The participatory development of international guidelines for CBR

Lepr Rev. 2008 Mar;79(1):17-29.


Purpose: The CBR Guidelines are being developed by UN Agencies and civil society groups including disabled people's organisations (DPO). The aim of the CBR guidelines is to enhance the quality of life of people with disabilities including those affected by leprosy. Strong linkages between leprosy programmes and CBR will optimise the benefit of medical care and ensure leprosy-affected people access all relevant services that promote inclusion and participation.

Background: The World Health Organisation introduced the concept Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR) in the early 1980s. CBR was designed to enhance the quality of life for people with disabilities through community initiatives. To facilitate this, WHO published a CBR Manual 'Training in the community for people with disabilities' in 1989. Since then there have been many developments within and outside the disability sector. Based on these global developments and as a result of stakeholder consultation, ILO, UNESCO and WHO updated the CBR Joint Position Paper (2004) and restructured CBR as a strategy for rehabilitation, equalisation of opportunities, poverty reduction and social inclusion of people with disabilities. The purpose of this Joint Position Paper was to describe and support the concept of CBR as it is evolving, with an emphasis on human rights and a call for action against poverty. The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities aims to ensure that they enjoy human rights on an equal basis with others. Guidelines on how to implement CBR respond to the demands created by the publication of the Joint Position Paper and The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Results: The CBR Guidelines are being developed by three UN agencies: WHO, ILO and UNESCO. It is being actively supported by 13 International Non Governmental Organisations (NGO) including Disabled People's Organisations (DPO). Over 150 experts from across the globe have contributed to the draft guidelines which are being field tested in 25 countries. The guidelines have five major components: health, education, livelihood, social and empowerment. Beside these five components, the Guidelines also focus on management of some special scenarios including CBR and HIV/AIDS, CBR and leprosy, CBR and mental health and CBR in crisis situations. The CBR guidelines also underline that people with leprosy-related disability are seen as members of the disability community in the wider context given the shared experiences and challenges.

Conclusions: The CBR guidelines are an important step forward in promoting CBR as a community based inclusive development strategy. The guidelines focus on meeting basic needs, reducing poverty, accessing benefits of mainstream developmental initiatives, inclusive community and empowering people with disabilities and their families. It also focuses on implementing the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities using community-based initiatives. People with leprosy are often neglected by traditional CBR programmes. These guidelines make the case for including people with leprosy in CBR programmes and in the community.

MeSH terms

  • Community Health Services*
  • Community Participation
  • Disabled Persons / rehabilitation*
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Human Rights
  • Humans
  • International Cooperation
  • Leprosy / rehabilitation*
  • Poverty
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic*
  • Quality of Life
  • United Nations
  • World Health Organization