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Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities July 2013

The Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC) is honored to have the opportunity to participate as an Observer in the sixth session of the Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). It commends all Member States that have ratified the Convention since the last meeting of States Parties and calls on all others to ratify as soon as possible. WRC welcomes the theme, “Ensuring adequate standard of living: empowerment and participation of persons with disabilities within the framework of the CRPD” and the sub themes: “Economic empowerment through inclusive social protection and poverty reduction strategies”; “Disability-inclusive development in national, regional and international processes”; and “Community-based rehabilitation and habilitation for inclusive society.” We look forward to hearing from the distinguished panelists on each of these important topics, which are so critical to the well-being of persons with disabilities, including those displaced by conflict and crises.

While the World Health Organization estimates that 15 percent of any population is made up of persons with disabilities, this percentage is likely much higher amongst the forcibly displaced. Over 42.5 million people are now forcibly displaced by conflict, violence, disaster and persecution.1 Forced displacement exacerbates inequalities and increases the vulnerability of persons with disabilities. Rates of violence may be 4-10 times greater among persons with disabilities than their non-disabled peers,2 and women, children and older people with disabilities are at greater risk of discrimination, exploitation and gender-based violence.3

Article 11 of the CRPD requires states to ensure that persons with disabilities are protected in situations of risk or humanitarian emergency, and Article 32 states that international cooperation must be accessible to, and inclusive of, persons with disabilities.4 The universality of the CRPD text means that States Parties are obliged to promote, protect and guarantee the rights of all persons with disabilities within their territory–including those who have been displaced across a border.5 It is therefore critical–and mandatory– that the rights of refugees and other displaced persons with disabilities are reflected in CRPD monitoring processes.

Implementing Articles 11 and 32 has proven challenging as social stigma, as well as physical barriers, can render displaced persons with disabilities hidden, thereby blocking their ability to access services, secure a livelihood and participate in community life. Successful implementation of these Articles also requires effective coordination between national and local governments and humanitarian actors. WRC calls on States Parties, UN humanitarian actors, nongovernmental organizations and local community-based organizations to ensure that displaced persons with disabilities can exercise the full range of their rights, receive physical protection and access services. All actors must work alongside women, men, girls and boys with disabilities themselves to achieve humanitarian programming that is disability inclusive and to design activities that address their specific needs. This means championing community-based rehabilitation programs that foster participation and access for persons with disabilities in all areas: education and vocation training activities; income generating activities; health care; and decision-making bodies in humanitarian settings.

Finally, humanitarian and development actors must improve collaboration so that disability-inclusive programming is realized from relief through to recovery, development and risk reduction. It is crucial that the international community capitalize on the opportunity presented in the post-2015 process to embed and mainstream disability-inclusive approaches to the economic, social and political development of countries affected by humanitarian crises. The post-2015 agenda must be designed to deliver development for all persons with disabilities, including those in crisis-affected communities. Member States, UN entities and civil society have a responsibility to make certain that the new framework is truly disability inclusive and in line with the principles of the CRPD.