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UN Programme on Disability   Working for full participation and equality
Theme: Statistics, Data and Evaluation, and Monitoring
Programme Monitoring and Evaluation; The Disability Perspective in the Context of Development

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B. Assessment of the current situation related to monitoring

1. Achievements of United Nations data and information collection systems

Data development, particularly in the analysis of the situation of disabled persons, represents one of the major areas of progress in United Nations initiatives related to persons with disabilities. The Statistics Division of the UN Secretariat has played a major role in this collection effort. As recommended in the World Programme, the Statistics Division has continued to work towards the development of a realistic and practical system of data collection on disability in countries and to prepare technical manuals and documents on how to collect such data and statistics. Major accomplishments include:

  1. convening the Expert Group Meeting on the Development of Impairment, Disability and Handicap Statistics (Voorburg, the Netherlands, 7-11 November 1994) and the development of a handbook of statistics based on that meeting;
  2. publishing the Manual for the Development of Statistical Information for Disability Programmes and Policies;[132]
  3. updating and revising DISTAT; and
  4. preparing recommendations for the year 2000 round of censuses on disability statistics.[133]

Shortly after the end of the United Nations Decade of Disabled Persons, the Statistics Division convened the Expert Group Meeting at to a) review existing disability data-collection methods and standards and b) prepare, based on the outcome of that review, a guiding set of principles for use in censuses, surveys and registration systems. At the meeting, the Expert Group reviewed a draft of the proposed handbook on censuses and surveys for Impairment, Disability and Handicap statistics.

The "Handbook on census and survey methods for development of impairment, disability and handicap statistics" is being revised based on the Expert Group meeting at Voorburg, the Netherlands, whose results are in print. This technical handbook is directed to statistical offices and research organizations working on disability statistics and will provide guidelines on the collection of statistics in censuses and surveys and on the dissemination and analysis of these statistics for policy purposes.[134]

Published in 1996, the Manual for statistical development was designed to provide guidelines for the use of programme managers and others concerned with the production and use of data relevant to disability policies and programmes. The Manual provides background and definitions, a review and appraisal of existing statistical information related to disability and suggestions for the development of data bases, for using statistics for planning and evaluation and for obtaining information under difficult circumstances. In a review of existing data on disability, prevalence rates by gender for the period 1976 to 1991 are published.[135]

As the Statistics Division has disseminated widely the Manual, dissemination of the original version of DISTAT continued. The Division also employed DISTAT to contribute data to a special article, "Disability statistics in studies of aging" in the Demographic Yearbook-Special Issue: Population Ageing and the Situation of Elderly Persons[136] and to contribute statistics on disabled people for 87 countries published in the Statistical Chart on World Families.[137]

At its twenty-eighth session, the Statistical Commission requested that the Statistics Division prepare a minimum set of tabulation items and core tables on disability issues for consideration by an expert group on the 2000 World Population and Housing Census Programme.[138] In response, the Division has issued several recommendations for the year 2000 round of censuses, were reviewed and endorsed by the Expert Group convened at United Nations New York in September 1996 and published as technical report of the United Nations.[139] The report of the Secretary-General to the thirty-ninth session of the Statistical Commission endorsed the recommendations of the Expert Group specifically endorsing a Disability approach, rather than one focusing on Impairments or Handicaps.[140] The Statistical Commission, at its twenty-ninth session. endorsed the principles and recommendations and supported the new and revised sections.[141] Thus, for the first time, disability is included as a topic in the revision of the Principles and Recommendations for Population and Housing Censuses.[142]

Aside from the Statistics Division, a number of other United Nations bodies and programmes have collected information on disability, albeit more related to disability programme evaluation. As noted earlier, the Special Rapporteur on Disability of the Commission for Social Development conducted in 1995 to 1996 a survey to assess worldwide implementation of the Standard Rules and received responses from 83 Governments. ILO collects data on the monitoring of ILO Convention Number 159 and has received data from the 54 countries that have ratified the Convention. Since 1980, UNESCO has collected information on country practice in special education, and the latest review available (1993-1994) contains data for 52 countries.

