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Humanitarian Partnership Conference focuses on inclusive practices

Including persons with disabilities and the aged in humanitarian practices was the theme for the 4th annual International Humanitarian Partnership Conference in Nairobi on 21-22 September. More than 140 humanitarian practitioners, academicians and advocates met for the conference, organized by the Inter Agency Working Group on Disaster Preparedness for East and Central Africa (IAWG). The theme was “Disability and Age Inclusion in Humanitarian Practice: Scaling up inclusive practices toward the achievement of Agenda 2030.”

The conference allowed participants to reflect on the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) framework commonly referred to as Agenda 2030. The agenda, with its own theme “leave no one behind,” recognises disasters as a major challenge that humanity faces and a threat to sustainable development.

Further, it recognizes that development cannot be sustainable without having every person on board. The 2011 World Report on Disability by the World Health Organization and the World Bank states that 15% of the world’s population is made up of persons with disabilities. Globally, one in eight people are over the age of 60. Yet conference participants agreed that these parts of society have been largely overlooked in humanitarian response. Accounts from the way humanitarian response has been handled during disaster and emergency time in most parts of the world indicate that disability and age are yet to be considered as a crosscutting and developmental concern by both public and private sectors.

Offering a keynote address, Dr Samuel Kabue, World Council of Churches Ecumenical Disabilities Advocates Network (EDAN) coordinator, detailed some of the humanitarian challenges that persons with disabilities and the aged encounter. “Persons with disabilities and older persons have been largely invisible, their voices unheard,” he said. “Moreover, they are rarely included as active participants in planning, implementing and monitoring of emergency response.”

Kabue observed that efforts are being put in place at international, regional and national levels both by governments and humanitarian groups to address challenges faced by persons with disabilities and older persons during humanitarian response. He noted that this particular conference was evidence of such efforts. “Various humanitarian frameworks and policies — among them the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction — are now addressing inclusion of persons with disabilities and older persons in humanitarian practice. The challenge now is to translate these frameworks from paper to action,” he said.

The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction was endorsed by the UN General Assembly following the 2015 Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction.

At last week’s conference, participants discussed how inclusion of persons with disabilities and the older persons is possible. Together, they defined disability and inclusion, referring to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in relation to emergency situations. Participants also had the opportunity to share what they were doing to reach out to persons with disabilities and older persons in times of crisis. The role of communication and media relations during humanitarian response was also explored.

Conference participants called on humanitarian groups and government officials to undertake deliberate actions to ensure that persons with disabilities and older persons affected by crisis have access to basic aid and specific support services essential for their survival, protection and recovery. These groups should also participate in planning, implementing and evaluating humanitarian practices, recommended conference-goers.

A major highlight of the conference was the launch of the Charter on Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action in East and Central Africa. The charter had already been endorsed by the World Humanitarian Summit in May 2016 and hailed as a major step in ensuring inclusion of persons with disabilities and the aging in humanitarian practice.

Distributed by APO on behalf of World Council of Churches (WCC).