Handicap International Canada's submission to the International Assistance Review

  • Rights
  • Inclusion
  • Explosive weapons
  • Prevention
  • Rehabilitation
  • Health
  • Emergency

July 29, 2016. Handicap International is an international not-for-profit organisation with over 30 years of experience implementing humanitarian assistance and development programs around the world. It has been active in Canada since 2003. This consultation process provides a welcome opportunity to reflect upon Canada’s role in addressing some of the most urgent issues in the fields of development and humanitarian assistance today. We hope that our contributions will impact positively on the outcomes of this significant initiative.

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Health and Rights of Women and Children



Women and girls with disabilities constitute at least 19% of the world’s female population.[i] The majority of these women and girls face double discrimination based on their gender and disability. Poverty, age, ethnicity, and lack of access to education and health care also contribute to their marginalization in society. Ensuring the inclusion of disability in gender policies and programs will greatly reduce the risk of violence, exploitation and abuse of ALL women and girls with disabilities who continue to be at risk, as well as prevent discrimination in access to services.[ii]

Canada should demonstrate its leadership and commitment to a feminist approach that respects diversity by ensuring that the State Reports and administrative national data collections for the Beijing Declaration, Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) are all disaggregated by gender, age, and disability, reporting on the situation of women, men, girls, and boys equally, with a specific focus on violence and cruel behavior.[iii]

Given Canada’s historic leadership towards the banning of landmines enshrined in the Ottawa Treaty it’s important to bear in mind that mine clearance projects have the potential to make real, positive impact on women’s lives (both in terms of releasing land that women can use for livelihood activities and by employing women in mine education and clearance and victim assistance activities). Given Canada’s historic strength both in regards to mine action and also in regards to Women, Peace and Security and Women in Development; investing in mine action that directly involves women, including potential victims, survivors of mine accidents and caregivers, would be a natural and welcome niche for Canada.



By making the following elements requirements of development and humanitarian actor’s proposals and projects funded by Canada, the Canadian government can enact its commitment to gender equality that takes into account different intersecting factors of marginalization, notably gender and disability. We recommend that:

  • Proposals should be both disability and gender inclusive with gender and disability markers giving particular attention to the key sectors of governance and legal reform such as education (including girls education), social protection, child protection, gender-based violence programs, as well as health and economic programming.

  • Canada should ensure that all bilateral and multilateral aid receivers report on the benefits for, and inclusion of, women and girls with disabilities as well as men and boys in addressing gender and disability inequalities.

  • Global Affairs Canada should ensure that all human rights bi- and multi-lateral dialogues are addressing the intersections of disability, age and gender based discrimination, including development and humanitarian funding and initiatives, as well as diplomatic efforts. Moreover, in preparation of such bi- and multilateral dialogues it is recommended to consult representative organizations of marginalized groups, such as women with disabilities, so as to mirror their prioritization and amplify their voices and local as well as global accountability efforts as much as possible.

The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which Canada ratified in 2010, enshrines the equal right of children with disabilities to an inclusive, quality and free primary and secondary education into international law.[v] Yet, in most low and middle income countries children with disabilities are ten times less likely to attend school than non-disabled peers and are more likely to drop out than any other group of children.[vi]

An Inclusive Education (IE) approach ensures that schools and local education systems are responsive to the needs of all children, including children with disabilities. Inclusive education that addresses the needs of children with disabilities plays a positive role in helping address community stigma related to disability, demonstrating that children with disabilities can have a positive future and contribute to society.[vii]

As Canada is committed to working towards universal access to primary and secondary education worldwide, then supporting the development and roll-out of inclusive education initiatives is essential for the realization of this goal. With 1/3 of the 58 million children who are out of school having disabilities, disability inclusion is integral to ensuring Education For All.[viii]



As a way of ensuring access to education that is empowering for all children and youth, Handicap International recommends that disability be embedded and prioritized as a core indicator into education funding programs including reporting requirements within program monitoring and evaluation structures.

