Implementation of the World Programme of Action
20. The third quinquennial review and appraisal of implementation of the World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons (A/52/351) discussed the emergence of awareness of a broad human rights framework to promote the social, economic and cultural rights as well as the civil and political rights of persons with disabilities. The broad human rights framework for persons with disabilities draws upon the considerable body of international norms and standards in the social, economic, cultural, civil, and political fields, and reflects international concern with development agenda that are participatory and inclusive and contribute to improved well being and livelihoods for all.4 Inclusion of the human rights of persons with disabilities as specific policy concerns, in such documents as the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action adopted by the World Conference on Human Rights,5 the Copenhagen Declaration on Social Development and Programme of Action of the World Summit for Social Development,6 and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action adopted by the Fourth World Conference on Women7 reflect international recognition of a broad human rights approach to advance the status of persons with disabilities in mainstream development.
21. There is growing recognition in contemporary international law that States should incorporate international norms and standards in their national legislation. While means chosen to promote full realization of economic, social and cultural rights of persons with disabilities will differ from one country to another, data suggest that there is no country in which a major policy or programme effort is not required. The obligation of States Parties to international legal instruments to promote progressive realization of relevant rights to the maximum of their available resources requires Governments to do more than simply abstain from taking measures that might have a negative impact on persons with disabilities.
22. The Charter of the United Nations identifies fundamental obligations of Member States to ensure respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all. While not legally binding, there are in addition a number of general conventions and recommendations and disability-specific international instruments8 that are applicable to policies, programmes and legislation to promote the rights of persons with disabilities. The broad human rights approach to disability, therefore, takes the view of advancing the rights and well being of all people, regardless of disabilities, through promotion of implementation of general and disability-specific international instruments that encompass civil and political to economic, social and cultural rights for all.
23. A significant initiative in promoting awareness and building national capacities for broad human rights approaches to persons with disabilities was taken in April 1998 by the Government of the Dominican Republic, in cooperation with members of the non-governmental community. The Government was assisted substantively by Disabled Peoples International (DPI), an international non-governmental organization. With the able participation of the Dominican Association of Disabled Persons (FENDID) and the Dominican Association for Rehabilitation (ADR), DPI planned and organized a seminar for Central America and the Spanish-speaking Caribbean on training of trainers in monitoring the implementation of the United Nations Standard Rules for Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities (Santo Domingo, 13-18 April 1998). Jaime David Fernández, Vice-President of the Dominican Republic, opened the seminar, which provided a forum for a wide range of interested communities to share experience and formulate action plans to promote equalization of opportunities by, for and with persons with disabilities.9 As a follow-up, the international consultant team for the seminar recently published on the Internet an English version of the substantive seminar presentations (http://www.worldenable.net) and established an on-line forum for discussions on promotion and monitoring the implementation of the Standard Rules (http://www.worldenable.net/srdiscuss).
24. As a means to identify priorities for research and action to further implement international norms and standards concerning persons with disabilities, Boalt Hall School of Law of the University of California at Berkeley, in cooperation with the World Institute on Disability, organized an international expert meeting on international norms and standards relating to disability (Berkeley, 8-12 December 1998). The meeting brought together leading experts in law and disability policy, representing all regions and legal systems, to review and discuss issues and trends related to the application of international norms and standards in the design of disability-sensitive legislation and policy options. Meeting participants formulated recommendations on research, policy options and technical guidelines to assist interested parties - governmental and non-governmental - in improving national legal and policy frameworks to further equalize opportunities by, for and with persons with disabilities.10
25. In the light of the interest expressed by Governments, the non-governmental community, academic institutes and professional societies in international norms and standards concerning persons with disabilities, the Division for Social Policy and Development recently published on the Internet a draft compilation of international norms and standards relating to disability (http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/discom00.htm). The compilation provides a brief introduction, concise guidance and references to international instruments, norms and standards concerning persons with disabilities adopted by competent intergovernmental bodies of the United Nations system and other regional systems. The draft compilation was published on the Internet because its size - 300 pages in draft - made wide distribution impractical. Internet publication has contributed to substantive dialogue among interested communities on policies, legislation and programmes concerning persons with disabilities, which in turn has added to its value as resource for interested Governments and other parties to use and consult.
26. Experience to date suggests that as a result of consultation, interpretation and implementation of the vast existing body of international norms and standards concerning persons with disabilities by interested bodies and organizations - governmental and non-governmental - a new set of communities of disability-sensitized policy makers, programme specialists, academics and advocates has emerged. Together, they are contributing to a process of promoting and developing international norms and standards that are universally applicable and would thereby further the advancement of the rights of all.
4 See "Overview of international legal frameworks for disability legislation (August 1998)", at: http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/disovlf.htm.
5 Report of the World Conference on Human Rights, Vienna, 14-25 June 1993 (A/CONF.157/24 (Part I)), chap. III.
6 Report of the World Summit for Social Development, Copenhagen, 6-12 March 1995 (United Nations publication, Sales No. E.96.IV.8) chap. I, resolution 1, annexes I and II.
7 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.
8 General, universal and international human rights instruments include the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (General Assembly resolution 217 A (III)), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (General Assembly resolution 2200 (XXI)) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (General Assembly resolution 2200 A (XXI)). Disability-specific international instruments that address the rights and status of persons with disabilities have been adopted as declarations, resolutions and guidelines by the United Nations General Assembly and include the Declaration of the Rights of Mentally Retarded Persons (General Assembly resolution 2856 (XXVI)), Declaration on the Rights of Disabled Persons (General Assembly resolution 3447 (XXX)), World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons (adopted by the General Assembly in its resolution 37/52), the Tallinn Guidelines for Action on Human Resources Development in the Field of Disability (General Assembly resolution 44/70), annex, the Principles for the Protection of Persons with Mental Illness (General Assembly resolution 46/119) and the Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities (General Assembly resolution 48/96, annex).
10 The report of the expert meeting is available at: http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/disberk0.htm.