and older persons. The National Commission for Persons with Disabilities of Malta cooperates with the Ministry for Social Policy to improve day services for persons with disabilities. Health and social services in Poland are governed by the Common Health Insurance Act, in force since 1 January 1999, and by the Social Assistance Act of 29 November 1990 (with Amendments), which determine the range of services applicable to each affected person. In the United Kingdom the National Health Service plan, published in 2000, provides for improvements in provisions for people with disabilities, including a target set to increase, by 50 per cent, the number of people who will benefit from community equipment services by 2004. A White Paper, "Valuing People: a new strategy for learning disabilities for the twenty-first century", published in 2001, sets out a programme to improve the life chances of people with learning disabilities, based on four key principles: legal and civil rights; independence; choice; and inclusion. The Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001 strengthens the right of children with special educational needs in the United Kingdom to be educated in mainstream schools and introduces the need to make reasonable adjustments so that disabled pupils are not put at a substantial disadvantage to pupils who are not disabled. Italy adopted Law 69, of March 2000, which aims to strengthen the integration of children with disabilities in schools by, inter alia, increasing allocations to the School Integration Fund.

8. The Office of Disabled Persons of the Republic of South Africa reports on interdepartmental collaboration to address a range of social services issues, in particular cooperation with the Department of Social Development on reforms of social security and consultations on the disability sector. In the Asia and Pacific region, the Government of Australia cooperates with state and territory governments within the framework of the Commonwealth-State Disability Agreement (1998-2002) in the delivery of social services. States and territories are responsible for managing accommodation support, respite care and community access programmes, such as day care, as well as for health care and related therapies. In China, rehabilitation and related services are provided within the framework of the five-year national plans. The recently completed work programme for disabled persons, under the ninth national plan (1996-2000), resulted in continued improvement in the situation of disabled persons. At the outset of 2001, the State Council promulgated the tenth five-year plan and associated work programme for disabled persons. In Thailand, social services and safety nets are designed within the framework of national development plans, the eighth national economic and social development plan (1997-2001) and the draft ninth plan, which covers the period 2002-2006. While medical rehabilitation is formulated as part of the national public health development plan, primary health care and disability prevention are carried out through a system of community primary health care centres, including participation by relevant NGOs in community-based services. In Thailand, safety nets for disabled workers are provided under the workmen’s compensation act of 1994. A publicly financed health and medical care system in Japan provides for a range of health and rehabilitation services, including services for persons with mental disabilities. The Republic of Maldives has launched an early childhood care initiative — First Steps Maldives — that includes a disability component. In Latin America and the Caribbean, both Mexico and Panama have national programmes related to health, social services and social welfare, including special measures to support efforts of persons with special abilities in independent living. In Western Asia, the 1973 constitution of the Syrian Arab Republic guarantees the rights of disabled persons to health and social services; national social and economic plans concentrate on full coverage of services to persons with disabilities in all areas and regions.

3. Employment and sustainable livelihoods

9. Several policy trends are evident from the information provided: (a) empowering persons with disabilities to participate in the workforce by encouraging their inclusion in general employment, (b) enhancing participation of persons with disabilities by increasing vocational training programmes, and (c) providing financial incentives, including tax relief, to employers of persons with disabilities.

