Report of the Arab Regional Consultation

on Disability and Development

“The way forward: a disability-inclusive

development agenda

towards 2015 and beyond”

(Tunis, Tunisia 29-30 May 2013)









A.                     Strengthening national and regional frameworks on disability and development

B.                     Awareness raising and overcoming discrimination and stereotypes

C.                     Accessibility as a precondition for inclusive and sustainable development for all

D.                     Improving disability data, information and statistics

E.                     Strengthening scientific research on disability

F.                      Enhancing international cooperation for disability-inclusive Development

G.                     Working for economic inclusion and building partnerships

H.                     Toward a disability-inclusive post 2015 development framework









I.          Programme of Work

II.       List of participants






1.    As the 2015 deadline for the achievement of the MDGs draws near, the international community has begun to address the issue of a future framework. As discussions regarding the post-2015 agenda gain momentum, the international community has before it a critical opportunity to ensure the inclusion of disability in the emerging global development agenda. To this end, in 2011, the General Assembly decided to convene a High‑level Meeting, at the level of Heads of State and Government, on 23 September 2013, with the overarching theme “The way forward: a disability‑inclusive development agenda towards 2015 and beyond.”[1]


2.    The High-level Meeting would provide a historic opportunity to bring global attention to the situations of the more than one billion persons with disabilities, and to agree on next steps to promote their inclusion in all aspects of development and society.


In this context, the Government of Tunisia, with the support of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations, United Nations International Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization(WHO), organized the Arab Regional Consultation on Disability and Development on the General Assembly High Level Meeting on Disability and Development:  “The way forward: a disability-inclusive development agenda towards 2015 and beyond” from 29-30 May 2013 in Gammarth, Tunisia.


The meeting was attended by the Head of the Government of Tunisia H.E. Mr. Ali Larayedh, the Minister of Social Affairs, H.E. Dr. Khalil Zaouia, Representatives of the ministry of foreign affairs and other Tunisian Ministries, representatives of the Arab States, representatives of Spain as a co-facilitator of the organisation of the HLMDD as well as representatives from the UN system, the Arab League and the Civil Society.






The following Arab States were represented at the Regional Consultation:

Algeria, Comoros, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

The Arab League was also represented in this meeting. 


The following organizations within the UN system attended the Meeting

United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA)

United Nations International Children’s Fund (UNICEF)

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

World Health Organization (WHO)


The following organizations of civil society were represented:

Arab Human Rights Institute.

Arab Organization of Persons with Disabilities.

Handicap International

Santé Sud

Tunisian Union for Deaf

Tunisian Association for Blind.

Tunisian Federation of Associations of Persons with disabilities.

Tunisian Association for Mentally Challenged Persons

Tunisian association of friends and parents of people with Disabilities

Tunisian Association for Physically Impaired Persons






In his opening statement, H. E, Mr. Ali Larayedh, Head of the Government of Tunisia, stated that his Government is firmly committed to inclusion of persons with disabilities in economic and social development.

Mr Ali Larayedh referred to the rights of persons with disabilities in the new Tunisian Constitution. He also highlighted the role of civil society as a key player in improving legislation related to persons with disabilities and their full participation in all aspects of economic, and social development. Measures to promote positive discrimination were highlighted by the Tunisian Head of Government as an important tool for success of such endeavors.

Representative of the Arab League, UN-DESA, UNICEF, and WHO stated that they would be pleased to support the initiative of the Government of Tunisia to organize this important regional consultation on the High Level Meeting on Disability and Development.


For the preparation of this regional consultation a survey was conducted. A summary of issues arising from the survey will be issued by early June 2013.


Recommendations of the Arab States Consultation

We, the representatives of the Governments, civil society organizations, and international organizations reaffirming our commitment to the principles and objectives to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and other relevant human rights and development instruments, gathered at the Arab Regional Consultation on Disability and Development on the General Assembly High Level Meeting on Disability and Development:  “The way forward: a disability-inclusive development agenda towards 2015 and beyond” from 29-30 May 2013 in Gammarth, Tunis, Tunisia, adopt the following recommendations as an input for an outcome document of the United Nations General Assembly High Level Meeting on Disability and Development.