Given Canada’s strategic historic involvement in strengthening policing and justice systems in fragile and conflict-affected states, as well as its commitment to ensuring the health and rights of women and girls, there would be a particular affinity in Canada focusing its efforts on the elimination of all forms of sexual violence and ensuring that sexual violence services are accessible for all persons, regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation, and indeed disability. Global research suggests that people with disabilities are at increased risk of sexual violence and that they often face barriers when trying to access SGBV services.[ix] These include physical barriers - due to an inaccessible environments and transportation - as well as attitudinal and institutional barriers, due to pervasive mis-perception and prejudice regarding disability. When Canada engages in strengthening of peace and security initiatives – through the deployment of peacekeeping forces, and training of military and police forces – it is essential that the agents providing support and being supported are equipped to dismantle prevailing barriers preventing access to services for men, women, girls, and boys with disabilities.

Canada also has the opportunity to demonstrate innovation by investing in projects that ensure that any SRH projects supported are truly accessible and inclusive for ALL people. This requires a real investment in technical and financial support to remove the physical and attitudinal barriers that can prevent access to services for marginalized communities (sexual and ethnic minorities, people with disabilities, etc.) due to prevailing prejudices and inaccessible environments.



We therefore recommend that:

  • All projects, whether in bi-lateral development assistance, humanitarian assistance, technical assistance from the department of defense, and/or training and re-enforcement of police services; benefit from training on inclusive sexual violence prevention, response, and support from experts versed in the inclusion of people with disabilities, children and older persons, and sexual minorities.

  • That all initiatives supported by GAC in the field of sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and girls benefit from the input and support of experts in disability-inclusion to ensure that these initiatives do not exclude women and girls with disabilities.

  • Canadian Government funding for SRH projects include a specific budget line to fund infrastructural work and/or other specific modifications to facilitate access in terms of infrastructure, communication and hiring procedures of funded projects for people with disabilities as well as others who may face significant barriers such as injured persons, parents, children, and older persons.


Clean Economic Growth and Climate Change


Climate change has the potential to reverse all of the gains made in development in recent decades. The Government should make substantial investments in climate change adaptation in the countries where it operates, and make climate change a stand-alone and cross-cutting priority. Yet, if Canada is committed to making these initiatives as inclusive and far-reaching as possible it is crucial that people with disabilities and disability-inclusion perspectives be taken into account in climate change prevention, mitigation, and adaptation projects.

In spite of many national and international initiatives to prevent and/or reduce the effects of natural disasters at community level, vulnerable groups such as persons with disabilities, children, women and older persons are still extremely vulnerable to natural disasters. This situation is mainly due to the lack of inclusion and/or involvement of vulnerable groups and their representatives within disaster mitigation and preparedness programming from community to national level, which results in programmes that are not always accessible, and don’t take into account or involve vulnerable populations, especially persons with disabilities.

As the effects of climate change are increasingly felt through rising sea levels, drought and desertification, changes in the spread of vector-borne diseases, and incidence of natural disasters, Handicap International firmly believes that it is essential to integrate climate risks and adaptive capacities in its Inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction programming, to reduce the risks and losses associated with natural disasters and the effects of climate change on the most vulnerable.

It is important to recognize the intersecting personal and socio-economic factors that place people at disproportionate risk of the effects of climate change. For example:

  •  Women and children are 14x at greater risk of death during a natural disaster than men;[x]

  • Evidence following the earthquake in Japan in 2011 suggests that people with disabilities suffered a mortality rate 2x greater than the mortality rate amongst non-disabled people;[xi]

  • Extreme climate events have a disproportionate negative impact on older persons;[xii] and

  •  Minorities are more likely to live in the places that are more negatively affected by the impacts of climate change.[xiii]

Therefore, it is important to ensure that Disaster Risk Reduction programming but also socio-economic capacity and other programming that focuses on building the resilience of marginalised and vulnerable populations is inclusive and accessible.



In order to ensure such inclusivity and accessibility, the following steps should be taken:

  • Support the capacity of local, national and international stakeholders to include the most vulnerable people, in particular persons with disabilities (including injured persons, older persons, etc.) in their mitigation, prevention, preparedness and relief programming.

