7 May 2019
Our new publication Disability and Armed Conflict brings attention to the devastating impact conflict has on persons with disabilities and, crucially, highlights that many of the key international humanitarian law (IHL) provisions that serve to minimize the impact of armed conflict – such as the proportionality assessment and advanced effective warnings – are not being applied in a disability inclusive manner, resulting in persons with disabilities being killed, seriously injured or left behind as families flee armed attacks.
‘This publication brings attention to this extremely important, yet much overlooked topic that has been predominately ignored by states, humanitarian organizations, the United Nations (UN), civil society, the media as well as academics. It is the outcome of more than three years of research funded by SNIS and Pro Victimis, including field research in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Colombia, Palestine, Ukraine and Vietnam’ underlines Professor Marco Sassòli, Director of the Geneva Academy.
Persons with disabilities are the largest minority group in the world. According to the World Health Organization, they represent at least 15 percent of every population. Despite this, and the severe consequences that armed conflict has on them, ‘disability’ is still widely considered a niche issue in the conflict setting.
‘Very little research or literature exists on the topic’ underlines Alice Priddy, former Senior Researcher at the Geneva Academy and author of the publication.
‘Open the contents page or index of any textbook on armed conflict and it is unlikely to include ‘disability’. Military manuals and IHL training programmes do not meaningfully incorporate the disability perspective while UN-mandated commissions of inquiry and UN agency reports routinely fail to include a disability analysis of armed conflict. Alarmingly, not a single resolution of the UN Security Council, Human Rights Council or General Assembly is dedicated to addressing the disproportionate impact of armed conflict on persons with disabilities’ she adds.
The publication offers eight key findings and recommendations for states, humanitarian organizations and the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The findings and associated recommendations relate to: the application of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in differing conflict settings, the relationship between the CRPD and IHL, as well as analysis of a number of key IHL norms, including adverse distinction and humane treatment from a disability perspective.
The findings also challenge the miss-conceptions that continue to dominate disability discourse: including incorrect understandings of ‘disability’, the under-inclusive focus on physical and sensory impairment, and prevention of primary impairment being wrongly included within disability-rights.
‘In sum, the publication highlights that IHL is not being applied in a disability inclusive manner and this amounts to discrimination under the CRPD and also goes against IHL’s own norms that demand humane treatment and prohibit adverse distinction’ stresses Alice Priddy.
Besides the recommendations offered in the publication, training sessions were held in Palestine, Ukraine and Vietnam, to provide stakeholders on the ground – local organizations of persons with disabilities, state representatives, UN agencies and other international humanitarian organizations – with an overview of international law applicable to persons with disabilities and their inclusion in norms related to the conduct of hostilities.
‘We plan to continue to work on this topic by publishing a Military Briefing in early 2020 that will offer very concrete guidance to militaries on the law and policy changes they need to make to ensure that they are applying their IHL obligations in an inclusive manner’ explains Professor Marco Sassòli.
Determined to bring attention to the lives of persons with disabilities living in armed conflict, we have partnered with the photographer Giles Duley to tell the stories of some of those affected by armed conflict.
His photo exhibition on Quai Wilson (Geneva) from 30 Avril to 30 May 2019 tells the stories of persons with disabilities during and following armed conflicts including Odai in Gaza, Yasmine in Iraq, Betty in Uganda and Kholoud who fled Syria with her family and now lives in Holland after having spent almost three years in Lebanon.
International lawyers, social scientists, security experts, and humanitarian practitioners discussed how research in social sciences could inform IHL experts and humanitarian practitioners to assess whether a certain degree of cooperation between organized armed groups – referred to as a ‘coalition’ – had relevance for armed conflict classification.
We are excited to announce the launch of a new project consisting of the publication of a yearly global annual report assessing compliance with international humanitarian law in contemporary armed conflicts.
This IHL Talk, organized with the Geneva Water Hub, will discuss the weaponization of water in contemporary armed conflicts and the importance of IHL and human rights law in preventing and mitigating the consequences on civilians.
This event, co-organized with the ATLAS network, will feature women with diverse experiences and career paths in international law, specifically emphasizing their involvement in humanitarian negotiations.
Participants in this training course, made of two modules, will examine the major international and regional instruments for the promotion of human rights and the environment, familiarizing themselves with the respective implementation and enforcement mechanisms.
This training course will examine how the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights have been utilized to advance the concept of business respect for human rights throughout the UN system, the impact of the Guiding Principles on other international organizations, as well as the impact of standards and guidance developed by these different bodies.
This initiative wishes to contribute to better and more coordinated implementation, reporting and follow-up of international human rights recommendations through a global study on digital human rights tracking tools and databases.
This project addresses the human rights implications stemming from the development of neurotechnology for commercial, non-therapeutic ends, and is based on a partnership between the Geneva Academy, the Geneva University Neurocentre and the UN Human Rights Council Advisory Committee.