Implementation of the World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons [A/49/435] - part 2

Report of the Secretary-General

Forty-ninth session
Agenda item 95
Social development, including questions relating to the world social
situation and to youth, ageing, disabled persons and the family

ANNEX: Towards a society for all: Long term Strategy to Implement the World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons to the Year 2000 and Beyond


  1. The Long term Strategy to Implement the World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons (the "Long term Strategy") was developed at the end of the United Nations Decade of Disabled Persons (1983 1992) through broad based consultations in accordance with General Assembly resolutions 45/91, 46/96 and 48/99 and Economic and Social Council resolution 1993/20.
  2. The Long-term Strategy provides a framework for collaborative action in implementing the World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons (the "World Programme") (A/37/351/Add.1 and Add.1/Corr.1, annex, sect. VIII, recommendation 1 (IV)), as well as the Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities (the "Standard Rules") (resolution 48/96, annex). It incorporates those national, regional and global measures which proved successful and sustainable in the course of the Decade. It envisages national medium term plans as the leading edge of the Strategy. The component elements of a national plan are suggested expecting, however, that these will be adapted to national needs, resources and aspirations. The Strategy's guiding vision is the concept of a society for all. Its foundation remains the three themes of the World Programme prevention of disability, rehabilitation and equalization of opportunities for disabled persons.


  1. During the United Nations Decade of Disabled Persons (1983 1992), consensus was reached on the need to remove the social and physical barriers that limit the participation of individuals in society. It became clear that society creates a handicap when it fails to accommodate the diversity of all its members.
  2. People with disabilities often encounter attitudinal and environmental barriers that prevent their full, equal and active participation in society. These barriers impinge particularly on the well-being of persons with intellectual, mental or multiple disabilities. They add to the disadvantage customarily experienced by disabled persons belonging to such populations or social groups as women, children, the elderly and refugees.
  3. In developing countries, where 80 per cent of the disabled population live, the widespread lack of basic necessities of life such as medical services, education, training, employment and shelter is acutely experienced by disabled persons.
  4. The achievements of the Decade have been significant. They include a new level of leadership by organizations of disabled persons; an increasing willingness by civil society to adjust to the diversity of its members, including those with disabilities; greater recognition by the international community of the need to equalize opportunities for disabled persons, and widespread agreement on the effectiveness of community based rehabilitation with disabled persons and their families actively involved in programme design, implementation and evaluation.
  5. These and other achievements, as well as operational measures that proved successful during the past decade, provide the springboard for the Long term Strategy. The Strategy, however, does not stand alone. It must be seen as an integral part of the goals and programmes of the greater society, including in the areas of sustainable development, technical cooperation, reduction of hunger and malnutrition, protection of the environment and promotion of peace, human rights, employment, shelter and functional literacy. It is in this broad context that the challenges faced by disabled persons need to be continuingly articulated and ultimately resolved.


  1. In a society for all, the needs of all citizens constitute the basis for planning and policy. The general system of society is made accessible to all. By accommodating its structures and functioning to the needs of all, a society mobilizes the potential of all its citizens and, consequently, strengthens its developmental potential.
  2. People with disabilities are a natural and integral part of society and, in the interest of society as a whole, should have opportunities to contribute their experience, talents and capabilities to national and international development.
  3. The concept of a society for all, encompassing human diversity and the development of all human potential, can be said to embody, in a single phrase, the human rights instruments of the United Nations. Defining and translating the human rights of disabled persons into specific measures and programmes remains a major challenge. The recently adopted Standard Rules can help guide public policy in the direction of ensuring the human rights of disabled persons.
  4. The Standard Rules focus on the equalization of opportunities for disabled persons, one of the three main themes of the World Programme of Action. Rules 5 to 12 directly address eight areas of equal participation (each area containing a number of specific targets): accessibility, education, employment, income maintenance and social security, family life and personal integrity, culture, recreation and sports, and religion.
  5. The concept and scope of rehabilitation, another major theme of the World Programme, evolved during the Decade so that greater emphasis is now placed on disabled persons and their families participating in the design, organization and evaluation of rehabilitation services concerning them, particularly in community based rehabilitation. Rehabilitation encompasses counselling, training in self care, provision of aids and devices, specialized education, vocational rehabilitation and others.
  6. The third major theme of the World Programme, prevention of disabilities, calls for all encompassing strategies such as those needed to end war, famine and malnutrition, as well as for quite specific programmes such as those needed to control certain diseases or make the roads and workplace safe.
  7. The three themes of the World Programme, equalization of opportunities, rehabilitation and prevention provide the intellectual foundations of the strategy. During the Decade, efforts to equalize opportunities for disabled persons gained particular momentum, which should be maintained in the coming years, with special focus on the following three areas: human rights of disabled persons; empowerment of persons with disabilities; and involvement of disabled persons and their organizations as true partners in the development of programmes, policies and projects concerning them.