10. The Principality of Monaco introduced measures to promote the integration of disabled persons in the general labour market, including an agreement with the Employers’ Federation to organize internships of three months. Participating enterprises do not have to pay the disabled worker during the internship period but do provide orientation and supervision. Since 1998 State and private enterprises in Turkey employing 50 or more persons have to recruit disabled persons so that they are a minimum of 3 per cent of the workforce; employers who employ more than the minimum percentage of workers with disabilities have 50 per cent of the insurance premiums of the additional personnel covered by Government. In Finland, a law came into effect in August 1999 that guarantees all severely disabled young people, between the ages of 16 and 17, the right to an intensified assessment of their working capacities as well as to rehabilitation and a higher rehabilitation allowance. Previously, severely disabled young people simply received a disability pension when they reached the age of 16. Portugal introduced a number of measures in 2000-2001 to stimulate employment for disabled persons, including support for hiring disabled persons and for local employment initiatives. A recent decree concerns filling vacancies in central and local administrations and institutes, including, a 5 per cent quota for hiring persons with 60 per cent incapacity in situations with more than 10 vacancies. The State Fund for Rehabilitation of Disabled Persons in Poland provides financial support to employers who run sheltered work establishments, which includes co-financing or reimbursement of wages of disabled employees and subventions related to employment of persons with disabilities. As at 31 December 2000, over 3,400 sheltered work establishments employed more than 210,000 disabled persons, or about 30 per cent of all persons with disabilities employed in Poland. The United Kingdom recently modernized its Supported Employment Programme, which was renamed, in April 2001, WORKSTEP. Key changes include new eligibility criteria and priorities for people with incapacity benefits and targets for progression to mainstream employment. WORKSTEP focuses on individual development and makes greater use of job coaches and trainers, individualized advice and support, mentoring, as well as support to employers. Participants in WORKSTEP have contracts of employment and receive the same pay as the non-disabled people with whom they work.

11. Within the European Union, the new European Community initiative EQUAL (2000-2006) supports transnational cooperation to promote new means of combating discrimination and inequalities in connection with the general labour market.2

12. Information from Governments in Asia and the Pacific, Latin American and the Caribbean and Western Asia indicate that promotion of employment opportunities for persons with disabilities is addressed in policies and legislation and is given financial and technical support. Public laws in the Syrian Arab Republic set targets for employment of persons with disabilities in both governmental and private enterprises. In Asia and the Pacific, Australia has incorporated its "Disability employment assistance programme" in its general labour market and income support programmes, with a view to promoting choice and opportunities for employment for persons with disabilities. In Thailand, the "Rehabilitation of persons with disabilities Act (1991)" provides for the right of persons with disabilities to apply for work without discrimination and sets targets for employment of persons with disabilities in governmental offices and State enterprises. Persons with disabilities who wish to pursue self-employment opportunities in Thailand can apply for long-term interest-free loans from the "Rehabilitation of persons with disabilities Fund". Employment service facilities for persons with disabilities in China are available at all levels and are organized in accordance with the five-year work programme for disabled persons. The law for employment, promotion of employment of persons with disabilities in Japan stipulates, from 1 July 1998, the percentage of persons with disabilities that national and local governments are to employ; guidance centres on employment of persons with disabilities have been established, to date, in 18 public employment security offices; and grants and tax relief are available to enterprises employing persons with disabilities. An emerging area of investigation for the employment of disabled persons in Japan is the use of information technologies and tele-work, which is supported by a project to implement information barrier-free tele-work centre facilities. In Latin America and the Caribbean both Mexico and Panama have established laws guaranteeing equalization of opportunities to work for persons with disabilities. Additional support includes vocational training programmes and financial assistance, including in Mexico, access to micro-credits to acquire technical aids needed for employment.

13. The Office on the Status of Disabled Persons in South Africa is currently engaged in a coordinated effort in economic empowerment focusing on transforming sheltered and protected workshops into viable business and training centres.

4. Strategies, policies and initiatives to promote more inclusive societies

14. Several Governments report on national efforts to promote more inclusive societies. Some place emphasis on a broad human rights-focused approach while others report on thematic strategies. The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, proclaimed in December 2000, states that the Union "recognizes and respects the rights of persons with disabilities to benefit from measures designed to ensure their independence, social and occupational integration and participation in the life of the community" ( Japan has organized its policies and programmes concerning persons with disabilities in accordance with the concept of a "barrier-free society". Four barriers are identified: (a) physical barriers; (b) institutional barriers; (c) barriers to cultural activities and information; and (d) psychological barriers. South Africa has formulated an operational strategy based upon the human rights of persons with disabilities and development.

15. Some Governments report implementing plans and programmes providing aid and benefits to persons with disabilities. China and South Africa directly integrate poverty alleviation as part of their target goals for persons with disabilities. Both have integrated poverty alleviation for persons with disabilities into their respective national development plans. Other Governments report on national action plans and programmes that focus specifically on persons with disabilities, including the multisectoral "National Plan for Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities" of the Czech Republic; the medium-term "National Plan for the Rehabilitation and Integration of Persons with Disability" of Portugal; the 2001-2002 national plan of action for the rights of disabled persons of Lebanon, and the national action plan for disability, "From Patient to Citizen", of Sweden.

16. Other Governments have opted for institutional arrangements to promote social integration, notably the recent initiative of the Government of Mexico to create, within the Office of the President, a "National office to promote the social integration of persons with disabilities" and a "National consultative council on the integration of persons with disabilities". The Sudan has established an Office on Disability and organized, from 18 to 24 November 2000, at Khartoum, the "Fourth forum on disability", with participants from governmental and non-governmental organizations and the private sector.

5. Information campaigns and promotion of awareness of disability issues

17. Many Governments report on national awareness campaigns, which may range from a single day’s observance to a decade, as is the case in Africa and in Asia and the Pacific. Often these campaigns are based upon the annual observance, on 3 December, of the International Day of Disabled Persons.3 Some awareness campaigns are broad in scope, while other countries had a specific focus for awareness raising, such as the "Year 2000 Information and Awareness Raising Campaign" of Portugal, which focused on abilities of persons with disabilities, emphasizing their potential, productivity, participation, creativity and skills in the workforce. Other national campaigns are based on a single theme, as in Malta where the Government organized an extensive, week-long programme to promote awareness of its "Equal Opportunities (Persons with Disability) Act" on 17 January 2001. As discussed below, the proclamation of the African Decade for Disabled Persons (2000-2009) focuses on incorporating disability in the social, economic and political agendas of all African States. In Europe, on 29 May 2001, the European Commission adopted a proposal to establish 2003 as the "European Year of People with Disabilities". The proposal reflects the findings of an opinion survey in which 97 per cent of European Union citizens expressed the view that more could be done to improve integration of disabled persons into society.4

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B. Activities of intergovernmental organizations

1. Asian Development Bank

18. The Social Integration Branch of Asian Development Bank addresses disability-related issues with reference to poverty reduction. During 1999, the Asian Development Bank conducted at its Manila headquarters a "Disability and Development" workshop to discuss issues of concern to persons with disabilities in Asia and Pacific better to reflect these concerns in Bank activities.5 In 2000, the Asian Development Bank approved regional technical assistance to identify disability issues related to poverty reduction.

2. Inter-American Development Bank

19. The Sustainable Development Department of the Inter-American Development Bank organized, in conjunction with the forty-second annual meeting of its Board of Governors, technical seminars on "Dialogue on development and inclusion: opportunities for people with disabilities" and "Women at work: a challenge for development" (Santiago, 16 and 17 March 2001). The first seminar, co-sponsored by the Governments of Canada and Finland, focused on education and labour markets and infrastructure, transportation and urban design. The second seminar, co-sponsored by the Governments of Chile and Norway and the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, focused on advances and challenges that women experience in the labour market and examined options to expand labour market opportunities for women and specific social groups.

3. League of Arab States

20. The Ministries of Social Affairs of all Arab countries address the situation of persons with disabilities with specific regard to their economic and social needs and their human rights. The League of Arab States seeks to heighten public awareness regarding disability through media and social programmes. The League supports higher levels of education for persons with disabilities in order that they may achieve maximum levels of integration in society. New policies include an Arabic sign language dictionary, seminars and workshops for training resource persons in the disability field. The Arab countries of Africa participated in the creation of the African Disability Act of the Organization of African Unity (OAU). In cooperation with the Arab Organization for Persons with Disabilities, the League of Arab Countries is preparing an Arab conference related to legislation, poverty, education, health care, women and children with disabilities and transportation for persons with disabilities which is to be held in 2002. The conference is expected to adopt an "Arab Disability Act".