  •  Support vulnerable groups, such as older persons and their families, to increase their resilience to disaster and climate risks (personalised and family support to access information on risks and apply it to their daily living and livelihoods, support to access services – DRR, social, rehab, health, etc. – individual and household vulnerability and capacity assessment, adaptive capacities development, etc.) and facilitate their participation in disaster and climate risks management (support to Disabled People Organisations, etc.).

  • Ensure that programme planners, implementers, and evaluators are aware of the particular ways that vulnerabilities intersect (e.g. age, gender, minority status, disability) to create pockets of extreme marginalisation and consequent vulnerability.

Given Canada’s legacy as a promoter of human rights and diversity, regardless of which thematic areas are chosen as priorities, Handicap International firmly believes that it is crucial for Canada to demonstrate its innovation and policy coherence by ensuring that all climate change (and clean economic growth) programming are designed to reach historically marginalized populations that often are excluded from climate change mitigation and adaptation initiatives but are also those to suffer most acutely from climate change’s negative effects.

Therefore we call upon Canada to adapt an inclusive approach to all disaster risk reduction, resilience, innovation, and all other initiatives aimed at reducing the negative effects of climate change.



Finally, given the need to reduce carbon emissions globally, we recommend that the Canadian government set funding aside to:

  • Ensure that in its own buildings, transportation plans, and procurement policies the lowest-carbon options be systematically selected; and that

  • Funding be ring-fenced in NGO budgets for ensuring that low-carbon options (for energy, transportation, procurement, etc.) are chosen in spite of possibly marginal increases to budgets as a result.


Governance, pluralism, diversity and human rights


Persons with disabilities often experience discrimination in exercising their rights to equal political participation, access to justice and full recognition before the law. This affects women and girls with disabilities disproportionately more than men with disabilities or women without disabilities, due to discrimination and violence based on disability and gender.

Regarding implementation and monitoring of Goal 16 of the 2030 Agenda, we call upon Canada to ensure that financial and technical support is made available by Canada to ensure that initiatives promoting peaceful and inclusive societies, access to justice for all, and building accountable and inclusive institutions mainstream disability. This would allow them to be accessible to all people with disabilities – including those with mental illness and intellectual impairments.



Hence, we share and fully support the following recommendations made by our colleagues at cbm Canada:

  • “Justice, law and order institutions must be empowered to apply the normative standards of the CRPD so as to end impunity for rights violations. Legal systems must be accessible so persons with disabilities can actively promote and defend their rights and actively participate in justice processes” (4.4 in CBM’s briefing note submitted to the GAC);

  • “As an urgent priority, there must be a major reduction of instances of persons with disabilities being subjected to violence and abuse, in particular women and girls with disabilities” (4.3 in CBM’s briefing note);

  • “Governments should ensure the provision of equality training to civil servants, teachers and health and social workers at all levels and in all sectors, in an effort to reduce disability-based discrimination. Governments should also establish accountability mechanisms and sanctions for failure to act against discrimination and exclusion” (4.2 in CBM’s concept note).

Additionally, we recommend that data be collected to monitor the progress under this goal in such a way that it can be disaggregated by sex, age and disability, to make sure that persons with disabilities are not left behind. Comparable, disability-disaggregated data can be collected through the use of the Washington Group’s short set of questions[xiv] into routine population-level data collection exercises.

Along with the civil society community in Canada, Handicap International supports and re-iterates the call of the Canadian Council on International Cooperation (CCIC) that: Human rights, a human rights-based approach and the Official Development Assistance Accountability Act, should be the guiding frameworks for Canadian global development cooperation- with gender equality at its heart. 

But, in order to live up to these commitments, it is crucial that Canadian initiatives support the participation of persons with disabilities and their representative organisations in all programs related to civic education, support to civil society, good governance and supporting democracy, diversity, and human rights.



For Canada to be a legitimate and innovative global actor, it should ensure that the governance initiatives that it supports embody and promote disability rights: that qualified people with disabilities are employed by the initiatives, that people with disabilities and their representative organisations are invited to contribute to project development and evaluation as key community stakeholders, and that governance initiatives supported by Canadian funding have a clear plan for ensuring that people with disabilities have access to justice, democratic processes, and other key aspects of governance structures and procedures.