  1. Since not all the necessary changes can be implemented immediately or simultaneously, a step-by-step approach is proposed, guided by the long term vision of a society for all.
  2. The core element of the Long term Strategy is a series of national plans supported by regional and global activities.
  3. After a lead in period, 1995 1996, a medium term national plan is proposed for 1997-2002, coinciding with the quinquennial review of the World Programme. A second plan for the years 2002 2007 would follow.

A. National level

  1. A major effort will be required during the lead in period of 1995 1996. Proposed activities for the lead in include establishing a task force, convening a forum, organizing a national review, issuing a long term policy statement and adopting medium term targets. The nature and scope of each of these steps will be shaped by existing human and material resources, including by drawing on innovation, ingenuity and the involvement of institutions of civil society.
  2. After the lead in period, a five-year plan is proposed from 1997 to 2002, aiming to reach selected targets in that period. Operational measures that proved effective during the Decade could help to ensure that the targets are reached. Those measures are discussed below and include integrating disability issues into national policies, setting standards, mobilizing resources, decentralizing programme implementation, establishing partnerships, strengthening organizations of disabled persons, strengthening national coordinating committees and monitoring progress.
  3. Success of the interim plans and overall Strategy rests upon government commitment, leadership by disabled persons' organizations, involvement of civil society and, where possible, permanent structures for implementation and monitoring. Setting well-defined and feasible targets will help all players to act towards the same objectives. Keeping plans simple, flexible and participatory from the outset will ensure their ongoing effectiveness.
1. Activities for lead in period of 1995 1996
  1. The following activities are proposed for the lead in years of 1995 1996:
    1. Establishing a task force. Members of the task force should include representatives of the Government, of organizations of disabled persons, of rehabilitation and prevention specialists, and of important segments of civil society. Their principal task would be to prepare for a broad based national forum;
    2. Convening a forum. A broad based national forum should be convened to obtain input and long term commitment to a national disability strategy. The forum could review the national disability situation, formulate a long term policy statement and agree on medium term targets. Participants could include representatives of selected ministries, the national coordinating committee, organizations of disabled persons, professionals, citizens groups, communities and families. It could involve legislators, business persons, donors and representatives of the United Nations agencies or bodies;
    3. Reviewing the situation. A review of existing policies and programmes should be made or updated as the basis for determining priority needs and resources. Needs and resources must be matched and translated into operational terms in a set of medium term targets;
    4. Formulating or updating a long term policy statement. The policy statement would form the conceptual framework of the Long term Strategy, stating overall objectives and essential principles;
    5. Setting medium term targets. Targets are necessary for the medium term since not all needs can be achieved at once. In setting targets, the following points may be helpful:
      1. Targets should encompass the important issues raised in the World Programme human rights, equalization of opportunities, rehabilitation and prevention. The World Programme and other United Nations instruments provide a guide for setting rehabilitation and prevention targets. The Standard Rules provide a source of targets in the area of equalization of opportunities. Conventions, guidelines and programmes both national and international are other sources of targets;
      2. Within these broad areas, some targets may focus directly on improving the actual living conditions of disabled persons (for example, the actual removal of physical barriers), while others may focus on enabling infrastructure or measures (such as legislation leading towards the eventual removal of physical barriers);
      3. Targets may also be of a promotional nature, intended to generate action that would be difficult to measure (for example, changing attitudes of the general public), while others may lend themselves more readily to measurement (for example, a precise increase in the numbers of disabled persons working in the media);
      4. Once agreement is reached on what is to be achieved, it is important to clarify who will be responsible, how and when;
      5. Variables and indicators for each target should be clearly identified to assist in monitoring and evaluation, as discussed below in chapter IV, section C;
      6. Possible targets include the following:
        1. Institutional/organizational: by 1997, a medium term plan with a menu of targets for the years 1997 2002 to be formulated;
        2. Human rights: by 1998, plans to be formulated for (a) implementing Convention 159 of the International Labour Organization concerning employment of disabled persons; and (b) applying the Convention on the Rights of the Child (resolution 44/25, annex) as it pertains to children with disabilities (articles 23, 27 and 39);
