Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Humanitarian action must include people with disabilities: UN guidelines can promote inclusion at all levels

News Desk : dhakamirror.com

Humanitarian responses in the context of natural or manmade disasters or protracted crises must ensure the inclusion of persons with disabilities. In doing so, the humanitarian community encourages the Government of Bangladesh to systematically consider the Inter-Agency Standing Committee’s (IASC) guidelines for the inclusion of persons with disabilities in humanitarian action as one of the guiding documents, states a keynote paper presented at a seminar on Monday (19 June).

The government should also encourage using it for implementing any humanitarian response, said the paper prepared by Handicap International – Humanity & Inclusion (HI) and the Centre for Disability in Development (CDD).

A national seminar titled “Inclusive Humanitarian Actions: Delivering on ‘Must Do’ actions of IASC Guideline for including persons with disabilities” organised by Handicap International – Humanity & Inclusion (HI) and the Centre for Disability in Development (CDD) at Hotel Sarina in Dhaka.

Md Mijanur Rahman, director general, the Department of Disaster Management, attended the event as the chief guest, reads a press release.

Addressing as the chief guest, Md Mijanur Rahman sought suggestions from all stakeholders by visiting government disaster shelters in the coastal areas to make them more accessible.

Explaining the necessity of compliance with the four ‘must-do’ actions of the IASC guideline, the keynote paper briefly highlights the improvement areas within the existing policy framework and guidelines for implementing humanitarian programmes in Bangladesh.

The keynote also presented experiences and lessons learned from both organisations in three different contexts, namely flood response, cyclone response and Rohingya response.

While showcasing the practical experiences and lessons learned, the keynote paper also calls for actions towards the Bangladesh government, humanitarian actors and donors.

The keynote asks the government authority to consider IASC guidelines for the inclusion of persons with disabilities in humanitarian action as one of the guiding documents and encourage using it for implementing any humanitarian response. It also calls the humanitarian actors to review the strategies of beneficiary engagement with a specific focus on neutralising the power imbalance between the beneficiaries and actors so that persons with disabilities can meaningfully engage in the decision-making process of humanitarian responses.

The keynote suggests engaging persons with disabilities prior to interventions, reflecting their opinions, voice and choices in the planning, execution, monitoring and evaluation of actual interventions. Considering their specific needs could be the starting point for meaningful participation.

Identifying capacities and knowledge gaps among humanitarian actors on disability inclusion, the keynote suggests capacity enhancement efforts on identifying and removing environmental, behavioural and structural barriers through a comprehensive assessment process. It recommends humanitarian agencies apply universal designs to build structures and provide reasonable accommodation and tailored measures to ensure that persons with disabilities have access to goods and services provided by all humanitarian actors.

As the paper recommends, the humanitarian agencies should invest in developing communication materials and tools that are accessible and inclusive for persons with disabilities. Agencies should foster the necessary technical knowledge and skills to create accessible materials, ensuring that persons with disabilities can access information and actively engage with the services provided.

Referring to the guidelines, the keynote suggests humanitarian agencies make a mandatory provision for directly collecting age, gender and disability disaggregated data from the beneficiaries. This requirement should be appropriately aligned with the organisation’s overall data monitoring framework so that the data can be analysed and informed decisions can be taken.

The humanitarian agencies should adopt and follow a standardised data management process incorporating Washington Group Short Set of Questions (WGQ) on functioning, which is a set of questions designed to identify people with functional limitations.

At the seminar, a panel discussion was held comprising AHM Noman Khan, executive director of the CDD, Johanna Reina Picalua, protection officer from the Protection Sector of UNHCR, Ashish Damle, country director, Oxfam Bangladesh, and Wendy McCance, country director, Norwegian Refugee Council.

They explored and explained various points of the keynote presentation and answered questions raised by the participants, related mostly to the mechanism of including persons with disabilities, especially women with disabilities in humanitarian actions and disaster management plans and programmes.

Rajesh Chandra, country director, HI Bangladesh Country Programme, and Mackenzie Rowe, regional refugee coordinator, Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, also spoke at the event and reiterated their commitment and support toward disability inclusion in humanitarian context including Rohingya response. – Press release

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