Monitoring the implementation of the Standard Rules on
Final Report of the Special Rapporteur
Any violation of the fundamental principle of equality or any discrimination or other negative differential treatment of persons with disabilities inconsistent with the United Nations Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities is an infringement of the human rights of persons with disabilities
Commission on Human Rights
In my capacity as Special Rapporteur for monitoring of the implementation of the Standard Rules on Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities, I have the honour to deliver my final report on the second period of monitoring (1997-2000) to the Commission on Social Development. It has been a privilege and a stimulating task to act as Special Rapporteur in this area. I want to express my sincere appreciation to the Economic and Social Council for showing confidence in me by renewing my mandate for a second period. I also would like to thank all those Governments that have contributed financially to this project, including the Government of Sweden, which has provided me with office resources throughout the entire exercise.
From the beginning and during the whole period of monitoring, I have enjoyed full support from the Under-Secretary-General of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Nitin Desai, and excellent professional advice from Andrzej Krassowski and his group at the Division for Social Policy and Development. I have received good cooperation with a number of United Nations agencies, in particular with the World Health Organization (WHO), which, in close cooperation with me, has conducted a global survey on the implementation of a number of Rules. I also want to express my appreciation for the excellent work performed by Eva Sagström in my Swedish office.
One key element in this monitoring exercise has been the panel of experts, established in 1994 by six major international non-governmental organizations in the disability field. The panel members, five men and five women, representing all regions and with different experiences of disability, have provided valuable guidance. They have also been very understanding when limited resources have made it impossible to pursue all good ideas and initiatives.
Finally I want to thank all those Governments and non-governmental organizations that have provided information for my work.
1. Variations in physical, mental and sensory functioning have always existed among human beings. Yet, people with functional limitations - disabilities - have always run the risk of being excluded and marginalized. Throughout the centuries we have designed and constructed our societies as if persons with disabilities did not exist, as if all human beings can see, hear, walk about, understand and react quickly and adequately to signals from the world around them. This illusion, this misconception about human nature, this inability to take the needs of all citizens into account in the development of society is the main reason for the isolation and exclusion of persons with disabilities, which we can observe in different forms and to different degrees all over the world. It will take a long time to change this pattern of behaviour, which is deeply rooted in prejudice, fear, shame and lack of understanding of what it really means to live with a disability. However, international efforts to improve the living conditions for persons with disabilities have begun and progress is being made.
2. A more systematic effort to improve living conditions of persons with disabilities started long ago in the emerging industrialized nations. During the last 50 years the so-called advanced welfare states have developed comprehensive programmes and services in order to meet the needs of persons with disabilities. For a long time, however, the common approach of all these programmes was limited to various forms of support to the individual and were organized as disability-specific services outside the mainstream of society.
3. In the 1960s and 1970s the awareness started to grow, especially among disabled people in some countries, that participation in the activities of society could take place only if the environment and general services and activities were also designed to meet the needs of persons with disabilities. A new perspective developed in disability policy, which brought the lack of access in the surrounding society into focus and emphasized the right to participation.
4. When the United Nations proclaimed the International Year of Disabled Persons in 1981, it was an event of historical importance. The adoption of the theme of "Full Participation and Equality" for the activities during the Year must be considered a major political breakthrough for a human rights-based perspective in the field of disability.
5. The World Programme of Action Concerning Disabled Persons, which was adopted by the General Assembly by resolution 37/52 of 3 December 1982, formulated this philosophy and identified a number of important areas for action. For the first time in international disability affairs, the World Programme requested all human rights bodies to give attention to disability-related problems. Other major contributions by the World Programme were the presentation of the concept of the equalization of opportunities as a new area for intervention and the recognition of the right of disabled persons and their organizations to participate in decision-making in matters concerning themselves.
6. The International Year and the World Programme of Action signalled a process of change and development, which started during the International Decade of Disabled Persons (1983-1992) and which continues today, nearly 20 years later. During the first years of the Decade a lot of attention was given to disability matters in many countries, however, a few years later, this interest seemed to fade. This was noted at the mid-term evaluation of the Decade, made at an expert meeting in 1987. In the report from the meeting a number of measures were suggested to strengthen the leadership role of the United Nations in implementing the new disability policy. The final response to this request was the elaboration and adoption of the United Nations Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities.
