FEEDBACK – World Humanitarian Summit: It is time to make Humanitarian action work for all | October 14, 2015

Today, the global consultation of the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) in Geneva is opening. It concludes 2 years of mutli-stakeholders consultations process with the ambitious objectives to reshape humanitarian aid. The synthesis report released last week, which strived to sum-up the various consultations, provides an important basis to move forward to ensure that persons with […]

Today, the global consultation of the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) in Geneva is opening. It concludes 2 years of mutli-stakeholders consultations process with the ambitious objectives to reshape humanitarian aid.

The synthesis report released last week, which strived to sum-up the various consultations, provides an important basis to move forward to ensure that persons with disabilities and other persons at risks will be fully included in humanitarian response. Recommendations emerging from the report reiterate the strong need to ensure that people affected by a crisis could be put at the heart of the humanitarian response. Yet, if we don’t want this to be taken as another vow, we should this week translate this into concrete steps that will truly reshape the humanitarian system.

Handicap International, together with our partners from IDA and IDDC, has been strongly engaged in the consultation process. To raise awareness on the inclusion of persons with disabilities in humanitarian response, we launched global surveys targeting persons with disabilities, disabled people organizations and humanitarian actors; this process resulted in the report “Disability in humanitarian context: views from affected people and field organisations”. The report provides insights on the dire situation of persons with disabilities in time of crisis which are too often being neglected in the assessment, design, planning and projects of humanitarian actors. It highlights that there is a clear recognition by 85% of humanitarian actors that persons with disabilities are more vulnerable in times of crisis and 92% estimate that these persons are not properly taken into account in humanitarian response, yet this issue still receive very limited attention. Persons with disabilities are not consulted about the project that concerns them, their views are not taken into account and their capacities to support humanitarian actors to design and adapt their programs are overlooked.

The report highlights some critical and major challenges that the Summit must tackle now:

  • Three quarters of the respondents report that they did not have adequate access to basic assistance such as water, shelter, food or health.
  • In addition, the specific services persons with disabilities may need, such as rehabilitation, assistive devices, access to social workers or interpreters were not available for one out of two respondents with disabilities, further impeding their access to mainstream assistance.
  • The consultation also confirms that persons with disabilities are far from obtaining aid they are requiring in crisis contexts, due to the lack of accessible information on existing services and the difficulty in accessing the services themselves: lack of physical or financial access, lack of staff trained in disability, or distance from the services.

Today and tomorrow, humanitarian actors can change this situation. They should reaffirm that inclusion of persons with disabilities and most vulnerable people in emergency response is core component of principled and effective humanitarian action. They should also be reminded that inclusion is doable and feasible; it is more a matter of political will rather than a matter of technical problem or financial stakes. Supporting inclusive assessments, accessibility of services, adequate outreach projects, provision of accessible and easily understandable and accessible information are all practical measures which could be implemented by humanitarian actors in the near future.

Donors and States should come strongly in the process and commit today to ensure that inclusion is at the core of the world humanitarian summit agenda. They should first show the path by developing guidelines on inclusion of persons with disabilities as a preliminary and essential step. Ensuring that donors will tackle this issue will further ensure that any policies and practices will be inclusive. We count on states that have supported since years the inclusion of persons with disabilities in humanitarian aid to rally together and use of their leverage to make that happen.

The WHS’s asserted ambition is to put innovation at the forefront and improve global humanitarian action: taking everyone on board and ensuring that they receive appropriate aid would be the real true innovation. This should be a priority.


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