4. Organization of African Unity

21. In April 1999 at the twenty-second session of the Labour and Social Affairs Commission of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), the "African Decade of Disabled Persons (2000-2009)" was proclaimed, aimed at empowering and improving the conditions of persons with disabilities, increasing awareness of disability and placing disability on the social, economic, and political agenda of African Governments. The African Decade was adopted by the seventy-second session of the OAU Council of Ministers and endorsed by the thirty-sixth Assembly of Heads of State and Government at Lomé in July 2000.

22. The African Decade directs special attention to equal access to education and development of programmes for appropriate and sustainable employment as key policy priorities. The Decade calls for effective support of interventions, addressing disability in ongoing crises such as the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and the provisioning of rehabilitative services and appliances. Plans for the Decade include the development of disability-sensitive planning and monitoring tools and training opportunities for Governments in order that they may better address and effectively include the disability perspective in their work. Work related to the Decade is being carried out by the African Rehabilitation Institute (ARI), a specialized agency of OAU, in accordance with its approved programme of work, and in collaboration with, inter alia, the OAU secretariat and the Pan-African Federation of the Disabled.

5. Pan American Health Organization

23. The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) uses its health information systems to define the population of disabled persons in the Americas and is also integrating Community Based Rehabilitation Strategies into its network of primary care services.

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C. Activities of the United Nations system

24. The General Assembly, in paragraph 14 of resolution 54/121, requested the Secretary-General to include in his assessments of the implementation of the outcome of major United Nations conferences and summits to be considered at special sessions of the General Assembly, the contribution of these meetings to the promotion of the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities. During the period under review, special sessions of the General Assembly were convened to consider progress in fields of social development, the advancement of women and human settlements. In addition the Millennium Assembly of the United Nations was held from 6 to 8 September 2000 to consider fundamental values deemed essential to international relations in the twenty-first century and to identify priorities to translate the shared values into actions. From a disability perspective, the results of these assessments and outcome documents adopted are mixed: persons with disabilities do not obtain prominent mention in the priority areas identified in the documents adopted at the special sessions and the Millennium Assembly. In cases where persons with disabilities were cited in outcome documents, the presentation focused mainly on provision of services and care to the disabled rather than on their active role in society.

25. The twenty-first special session of the General Assembly met from 30 June to 1 July 1999 to consider progress in implementing the outcome of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development.6 The report adopted by the special session discussed key actions to further implement the Programme of Action. The report included recommendations to Governments on improving management and delivery of services in urban agglomerations so that they meet the needs of all citizens, including the disabled, and on expanding youth and adult education with particular attention to people with disabilities.7 The twenty-third special session of the General Assembly met from 5 to 10 June 2000 to consider progress in implementing the Beijing Declaration and the Platform for Action.8 On the basis of the report adopted by the special session, the General Assembly adopted resolution S-23/3, which contains recommendations to Governments on further actions and initiatives to implement the Beijing Declaration and the Platform for Action. In the resolution, women with disabilities are identified as being among the more vulnerable and marginalized members of society, whose concerns should be addressed in all policy making and programming.9 The twenty-fourth special session of the General Assembly met from 26 to 30 June 2000 at Geneva to consider progress in implementing the "Copenhagen Declaration and Programme of Action on Social Development".10 In General Assembly resolution S-24/2 of 1 July 2000, recommendations were made concerning persons with disabilities urging Governments not to discriminate against persons with disabilities in efforts to promote quality education and health care.11 The twenty-fifth special session of the General Assembly met from 6 to 8 June 2001 to consider progress in implementing the "Habitat Agenda".12 The draft Declaration on cities and human settlements in the new millennium includes in addition to its renewal of the commitments made at Habitat II, the resolve to promote a range of basic infrastructure and urban services accessible to all, "including people with disabilities".13

