The IASC recently endorsed guidelines for the inclusion of persons with disabilities in humanitarian action. How can these guidelines help make humanitarian action more inclusive? On 26 February 2020, ICVA and PHAP organized a webinar together with the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) secretariat and the Reference Group on Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action, which introduced the guidelines and discuss how they can be implemented in practice. The three interim co-chairs of the Reference Group, as well as one of the NGOs that has been implementing the IASC Guidelines in their organization, spoke about the guidelines, their development, structure, and how they can be used in practice.
Persons with disabilities are among the most marginalized people in crisis-affected communities and disproportionately affected by conflict and disasters. In some contexts, their mortality rate is two to four times higher than that of persons without disabilities and persons with disabilities face substantial barriers to accessing assistance. A recent study found that 92% of humanitarian actors think that persons with disabilities are not properly taken into account in humanitarian response and are often considered only as recipients of aid and not as actors in the response.
That is also why delivering better for persons with disabilities was part of the discussions of the World Humanitarian Summit and its follow-up commitments, including through the Charter on Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action (2016). In 2016, the United Nations Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) Working Group agreed to the establishment of a Task Team on the Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action, which drafted the Guidelines on Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action. The IASC Guidelines were drafted through a large number of consultations with member States, organizations of persons with disabilities, civil society organizations working with persons with disabilities and/or in humanitarian action, and UN agencies. They were endorsed by the IASC Principals in October 2019 and launched in New York in November 2019 and in Geneva in February 2020. At the same time, a Reference Group was established to continue to bring together key stakeholders for coordinated efforts on the implementation of the IASC Guidelines on Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities and provide support, among others, their dissemination and to develop supporting tools and resources.
As one of the few global initiatives where the persons concerned have been directly involved in the drafting of a tool serving intervention at their benefit, these Guidelines are a crucial step forward to achieve disability-inclusive humanitarian action. They serve the following four objectives:
- To provide practical guidance on including persons with disabilities in humanitarian programming and coordination;
- To increase capacity among humanitarian stakeholders to develop and implement quality programs that are inclusive of persons with disabilities;
- To describe the roles and responsibilities of humanitarian stakeholders to include persons with disabilities in humanitarian action; and
- To increase and improve the participation of persons with disabilities and organization of persons with disabilities in preparedness, response and recovery.
However, what will make the real difference for persons with disabilities is how these guidelines are implemented in practice. Humanitarian actors need to translate the IASC Guidelines into concrete improvements in their daily activities, continuing to work closely with persons with disabilities and their representative organizations.