To ensure meaningful and effective participation and to redress previous discrimination in those programs, many civil society organizations representing persons with disabilities need support to build their capacities in order to become active, legitimate and effective rights holders and holding their governments accountable to its policy commitments at national and local levels. Capacity development is necessary since many persons with disabilities have less access to formal education due to discrimination in the education sector. As a result they face barriers when attempting to claim their rights due to lack of access to information on their entitlements and avenues for appeal. Legal literacy and legal clinics with a key focus on disability and discrimination should therefore be promoted.

Furthermore, in order to ensure that mainstream governance and support to civil society programs don’t discriminate directly and/or indirectly, it is recommended to implement a disability equality audit identifying key attitudinal, physical and structural barriers impeding participation in governance programs supported by the Canadian Government. 

Finally, Handicap International would also like to re-interate CCIC’s call that: civil society organizations are a key strategic partner for the government of Canada and independent development actors in their own right. To support civil society to realize their potential, the government should promote and protect an enabling environment for civil society organizations, both in Canada and abroad, by fully implementing the International Development and Humanitarian Assistance Civil Society Partnership Policy.[xv] An important first step would be to make its implementation plan public.


Peace and Security


Landmines, cluster munitions and explosive remnants of war affect more than half the countries on this planet. These weapons can lie dormant and undetected for many years, claiming victims long after a conflict has ended. They are a significant cause of disability, instilling fear in entire communities, deepening poverty and acting as a lethal barrier to development.

The latest Landmine Report[xvi] found an alarming “significant increase” in the use of antipersonnel mines and improvised explosive devices in ten countries: Afghanistan, Colombia, Iraq, Libya, Myanmar, Pakistan, Syria, Tunisia, Ukraine and Yemen. While the 2015 Cluster Munitions Report[xvii] reports the use of cluster munitions in five countries between July 2014 and July 2015: Libya, Syria, Sudan, Ukraine and Yemen - all states that have not signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM). In fact, this is the highest number of states reportedly using cluster mutinies since the CCM entered into force in 2010. Tragically, the vast number (79%) of casualties of anti-personnel mines are civilians.

Canada’s role in terms of conventional weapons non-proliferation, arms control and disarmament is very significant, acting as both a catalyst and a consolidation mechanism to encourage nation states to sign onto international treaties, develop comprehensive and attainable national action plans, and enabling humanitarian mine action operators to systematically and cost effectively clear land for the safety of civilians.

Handicap International firmly believes that mine action is an integral part of humanitarian action; vital to the protection of civilians and essential for guaranteeing civilian access to humanitarian assistance. While excellent progress has been made in recent years in terms of declining casualty figures and the declaration of mine free countries, there are still disturbing steps backwards in terms of new uses of (and casualties from) landmines, cluster munitions, Explosive Remnants of War (ERW), and Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW). The use by non-state armed groups of antipersonnel mines or victim-activated improvised explosive devices (IEDs) acting as antipersonnel mines, in at least 10 countries since 2014, is particularly concerning.[xviii]



Canada, historically one of the key advocates and supporters of mine action, should be a role model to other donors by undertaking the following actions:

            1. Taking a position on the centre stage for advocacy related to the Ottawa Treaty, Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) including Protocol V, and the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM). Handicap International hopes that the government will restore Canada's traditional and much needed leadership to build on the successes first achieved with the Ottawa Treaty. As the anniversaries of the adoption and opening for signature, and the subsequent ratification, of the Ottawa Treaty approach in 2017 and 2018 respectively, this is the prime opportunity for Canada to reassert its position as a proponent for international peace and security by taking the lead on international efforts to advocate for continued conventional weapons non-proliferation, arms control, and disarmament efforts.

            2. Reversing recent declines in direct financial support for humanitarian mine action. From 1999 to 2011, Canada had been one of the top 10 mine action donors each year, which has not been the case since 2012 as a result of Canada’s declining support to mine action. Increasing mine action funding again is vital to ensuring continued lifesaving activities by all humanitarian mine action operators but also to set a trend among international donors. As the nature, type and context of contamination changes, so too do the requirements for international operators to maintain safe and effective activities in insecure regions. Funding is vital to ensuring innovation, safety and security methodologies can be flexible and fit-for-context.

