FEEDBACK – Shifting the focus from vulnerability to rights and resilience. A progressive approach to humanitarian action for persons with disabilities

Posted by: on Jun 27, 2018 | No Comments

On 20 June, Humanity & Inclusion (HI) co-organised a side event looking at how humanitarian actors can identify new and inclusive approaches to address the situation of persons with disabilities in crisis context.

It was co-organised with CBM, the International Disability Alliance (IDA), the IASC Task Team on Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action, as well as the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of Finland, Luxembourg, and the UK during the ECOSOC Humanitarian Affairs Segment (HAS) in New York.

How to drive change?

Moving away from the “one size fits all” mindset and reflecting on the diversity of affected people to ensure the rights of persons with disabilities are respected, in line with UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD); ensuring data on persons with disabilities are collected and analysed; incorporating the resilience, capacities and the expertise that people with disabilities and their representative organisations have in the response by developing partnerships. These are only some of the ways mentioned during the event in which humanitarian actors could move away from discriminating persons with disabilities and achieve the aim of “leaving no-one behind”.

The Charter on the Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action and the global guidelines currently under development by the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) Task Team on Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action are meant to help achieving the common goal.

A committed panel

Chaired by Christian Braun, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Luxembourg to the UN, and moderated by Gopal Mitra, UNICEF Programme Specialist, the event saw Ursula Mueller, OCHA Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, giving introductory remarks. Ms Mueller mentioned how Member States are calling on OCHA to gather data on how persons with disabilities benefited from humanitarian country based pull funds. She mentioned lack of adequate data, capacity and resources as the higher barriers to inclusion at the moment.

Vice Chairperson of the African Disability Forum Ekaete Judith Umoh raised strongly the importance of ensuring the participation of persons with disabilities in the response, building the capacity of organisations representing persons with disabilities to support the humanitarian response, and providing easy to read versions of documents, in order to overcome barriers to information.

Allanah Kjellgren, ICRC Diplomatic Adviser UN, shared the outcome of a very interesting internal assessment that pointed to the challenges to inclusion within the Movement. The challenges identified were related to lack of understanding of social dynamics, including how disability, sexual orientation and gender identity might contributes to vulnerability or ability to participate; lack of training for staff on disability inclusive humanitarian action; a partial understanding of inclusion that does not encompass concepts such as participation or capacity building; the difficulty to address disability-related discrimination in some contexts and cultures; and the lack of data analysis.

Finland, one of the greatest supporters of the topic, was represented by Claus Lindroos, MoFA Director for Humanitarian Assistance and Policy. Mr Lindroos pointed to the need to support the development of strong partnerships and good cooperation among actors, and to continue the advocacy and awareness raising, especially towards States in the Global South.

Strong of the experience in the gender sector, UN Women Director Humanitarian Action Daniel Seymour pointed to the need of accountability frameworks in order to move forward on the inclusion of persons with disabilities in humanitarian action. He also made strong reflections on the need to build capacity and expertise, and to develop partnership if the expertise is lacking in-house.

A snapshot on the situation of persons with disabilities in crisis

Persons with disabilities continue to be among the most marginalized in any crisis-affected community: 80% live in poverty, and an estimated 9.7 million are forcibly displaced as a result of persecution, conflict and human rights violations. In some cases, morbidity in disasters has been estimated at a rate four times higher than that of persons without disabilities, as are instances of sexual violence and abuse.