On 17 July 2017, IOM, the UN Migration Agency, endorsed the Charter on Inclusion of Persons with Disability in Humanitarian Action.

The Charter was developed, ahead of last year’s World Humanitarian Summit, by over 70 stakeholders from States, UN agencies, the international civil society community and global, regional and national organizations of persons with disabilities. The Charter had already been endorsed by several UN agencies.

By endorsing the Charter, IOM has committed to ensuring that its humanitarian assistance is more inclusive of persons with disabilities. Conditions can be dire for people with disabilities living in displacement or while migrating; however, forced displacement and unsafe migration can themselves create disabilities, as well. For the purpose of this Charter, persons with disabilities include those who have long-term physical, psychosocial, intellectual or sensory impairments, which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in, and access to, humanitarian programmes.

The challenges imposed by flight and exile are increased for migrants with disabilities both while they are on the move or living in insecure settings. Factors, such as lack of access to services (including medical care or medications), lack of identification, loss of access to routine support networks, increased risk of harm or exploitation, limited availability of support aids and the difficulties of extreme conditions of travel and inadequate shelter, all contribute significantly greater challenges faced by migrants and displaced people with disabilities.

“Endorsing the Charter will further ensure that IOM tailors its responses to the specific needs of the, often vulnerable, individuals we assist, including those with disabilities, and in line with upcoming international guidance on this particular vulnerable category,” said Vincent Houver, IOM’s Deputy Director of Operations and Emergencies.

IOM intends to strengthen the inclusion of disability in all aspects of its humanitarian response through the application of its protection mainstreaming policy, by promoting equal and meaningful access for all in times of crisis as well as through partnerships in the field. Further guidance will be developed in accordance with the upcoming international guidelines on inclusion of persons with disabilities in humanitarian action.

Since January 2017, IOM has been part of the Inter-Agency Stand Committee’s (IASC) Task Team on disability inclusion in humanitarian action. The primary objective of this group is the creation and endorsement of IASC Guidelines on the inclusion of persons with disabilities in humanitarian action. It is co-chaired by UNICEF, the International Disability Alliance and Handicap International. The IASC Task Team has rooted its action in the Charter. The release of the IASC guidelines is expected by the end of 2018.

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