            3. Utilizing clear prioritization systems for the selection of countries to support for mine action operations. As Canada sets out its priorities for the coming years, a clear process of how each region is deemed strategically and politically important within broader Canadian foreign policy, as well as how each region is determined a humanitarian focus, is key for mine action operators, nation states and their mine action structures to determine why they may, or may not, be considered as a priority focus. This will better enable alternative funding to be sourced, help to ensure improved focus and communication on needs to an international audience, and ensure a sense of transparency in Canadian government decision-making.

            4. Providing transparent and accountable support to national authorities including mine action centres for their sustainable long-term management of mine action. Focused support for capacity building of national mine action authorities and local humanitarian mine action operators, where present and feasible, is needed to ensure long-term exit strategies can be developed by international operators. This can be delivered through direct assistance, or through the support of international operators.

            5. Providing more attention to victim assistance through an inclusive, non-discriminatory approach, enabling a comprehensive approach to mine action that remains important to civilians long after a country is declared free of contamination. Canada should also strongly stay committed to the full universalization and implementation of the Ottawa Treaty, the CCM and the CCW including Protocol V to save lives and to ensure the needs of accident survivors, families of those killed and injured, and affected communities are met.

            6. Building upon its strengths and achievements in pushing forward the Ottawa Treaty by championing the “sister cause” of fighting against the use of explosive weapons in populated areas (EWPA). The widespread use of explosive weapons in populated areas, in particular those with wide area effect cause not only death and injury to civilian populations, but destroys homes, schools, hospitals and is one of the major causes of forced displacement in conflict areas. Currently the only state championing this cause at the international level is Austria, supported by Norway, Ireland, Mexico, Switzerland, and others. Canada could build on its current Ottawa and CCM progress and legacy, as alongside taking up the cause of EWPA. Canada should join the international initiative for a political declaration regarding the use of EWPA, as a coherent and complimentary cause to landmines and cluster munitions and as a key issue related to the protection of civilians affected by armed conflict.

In addition, the announcement on June 30, 2016 that Canada will accede to the Arms Trade Treaty in 2017 is an extremely welcome development. This action helps to show the international community the impact proliferation of SALW has had on exacerbating conflict, regional tensions and human rights abuses. Handicap International believes that the Canadian government should further analyse the short-term and long-term benefits of further improving transparency of the Canadian arms export authorization process, to ensure Canadian arms sales are linked to a best practice model which considers the humanitarian and human rights impact of SALW presence to those nation states purchasing weapons. Transparency in the design and adoption of national legislation, including the participation of relevant humanitarian actors, will assist in this process.

In addition to the diplomatic efforts that Canada should pursue related to landmines, cluster munitions and explosive weapons as presented above, Canada should promote a comprehensive approach to mine action which incorporates victim assistance, such as the one adopted by Handicap International.

This means targeting all pillars of mine action in a holistic fashion in a specific geographic area. For example, when a village is being cleared of landmines, victims are identified and referred to relevant rehabilitation services, it is ensured that the services are being provided, and the population is made aware of risks posed by the presence of remaining contamination. Authorities are informed about the needs, and measures to be taken to respond to these needs. This means that entire communities affected by landmines and cluster munitions are catered to, regardless of whether or not they are direct victims themselves. At Handicap International, this is achieved through an integrated approach to victim assistance, meaning that accident survivors, as well as families of those killed or injured, other affected community members, and people with non-contamination related injuries and/or disabilities stand to benefit from our interventions. In other words, mine action is fully connected with protection and assistance. We believe that this approach ensures a greater impact and efficiency of projects, allows entire communities to fight poverty, enables inclusive community life, and overall ensures that everyone enjoys the benefits of sustainable communities. We recommend that the Canadian Government also adopts such an integrated perspective on victim assistance, with funding designated for initiatives supporting entire communities affected by contamination.



We recommend that the Canadian Government also adopts such an integrated perspective on victim assistance, with funding to support initiatives supporting entire communities affected by landmines and explosive remnants of war.

