WHS: New charter for persons with disabilities endorsed at UN humanitarian summit

Sign language interpreter at the special session on the inclusion of persons with disabilities into humanitarian action, at the World Humanitarian Summit. Photo: UN News Centre/Stéphanie Coutrix

24 May 2016 – A new charter to significantly improve living conditions of persons with disabilities during emergencies has been endorsed at the United Nations World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, Turkey.

“The intersection between humanitarian crises and persons with disabilities is very strong,” Catalina Devandas-Aguilar, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, told the UN News Centre on the margins of a special session at the Summit on ensuring disability-inclusive humanitarian action.

“Persons with disabilities are always left behind and the humanitarian response is very complicated because there is no planning to address their needs. We see that constantly – in armed conflict situations, and natural disasters,” she explained.

The Charter on Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action urges government representatives as well as leaders of non-governmental organizations and funding bodies to ensure that their future humanitarian actions will be inclusive of people with disabilities, based on five principals:

  • non-discrimination and recognition of the diversity of people with disabilities;
  • involvement of people with disabilities in developing humanitarian programs;
  • ensuring services and humanitarian assistance are equally available for and accessible to all people with disabilities;
  • implementation of inclusive global policies; and
  • cooperation and coordination among humanitarian actors to improve inclusion of people with disabilities.

For more detailed information on the Charter, including a list of endorsing countries, please follow this link: www.humanitariandisabilitycharter.org.

“For me, it was absolutely critical that I was [at the special session], because it reminded me of my responsibility as a citizen, and also as the Adviser on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, to really put people with disabilities much closer to the center of everything we do. We must leave no one behind, and we must be inclusive,” said UN Special Advisor David Nabarro.

He noted that the endorsement of the charter shows there is “real commitment” to working to ensure that people with disabilities are much closer to the center of humanitarian action.

This message was echoed by Pierre Krähenbühl, the Commissioner-General of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), where many people have been injured due to conflict.

“When I met young children in Syria who recently had lost limbs because of a car bomb attack, I realized, when I look at them and talk to them, that we need to do much more,” he said. “So [the charter] is an incentive to improve programmes, to include people with disabilities into the planning processes, as part of consultations in far more systematic way.”

Speaking with the UN News Centre through an interpreter, Colin Allen, who will be the next chair of the International Disability Alliance (IDA), highlighted that the charter will help address the specific needs of many people, such as those who are deaf, blind, or both.

“My role [at the session] was to make sure humanitarian actors have systems in place that are accessible, so that in the event of any natural disaster or crisis, they are able to facilitate access for people with disabilities,” he said, stressing the need to be prepared well in advance for this kind of assistance, such as having people who know sign language.

He also shared this message about what has been achieved for people with disabilities at the World Humanitarian Summit.

Colin Allen, President of the World Federation of the Deaf. Credit: UN News Centre


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