These data are collected by United Nations bodies and agencies to monitor their programmes, which may take into account a part of the World Programme of Action. As such, these constitute administrative records as a source of data for programme evaluation. By contrast, for the most part, the data collected by the Statistics Division are derived from population-based censuses and surveys.[143] Both of these kinds of data sources comprise the major source of information to evaluation progress towards Programme goals.

2. Quantitative bases to assess progress made and to identify obstacles encountered in the implementation of the World Programme of Action

In the more than 15 years since the adoption of the World Programme of Action (in 1982), the estimate by WHO that over 500,000,000 of the world's population are people with Impairment or Disability remains in wide use. Data on disability are significant in their absence in a recent review of data compendiums of select development reports prepared by the World Bank and by bodies and organizations of the UN system.[144]

Moreover, due to time lags between data collection and analysis, there were few population-based data sources covering the 1992-1997 period. Thus, a report prepared by consultants for the United Nations Secretariat contained data for Australia, Botswana, China and Mauritius for various years between 1987 and 1991 and confirmed data patterns in the original DISTAT: disability increases with age, that educational attainment appears lower for persons with than those without disabilities and that economic activity rates are lower.[145] As such, it is unlikely that population-based data for the period of appraisal can be employed at the time the appraisal is due. They can, however, be employed at a latter date and, as discussed later, analyses of long-range trends are possible.

The current state of international monitoring mechanisms can be assessed as follows. First, the United Nations is clearly moving towards a systematic structure of populated-based data collection and analysis, with solid scientific standards. Second, this system offers the possibility for long-range programme appraisal but, due to time constraints, is unlikely to provide data pertaining to appraisal periods at the time of the appraisal. Third, though reviews and appraisals have occurred periodically, the reviews and appraisals have not relied upon a uniform set of monitoring criteria, which would allow for comparisons of progress over time (for instance, was more progress made between 1993-1997, as compared to a period ten years earlier?).


[132] United Nations publication, Sales No. E.96.XVII.4.

[133] Official Records of the Economic and Social Council, 1997, Supplement No. 4 (E/1997/24), para 55.

[134] United Nations Statistical Commission, "Demographic and Social Statistics: Population and Housing Censuses; civil registration and vital statistics; statistics of special population groups; and statistics on the advancement of women; report of the Secretary-General (E/CN.3/1993/12)", para 134; "Demographic and Social Statistics: Report on Demographic, Social and Migration Statistics; report of the Secretary-General (E/CN.3/1995/17/Add.1)", paras 8-9; "Demographic and Social Statistics: Report on Demographic, Social and Migration Statistics; report of the Secretary-General (E/CN.3/1997/15)", para 18.

[135] Manual …, pp 22-23 (Source: DISTAT).

[136] United Nations publication, Sales No. E.92.XIII.9, pp 39-49.

[137] United Nations publication, Sales No. E.93.XIII.9.

[138] Official Records of the Economic and Social Council, 1995, Supplement No. 8 (E/1995/28), para 56.

[139] United Nations, Part Two: Topics and Tabulations for Population Censuses (ST/ESA/STAT/AC/51/2), pp 2-42-2-45.

[140] United Nations Statistical Commission, "Demographic and Social Statistics: 2000 world population and housing census programme; report of the Secretary-General (E/CN.3/1997/14)", p 7.

[141] Official Records of the Economic and Social Council, 1997, Supplement No. 4 (E/1997/24), para 55.

[142] (ST/ESA/SER.M/67/Rev.1), pp 371-372.

[143] However, DISTAT does contain data from both registries and administrative record systems.

[144] United Nations General Assembly, "Review and appraisal of the World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons; report of the Secretary-General (A/42/351)", paras 33-36 [].

[145] Lawrence D. Haber and John D. Dowd, "A human development agenda for disability: statistical considerations" (unpublished paper) (Statistics Division of the United Nations Secretariat, 1994).

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