Finally, policy coherence in Global Affairs Canada needs to ensure that funding for humanitarian mine clearance and victim assistance is allocated to the communities that are most impoverished and marginalised, where mine action is a component of other bi-lateral assistance and diplomatic efforts to assist those communities in attaining their human rights, including safe and sustainable daily life and livelihoods. Humanitarian mine action funding should not be used to subsidize commercial interests.

The ethical principle of non-discrimination underlies all Handicap International’s actions. It is at the very heart of the organisation’s engagement alongside people with disabilities and in support of equal opportunities for all.

Handicap International has also made great strides ensuring gender equity. For example, we ask partner organizations, authorities and local communities to nominate women representatives whenever possible, in order for them to benefit from our support and represent women’s voices and interests throughout the project cycle and in all areas of intervention including clearance, risk education, victim assistance and advocacy. Therefore it is highly appreciated that Canada plans to apply a feminist lens throughout its international assistance activities, including humanitarian mine action. Given Canada’s historic leadership in international treaty development, and significant strengths in advocating for the rights and integration of women under Peace and Security, and Development, Canada is well placed to continue supporting actions which strongly emphasise gender inclusivity and empowerment.



The following activities could help make real, positive impact on women’s lives:

            1. Ensuring funding is prioritised for operators that mainstream gender within mine action policies, programmes and operations to ensure that the contributions, concerns and needs of all members of affected communities are acknowledged and addressed without bias. This also ensures that the only support for women is not limited to employment in limited roles and nothing beyond. Female employment is only one part of gender mainstreaming, but not enough to ensure both equality and quality.

            2. Incorporating, and encouraging all donors to incorporate, gender awareness into all funding requirements to ensure: better quality, and more comprehensive, sex, age and disability- disaggregated data is collected for the benefit of all stakeholders; employment opportunities can become truly equal throughout the sector; and a thorough understanding of obstacles to inclusion are better understood and dealt with. This would be aided by regular funding of studies by operators and external sources to examine progress in gender inclusion throughout the sector over time.

            3. Ensuring women and girls injured due to contamination, who very often face double discrimination based on gender and disability, are specifically incorporated into the planning and targeting of humanitarian mine action operators in all regions.

            4. Implementing and promoting a strong non-discriminatory approach, giving all women and girls the same opportunities, regardless of the cause of their impairments.

            5. Ensuring the inclusion of disability in all policies and programs to greatly reduce the risk of violence, exploitation and abuse of ALL women and girls with and without disabilities who continue to be at risk of exclusion and discrimination.

It should also be recognised that the people killed and injured from landmines are not the only victims, as far as survivors require significant care during their recovery and rehabilitation process. The majority of these caregivers are unpaid and female, adding to the gendered consequences of landmines. Victim assistance therefore stands to benefit not only the direct landmine survivors; it also alleviates the burden of care on their caregivers. In Colombia we have seen that 80% of all caregivers of landmines survivors are women (for survivors who are 86% male).[xix] 


Responding to humanitarian crisis and the needs of displaced populations


Handicap International applauds GAC’s initiative for the latest round of multi-year funding for the Syria crisis as it increases efficacy of humanitarian assistance and creates the possibility for the longer-term funding necessary to respond to the needs of chronically displaced persons inside and neighbouring Syria. We hope to see such models for funding and support replicated in other contexts of chronic displacement/crisis.



In order to ensure that support is needs-driven we recommend that Global Affairs Canada:

  • Integrate criteria related to marginalization and discrimination factors as a requirement for emergency-response projects.

  • Develop guidelines and strategies to better address the needs of the most vulnerable persons, in particular by supporting the  development of indicators on vulnerability factors within assessment, program design and implementation as well as monitoring and accountability tools.

  • And support projects that:

    • Support governments and local authorities to adapt strategies, services, infrastructures and regulatory frameworks to guarantee accessibility by people with disabilities (regardless of the cause of their disability, whether injury, disease, age, genetics, or other);

    • Ensure services, including medical assistance and longer-term person-centered rehabilitation, are available for postoperative patients to avoid or reduce long term impairment and increase independence;

    • Enable the development of strategies that strengthen existing family and community support mechanisms for the most vulnerable, including for people with specific needs;

    • Address gaps in the quality of primary healthcare services including for people with chronic diseases and people in needs of rehabilitation services;

    • Ensure the participation of vulnerable people in project design and implementation.