26. By resolution 53/202, of 17 December 1998, the General Assembly decided to designate its fifty-fifth session which began on 5 September 2000, as the Millennium Assembly of the United Nations and to convene a Millennium Summit of the United Nations from 6 to 8 September 2000.14 In preparation for this event, the Secretary-General prepared a comprehensive report on issues and challenges faced by world’s people that fall within the United Nations ambit and set forth a number of proposals for consideration of the Member States.15 The United Nations Millennium Declaration, adopted by the General Assembly on 8 September 2000, provides guidance for translating the shared values identified into practical actions; however, there is no mention of persons with disabilities in the document.16

27. Substantive activities of the United Nations system reflect a growing recognition of the rights of persons with disabilities and their contributions as agents and beneficiaries of development. Frequently these activities are carried out in partnership with Governments and the non-governmental community. For instance, the Non-governmental Organizations Section of the United Nations Department of Public Information organized a well-received observance of the International Day of Disabled Persons on 3 December 2000 at Headquarters, on the theme "Making Information Technologies Work for All". The Department of Public Information and its system of United Nations information centres and services effectively disseminate a range of documents and information products on the work of the Organization concerning persons with disabilities. The Population Division of the Secretariat develops official United Nations estimates and projections, which provide a demographic context for discussing trends in age-associated disability. Given the prevalence of disability in older cohorts, in 1998 the Population Division began to disaggregate all five-year population cohorts by sex for national, regional and global populations to age 100. The Statistics Division of the Secretariat focused on three aspects of data and statistics on populations with disabilities: (a) improvement of statistical concepts and methods; (b) technical cooperation to build national capabilities; and (c) improved compilation and dissemination of data and statistics on disability. Substantive aspects of the work on global statistics on disability are discussed below.

28. Pursuant to Economic and Social Council resolution 2000/268 of 28 July 2001, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, in cooperation with the Special Rapporteur on Disability of the Commission for Social Development, began examining measures to strengthen the protection and monitoring of the human rights of persons with disabilities and solicited inputs from interested parties. It may be recalled that the resolution urged that international norms and standards be translated into concrete action, which could have impact on the work of the Commission on Human Rights and on the mechanisms it has established, such as country and thematic rapporteurs. The High Commissioner for Human Rights took measures to strengthen work on disability and reinforce the expertise of her Office in this area. This resulted in increased support for the work of the Special Rapporteur; and increased emphasis on the question of disability in the following areas: (a) United Nations human rights mechanisms, including special rapporteurs and treaty bodies, were encouraged to direct greater attention to the rights of persons with disabilities and (b) NGOs concerned with disability were encouraged to increase their involvement with Untied Nations human rights mechanisms.

29. It may be recalled that the Secretary-General established the United Nations Fund for International Partnerships in March 1998 to coordinate, channel and monitor contributions from the United Nations Foundation in support of the goals and objectives of the Organization ( During the period under review, a number of UNFIP projects support directly, or indirectly, persons with disabilities. For instance several UNFIP-funded initiatives aim at assisting persons with disabilities as a result of landmines as well as promote landmine awareness and advocacy (Angola, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cambodia, Laos, Lebanon, Mozambique, Somalia and Sri Lanka). The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Department of Peacekeeping Operations of the Secretariat and the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research are the implementing agents for these projects. The United Nations Fund for International Partnerships also funded projects related to eradication of polio, guinea worm, vitamin A deficiency and the promotion of salt iodization and measles immunization, all of which contribute to prevention of disabling conditions. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) are the principal implementing agents of these projects.

