Minimum Standards for Age and Disability Inclusion in Humanitarian Action

Manual and Guideline
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1. Introduction

1.1 Background

Humanitarian crises affect each person differently depending on their gender, age, disability and other personal characteristics. Older people and people with disabilities are often overlooked in humanitarian relief and response and they may find it harder than others to access the assistance and protection they need. The humanitarian principle of impartiality – providing assistance on the basis of need and without discrimination – requires agencies working in emergencies to reduce barriers so that people with disabilities and older people are not purposefully or inadvertently excluded from the humanitarian response.

The Minimum Standards for Age and Disability Inclusion in Humanitarian Action have been developed for use by all practitioners involved in humanitarian response, including staff and volunteers of local, national, and international humanitarian agencies, with the expectation that the inclusion of people with disabilities and older people is feasible at every stage of the response and in every sector and context. The Standards are intended to inform the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of humanitarian programmes; to strengthen accountability to people with disabilities and older people; and to support advocacy, capacity-building and preparedness measures on age and disability across the humanitarian system.

The Standards are drawn from a wide-ranging review of existing guidance and standards developed by humanitarian actors over recent years. This includes material from organisations with a special focus on disability and/or older age, together with key documents, including the Sphere Handbook,1 the Sphere Companion Standards2 and the Core Humanitarian Standard on Quality and Accountability (CHS). The Minimum Standards for Age and Disability Inclusion do not create entirely new demands on humanitarian actors; rather, they clarify and reinforce what is already required if broader standards of impartial humanitarian programming and the principles of the Humanitarian Charter are to be upheld.
While generic standards on quality and accountability have helped to improve the overall coverage of humanitarian response, there is still a need for more relevant and systematic approaches to ensure the inclusion of older people and people with disabilities.

Both (overlapping) groups are affected by many of the same or very similar barriers to access and participation, and there are simple measures that can be taken by humanitarian organisations to address these barriers by adapting existing programmes.

This pilot version of the Minimum Standards for Age and Disability Inclusion is intended as a live document to be adapted on the basis of on-going consultation and field testing. Feedback on the current version should be submitted via

1.2 Structure of the Minimum Standards The Minimum Standards consist of eight Key Inclusion Standards and accompanying Sector-specific Standards.

The Key Inclusion Standards are derived from the first eight of the Nine Commitments of the Core Humanitarian Standard on Quality and Accountability (CHS). Gender-sensitivity and protection are incorporated as cross-cutting themes across all the Standards, with protection also included as a set of Sector-specific Standards. The role of carers is also included as a cross-cutting theme; this represents a crucial aspect of inclusive humanitarian programming that has so far not received the attention it deserves.

Each set of Sector-specific Standards relates to a particular theme (eg water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), nutrition, health). These are intended for use by humanitarian technical teams and coordination mechanisms, including clusters, with reference to the Key Inclusion Standards; they are not designed to be used in isolation.