In order to meet the goal of supporting the protection of vulnerable populations in crises and strengthen respect for humanitarian principles it is essential that Canada lives up to its obligations under Article 11 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) which pertains to “situations of risk and humanitarian disaster.”[xxii]

In order to truly respond to the needs of all vulnerable populations in crises the Canadian government initiatives (and initiatives that it funds) must ensure that protection initiatives in crisis take into account the diverse needs and rights to protection of people with disabilities and that their meaningful involvement in the design, implementation, coordination, monitoring and evaluation of humanitarian policies and programs is promoted.[xxiii]



Canadian policies and priorities regarding the protection of vulnerable populations in crisis should recognize that “multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination…further exacerbate the exclusion of all persons with disabilities in situations of risk and humanitarian emergencies… whether they are living in urban, rural or remote areas, in poverty, in isolation or in institutions, and regardless of their status, including migrants, refugees or other displaced persons, and that crisis often leads to further impairment”.[xxiv]

In the last Canadian report to the CRPD committee, Canada stated that “the Government works through its international partners to support the delivery of essential services to vulnerable populations affected by conflict or natural disasters. These humanitarian organizations are encouraged to follow the principles set out in the Sphere Project’s Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Humanitarian Response Handbook.”[xxv]

However, we believe that GAC should expect the recipients of its humanitarian aid to not only follow the principles set out in the Sphere Project’s Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Humanitarian Response Handbook,[xxvi]but its partners should also be asked to show the results of systematic disability mainstreaming – data demonstrating that people with disabilities are protected and benefitting from humanitarian programming as much as their counterparts without disabilities. The Sphere standards themselves do not systematically include disability-inclusive indicators in all thematic areas and, as such, do not in themselves ensure comprehensive inclusion of people with disabilities in humanitarian initiatives.

Given Canada’s commitment to a feminist approach to international assistance Canada should seize upon the opportunity to champion model projects that, within the scope of defending the principle of non-discrimination, the Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace and security, Article 6 of the CRPD on women with disabilities.

In order to strengthen respect and full adherence to humanitarian principles, in including the principle of non-discrimination, it is essential that all forms of discrimination against persons with disabilities in humanitarian programming and policy be condemned, this includes guaranteeing the protection and equal access to assistance for all persons with disabilities[xxvii] through relevant funding and technical support.



We therefore encourage Canada, as part of its humanitarian assistance programme, to ensure that:

  • Identified disability and gender gaps are addressed with sufficient resources allocated in line with respective legal obligations with particular attention to health, education, employment and violence prevention and response programs that are part of emergency-response, chronic crisis/displacement and post-emergency reconstruction initiatives;

  • Gender and disability audits are undertaken, ideally in partnership with women and men of diverse backgrounds, to identify gaps and facilitate equality and equity in accessing services;

  • Action plans and strategies are disability and gender-inclusive;

  • Disability and gender equality training are offered to partners; and

  • Collected data is disaggregated by sex, disability, age and other vulnerability factors.



We recommend that Canada invests in the work of the IASC (Inter-Agency Standing Committee[xxviii]) to develop global guidelines for disability-inclusive humanitarian action following the adoption of the Charter on Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action[xxix]. There are plans for an IASC committee (or working group) to elaborate global guidelines in the second half of 2016 and to pilot these guidelines in humanitarian contexts (this working group is currently co-lead by Handicap International and UNICEF)[xxx].

Canada has a unique opportunity to:

  • Draw upon the expertise coalescing around the development of global guidelines for inclusive humanitarian action in order to ensure that it’s renewed priorities for responding to humanitarian crises and the needs of displaced populations are line with the most up-to-date guidelines ensuring inclusivity and respect of disability rights; and

  • Sponsor the piloting and consequent refinement of these cutting-edge guidelines in a context of emergency, displacement or fragile state of strategic priority for Canada.



