Executive Summary

Under Article 19 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD), individuals with disabilities are entitled to live independently and be included in their communities. Throughout the world, the practice of placing children and adults with disabilities into residential institutions (institutionalization) presents a significant barrier to the realization of these rights. Residential institutions often operate in isolation from local environments, restricting the autonomy of those they are intended to serve. Article 19 of the UN CRPD imagines a radically different way of supporting persons with disabilities, calling for the provision of personalized assistance within communities, and for existing local facilities and services to be made universally accessible. Most importantly, Article 19 states persons with disabilities should be able to choose where and with whom they live, just like everyone else.

Residential institutionalization is not the only practice that stands against the implementation of Article 19, but it is one of the most prevalent. In the Arab region, as in the rest of the world, a range of residential institutions have been established. To date, there has been little collective examination of the residential institutions that currently operate in in Arab states. On a regional level, the services available in institutions, the living conditions experienced by residents of institutions, and the regulation and monitoring of institutions by governments have remained largely unexplored.

This report examines these and other topics selectively across 18 Arab countries through the lens of state commitments under Article 19. Though limited in scope, through interviews with public officials and directors of institutions, as well as persons with disabilities living in institutions, their caregivers, and family members, the report provides insight into existing institutionalization practices, as well as reflects on future pathways to deinstitutionalization. 

Overall, the report finds that few of the institutions studied are providing the kind of care and services required to facilitate the integration and independent living of persons with disabilities in their communities. It also finds that that in many Arab states, families often turn to institutionalization due to a lack of alternative care options and the inaccessibility of many public spaces, services and facilities. With these two pieces of information in mind, the report identifies the immediate need for deinstitutionalization strategies that address the creation of new local support services, the improvement of accessibility in all areas of society, and the eventual closure of residential institutions. 

As a regional study, albeit a qualitative one on a modest scale, this report seeks to assist Arab governments that have signed the Convention in developing new insights on the implementation of Article 19.  It also strives to inform a variety of actors concerned with monitoring the implementation of the Convention on the progress states are making in implementing Article 19, and to provide guidance for any organizations or groups wishing to promote the inclusion and independent living of persons with disabilities. 

Please note that the findings of this study mainly relate to the sample of institutions interviewed and shall not be taken as a general statement about other institutions in the region.