- February 12, 2020

The International Disability Alliance (IDA) participated in the Humanitarian Networks and Partnership Week (HNPW) in Geneva from 3rd to 7th of February 2020. IDA co-organized three strategic events during this week:

The HNPW, is a forum for humanitarian networks and partnerships to meet and address common topics. It is co-chaired by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), and it is one of the largest humanitarian events of its kind, it gathers participants from the UN, NGOs, Member States, the private sector, the military, academia and beyond to discuss and solve common challenges in humanitarian affairs. (UNOCHA, 2020).

The event Geneva Launch of the IASC Guidelines on the Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action took place on Tuesday 4th February at 14:00 co-organized by IDA, the Permanent Missions of Australia, UK, Finland and the Geneva-based Group of Friends to the Charter on the Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action. IDA, represented by the board member and President of the Arab Organization of persons with disabilities; Mr. Abraham Abdallah, participated as a panelist.

The Guidelines, previously launched in New York, aim to ensure that all phases of humanitarian action are disability-inclusive.  All participants raised the importance of the Guidelines as a practical work document for the humanitarian workers in improving their planning, delivering and monitoring of efforts to reach persons with disabilities. It was emphasized how the three-years participatory consultation process allowed this document to be key in including even of the most marginalized groups within the disability movement by tackling crosscutting issues.

Mr. Abraham Abdallah stated that the growing awareness on disability inclusion must be accompanied by practical measures on the ground to identify and remove barriers that keep affecting persons with disabilities in emergency situations. He encouraged the assistants to harmonize their response with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, to follow the methodology of the Washington Group Set of Questions for data collection and to allocate adequate funding and technical resources in disability issues.


Figure 1 - Ms. Abraham Abdallah in the Geneva launch of the IASC guidelines

The following event “Towards Disability Inclusion, what the IASC Guidelines Offer” was organized by IDA, Humanity and Inclusion (HI) and UNICEF. The Inclusive Humanitarian Action and Disaster Risk Reduction Adviser of IDA, Ms. Elham Youssefian advised to use the IASC guidelines as a toolbox of practical tips based on the individuals or organizations roles. She highlighted that the content comprises legal and policy frameworks, overarching principles and crosscutting observations for disability inclusion; in the same way, Ms. Youssefian elaborated the guidelines content on participation of Organizations of Persons with Disabilities (OPDs) in Humanitarian response. She emphasized that engagement with persons with disabilities and their representative organizations is a “must” for humanitarian actors who aim to ensure inclusivity. 

During the event, the establishment of a new Reference Group on Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action was announced. The Reference Group – initially formed by IDA, UNICEF and HI - seeks the engagement of other humanitarian or international actors in monitoring and implementing the IASC Guidelines. 

IDA also facilitated the participation of MRS Jaime Bolling, director of the Independent Living Institute from Sweden. She provided and intervention introducing the Disabled Refugees Welcome a project which aimed to ensure access to independent living for refugees with disabilities in Sweden. Jaime highlighted the lack of awareness about disability issues and the CRPD on the field; and the importance of the take the guidelines from a global to local level by building networks with Organizations of Persons with Disabilities.

Additional contributions were made by the Group of Friends represented by the Permanent Mission of Australia, German Federal Office, Global Protection Cluster, Sphere project, International Rescue Committee, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent, Gender Reference Group, Working Group of Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in shelter and settlements programming, Mental Health and Psychosocial Support reference Group, and World Health Organization. Each of the speakers highlighted the significance of the Guidelines in their respective activities and provided a brief description on how they are planning to implement the Guidelines in the future.

The briefing session on Disability Inclusion in Humanitarian Needs Overviews (HNOs) and Humanitarian Response Plans (HRPs) took place on Monday 3rd at 15:00 with representatives of the OCHA, UNICEF and HI. The discussion focused around the data collection methods used by humanitarian actors, as persons with disabilities are often excluded from the planning phase of humanitarian programs due to the lack of disaggregated data and visibility of this segment. The work conducted by OCHA in Central Africa Republic (CAR) showed that most persons with disabilities feel excluded by their communities and a great part of them lack access to information, this hinders their access to humanitarian programs and basic services as well.

The participants highlighted the necessity of a mindset change in donors and humanitarian actors in order to tailor inclusive responses. In this regard, Ms. Elham Youssefian, from IDA Secretariat, called for international actors to involve local organizations of persons with disabilities to design and implement joint strategies on the ground.

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