        3. Equalization of opportunities: by 1998, the Standard Rules to be adopted in principle and certain rules selected for implementation before 2002;
        4. Rehabilitation: by 1999, community based rehabilitation to be established in __ rural areas (the number to be determined at national level);
        5. Prevention: by 2002, the causes of avoidable impairment that lead to disability to be reduced by __ per cent (to be determined at the national level), in keeping with the strategies of the World Health Organization's Global Strategy of Health for All and those of IMPACT of the United Nations Development Programme.
2. Measures for the medium term 1997 2002
  1. Experience gained during the Decade suggests that certain measures are particularly effective. These are discussed briefly below:
    1. Designating a lead agency, which could establish high visibility for the plan and ensure clear division of responsibilities among the many possible players. The lead agency would, ideally, be a government ministry or agency at the highest level;
    2. Strengthening national coordinating committees, which were very effective during the International Year of Disabled Persons (1981). The national coordinating committees should have a permanent structure with membership comprising the concerned government ministries, organizations of disabled persons, business and civil associations. As the name implies, the Committee's chief function could be coordination, but it should not preclude setting standards, mobilizing resources, forming partnerships, implementing programmes and projects, and facilitating information exchange within and between countries and between Governments and non governmental organizations;
    3. Strengthening organizations of disabled persons, particularly their resource base, organizational skills and participation in decision making. Governments may wish to consider providing those organizations with facilities, equipment and an operational budget in view of the fact that they are expected to be at the leading edge of change concerning the status of disabled persons and the transformation of social values, attitudes and practices required in achieving a society for all;
    4. Establishing partnerships, including among non traditional partners. Certain sectors can effect change and produce well defined benefits. For example, the media can influence values and attitudes. The business sector can provide opportunities for work. Religious and civil sectors can facilitate participation. Families and communities can provide a benign and encouraging atmosphere. Health and social sector personnel can set up an enabling environment. Sports and leisure organizations can broaden the experience of participation for all concerned. "South South" and "North South" partnerships or "twinning" between organizations could lead to effective innovations;
    5. Integrating disability issues into national policies pertaining to the greater society. This should be done in a natural way at the planning stage of all policies, programmes and projects in all countries. Such integration is particularly important where resources are scarce, as in developing countries and those in transition from central planning;
    6. Setting standards is an ongoing process pertaining to human rights, life style, services and products. Standards should seek to ensure that patterns of behaviour and design of services and products are non harmful over time for all citizens. Standards can be set in legislation and policy guidelines. Countries that already have comprehensive legislation may need to focus on reaching the established standards by educating and persuading the broad public, employers, service providers and others;
    7. Generating awareness of the lives, experiences, talents and contributions of disabled persons in an integrated setting is important for providing disabled persons with highly visible role models and for changing negative stereotyping of disabled persons by the media where this happens;
    8. Mobilizing resources, which may go beyond monetary resources to encompass, for example, such assets as family and community solidarity and goodwill, teamwork and leadership skills, knowledge and technology (data banks, manuals, etc.), infrastructure and organization, alliances and partnerships, add on possibilities to broad based communal programmes and skills developed within organizations of disabled persons, including for technical cooperation and fund raising;
    9. Decentralizing programme implementation, including responsibility and resources, in order to ensure appropriateness of actions and to build up local capabilities. The final choice of options should rest with end users with, if necessary, the assistance of a professional or guardian;
    10. Monitoring and evaluating progress should be undertaken simultaneously for both the medium term plan and the Long term Strategy, as discussed below in chapter IV, section C. Monitoring of the medium term plan could be guided by the targets.
3. Perspective plan for 2002 2007
  1. Building on the knowledge, experience and momentum generated during the first medium term plan and a critique of its achievements, a plan for the years 2002 to 2007 should aim to achieve more. Its targets could be bolder, moving closer to the society for all, yet not losing sight of prevailing realities.


