EU Humanitarian Aid must be inclusive

21 June 2016
Delegation of EDF and IDDC with Commissioner Stylanides

EDF and IDDC met Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management and agreed on the importance of the EU taking practical steps now to lead by example, in the EU’s actions to support persons with disabilities in humanitarian crisis and Europe’s refugee response.

A delegation from the European Disability Forum (EDF) and the International Disability and Development Consortium (IDDC), headed by EDF President Yannis Vardakastanis and IDDC representative Johannes Trimmel, met the EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, Christos Stylianides. The meeting was arranged to discuss follow-up to the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) where the European Commission endorsed the Charter on Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action (the Charter), and to the UN’s concluding observations: the recommendations by the United Nations (UN) to the European Union (EU) on how to better promote and protect the rights of 80 million people with disabilities – in particular the recommendations on the refugee crisis and humanitarian emergencies.

In its concluding observations, UN recommends the EU:

  • to ensure that the emergency number 112 is fully accessible across the EU to all persons with all types of disabilities,
  • to ensure that all aspects of disaster risk-reduction (DRR) policies and programmes are inclusive of and accessible to all persons with disabilities,
  • to mainstream the rights of persons with disabilities in all its policies on humanitarian aid and crisis management,
  • to mainstream disability in migration and refugee policies, and
  • to issue guidelines to its agencies and member states that restrictive detention of persons with disabilities in the context of migration and asylum seeking is not in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD).

EDF President, Yannis Vardakastanis, underlined: “In 2015, 1 million persons arrived in Europe fleeing war. 62% of the people on the road are women and children; they face sexual and gender-based violence and separation from their families. The EU has to react with a human rights-based approach and put the lives of people first. We recommend that all EU funding to its Member States and to neighboring countries, including Turkey, should include as a priority to provide support to minors and persons with disabilities, and their families on the move, in particular women and children with disabilities”.

Johannes Trimmel, representing IDDC, highlighted: “Millions of persons with disabilities in the world are currently facing a humanitarian crisis. Most of them do not have proper access to basic humanitarian assistance and their participation in the response is overlooked. The Charter endorsed during the WHS in Istanbul at the end of May provides a tremendous opportunity to shape a humanitarian response closer to the rights and needs of persons with disabilities. We call on the EU to take concrete steps to bring the Charter to life in all its work and to promote it with other humanitarian donors and partners, including EU Member States, in view of a change towards more inclusive humanitarian policies and practices”.

Commissioner Stylianides stated that the agenda for persons with disabilities was taken forward both by means of targeted projects, as well as through mainstreaming by the EU. He stated that now is the moment for elevating the EU’s efforts, and to show concrete results and outcomes for persons with disabilities in all of the EU’s humanitarian and emergency support work. He referred to the EU’s endorsement of the WHS Charter, and the recently adopted Sendai Action Plan, which show the EU’s intention to follow up these political commitments with practical actions - transferring words to practice. Commissioner Stylianides confirmed his commitment, and the commitment of his services, to continued dialogue and cooperation in this area.

EDF and IDDC are looking forward to further cooperation with Commissioner Stylianides to ensure that the needs of persons with disabilities are taken into account in the current EU refugee crisis and in the follow-up to the World Humanitarian Summit.

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