Silver Spring, MD—The World Humanitarian Summit, which ends today in Istanbul, marked a major step forward for people with disabilities and for impartial humanitarian aid. A brand new Charter on Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action, launched by Handicap International and several partner organizations, attracted support from nearly 100 States, humanitarian organizations, funding bodies, and non-profit organizations during a special session on disability on May 23. The Charter stands to be a victory for people with disabilities, who have been largely ignored by humanitarian aid.
Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon added his support to the Charter at the special session. “The Charter is not an end in itself,” he cautioned, stressing the importance of applying the principles contained in the text in practice.
During the special session on disability, 96 participants signed the charter and expressed their enthusiastic support for humanitarian action that is more inclusive of people with disabilities. They included representatives of States such as Australia, Finland, Luxembourg, Germany, and the United Kingdom, the leaders of United Nations organizations, representatives of NGOs and human rights organizations, a representative of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, and disabled people’s organizations.
“We are pleased that so many organizations and States have signed the Charter on Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities,” declared Anne Héry, head of advocacy at Handicap International. “We are also pleased with the diversity of the signatories. The Charter brings an end to a great injustice, since the rights and needs of people with disabilities are still widely ignored during crises. Handicap International will work tirelessly to ensure this charter is put into practice.”
The U.S. did not sign the charter in Istanbul. “I certainly hope the United States will sign the Charter in the near future,” said Jeff Meer, Handicap International Executive Director in the U.S. “The United States has a proud history of support for humanitarian causes, human rights, and inclusion of people with disabilities, and this Charter is completely in line with those ideals.”
Signatories promise that their future humanitarian actions will be inclusive of people with disabilities, based on five principals:
- non-discrimination and recognition of the diversity of people with disabilities;
- involvement of people with disabilities in developing humanitarian programs;
- ensuring services and humanitarian assistance are equally available for and accessible to all people with disabilities;
- implementation of inclusive global policies;
- cooperation and coordination among humanitarian actors to improve inclusion of people with disabilities.
The charter remains open for signature by States, NGOs, and humanitarian aid funding bodies. It is accompanied by an action plan to implement the charter.
The May 23 session on disability, jointly organized and moderated by Handicap International, is the result of an effort between disabled people’s organizations and a small group of NGOs and States convinced of the absolute necessity of understanding and removing obstacles faced by people with disabilities in accessing aid.
Handicap International experts are available for comment in Turkey (from Monday), and the U.S.
About Handicap International
Handicap International is an independent international aid organization. It has been working in situations of poverty and exclusion, conflict and disaster for 34 years. Working alongside persons with disabilities and other vulnerable groups, our actions and testimony are focused on responding to their essential needs, improving their living conditions, and promoting respect for their dignity and basic rights. Since it was founded in 1982, Handicap International has set up development programs in more than 60 countries and intervenes in numerous emergency situations. The network of eight national associations (Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States) works constantly to mobilize resources, jointly manage projects and to increase the impact of the organization’s principles and actions. Handicap International is one of six founding organizations of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), the co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997 and the winner of the Conrad N. Hilton Award in 2011. Handicap International takes action and campaigns in places where “standing tall” is no easy task.