B. Regional and global support

  1. Regional and international support can assist countries in becoming self sufficient, on setting standards, on facilitating exchange of information and experience and on promoting, where applicable, participation of disabled persons' organizations in decision making and of disabled persons in programme implementation.
1. Regional measures
  1. Regional organizations are well positioned to facilitate the adaptation and transfer of global approaches, standards and technology to the specific needs and options of the region. During the United Nations Decade of Disabled Persons, some regions were very active, others less so. Inaction has been attributed to wars, political instability and economic constraints.
  2. Within the Long term Strategy, regional organizations are invited:
    1. To review their socio economic policies, programmes and projects to determine the extent to which they address the needs, rights and concerns of people with disabilities;
    2. To develop a disability component in their socio economic policies, programmes and projects;
    3. To develop or update regional strategies concerning disability, in consultation with organizations of disabled persons;
    4. To improve exchange of information and experience by organizing conferences, workshops and task forces to address specific issues of disability, including adaptation of the Standard Rules;
    5. To consider the feasibility of convening a broad based regional forum at which to develop or refine a regional long term strategy with interim five year plans commencing with the years 1997 2002;
    6. To support national plans.
2. Global measures
  1. Global organizations can support regional and national initiatives for reaching the society for all, guided by policies and programmes of the United Nations system. Global policies should be continually refined on the basis of regional and national experience. Specifically, international organizations are invited:
    1. To support regional and national plans;
    2. To consult with organizations of disabled persons when developing or revising a wide range of socio economic policies, programmes and events such as international conferences, special anniversaries or observances;
    3. To promote human rights, health, hygiene, food, education, rehabilitation, employment and shelter for all, in keeping with their mandates;
    4. To integrate a well-defined disability component into their socio economic policies and programmes, including technical cooperation and public information;
    5. To utilize the expertise of disabled persons among their administrative and project staff;
    6. To improve exchange of information among international organizations as well as between donors, policy makers and implementing agencies;
    7. To produce instructive materials and information on successful programmes;
    8. To examine the feasibility of initiating a joint model project with the aim of assisting a limited number of interested Governments in designing a comprehensive disability policy that could be tested and, in time, serve as a practical model for replication or adaptation in other countries;
    9. To review and revise plans and procedures every five years in order to integrate in them disability issues and an active participation by disabled persons.


C. Monitoring and evaluation

  1. As is evident from the preceding sections, monitoring and evaluation of the Long term Strategy needs to be considered from two perspectives: national data disaggregated in terms of geographical location, gender, socio-economic characteristics or programmatic activity, and aggregated national level data in terms of regional or global measures.
  2. An essential first task is selection of variables and indicators of performance in terms of achievements and obstacles encountered. Indicators should be clear, unambiguous, accurate and explain variations in performance and results. Monitoring indicators will focus on input delivery and use; evaluation indicators focus on results attained and observed changes among intended beneficiaries.
  3. Monitoring should occur periodically and reports should coincide with annual plan and budget reviews. This will provide an empirical basis for assessing and instituting necessary adjustments in targets and activities. Monitoring activities of the United Nations system, including the work of the Special Rapporteur for the Standard Rules, represent important sources of collateral input to monitoring the Long term Strategy.
  4. Evaluation findings should be produced so that they can coincide with quinquennial reviews of implementation of the World Programme scheduled for 1997, 2002 and 2007. This will provide a sound basis for identification, review and assessment of salient issues, trends and specific areas of need.
  5. Organizations of people with disabilities should be appropriately involved in identification of suitable measures of progress and obstacles, analysis of findings and interpretation of results.
  6. National level monitoring is the core activity in the monitoring and evaluation of the Long term Strategy. This can be carried out either by a specially designated body or organization, such as a national coordinating committee on disability, or in connection with ongoing procedures to survey national socio-economic trends. Monitoring reports should be organized as an integral part of national assessments of socio-economic performance to ensure that monitoring findings and recommendations are effectively reflected in decisions taken on development policies, programmes and projects.
  7. Regional level monitoring would build upon national level findings. A number of regional bodies and organizations are concerned with disability issues, which include the regional commissions of the United Nations, the Council of Europe, the European Union, the League of Arab States, the Organization of African Unity, the Organization of American States and the Nordic Council. It is necessary to identify measures that are both consistent among national settings and capable of aggregation at supranational level.
  8. Monitoring of global instruments and conventions in the social and economic fields can provide important contextual indicators for monitoring the Long term Strategy. Conversely, that process could also be used to integrate disability concerns in mainstream development.