Skip navigation links Sitemap | About us | FAQs

UN Programme on Disability   Working for full participation and equality

  The United Nations and Disabled Persons -The First Fifty Years

Contents | Chapter 1 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10

The United Nations and Disabled Persons: A Chronology

1991 - The Rapporteur reports to the Sub-Commission biannually on the human rights situation of the disabled, submitting his last report in 1991. He recommends the establishment of an international ombudsman.

The General Assembly adopts the Principles for the Protection of Persons with Mental Illness and for the Improvement of Mental Health Care. Twenty-five principles define the fundamental freedoms and basic rights of persons with mental illness.

1992 - The end of the Decade of Disabled Persons is marked by the General Assembly with the declaration of 3 December each year as International Day of Disabled Persons. The General Assembly also summarizes the United Nations' goals in the field of disability, once again emphasizing the importance of the full integration of disabled persons into society and encouraging future United Nations conferences to include discussion of disability issues. The Economic and Social Council welcomes the proclamation by the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific of the Asian and Pacific Decade of Disabled Persons, 1993-2002.

The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development mentions the interdependence of sustainable social and environmental development, emphasizing the integration of all groups of society including the disabled, in an overall development scheme.

1993 - The Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities are adopted by the General Assembly. The Rules summarize the message of the World Programme of Action and state preconditions for equal opportunity. They also target areas of equal participation and promote implementation measures and monitoring mechanisms.

The World Conference on Human Rights reconsiders universally recognized human rights instruments in light of contemporary issues and adopts the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action. The Conference recognizes that all human rights and fundamental freedoms are universal, and thus should unreservedly include persons with disabilities.

1994 - The International Conference on Population and Development is held in Cairo. It recognizes the importance of equalizing opportunities for people with disabilities.

1995 - The World Summit for Social Development is held in Copenhagen in March. It adopts the Copenhagen Declaration on Social Development and the Programme of Action of the World Summit for Social Development.

From 4 - 15 September the Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing, focuses on gender-related issues in the overall development scheme, and concerns relating to disability are raised in the Beijing Declaration and The Platform for Action, which recognizes that women face barriers to full equality and advancement because of factors such as their ... disability. As part of the programme for the International Day of Disabled Persons, an inter-agency meeting is held on 7 December 1995 by the Department for Policy Coordination and Sustainable Development in collaboration with the Department for Public Information, of the United Nations Secretariat. Various agencies working with the disabled present their current projects.

1996 - The Preparatory Committee for the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements, held in Istanbul, Turkey, in June 1996, issues a draft statement of principles and commitments and a global plan of action, which pay particular attention to persons with disabilities deserving of affirmative governmental action.


Chapter V

A human rights approach: the 1970s

"There are currently some 5.6 billion different people in the world. Some have a difference called disability." --Disability Dimension in Development Action: Manual on Inclusive Planning

The 1970s marked a new approach to disability. The concept of human rights for disabled persons began to become more accepted internationally.

Two major declarations on the disabled were adopted by the General Assembly in the new decade. The Declaration on the Rights of Mentally Retarded Persons of 20 December 1971, provided a framework for protecting rights through national and international action. The Declaration stated that mentally retarded persons had, to the degree feasible, the same rights as other human beings, including a right to proper medical care and education, to economic security, to a qualified guardian, as required, to protection from exploitation and to access to legal procedures. The Declaration stated that, if possible, mentally retarded persons should live with their families or with foster parents and should participate in various aspects of community life. Essentially, the Declaration paved the way for future comprehensive sets of principles, which would eventually seek to integrate persons with disabilities into society.

The Declaration on the Rights of Disabled Persons, adopted by the General Assembly on 9 December 1975, encouraged national and international protection of the rights of the disabled. Recognition was given to the fact that disabled persons were entitled to the same political and civil rights as others, including measures necessary to enable them to become self-sufficient. The Declaration reiterated the rights of disabled persons to education, medical services, and placement service. It further recognized their right to economic and social security, to employment, to live with their families, to participate in social and creative events, to be protected against all exploitation, abuse or degrading behaviour, and to avail themselves of legal aid. Realizing the need to promote the full participation of the disabled in the social life and development of their societies, on 16 December 1976, the General Assembly declared the year 1981 International Year of Disabled Persons (IYDP), stipulating that it be devoted to integrating disabled persons fully into society.

"We share in 1981 a responsibility which will be historically judged by future generations. Persons with disabilities shall be treated as true citizens of their respective countries, enjoying all the rights man is heir to...If we are to live up to the principles embodied in the goals of the Year… Governments must work to equalize all aspects of daily life....This requires the development of new approaches towards rehabilitation which de-emphasize the institutional approach". --Mrs. Leticia Shahani, Assistant Secretary-General, Chief of the Centre for Social Development and Humanitarian Affairs, United Nations secretariat

topReturn to top

previousTable of Contentsnext

Home | Sitemap | About us | News | FAQs | Contact us

United Nations, 2003-04
Department of Economic and Social Affairs
Division for Social Policy and Development