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Persons with disabilities in armed conflict: Inclusive protection

25 May 2020

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Maqsood lost his leg in a landmine accident while taking a walk in his village in Afghanistan. Credit: UNMAS/Cengiz Yar

More than 1 billion people worldwide are living with disabilities, 16 per cent of which are attributable to armed conflict. Everyone living in the shadow of conflict faces unthinkable challenges in striving to protect themselves and their loved ones.

For persons with disabilities, those challenges can be even more daunting. Many come up against additional barriers in seeking protection. Some, particularly women and girls with disabilities, are physically unable to flee violence and many are vulnerable to human rights violations, violence and abuse, including sexual abuse. 

International humanitarian, human rights and refugee law require States to protect and assist persons with disabilities at all stages of the conflict cycle.

In 2019, the United Nations Security Council adopted resolution 2475 on the situation of persons with disabilities in armed conflict, which acknowledges the impact of armed conflict on persons with disabilities, while reinforcing the obligations of all Member States.

Enormous challenges remain and, with emerging trends – including the rise in the threat posed by improvised explosive devices, climate change, and the global health crisis triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic – these are only being exacerbated today. 

To draw attention to the specific needs and requirements of persons with disabilities exposed to conflicts, Poland, the United Kingdom, the European Union and the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) will hold a panel discussion, as part of the Protection of Civilians week, to explore some of the innovative solutions being developed, implemented and promoted by national institutions, the international community and civil society.

Particular focus will be placed on measures taken to address the additional risks facing women and girls.

The virtual event will be chaired by the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Catalina Devandas Aguilar. There will be speakers from Member States, Humanity & Inclusion, the International Disability Alliance, and others.

The event “Persons with Disabilities in Conflict: Inclusive Protection Perspectives” will take place on 28 May 2020 from 9 a.m. to 10.30 a.m. EST. 

Protection of Civilians week is being held from 27 May to 1 June 2020.