Final report of the Special Rapporteur of the
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
A. Human rights and disability
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.
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.
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:
(a) 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;
(b) 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;
(c) 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);
(d) 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;
(e) 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."
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:
(a) 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;
(b) 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;
(c) 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;
(d) 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.