FOCUS on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, 3rd December

Posted by: on Dec 3, 2019 | No Comments

On December 3rd, the world celebrates the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. HI joins the global mobilization to call for persons with disabilities & their human rights to be put at the center of humanitarian and development efforts.

Persons with disabilities are at risk of exclusion and discrimination

According to the World Health Organization, approximately 15% of the world population are persons with disabilities, with 80% of them living in developing countries. Today the rights of persons with disabilities in humanitarian and development context has gained growing prominence, but yet a lot more has to be done to ensure persons with disabilities can enjoy equal opportunities, justice and participate  in their social environments on equal basis as others.

visual with statistics

Up to 90% of children with disabilities do not go to school.

In many countries, where HI is working, persons with disabilities still encounter discriminatory policies and a variety of barriers to access education, legal services and economic opportunities, among others:

  • More than 80% of persons with disabilities who need welfare services cannot receive them,
  • 9 out of 10 children with disabilities do not go to school,
  • up to 80% of persons with disabilities of working age are excluded from the labour market,
  • Persons with disabilities are more than 3 times as likely to be unable to get the health care they need,
  • In humanitarian settings, their safety and non-discriminatory access to humanitarian aid is often hampered.


Those unequal opportunities, discriminatory environments and limited recognition of the capacities of persons with disabilities contributes to higher risk of poverty and further marginalization of persons with disabilities, and are harming development for all.

Indeed, along with our partners, we strive that ‘no one is left behind’ and take action for better principled humanitarian aid and sustainable development fully inclusive of persons with disabilities.

In compliance with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, all stakeholders involved in international cooperation and development should take all measures necessary to facilitate the safety and full and effective participation of persons with disabilities in humanitarian and development settings and in all spheres of society. The convention, in addition to the International  Humanitarian Law further calls for the humanitarian community to mobilize all means necessary means to further protect persons with disabilities and ensure their access to services, on equal basis with others.

A key momentum for disability inclusion

On the 3rd December, HI is therefore joining the voices of persons with disabilities, their representative organisations and other partner organisations, and taking action in various ways.

In Europe, the International Disability and Development Consortium (IDDC) is championing the International Day of Persons with Disabilities by organising the European Disability and Development Week (EDDW) from the 3rd to the 10th December (International Day for Human Rights). HI, as a founding member of IDDC, is organising or co-organising four events to discuss different aspects of disability and development:

  • in Berne through the Swiss coalition for the rights of persons with disabilities in international cooperation, on 3/12.
  • on 3/12, CBM, HI and the International Disability Alliance are also releasing a collection of 39 examples of field practices inclusive of persons with disabilities in humanitarian prepardness, response and reconstruction efforts, from 20 countries of intervention. This report aims to support the uptake of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC)’s first Guidelines on Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action, launched on November 12th.
  • in Brussels, a round table panel on the role of rehabilitation for sustainable development, on 4/12.
  • online, a webinar on financial access to rehabilitation on 6/12.

To kick start the week, IDDC and the European Commission are co-hosting a photo exhibition, ‘Together for Inclusion’, on the 2nd of December. 

Taking concrete actions to ensure disability inclusive humanitarian aid

Humanitarian action inclusive of persons with disabilities has gained growing attention over the last years. The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) recalls state parties to take the necessary actions measures to ensure the protection and safety of persons with disabilities in situations of risk and design and deliver non-discriminatory aid (Article 11). Further policy commitments have been accelerated by launching and advocating for practical actions through the Charter on Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action, 2016 World Humanitarian Summit and on the global Disability summit, 2018. Yet more practical steps, resources mobilization and learnings are needed to design and deliver humanitarian aid inclusive of persons with disabilities.

A set of practical actions and strategies to ensure a coherent and effective approach to disability inclusion  and put persons with disabilities at the center of humanitarian aid have been made available in October 2019. On the 12th of November the humanitarian community welcomed the IASC Guidelines on Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action. The guidelines are the first-ever inter-agency guidelines assisting governments, donors, UN agencies and NGOs to coordinate, plan, implement, monitor and evaluate essential actions that foster disability inclusion.

HI, as one of the co-chairing organisations, together with UNICEF and the International Disability Alliance coordinated the design of the guidelines. They were developed in a very participatory and fully inclusive manner together through an Inter-agency Task Team on disability inclusion and with contribution of more than 600 stakeholders from disability and humanitarian sectors.

During the launch, the UN secretary general and co-hair organizations called for enhancing learnings and making available replicable examples of disability inclusion in humanitarian coordination and field practices to support the systemic change required by humanitarian stakeholders.

The new collection of case studies, launched by CBM, Humanity & Inclusion, and the International Disability Alliance, shows that deliberate and proactive action is required to ensure that persons with disabilities from various backgrounds are systematically included and meaningfully participate in Disaster Risk Reduction Efforts and in humanitarian preparedness, response and recovery programs. It draws lessons from field practices, and is complementary to the practical guidance and strategies spelled out in the IASC Guidelines. The report entails a total of 39 field practices from 20 countries. Those include practice in DRC, Iraq, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Myanmar, Niger, Palestine, Philippines, South Sudan and Syria, as well as 2 global practices.

The case studies included in the report focus on:

  1. Inclusive disaster risk reduction and preparedness, showing how DRR and preparedness benefit by ensuring access and participation to persons with disabilities and organizations of persons with disabilities (OPDs).
  2. Collecting and using disability disaggregated data for assessments and programming, such as through participatory research and rapid assessment studies on the situation of persons with disabilities during and after disasters.
  3. Participation of persons with disabilities and their representative organizations in humanitarian response and recovery, including projects led by OPDs, or done in collaboration between NGOs and OPDs.
  4. Removing barriers to access humanitarian assistance and protection though projects in which persons with disabilities and OPDs are at the center of assessing and addressing those barriers, and examples of humanitarian actors seeking external technical support.
  5. Influencing coordination mechanisms and resource mobilization, such as through disability-focused coordination mechanisms, as well as by influencing national Humanitarian Response Plans and pooled funding.