The World Humanitarian Summit and disability inclusion

Nepal earthquake: Tushar Wali (Program Manager, CBM ERU) discusses about emergency response work with Prakash Raj Wagle (Country Coordinator, CBM Nepal Country Office) and Lekhnath Acharya (HRDC CBR Coordinator, Dhading district) at the CBR office of HRDC in Dhading Besi in central Nepal.

On 23rd and 24th of May 2016, the first ever World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) will take place in Istanbul, Turkey bringing together world leaders, humanitarian organisations, representatives from affected communities and the private sector, amongst others.

Addressing the Agenda for Humanity

The WHS is organised through seven High Level Round Tables, which will allow Heads of State and high level representatives to make commitments and announce bold action addressing the core responsibilities set in the Agenda for Humanity. 15 Special Sessions are complementing the programme and will focus on launching key initiatives aiming at harnessing the vision, skills and capacities of stakeholders in each relevant area.

How is this relevant to disability?

Before, during and in response to crisis and emergency situations persons with disabilities are often overlooked, not receiving or able to access preparedness, relief and recovery operations. Too often they are left behind, or only identified as an ‘extremely vulnerable’ group that needs ‘special’ attention from expert organisations. Despite being active in the response themselves, persons with disabilities are often excluded from coordination mechanisms, from access to funds or simply not considered as having capacities and skills to enhance efficiency of the overall response. The WHS provides a unique opportunity not only to further highlight this issue but also to demonstrate their key role and capacities for improving humanitarian action and contributing to the Agenda for Humanity.

It is then appropriate that this issue will be addressed during a Special Session at the Summit “Inclusion of persons with disabilities into humanitarian action”. This session will result in the endorsement and commitment to implementation of the Charter on Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action by a number of States, and other stakeholders. At the end of the special session, the list of commitments will be used to formulate a plan of action allocating clear responsibilities to implement the Charter over the next three to five years. 

CBM and the World Humanitarian Summit

Following CBM’s involvement in the advocacy that resulted in inclusive Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) outcome document and Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) is a crucial forum for advocating for the inclusion of persons with disabilities. In the last decade, the number of people affected by disasters or displaced due to conflict has risen significantly, stretching the ability of the systems in place to respond. 

CBM, together with other stakeholders, has worked extensively to ensure that disability won’t be forgotten at and beyond the WHS. 

Preparation to the WHS, what has CBM done?

Over the past year CBM has joined a core group of disability stakeholders, consisting of Handicap International, the Women’s Refugee Commission, the International Disability Alliance and Human Rights Watch. Together we have been advocating for the inclusion of persons with disabilities in humanitarian action as a priority for the WHS to address.

With our support, persons with disabilities were able to participate in some of the regional consultations, raising the issue of disability-inclusion as the core themes of the WHS were being defined. Furthermore, together with Handicap International, a special thematic consultation on disability was conducted through an online survey, and provided a number of clear recommendations towards different stakeholders to be carried on to the WHS.
Through a very participatory approach, a Charter on Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action has been developed and is now available for endorsement. To maximise States’ and other stakeholders’ commitments during the Summit, it includes a list of recommended actions under five categories:

  • Non-discrimination
  • Participation
  • Inclusive policy
  • Inclusive response and services
  • Cooperation and coordination

During the WHS, what will CBM do?

Continuing the advocacy work which has preceded the event, CBM’s acting CEO Frank Wendt, Emergency Response Unit (ERU) Director, Valerie Scherrer and the ERU’s Media and Communication Coordinator, Gordon Rattray will travel to Istanbul and participate in the Summit. Their priorities will include relaying CBM commitments to the Charter and, in general, to inclusive humanitarian action.

Special Event on disability
The CBM team will be present at the Special Session on Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities into Humanitarian Action, following progress and reporting live on the commitments made. This will enable people not participating directly in the Summit to be aware of and follow up on what we hope will be significant announcements from several stakeholders.

Side event on disability - Strengthening visibility, inclusion and participation of persons with disabilities in humanitarian action.
This side event will provide an opportunity to hear from persons with disabilities and their representative organisations, as well as experts in the field, on the specific challenges that persons with disabilities face in conflict and humanitarian crises. The panel will illustrate, through best practices, the role that persons with disabilities and their representative organisations can play to ensure that humanitarian response reaches everyone in society.

Exhibition fair
CBM, together with other disability stakeholders, will present its work on supporting local partners to respond to emergencies through the exhibition of booklets, articles, pictures and videos. A new publication gathering testimonies of persons with disabilities who have been actively participating in emergency response work will highlight their capacities and the essential role they have played, specifically to mainstream humanitarian organisations and other major stakeholders.

Innovation Fair
For several months now CBM has been working with a team of consultants and web developers to create a web-based application – Humanitarian Hands on Tool (HHoT): Step-by-step practical guidance on inclusive humanitarian field work – which should enable humanitarian field workers to quickly and easily ensure that their work is inclusive. A prototype of the tool will be presented in the Innovation Fair with the twin objectives of gathering feedback from practitioners and engaging them in further testing and development.

The WHS is a great opportunity to again raise the issue of disability inclusion at this high level, and to ensure that persons with disabilities are not only identified as victims or passive recipients but are also included as emergency responders. The commitment to the Charter and bold action to ensure its implementation will greatly contribute to save lives and to facilitate inclusion for all in emergencies.
Valérie Scherrer (Director, CBM Emergency Response Unit)