Overarching principles to be applied in the following recommendations

-       Participation of persons with disabilities and their organization and their capacity development

-       Realization of accessibility (both physical environments and ICTs)as part of the general system of society for an investment for the present and future generations

-       Consideration of those who suffer from invisible disabilities and/or experience multiple discriminations due to gender, age(children, youth and older persons)and other grounds

-       Adequate financial resources should be committed for the recommendations below.


A. Strengthening the national framework and its mechanisms for inclusive society and development

1. Urge States to ratify both the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and its Optional Protocol and call upon those States Parties that have made reservations to withdraw them.

2. Harmonize legislation, policies and programmes in line with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

3. Cross-sectionalities between the CRPD, CRC and CEDAW and other international treaties should be promoted for strengthening the gender and child’s perspective.

4. Governments should adopt and implement disability-inclusive policies concerning international cooperation.

5. Governments should enact legislation on reasonable accommodation for persons with disabilities with clear enforcement mechanisms and take punitive action for non-compliance.

6. Inter-ministerial coordination should be improved through adoption of a multi-sectoral approach to include persons with disabilities in all aspects of national and regional development programmes.

7. Specific measures should be taken to build capacity of persons with disabilities for their access to justice for enforcement of their rights and for remedies at national, regional and global levels, paying particular attention to those who suffered from physical and psychological abuse, and, in particular, children and women with disabilities.




8. Special attention should be accorded to children with disabilities, in the context of early detection and diagnosis of disability as well as early intervention and support services for them to achieve full potentials.

9. Governments and other stakeholders should fulfill their commitments to provide adequate resources to protect the children with disabilities from all forms of abuse. It is important that support be given to independent organizations of persons with disabilities so that those organizations can undertake the monitoring of and contribute to the interventions to protect such children with disabilities


B. Accessibility as a precondition for inclusive and sustainable development for all

10. Full and effective participation of persons with disabilities, both as agents and beneficiaries of socio-economic development, should be an integral part of all development processes, including monitoring and evaluation of development outcomes.

11. Independent living for persons with disabilities should be promoted and enabled through improving conditions of accessibility, employment and livelihoods.

12. Remove physical and invisible barriers through provision of accessible financial mechanisms and mainstream services. Governments should enact and implement legislation on appropriate technical standards for architecture, transportation, communication and other relevant areas

13. Develop and implement action plans for adapting websites in line with the globally accepted digital accessibility standards and ensure access of persons with disabilities to services through appropriate information and communication technologies.

14. Ensure that all assistive devices are accessible and affordable and are in conformity with relevant standards. In addition ensure that assistive devices are exempt from taxes and custom duties for import and export, and provide adequate resources for production and associated services [referral, assessment, prescription, product preparation, fitting/adjusting, user training, follow-up, and maintenance and repairs].

15. Curricula of schools and academic institutions at all levels should include human rights and the rights of persons with disabilities. Training programmes for Government officials and other stakeholders should be developed and implemented on the rights of persons with disabilities and their role in the development of their societies.




16. Adopt and implement universal design principles and apply them in all fields to ensure accessibility for persons with disabilities on an equal basis with others while widely communicating the important and positive socio-economic benefits for all.

17. In view of crisis situations and conflicts in some countries in the Arab region emergency response and management should take disability into account and ensure the participation of persons with disabilities in planning, guidelines, operation and evaluation.


C. Awareness raising and overcoming discrimination and stereotypes

18. All stakeholders should promote positive images of persons with disabilities, focusing on their diverse talents and abilities, through media, arts and sports.

19. Stakeholders should undertake intensified information campaigns at national, regional and global levels to raise awareness and overcome discrimination and stereotypes concerning persons with disabilities.


D. Improving disability data, information and statistics

20. Improve data and statistics on the situation of persons with disabilities at national and regional levels in line with international standards to support the formulation, monitoring and evaluation of evidence-based policies for disability-inclusive development. States should consider the adoption of the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) in this regard.

21. Include data and statistics on the situation of persons with disabilities as part of mainstream socio-economic data collection and analysis ensuring coordination amongst different sectors to establish a unified database on disability.


E. Strengthening scientific research concerning disability

22. Scientific research should be undertaken relating to different aspects of disability, such as health, education, social and economic development and early intervention mechanisms.