30. Among the regional commissions the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) is placing special emphasis on promoting accessible environments and information technologies and on providing sustainable livelihoods to persons with disabilities. ESCWA is working with the Government of Lebanon and the non-governmental community in the establishment of a regional Braille computer training centre in Beirut. The initiative also is receiving assistance from the Government of Japan. ESCWA also has continued to organize pilot training workshops to promote the empowerment and self-reliance of, and sustainable livelihoods for, persons with disabilities, which have focused on starting a small-scale business, advocacy and promotional techniques and vocational training for young persons with disabilities. In cooperation with the Government of Lebanon, the private sector and civil society organizations, ESCWA has carried out the "United Kiosks of Lebanon", a project to create non-traditional employment opportunities for persons with disabilities. With regard to building for environmental accessibility in Western Asia, in June 2001, ESCWA published the Arabic version of the design manual "Accessibility for the Disabled". The English text is available on the Internet — ESCWA also is implementing a Development Account-assisted project on training and advocacy in accessible environments in cooperation with the Municipality of Aley, Lebanon, which aims to make selected public buildings accessible to all.

31. The disability-related activities of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) continue to focus on promotion, support and periodic reviews of progress in implementing of the targets of the Asian and Pacific Decade of Disabled Persons (1993-2002), which will be discussed in detail in chapter IV below.

32. Among the funds and programmes of the United Nations, the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), in 2000, initiated support for a two-year pilot project in Morocco on "Research and prevention of violence against disabled women and girls". The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is directing special attention to refugees with disabilities in particularly difficult circumstances. Data on the number, location and situation of refugees with disabilities remains a problem. Poverty among persons with special needs complicates chances for survival. In conflict situations persons with disabilities are less likely than their fellow citizens to leave their place of origin leaving them vulnerable and open to additional trauma. UNHCR is of the view that support should be directed to capacity-building and training rather than direct service delivery among refugees with disabilities. To reach refugees with special needs, the Community Services Unit of the Health and Community Development Section of UNHCR has applied a community-based rehabilitation approach based on local resources and organized within existing structures (Kenya, Nepal, Pakistan and Uganda) in selected refugee camps. This approach aims to raise awareness, build self-sufficiency and facilitate health, education and vocational training within a framework of community participation. The disability programme of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) aims at improving access to services for persons with special needs and promoting awareness of disability issues. UNRWA community rehabilitation centres offer diagnosis, rehabilitation, recreation and training. UNRWA is currently examining more holistic approaches to social integration of persons with physical and mental disabilities. Since the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child,17 the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), has shifted the focus of its work from the medical causes of disability to the protection of all children from the neglect and discrimination that often accompany disability. UNICEF emphasizes, within its rights-based programming approach, reduction of discrimination against children with disabilities through efforts to promote social inclusion for all groups of vulnerable children or children with special needs. Armed conflict remains a major cause of disability among children in many countries and UNICEF has produced a number of information materials, most recently an animated film, "The Silent Shout", that aims to prevent landmine injuries among children. The Innocenti Research Centre of UNICEF is now compiling research and studies on children with disabilities and conducting a comparative analysis of reasons for their exclusion; results of this work will be published in a forthcoming issue of the Innocenti Digest. The United Nations Population Programme (UNFPA) has a distinguished record of support for preventing disabilities related to childbearing through the promotion of safe motherhood programmes. The data indicate that obstetric fistula, which disproportionately affects very young women and women living in poverty, carries severe health and social consequences and should be considered a long-term disability. UNFPA, in cooperation with an international support group, is supporting work on prevention and treatment, with a special focus on access to emergency obstetric care.18

33. As the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, the International Court of Justice decides on disputes between States in accordance with international law and gives advisory opinions to United Nations organs and specialized agencies on legal questions arising within the scope of their activities. The case law of the Court contributes to the clarification and elucidation of the principles of international law, thereby enhancing the rule of law. The Court has noted that General Assembly resolution 54/121 expressed grave concern that situations of armed conflict have especially devastating consequences for the human rights of persons with disabilities. Judgements and advisory opinions of the Court dealing with questions of international law may be of some significance. In an advisory opinion given by the Court in 1996, at the request of the General Assembly, the Court found that "a great many rules of humanitarian law applicable in armed conflict are so fundamental to the respect of the human person and ‘elementary considerations of humanity’" and that "these fundamental rules are to be observed by all States whether or not they have ratified the conventions that contain them, because they constitute intransgressible principles of international customary law" (Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons, Advisory Opinion, I.C.J. Reports 1996, para. 79).

