Despite one billion people worldwide having a disability, persons with disabilities are among the most forgotten and marginalized groups in any crisis or any armed conflict. On 3 December 2018, The United Nations Security Council Open Arria Formula Meeting addressed the alarming situation of persons with disabilities who live in war-stricken countries. This meeting is the first time the Security Council has primarily focused on the effects of war on people with disabilities.
The meeting’s objective was to recognize “the disproportionate impact of armed conflict on persons with disabilities” with an aim to find a solution to ensure “more inclusive and participatory approach towards persons with disabilities during conflicts and reflect on possible measures to implement adequate solutions and emergency responses in conflict zones.” The Disability Rights Director at Human Rights Watch, Shantha Rau Barriga, commented on the meeting, “The Security Council’s mandate on protection of civilians includes all civilians – including people with disabilities…it’s crucial for the Security Council to gather the information needed to make sure that “no one left behind is not mere rhetoric.”
Prior to this meeting, the situation of these people in a war zone and possible peace-building processes had not been largely discussed by the Security Council. Therefore, the conference that took place on 3 December 2018, was ground-breaking, especially given that the Security Council determined to take a more active stance on helping those with disabilities. Meaning that the Council decided to shift from a medical and charitable approach to an active human rights one which is essential for the implementation of policies and crisis management. Furthermore, it was identified during the meeting that there is a current lack of information on the impacts of war and armed-conflict on persons with disabilities. This shows that much more work still needs to be done by the Security Council and the international community.
According to the International Disability Alliance, an estimated 9.7 million people with disabilities are forcibly displaced by war and armed-conflict with many becoming victims of human rights abuses and conflict-related violence. Article 11 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) obligates State Parties to “implement and reform national plans of crisis reaction and management in order to provide effective assistance for persons with disabilities.” The Security Council’s recent discussion is a positive confirmation of the CRPD.
The recent Security Council Arria Formula Meeting has placed a highly needed spotlight on the situation of persons with disabilities in areas of war and armed conflict. It is hoped that such a discussion can create a stronger precedent for them to be better recognized, represented and protected, as well as included in international discussions regarding research, peacebuilding and crisis management.