23. Governments, academic institutions and other stakeholders should allocate sufficient financial and human resources to support scientific research on disability.




F. Enhancing international cooperation

24. Member States of the United Nations should adopt a binding resolution, in line with the Security Council resolution 1325, to require countries responsible for wars and armed conflict to accept financial, moral and ethical responsibilities for causing disabilities and their consequences.

25. States Parties to the CRPD must fulfill their obligations under Article 32 for the benefit of people with disabilities in lower income countries, through exchange of information, sharing of expertise as well as by providing economic assistance.

26. Utilize international cooperation to develop a mechanism for monitoring the implementation of CRPD at the national, regional and global levels.


G. Working for economic inclusion and building partnerships

27. States should take into account the local perspectives when developing development policies and programmes inclusive of persons with disabilities through community-based rehabilitation.

28. The private sector should be encouraged to play an active role to promote the inclusion of persons with disabilities, such as supporting them in establishing their own enterprises based on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and the principle of economic solidarity.

29. Governments should consider the provision of incentives for small and medium size enterprises that employ persons with disabilities, such as tax and custom duty exemptions.

30. Develop a multi-stakeholder mechanism for microfinance loans for persons with disabilities, taking into account the cost of reasonable accommodation.



H. Toward disability-inclusive post 2015 development framework

31. National and regional action plans should be adopted and implemented with sufficient resources in line with the global commitments to disability-inclusive development. This should be addressed not only in the outcome document of the High Level Meeting on Disability and Development but also in the on-going work to translate the 2015 development framework into action, with the inclusion of this approach in related global commitments and goals to be adopted beyond 2015.




32. Review the Paris Principles for establishment of national human rights institutions and include CRPD in the framework of these principles to ensure that persons with disabilities are represented in national human rights institutions, their policies and operational mechanisms, and that inclusion mechanisms form an integral part of global monitoring and classification of these institutions


33. Member States should submit universal periodic reviews on their progress and realization of the rights of persons with disabilities and support the inclusion of disability indicators in the monitoring and evaluation of future goals and targets of the post-2015 development framework.


34. Governments and international organizations should closely collaborate to connect the global, national and regional reporting systems on the situation of person with disabilities.


Summary of the Proceedings

Opening: Setting the stage for a disability-inclusive development agenda towards 2015 and beyond


Panel 1 – Overview of the situation for people with disabilities and the main challenges to achieving the aspirations of the CRPD and achievement of other international development goals for people with disabilities.

The Panel was moderated by Mr. Azzam Mahjoub (Specialist, Disability Rights Advocate)

The Rapporteur was Dr. Fatima Zahra Ben Salah (Dean, School of Special Education, University of Mannouba)

The discussion was prefaced by an overview of the situation of persons with disabilities in economic and social development in the region by the Moderator. He referred to equality and participation of persons with disabilities, stating that the efforts should be directed toward removing barriers and changing the negative perceptions of society about persons with disabilities.  Several countries, including Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen discussed their national experience and priorities for disability-inclusive development:  accessibility,



health, education and early intervention, employment, rehabilitation and how all the elements should converge into poverty reduction for persons with disabilities. It was reiterated that countries lag behind due to the lack of disability data and statistics as well as analysis of the situation of person with disabilities. It was suggested that in order that governments effect changes, it is important to prompt effective inter-ministerial coordination as well as coordination with international organizations.  Palestine emphasized the need to ensure participation by civil society in development processes. It was stressed by several governments that the principles and objectives of the CRPD should provide the guidance for social integration and for guaranteeing the rights of persons with disabilities.


Panel 2

Moderator: Mr. Amine Ben Youssef (International Law specialist) Rapporteur:  (Director, Ministry of Social Affairs, Tunisia)

In panel 2 participants were requested to discuss progress in mainstreaming disability in national and regional development agendas, particularly focusing on key factors contributing to success, and sharing good practice in Arab countries.

Overview by the Moderator

There is still a huge amount of work to be done in the Arab region, such as moving from a medical model to social model. This would require a major shift in how disability is viewed by society and its members. The Moderator also highlighted the importance of accountability mechanisms, transparent processes as well as inter-sectoral approaches for social inclusion.

General discussion underscored the importance of mainstreaming disability in the general development policies, research on disability, as well as communicating key messages.  Tunisia, as one of the first countries to ratify the CRPD noted the value of the recommendations by the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in assisting Tunisia with their progress to advance the efforts toward inclusive development  Adoption and implementation of legislation in line with the CRPD was considered essential to effective mainstreaming efforts.  UAE reiterated, in this context, the importance of legal rights, including reasonable accommodation as the key underpinning successful strategies.

Considerable attention was given to the importance of public awareness campaigns to remove stigma and combat discrimination to reinforce positive attitudes to people with disability.



Panel 3

Moderator: Dr. Dorra Ouali (Professor, School of Training of Professional in Child Development)

Rapporteur:  Dr. Lamine Ben Abederahman (Professor, University of Tunis)

In Panel 3 participants discussed concrete actions to be considered for inclusion in an outcome document of the High-level meeting of the United Nations General Assembly on Disability and Development.

The civil society representative from the Tunisian Federation of Disabled Persons’ Organizations gave a comprehensive presentation of priorities and actions needed to advance disability inclusive efforts. He described the Arab countries as representing three groups that all present important opportunities for compliance with the CRPD;

the post-revolution reconstruction countries, countries in the process of democratization, and the group of wealthy countries. Priority actions included : reconstruction after conflict and disasters and implementation of universal design and accessibility standards to all new construction, investments in independent living including appropriate community housing and trained support staff, more active engagement of the private sector in developing and implementing employment strategies for persons with disabilities as well as requirements for accessibility compliance to new constructions. Training programme for awareness raising for all government officials as well as the inclusion of disability into school curriculum was also recommended.

Government representatives outlined the particular challenges for countries experiencing multiple problems at the same time such as natural disasters and conflicts – both in terms of the impact on the numbers of persons with disabilities, the increased vulnerabilities of persons with disability in these crisis situations. The specific challenges under occupation were noted, in particular, the higher percentage of unemployed youth. Sudan shared their experience of establishing a Higher Council for people with disabilities comprising 50% representation of people with disabilities and 50% from government bodies promoting a multi-sectoral approach.






Panel 4

Moderator: Dr Ibtissem Oueslati (Professor, University of Tunis)

Rapporteur: Professor Habib Nouighui (Professor, University of Tunis)

The Meeting exchanged further information concerning national experiences, discussed next steps for finalizing its report and the programme of work for the afternoon. Libya stressed the importance of following up recommendations arising from the meeting with agreed practical steps for implementation. Mauritania expressed the need for special attention to children with multiple disabilities and the importance of their multi-sectoral national council.

The Meeting discussed the format and content of the report and appointed representatives of governments, civil society, and the League of Arab States to work with the secretariat in finalizing the recommendations.




Closing statements were made by the Minister of Social Affairs, H.E. Khalil Zaouia, and representatives of official government delegations, the Arab Organization of Disabled Persons, as well as UN-DESA, UNICEF, WHO.

In his closing statement, H.E. Mr. Zaouia reiterated the commitment of his Government to promoting the rights of persons with disabilities and their inclusion in society and development at national, regional and global levels as a matter of social justice and non-discrimination.  He also emphasized the need for cultural transformations, which would accelerate the work toward disability-inclusive development. In terms of the priorities of his Government, he cited the examples of “accessibility for all”, practices of economic solidarity and the partnership with civil society to promote “the culture of inclusion”.

Representatives of the UN-DESA informed participants that the outcome of the Meeting would be approved by the Ministers of Social Affairs and of Foreign Affairs and forwarded to the UN Headquarters for submission to the High-level meeting co-facilitators the following morning. UNICEF and WHO further congratulated the participants on their successful results of the consultation reflected on the process and importance of the High Level Meeting and noted their availability to countries to support their efforts towards disability inclusive development.





Final statements were also made by the representatives of the Arab Organization of Persons with Disabilities, reiterating the importance of the contributions by civil society organizations for disability inclusive society and development.  The representative of Government delegations thanked the Government of Tunisia for their initiative in convening the meeting and for their ongoing leadership in driving change in the regionincluding promoting the rights of people with disability.



[1] General Assembly Resolution 66/124





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