Disability and Armed Conflict

Completed in December 2021

An estimated 15 percent of the world’s population, approximately 1 billion people, have some form of disability (involving physical, psychosocial and/or intellectual impairments) a large percentage of which will be living in conflict-affected states.

Conflict not only renders a person disabled directly, e.g. when a landmine blast amputates a leg, it also inflicts indirect harm since persons with disabilities may face physical and/or communication barriers to accessing emergency information and humanitarian assistance, rendering them more vulnerable to harm and potentially exacerbating a pre-existing impairment. Persons with disabilities are also at higher risk of injury or death during periods of armed conflict, either as specific targets or through insufficient support to allow them to flee the violence. Despite the high number of persons with disabilities affected by armed conflict and the particular support that they need, persons with disabilities are too often the forgotten victims of armed conflict.

Objective

Building on our publication Disability and Armed Conflict – the first study on this issue released in 2019 – this project carried out by Alice Priddy aimed to ensure better protection of persons with disabilities in situations of armed conflict and in its immediate aftermath by:

  • Raising awareness about the legal obligations to protect and assist persons with disabilities during conflict under international humanitarian law (IHL) and international human rights law
  • Providing academic and policy communities – states, intergovernmental and non-governmental organisations, armed non-state actors, humanitarian organisations and persons with disabilities – with concrete guidance to apply IHL in a disability-inclusive manner
  • Providing guidance to the armed forces on how to integrate a disability perspective into military manuals and the training of their militaries
  • Contributing to a change in policies in the humanitarian sector to fully respect the rights of persons with disabilities

NEWS

A Royal Air Force CH-47 Chinook helicopter arrives to extract troops at the end of an operation in Afghanistan News

New Guidance on How to Integrate a Disability Perspective into Military Manuals

28 June 2021

Our new Military Briefing: Persons with Disabilities and Armed Conflict provides guidance to the armed forces on how to integrate a disability perspective into military manuals and the training of their militaries.

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View of the cover page of the publication Diability and Armed Conflict News

Our New Publication Addresses the Devastating Impact of Conflict on Persons with Disabilities

7 May 2019

Our new publication brings attention to the devastating impact conflict has on persons with disabilities and highlights that many of the key international humanitarian law provisions that serve to minimize the impact of armed conflict 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.

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Group photo of particiants in the training News

A Workshop in Vietnam on How the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Applies to Survivors of the Conflict

19 February 2019

Our local partner in Vietnam, the Association for Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, hosted a one day workshop as part of our research project Disability and Armed Conflict.

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OUTPUT

Addressing the Devastating Impact of Armed Conflict on Persons With Disabilities

The publication Disability and Armed Conflict – the first study on this issue released in 2019 – brought attention to the devastating impact conflict has on persons with disabilities. It highlighted that many of the key international humanitarian law (IHL) provisions that serve to minimize the impact of armed conflicts – 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.

Via recommendations, discussions with key stakeholders and broad dissemination in the human rights and humanitarian sectors, it triggered significant changes in the way humanitarian actors and states address this issue.

Guidance to Armed Forces

Our Military Briefing: Persons with Disabilities and Armed Conflict provides guidance to the armed forces on how to integrate a disability perspective into military manuals and the training of their militaries. Launched in 2021, it translates the findings of our larger academic research into practical advice and avenues to incorporate this issue into military operations.

Concrete Changes on the Ground

The project's team conducted training sessions 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.

A Photo Exhibition to Raise Awareness

Determined to bring attention to the lives of persons with disabilities living in armed conflict, we partnered with the photographer Giles Duley to tell the stories of some of those affected by armed conflict.

His photo exhibition, accessible to persons with a visual impairment, told 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.

Publications

cover of the publication

Military Briefing: Persons with Disabilities and Armed Conflict

March 2021

Alice Priddy

The Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights

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Cover page of the publication

Briefing No°14: Disability and Armed Conflict

April 2019

Alice Priddy

Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights

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Past Events

Implementing Article 11 of the CRPD in Armed Conflict: Making Persons with Disabilities More Visible

17 June 2021, 10:00-11:15

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Photo Exhibition: Disability and Armed Conflict

26 August - 29 September 2019

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First to be Forgotten – Persons with Disabilities and Armed Conflict

9 May 2019, 18:00-19:30

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Photo Exhibition: Disability and Armed Conflict

6 May - 3 June 2019

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Exposition Photo: Handicap et Conflit Armé

6 May - 3 June 2019

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MORE ON THIS THEMATIC AREA

News

Our New Visiting Fellow: Natia Kalandarishvili-Mueller

8 August 2022

Natia Kalandarishvili-Mueller is a professor of international law at ALTE University in Tbilisi. Also an alumna of our LLM in IHL and Human Rights, she just started as a Visiting Fellow at the Geneva Academy and will stay with us until the end of November 2022.

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Portrait of Nataliia Hendel News

Ukrainian IHL Professor Hosted at the Geneva Academy

31 October 2022

The Geneva Academy is hosting during a year Dr Nataliia Hendel, a Professor of international law at the International Humanitarian University in Odesa, Ukraine, and an expert in IHL.

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Aleppo, Syria: great Umayyad mosque. Destructions. Event

Book Launch: Cultural Heritage and Mass Atrocities

1 March 2023, 18:15-20:00

At this book launch, one of the book’s editors will discuss cultural heritage and mass atrocities with contributors to the book and specialists.

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Yemen,  Sana'a, Faj Attan district. Destruction. Short Course

From Use of Force to Responsibility to Protect

24 May - 6 June 2023

This online short course provides an overview of the content and evolution of the rules governing the use of unilateral force in international law, including military intervention on humanitarian grounds and the fight against international terrorism. It focuses on the practice of states and international organizations.

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Afghanistan, Parwan detention facility. Inside a room where detainees of the prison, separated by an acrylic glass, are allowed to meet with their families a couple of times per year with the help of the ICRC employees who facilitate the programme. Short Course

Preventing and Combating Terrorism

27 April - 8 June 2023

This online short course discusses the extent to which states may limit and/or derogate from their international human rights obligations in order to prevent and counter-terrorism and thus protect persons under their jurisdiction.

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Computer screen with warning: civilian infrastucture: do not attack Project

Digitalization of Conflict Joint Initiative: Humanitarian Impact and Legal Protection

Started in September 2020

This project will explore humanitarian consequences and protection needs caused by the digitalization of armed conflicts and the extent to which these needs are addressed by international law, especially international humanitarian law.

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A session of the UN Human Rights Council Project

IHL Expert Pool

Started in January 2022

The IHL-EP works to strengthen the capacity of human rights mechanisms to incorporate IHL into their work in an efficacious and comprehensive manner. By so doing, it aims to address the normative and practical challenges that human rights bodies encounter when dealing with cases in which IHL applies.

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Cover page of the study Publication

From Words to Deeds A Study of Armed Non-State Actors’ Practice and Interpretation of International Humanitarian and Human Rights Norms: Research and Policy Conclusions

published on September 2022

Annyssa Bellal, Pascal Bongard, Ezequiel Heffes

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Cover of the publication Publication

From Words to Deeds: A Study of Armed Non-State Actors’ Practice and Interpretation of International Humanitarian and Human Rights Norms: Al-Qaeda

published on September 2022

Annyssa Bellal, Pascal Bongard and Ezequiel Heffes

Read more