7. The Standard Rules express the same philosophy about disability as the World Programme of Action. However, there are some important additions made as a result of experience gained during the Decade. The responsibility of Governments of Member States in the implementation process is more clearly outlined in the Rules. The most obvious new element in the Standard Rules, however, is the establishment of an active and separate monitoring mechanism.
B. Terms for monitoring
8. One of the most significant features of the Standard Rules is that their implementation was to be actively monitored, as outlined in chapter IV of the Rules, which contains a fairly detailed description of the monitoring mechanism:
"The purpose of a monitoring mechanism 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."
9. There are three actors involved in the monitoring task. The Standard Rules outlined that monitoring should take place within the framework of the sessions of the Commission for Social Development, that a special rapporteur should do the actual monitoring work and report to the Commission and that non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the disability field should be invited to establish a panel of experts, to be consulted by the Special Rapporteur.
10. In March 1994 the Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, appointed me Special Rapporteur. In September 1994 a panel of 10 experts 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 Survivors and Users.
11. The activities during the first monitoring period were reported to the Commission for Social Development at its thirty-fifth session (A/52/56, annex).
12. At its session of 1997, the Economic and Social Council, following the recommendations by the Commission for Social Development, decided to renew the mandate of the Special Rapporteur for a further period of three years, from 1997 to 2000 (Council resolution 1997/19). The activities of the Special Rapporteur were also endorsed by the General Assembly in resolution 52/82 of 12 December 1997.
13. A precondition for the whole monitoring exercise was that extrabudgetary funding could be raised for the majority of the activities. During the first period of monitoring, 11 Governments contributed financially to the project. Altogether six Governments have contributed during this second period. The total amount of these contributions is estimated at $700,000. The special service agreement, between the Secretariat and the Special Rapporteur, signed in August 1994, has been kept during the second period of monitoring (1997-2000). This includes the arrangement that the Special Rapporteur should run his work from a small office in Sweden and that the Secretariat would assist with advice and administrative services.
C. Guidelines by the Commission for Social Development
14. At its thirty-fifth session, the Commission for Social Development decided to recommend the renewal of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur for a further period of three years, so as to make it possible to continue the monitoring of the implementation of the Standard Rules. In its resolution 35/2, the Commission:
Urged the Secretary-General and Governments to further the effective implementation of the Standard Rules and to emphasize the dimension of human rights, including that dimension for persons with developmental and psychiatric disabilities
Invited the Special Rapporteur and the Committee on the Rights of the Child to pursue and enhance their cooperation to ensure that the rights of children with disabilities are fully addressed in the Committee's reporting process
Requested the Special Rapporteur to pay special attention to the situation of children with disabilities when monitoring the implementation of the Standard Rules.
15. These guidelines by the Commission have played an important role in the activities of the Special Rapporteur during the second period of monitoring. An account of the activities in connection with each particular aspect can be found under separate headings of the report.
D. Meetings of the panel of experts
16. During the second monitoring period (1997-2000), three meetings of the panel of experts were planned. The first meeting was held in May 1997. Two major subjects were discussed. The panel analysed the outcome of the first monitoring period and discussed the activities to be carried out during the second period. A number of United Nations agencies participated and informed the panel about their ongoing activities. The panel members were invited to present their views and in this way a consultative process was established.
17. At the second meeting, which was held in October 1998, some new developments were discussed, including the adoption of resolution 1998/31 by the Commission on Human Rights, containing a number of important recommendations calling for follow-up action from the NGO community, and the development of a disability policy by the World Bank.
18. Consultations with a number of United Nations agencies were continued and a preliminary discussion was held concerning the promotion of the United Nations disability policy after the end of the second monitoring period.
19. A third meeting of the panel will take place in connection with the thirty-eighth session of the Commission for Social Development in February 2000.