We recommend that all Canadian agencies involved in humanitarian response (whether civilian or military, Red Cross/Crescent, governmental or non-governmental) should be sensitized to the rights, protection and safety of persons with disabilities including equipping them with the skills to identify and include persons with disabilities in humanitarian preparedness and response mechanisms.[xxxi]

Guidelines alone are not enough. As part of their Canadian funding package, development actors receiving Canadian funding could be accompanied to learn about how to implement inclusive humanitarian action and how to mainstream disability within their programmes. Such a transformative capacity development programme could be piloted by Canada, starting with the Canadian NGOs it funds.

Finally, Canada should place increased emphasis on its development and diplomatic efforts around prevention and preparedness in its work on peace and security, climate change, fragile states, in order to help promote greater stability and build resilience and prevent new injuries, disability, displacement, etc.


Copyrights pictures

Lebanon, © G. Dubourthoumieu / Handicap International

The Philippines, © Till Mayer / Handicap International

Bolivia, © Jules Tusseau / Handicap International

Democratic Republic of Congo, © Till Mayer / Handicap International

Haiti, © Wendy Huyghe / Handicap International



[i] 2011, World Bank/World Health Organisation  World Report on Disability

[ii] Handicap International, 2015. “Gender and Disability” A way forward to overcoming multiple discrimination Advocacy Briefing Paper [http://blog.handicap-international.org/influenceandethics/2015/12/01/a-new-inclusion-resource-disability-thematic-briefing-papers/]; HI: Making it work initiative on gender and disability inclusion: Advancing Equity for Women and Girls with disabilities. Lyon, Handicap International. 2015

[iii] Handicap International, 2015. “Gender and Disability” A way forward to overcoming multiple discrimination Advocacy Briefing Paper [http://blog.handicap-international.org/influenceandethics/2015/12/01/a-new-inclusion-resource-disability-thematic-briefing-papers/];

[iv] Handicap International, 2015. “Gender and Disability” A way forward to overcoming multiple discrimination Advocacy Briefing Paper [http://blog.handicap-international.org/influenceandethics/2015/12/01/a-new-inclusion-resource-disability-thematic-briefing-papers/]

[v] UN Convention on the Rights of Persona with Disabilities, Article 24


[vii] Handicap International, 2015. “Education for All? This is still not a reality for most children with disabilities.” Advocacy Briefing Paper [http://blog.handicap-international.org/influenceandethics/2015/12/01/a-new-inclusion-resource-disability-thematic-briefing-papers/]

[ix] Lisa Jones and al., 2012. “Prevalence and risk of violence against children with disabilities: a systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies.” The Lancet, Published Online, 12 July 2012 http://press.thelancet.com/childrendisabilities.pdf

[x] Senay Habtezion, 2013. “Gender and Disaster Risk Reduction“ Gender and Climate Change Asia and the Pacific: Policy Brief, New York: UNDP; available at: http://www.undp.org/content/dam/undp/library/gender/Gender%20and%20Environment/PB3-AP-Gender-and-disaster-risk-reduction.pdf

[xi] Maria Hasan, 2013. “Let’s go beyond the death toll in disaster data collection” UNISDR New York, 27 September: https://www.unisdr.org/archive/34859

[xii] National Centre for Disaster Preparedness, 2016. “The Disproportionate Consequences of Climate Change” Earth Institute, Colombia University, 12 February; http://ncdp.columbia.edu/ncdp-perspectives/the-disproportionate-consequences-of-climate-change/

[xiii] US Global Change Research Programme, “Chapter 9: Populations of Concern” Climate and Health Assessment; available at: https://health2016.globalchange.gov/populations-concern

[xiv] National Center for Health Statistics, 2010. Short Set of Questions on Disability; available at: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/washington_group/wg_questions.htm

[xv] Government of Canada, 2016. International Development and Humanitarian Assistance Civil Society Partnership Policy available at: http://www.international.gc.ca/development-developpement/cs-policy-politique-sc.aspx?lang=eng

[xix] Handicap International, 2016. The path of hope:  focus on the Colombian women facing landmines https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vT91FuoYmGM

[xx] Handicap International, 2015. “Humanitarian Response: how to include everyone?” