History of Disability and the United Nations

Over the course of the United Nations' first half century, persons with disabilities have become increasingly proactive in asserting strength and confidence in their own abilities to lead self-reliant and independent lives. The following brief history highlights efforts by the United Nations which have supported their efforts.

The United Nations was founded on the principle of equality for all. The Preamble to the United Nations Charter affirms the dignity and worth of every human being and gives primary importance to the promotion of social justice. Persons with disabilities are, de facto, entitled to all the fundamental human rights upheld by the Charter and other human rights instruments.

The General Assembly established the foundation for the promotion and protection of human rights in 1948, when it proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 25 of the Declaration states that each person has "the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control".

Further anti-discrimination principles were established by such human rights instruments as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which came into force in 1966. Together they form the most comprehensive international code of legally binding provisions in the area of human rights. The two Covenants develop and supplement the provisions of the Universal Declaration, and the three instruments together make up what has come to be known as the International Bill of Human Rights.

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