Disabled persons

The World Health Organization estimates that more than 600 million people - about 10% of the world population - suffer some kind of disability, with 80% of them living in Africa, Asia, Latin American and the Caribbean. The United Nations works to promote full participation of the disabled in social life and the same political and civil rights as others.

Two declarations and an action plan

In the 1970s, the General Assembly adopted two declarations:

  1. Declaration on the Rights of Mentally Retarded Persons, adopted in 1971.
  2. Declaration of the Rights of Disabled Persons, adopted in 1975.

In 1981, the International Year of Disabled Persons, IDYP, (A/RES/36/77) was proclaimed. The resulting document - World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons (A/RES/37/52), adopted in 1982, promotes the goals of full participation of disabled persons with the same urgency to all countries regardless of their level of development.

Decade of Disabled Persons 1983-1992

The General Assembly, underlining the importance of the implementation of the principles of this programme, proclaimed the United Nations Decade of Disabled Persons 1983-1992. In 1992 the General Assembly devoted two plenary meetings to the assessment of the outcome of this decade. As a result, the resolution Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities (A/RES/48/96) were adopted in 1993. These rules serve as a basic instrument and guidelines in the field of disability.

Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was adopted by the General Assembly on 13 December 2006.

DSPD Disability samordnar

Division for Social Policy and Development (DSPD) works to strengthen international cooperation on matters relating to disability within UN. DSPD is part of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) under the Secretariat.


The UN Programme on Disability/Secretariat for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (SCRPD) falls within the Division for Social Inlusive Social Development (DISD) of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA). SCRPD promotes the rights and advancement of persons with disabilities within a broad mandate provided by the World Programme of Action (1982), Standard Rules (1994) and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006), as well as other relevant human rights and development instruments.

The increasing awareness about the situation of disabled people has had an impact on the international UN conferences, where this question has been integrated into the programme.

For more information on human rights for persons with disabilities, see DagDok: Rights of the Disabled.

More on UN and disabled persons

Human Rights, conventions and declaration

UN documents and publications in catalogues and databases

  • United Nations Digital Library offers UN documents and open access publications, UN voting data and speeches, UN maps, Content in 6+ languages. Replaces the traditional online catalogue UNBISnet.
  • UN iLibrary UN publications online covering different topics.
  • ODS full-text UN documents published from 1993 onward and scanned documents published between 1946 and 1993 in the official languages of the UN.
  • Daily list of documents (ODS). Documents published for the day, with full text links, can be found in the United Nations full text database ODS.
  • UNBIS Thesaurus a multilingual database of the controlled vocabulary used to describe UN documents.
  • Index to proceedings is an annual bibliographic guide to the proceedings and documentation of the major UN organs. The index includes:
    • a list of all documents
    • a comprehensive subject index
    • an index to speeches
    • a voting chart of resolutions
  • United Nations Documents Index (United Nations Digital Library) References to all documents by subject area are published. A collection of indexes is held by the Dag Hammarskjöld and Law Library, Uppsala, and the Libraries at UN Headquarters in New York and Geneva.
Last modified: 2024-02-15