34. Among the specialized agencies of the United Nations system, the disability programme of the International Labour Organization (ILO) focuses on promotion of decent work for women and men with disabilities. The concept of decent work is based upon the concepts of creating jobs, securing fundamental rights at work, enhancing social protection and promoting social dialogue. ILO reports that an additional 10 Governments ratified ILO Convention No. 159 on Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment of Disabled Persons (1983) during the period 1999-2001 (Bahrain, Côte d’Ivoire, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Trinidad and Tobago, Italy, Lebanon, Turkey, Luxembourg, and Mexico). During 2000-2001, ILO cooperated with the World Health Organization (WHO) in producing a series of publications, guidelines and manuals on mental health and work (in cooperation with the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health), management of disability in the workplace and HIV/AIDS and the world of work. The technical cooperation activities of ILO were directed towards building national capacities to manage and for delivery of vocational rehabilitation services, including community-based approaches (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Morocco, Russian Federation, Ukraine), establishment of national vocational rehabilitation centres (Palestine Authority, West Bank and Gaza Strip), and policy advice and assistance (Panama). ILO has also established a "Disability and Work" site on the Internet — In connection with the observance of the International Day of Disabled Persons, on 3 December 2000, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) premiered its video, "Empowering the rural disabled", which describes its experiences in providing entrepreneurial training to rural people with disabilities in Cambodia and Thailand. FAO also organized discussions on the integration of persons with disabilities in FAO field projects and programmes, and on the role of the media in portraying disabled people. The global "Education for All Assessment 2000" carried out by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) (, included a thematic study on inclusion of learners with disabilities in regular education, which drew upon developments worldwide over the past 10 years. As follow up to the Dakar World Education Forum (26-28 April 2000), UNESCO has been directing special attention to inclusive education as a strategy to achieve the goal of "Education for All". The Section for Combating Exclusion through Education (former Section for Special Needs Education) is working on measures to include concerns of persons with disabilities within the entire education sector. The Section for Secondary Education, in collaboration with International Working Group on Disability and Development, is compiling successful examples of inclusive secondary education provision. To develop national capacities for inclusive education and facilitate networking, UNESCO organized subregional workshops for teacher educators in China, India and Romania; additional workshops are planned in the Dominican Republic, Latvia and Zimbabwe during 2001.

35. The International Initiative Against Avoidable Disablement (IMPACT) is sponsored jointly by WHO, UNDP and UNICEF. The Initiative aims to prevent and reduce the causes of avoidable disability in countries and, as a result, to alleviate poverty through sustainable efforts at the community and international levels, targeting rehabilitation as a key intervention in reducing disability. Activities are carried out at the country level by the Initiative foundations, established in cooperation with interested professional, academic, and non-governmental groups. There currently are 13 IMPACT foundations, located mainly in Asia, but also including the East Africa IMPACT foundation and a disability programme of the Palestine Authority, funded by IMPACT resources.

36. The focus of the work of the World Bank is promotion of economic opportunities and well-being of poor people with disabilities and the management of the social risks that they may face. The primary objective in the work of the Bank is to mainstream disability into its strategies, policies, programmes and projects, as described in the "World Bank and Disability" web site ( The Bank is currently introducing disability concerns into its "Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers" process19 and has prepared technical notes on disability and poverty in developing countries, with emphasis on education, health, transport and telecommunications.

