Assistant-Secretary-General and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, Ms. Ursula Mueller remarks: “Shifting the focus from vulnerability to rights and resilience: A progressive approach to humanitarian action for persons with disabilities”

from UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Published on 20 Jun 2018

United Nations Headquarters New York, Wednesday, June 20 2018

As delivered

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

It is a pleasure for me to be here with you, Gopal Mitra, and others today for this important event on how the humanitarian community can adopt and operationalize a more progressive approach to humanitarian action for persons with disabilities.

As we all know – all too well – armed conflict and natural disasters have a disproportionate impact on people with disabilities, testing their resilience and threatening their safety and well-being. Crises hamper people with disabilities’ access to essential services and heighten the risks they face when seeking humanitarian assistance and protection.

Lack of adequate data, capacity and resources all serve to increase their exclusion with specific groups of people, such as women with disabilities, facing multiple forms of discrimination. For instance, at a panel held earlier today, a representative from Australia mentioned that there was no disaggregated data in the use of the 18 pooled funds, on how they were being spent on people with disabilities.

Much progress has been made in the UN and in the humanitarian system to address this issue.

The need for a participatory approach is one of the core elements of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, or the CRPD. Adopted in 2006, the CRPD protects the rights of people with disabilities around the world, including in situations of risk and humanitarian emergencies. Last week, many of you participated in the Conference of States Parties to the CRPD, and its theme of leaving no one behind represents a useful prelude to our discussion today. It was very encouraging to see so many people attend the event.

The Charter on Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action, launched during the World Humanitarian Summit in 2016, in Istanbul represents another important milestone. Developed by over 70 partners, including Member States, UN agencies, NGOs and representative organizations of persons with disabilities, this Charter commits actors to make humanitarian action inclusive, to lift barriers and to ensure the participation of people with disabilities in all stages of humanitarian response. OCHA is proud to be among the 181 stakeholders that have endorsed the Charter, and I encourage all who have not endorsed the Charter to do so without delay.

More groundbreaking work on this front is ongoing with the development of the IASC Guidelines on Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action. OCHA is pleased to be part of this process and stands ready to support these Guidelines once they are finalized at the end of the year.

Regarding other progress last year, I wish to draw your attention to the analysis by CBM, the International Disability Alliance, and Humanity and Inclusion of the 41 self-reports on disability. These were submitted this year to the Platform for Action, Commitments and Transformation, which tracks progress on commitments made to deliver on the Agenda for Humanity. The analysis shows a positive trend towards the systematic inclusion of people with disabilities in humanitarian action. Most progress was achieved in strengthening internal policies and practices, as well as in the allocation of resources at global level, among others in support of the IASC Guidelines.

Much has been done, but many pressing challenges remain. Moving forward, we must continue to work together to build a holistic approach for disability-inclusive humanitarian action to become a reality across crises and at all levels. This will require collective advocacy, developing guidance and tools, and establishing capacity-building and monitoring mechanisms, among others.

And, in addition to making sure we have the right funding, capacity and tools in place, we need to continue our work in changing mindsets. If we do not recognize and incorporate the resilience, capacities and expertise that people with disabilities have, then we will never be able to fully deliver on our mandate to provide principled humanitarian assistance. We must empower people with disabilities to participate fully and meaningfully in all phases of humanitarian action if we are to be truly inclusive and leave no one behind.

The Ambassador mentioned next month’s Global Disability Summit to be held in London and hosted jointly by DFID, the International Disability Alliance and the Government of Kenya. This will be an opportunity to revive the momentum created at the World Humanitarian Summit and to continue moving these important efforts forward.

Thank you, and I look forward to hearing your thoughts and perspectives during this discussion.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs:
To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit