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UN Programme on Disability   Working for full participation and equality

United Nations Disabled Persons Bulletin
Bulletin No. 3 of 1997

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United Nations Voluntary Fund on Disability

The Fund was established pursuant to General Assembly resolution 32/133, in connection with preparations for the International Year of Disabled Persons (1981). The General Assembly decided in its resolution 41/31 that the Fund would be renamed the Voluntary Fund for the United Nations Decade of Disabled Persons (1983-1992) and that its resources would support catalytic and innovative action to implement further the Word Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons. By resolution 47/88, the General Assembly decided that the Fund would continue in the period beyond the Decade as the United Nations Voluntary Fund on Disability, and that its terms of reference would include support for action to achieve the target of a society for all by the year 2110, as endorsed by the General Assembly in its resolution 45/91.

The Fund directs special attention to action that promotes greater awareness of disability issues and facilitates exchanges of knowledge and experience; builds national capacities and institutional capabilities for disability-sensitive integrated policies and programmes and for national disability legislation; improves data collection and statistics and support, applied research and evaluation; facilitates pilot efforts; and ensures wide dissemination and testing of appropriate disability technologies.

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Project cycle activities: 1993-1997

In the period following the Decade, most of the Fund’s resources were directed to building capacities and strengthening institutions for disability-sensitive policies and programmes. Nearly 85 per cent of the more than $1 million in grants provided by the Fund (and more than 80 per cent of the projects supported) was concerned with training or technical exchanges (including seminars and workshops) on key disability issues (table 1).

Table 1: Projects supported and grants disbursed by area of activity

Activity No. of Projects Grant
No. % of total US$ % of total
Training 27 46 493,056 47
Technical exchanges 21 36 373,030 36
Pilot action 6 10 117,500 11
Development Information 5 8 60,600 6
Total 59   1,044,186  

More than one fourth of all grants (and 30 per cent of the projects) involved support for developing African countries and for subregional cooperation. Overall, 80 per cent of the Fund’s resources was directed to the developing regions, including support for countries in transition; the balance of the resources supported global or interregional action (table 2).

Table 2: Projects and grants by region

Region No. of Projects Grant (US$)
No. % of total
Africa 18 31 275,466
Asia-Pacific 9 15 172,100
Europe 1 2 10,000
Latin America and Caribbean 11 19 219,600
Western Asia 11 19 159,770
Global/Interregional 9 15 207,250
Total 59   1,044,186

In line with the Fund’s mandate for catalytic and innovative action, nearly 90 per cent of the project grants were implemented by the non-governmental and academic communities in cooperation with the Governments concerned (table 3).

Table 3: Projects and grants by project agent

Project agent No. of Projects Grants (US$)
Governments 4 68,000
Non-governmental organizations 51 929,786
United Nations system/ intergovernmental organizations 4 46,400
Total 59 1,044,186

Two other points are significant in this review of Fund activities in the five years since the Decade: the average grant has increased, in the light of growing complexity of activities seeking co-financing assistance, from $13,300 in 1993 to $23,800 in 1997; and the multiplier effect of the Fund has remained about 5-to-1 in the period since the Decade--which is to say, each money unit of funding provided has resulted in at least five times as many financial resources for practical action in the disability field.

The Arab Gulf Programme for the United Nations Development Organization (AGFUND) continues to be a major partner in supporting the activities of the Fund. Since the end of the Decade in 1992, 15 projects have received co-financing grants from AGFUND, totaling $388,200. In 1997, there are five ongoing projects and one is being processed for release of co-financing funds.

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Selected projects.

Azerbaijan (AZE/97/D11). In Azerbaijan, young disabled have a right to develop on-the-job-training skills in order to enhance their capacity to contribute to expanded economic activity. The Disabled and Disadvantaged Azeri Children and Youth project, implemented by the Foundation for Disadvantaged Azeri Children and Youth, in cooperation with UNICEF, provides pilot training on employment opportunities for disabled youth and orphans in Baku. The amount of $27,000 is co-financing the training of about 200 disabled youth and orphans for service training. Disabled youth are now receiving on-the-job training to become general managers, operation managers (phone and radio), parcel delivery workers, secretaries and phone operators. The project is so successful that it is expected to expand to other parts of Azerbaijan.

Philippines (PHI/96/D21). Lack of human and material resources to provide appropriate care to young children in the Philippines has resulted in a high incidence of blindness and eye-related diseases. The Voluntary Fund provided the Ophthalmological Foundation of the Philippines Inc. with $40,000 to cover the cost of medicines and medical supplies, hospital beds and other accommodations and the identification and transportation of patients (priority goes to young children in urban slums). The initiative has obtained a high endorsement from the Secretary of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines.

Zambia (97/D14). The vast majority of disabled youth, particularly the mentally disabled, are left unemployed and socially isolated in many developing countries. Mitukutuku Farm Centre for the Handicapped, run by the Zambia Council, in cooperation with the Government of Zambia, has been providing an opportunity for mentally disabled rural youth to obtain better knowledge and skills in agriculture and animal husbandry. The Fund provided a grant of $20,000 for the training of an estimated 60 mentally disabled youth at the Mitukutuku Farm Centre.

Regional Western Asia (RWD/95/D05). The Fund provided $25,000 to co-finance the establishment of a regional training centre for computer training for blind girls and a pilot project to develop innovative ways of applying computer technology to promote literacy skills among blind and visually disabled girls in Jordan. This initiative (the second phase) is implemented by the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), in cooperation with the Saudi Centre for Rehabilitation and Training for Blind Girls. During the first phase, 10 Jordanian blind girls were trained to enter data using a regular keyboard and verify the entered data with the attached Braille keyboard. The system is bilingual, in English and Arabic. The project is on-going.

Interregional (INT/97/D06). The International Leadership Forum for Women with Disabilities was organized by the World Institute of Disability, an international non-governmental organization, as a follow-up to the Fourth World Conference on Women (Beijing, 1995), with particular reference to disabled women. The Fund contributed a co-financing grant of $20,000 to enable five disabled women and their assistants from developing countries to participate in the Forum. The participants held substantive discussions on economic and social life, health care, communications, policy and legislative matters.

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A note of thanks

The following Governments made generous contributions to the Fund during the biennium 1996-1997:

  • Austria*
  • Bangladesh
  • China*
  • Columbia
  • Finland*
  • Holy See
  • Ireland
  • Japan**
  • Lebanon
  • Malta
  • Monaco
  • the Netherlands*
  • Norway*
  • Panama
  • Philippines
  • Slovenia
  • Turkey.

The National Council on Disability (United States)* made a public donation.

* earmarked their contributions for the activities of the Special Rapporteur on Disability

** partial earmarking

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Department of Economic and Social Affairs
Division for Social Policy and Development