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D. Activities of non-governmental organizations

37. Disabled People’s International — — and its member organizations work to promote disability issues as broad human rights issues. The organization carries out its promotional and advocacy activities by means of partnership with Governments, the non-governmental community and the private sector with a view to promoting implementation of relevant United Nations resolutions and agreed international standards concerning persons with disabilities. Its World Council and its international network, working in close collaboration with Disability Awareness in Action — — and in partnership with Disabled People’s International Europe and other interested regional and national disability organizations, launched a "Global Rights Campaign" to promote awareness and support for elaboration of a convention on the rights of disabled persons. During 2000, Disabled People’s International, in close collaboration with other international disability organizations affiliated with Disability Awareness in Action, established a database of human rights violations perpetrated against disabled persons. Disabled People’s International, through its African regional member, the Pan-African Federation of the Disabled, cooperates with activities in support of the African Decade of Disabled Persons (2000-2009). Inclusion International ( has been active in promoting and defending the human rights of people with intellectual disabilities and the inclusion of a disability dimension in international policy processes. Its recent work has focused development issues and links between poverty and disability. The independent European Disabilities Forum (Forum européen des personnes handicapées), acts as an umbrella organization representing organizations for persons with disabilities to the European Union and to European authorities. The European Disabilities Forum lobbies members of the European Union to include disability in their social agendas and to monitor the implementation of European Union initiatives in this regard. As a result of the efforts of the Union, 2003 has been declared the European Year of Disabled Citizens. In pursuing a human rights, equality of opportunity agenda, the Forum supports the proposed development of an international convention on disability.

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1 Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of the United States of America also has resulted in increased interest on the part of the information and communications industry in accessibility, which is reflected in standard product offerings; see "Tech vendors seek access for all", Jennifer Jones, InfoWorld (22 June 2001) —

2 "Communication from the European Commission to the Member States establishing the guidelines for the Community initiative EQUAL concerning transnational cooperation to promote new means of combating all forms of discrimination and inequalities in connection with the labour market", Official Journal of the European Communities (5.5.2000).

3 Pursuant to resolution 47/3 of 14 October 1992.

4 See "Proposal for a Council decision on the European Year of People with Disabilities 2003"; and "Attitudes of Europeans towards Disability" —

5 The "Disability and Development" workshop (Manila, 13-14 October 1999) was co-sponsored by Government of Finland —

6 Report of the International Conference on Population and Development, Cairo, 5-13 September 1994 (United Nations publication, Sales No. E.95.XIII.18), chap. I, resolution 1, annex.

7 See A/S-21/5/Add.1; "Key actions for the further implementation of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development", paras. 31 and 35.

8 Report of the Fourth World Conference on Women, Beijing, 4-15 September 1995 (United Nations publication, Sales No. E.96.IV.13), chap. I, resolution 1, annexes I and II.

9 Resolution S-23/3 of 10 June 2000, paras. 5 and 63. It may be recalled in this connection that the Beijing Platform for Action addresses the situation of women with disabilities in several of its strategic objectives: Women and poverty; Education and training; Women and health; Violence against women; Women and armed conflict; Women and the economy; Institutional mechanisms for the advancement of women; Human rights of women; Women and the media; and The girl-child: see, for instance, "Women with disabilities; lessons of reinforcing the gender perspective in international norms and standards", by María-Cristina Sará-Serrano (November 1999) —

10 Report of the World Summit on Social Development, Copenhagen, 6-12 March 1995 (United Nations publication, Sales No. E.96.IV.8), chap. I, resolution 1, annex I.

11 Resolution S-24/2, of 1 July 2000; annex, commitment 6 and para. 92, which reaffirms the "Dakar Framework for Action: Education for All", adopted at the World Education Forum (Dakar, 26-28 April 2000).

12 Report of the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II), Istanbul, 3-14 June 1996 (United Nations publication, Sales No. E.97.IV.6), chap. I, resolution 1, annex II.

13 A/S-25/2, chap. VII, sect. C, decision 2/1 —

14 The Millennium Assembly of the United Nations — The home page uses frames in its design and does not validate as HTML 4.1 transitional and thus is not accessible to persons with disabilities.

15 A/54/2000, para.12 —

16 Resolution 55/2 of 8 September 2000 —

17 Resolution 44/25 of 20 November 1989 —

18 Research of the International Development Research Centre of Canada indicates that some 600,000 women die annually in developing countries from treatable post-childbirth complications; see


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