Making Humanitarian Action Work for Everyone

By Beth Milburn

The World Humanitarian Summit this May provides an opportunity for humanitarian actors to take steps forward in ensuring that humanitarian action is disability-inclusive. In this post we introduced the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) and its core themes. One key priority for EU-CORD at the WHS is Disability-Inclusive Humanitarian Action. This article will explore why this is such an important issue and the work that EU-CORD has been doing on this issue in the run up to the WHS.

Persons with disabilities are among the most disproportionately affected by disaster or conflict situations, and experience extra challenges in accessing relief and recovery support. A recent study led by Handicap International as part of the World Humanitarian Summit official consultations, has confirmed that three-quarters of persons with disabilities do not have adequate access to basic assistance, including water, shelter, food or health services in a crisis.

Persons with disabilities are often excluded in disaster preparedness or disaster risk reduction interventions, as well as in the assessment, planning or design of humanitarian relief. They face barriers to accessing humanitarian assistance programs. This needs to change and the humanitarian system must be able to ensure that all persons are able to access the basic assistance needed in a crisis, regardless of disability.

As part of the International Disability and Development Consortium (IDDC), of which EU-CORD is a member, we wrote and sent a letter (which you can read here) calling on the European Union to be a champion for disability inclusion in humanitarian action at the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) and to endorse the Charter on the Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action.

This Charter will be launched at the WHS Special Session entitled “Making humanitarian action inclusive of persons with disabilities” and is hoped to be endorsed by different stakeholders at the summit. The Charter is being developed by many different stakeholders, including representatives from States, international organisations, UN agencies, organisations of persons with disabilities and NGOs. A number of core principles that will support humanitarian practices are emphasised in the Charter: ensuring non-discrimination; the participation and leadership of people with disabilities; developing inclusive policies and guidelines; and ensuring accessibility and inclusiveness of responses and services.

Persons with disabilities and organisations of persons with disabilities (DPOs) are rarely consulted and included in decision making processes. In recognising and addressing the capacities, rights and requirements of persons with disabilities affected by crisis and conflict it is hoped that this Charter will help ensure that their unique skills and knowledge support the overall humanitarian response.

Alexander Gentsch from the EU-CORD Secretariat attended the first drafting workshop of the Charter in Geneva. This workshop was supported by, among others, Finland, Australia, CBM, and Handicap International. We would like to see EU and Member State delegations get involved in the multi-stakeholder process of developing, endorsing and implementing the Charter on the Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action and the related Action Plan.

Additionally, in March the Dutch ministry of Foreign Affairs hosted an event on disability-inclusive Disaster Risk Management which examined how people with disabilities could be better included in humanitarian action, and how both the World Humanitarian Summit and the Sendai Framework could be more disability-inclusive. EU-CORD attended this event along with some of its Dutch member organisations. We believe that the current Dutch Presidency of the EU could make a big difference which means that their involvement at this time is particularly significant.

At this event it was good to see mainstream development organisations taking up the issue alongside disability-focused organisations. From this event came recommendations to the Dutch, as present holders of the EU-Presidency, to promote disability-inclusion in the EU position paper on the World Humanitarian Summit.

The EU is the only regional organisation worldwide to have signed the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), which contains a specific article on situations of risk and humanitarian emergencies. In this previous post we highlighted our support to the EU’s commitment to the CRPD and emphasised the need for the EU to live up to its commitments by making humanitarian action more inclusive.

The principle “Leave no one behind” was highlighted in the UN Secretary-General’s Report for the WHS and we would like this to be materialised in respective commitments for persons with disabilities and enhanced humanitarian actors’ practices. The WHS, and the Charter in particular, provides an opportunity for the EU to champion disability-inclusive humanitarian action. We believe this would provide a positive step forward in ensuring a more inclusive humanitarian system where all can benefit from humanitarian action.

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