Over one billion people worldwide are living with some form of disability, 16% of which are attributable to armed conflict. Everyone living in the shadow of conflict faces unthinkable challenges in striving to protect themselves and their loved ones. For persons with disabilities, those challenges can be even more daunting. Many come up against additional barriers in seeking protection; some, particularly women and girls with disabilities, are physically unable to flee violence and many are vulnerable to human rights violations, violence and abuse, including sexual abuse.
During and after conflict, persons with disabilities face disproportionate hurdles in accessing limited services, such as nutrition, health and psychosocial support. Survivors of explosive ordnance incidents and their families are often left without the support they need – from the provision of prosthetics to socioeconomic reintegration assistance – to rebuild their lives.
International humanitarian, human rights and refugee law require states to protect and assist persons with disabilities at all stages of the conflict cycle. In 2019, the United Nations Security Council adopted resolution 2475 on the situation of persons with disabilities in armed conflict, which acknowledges the disproportionate impact of armed conflict on persons with disabilities, while reinforcing the obligations of all United Nations Member States.
Almost a year after the adoption of this milestone resolution, enormous challenges remain with respect to the promotion and protection of the rights and agency of persons with disabilities in humanitarian, conflict and post-conflict settings. Moreover, emerging trends – including the rise in the threat posed by improvised explosive devices, climate change, and the global health crisis triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic - exacerbate existing challenges.
To draw attention to the specific needs and requirements of persons with disabilities exposed to conflicts, Poland, the United Kingdom, the European Union and the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) held a panel discussion on 28 May 2020, as part of the Protection of Civilians week, to explore some of the innovative solutions being developed, implemented and promoted by national institutions, the international community and civil society. Particular focus was placed on measures taken to address the additional risks facing women and girls. The virtual event was chaired by the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Ms. Catalina Devandas Aguilar. The speakers included Member States, Humanity & Inclusion (H.I.), the International Disability Alliance (IDA), and others. The video recording of the side event is available here.