Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, Ms. Ursula Mueller, Remarks to the HNPW session: “IASC Guidelines on Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action: next steps”

from UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Published on 08 Feb 2018

Geneva, Switzerland, 08 February 2018

As delivered

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

It is a pleasure to be here with you to discuss the next steps we need to take to make further progress on the inclusion of people with disabilities in humanitarian action.

Since the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit, where leading humanitarian agencies launched the Charter on Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action, we have already made significant progress. Through this historic agreement we set out to collectively do more to include people with disabilities in emergency action. The Charter has already been endorsed by 181 entities, including 24 Member States and the European Union. Since the Summit, many of these signatories to the Charter are now including people with disabilities in their policy-making and project delivery.

But, as always, much more remains to be done on all fronts to ensure humanitarian action really does leave no one behind. We need to see concerted action when it comes to:

  • Institutionalizing inclusion of all at-risk groups through organizational policy and practice;
  • Gathering better data that includes people with disabilities; and
  • Empowering vulnerable crisis-affected people and including them in decision-making processes at every level.

People with disabilities continue to be among the most marginalized in any crisis-affected community. In armed conflicts, complex emergencies and natural disasters, people with disabilities share the same basic needs and require the same essential assistance as all affected people. However, they also have additional requirements when it comes to access, protection and other aspects of response, which demand specific assistance.

Furthermore, their skills and capacities represent a wealth of knowledge and expertise in inclusion, which are often overlooked.

Let me stress that the inclusion of persons with disabilities is a core component of principled and effective humanitarian action. International Humanitarian Law and International human rights law, particularly the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities oblige States to ensure the protection and safety of persons with disabilities in crises.

Moreover, the inclusion of persons with disabilities is aligned with the humanitarian principles of humanity and impartiality, and the human rights principles of inherent dignity, equality, equity and non-discrimination.

This year, we will make an important step towards fulfilling these obligations with the launch by the IASC, of system-wide agreed guidelines on inclusion of persons with disabilities in humanitarian action. These Guidelines are sorely needed. They will help humanitarian organizations, Governments and civil society organizations to coordinate, plan, implement, monitor and evaluate their humanitarian actions to achieve the full and effective participation and inclusion of people with disabilities.

I want to express my appreciation to the over 100 representatives from approximately 60 organizations that are contributing to these Guidelines. In particular, my thanks to the co-chairs of the IASC Task Team: UNICEF, Handicap International (now renamed “Humanity and Inclusion”), and the International Disability Alliance. The generous backing of the Governments of Australia, Finland and Luxembourg made the team’s work—and particularly its proactive outreach to regional and local stakeholders—possible.

OCHA was glad to participate in regional consultations in Fiji two weeks ago. This workshop focused on the unique experience of small, isolated and developing Pacific Island Countries in natural disasters and climate change. The leadership of the International Disability Alliance and its networks, in enabling this regional outreach, is particularly welcomed.

For OCHA’s part, we will continue to vigorously promote inclusive humanitarian action that is accountable to affected people, including persons with disabilities in our policy and advocacy efforts. This includes continuing to work on incorporating appropriate language in relevant UN General Assembly Resolutions and other official documents.

OCHA will also promote coordination approaches that integrate gender, age and disability as well as other vulnerability considerations into all aspects of humanitarian response. We are proud to have endorsed the Disability Charter in Istanbul, and are now actively involved in its promotion, as we provide support to the IASC Task Team.

OCHA will work with Humanitarian Country Teams to implement the principles outlined in the Charter at the field level. Humanitarian Country Teams, led by Humanitarian Coordinators, must be better-informed in how to address the needs and respect the rights of persons with disabilities in crisis settings.

We must all make every effort to ensure that no one is left behind in any aspect of humanitarian action as we move forward. To be effective means to be inclusive.

I look forward to hearing more from you about how we need to work together differently to achieve this. I thank you for all of your efforts on this critical issue that is close to my heart. Thank you.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs:

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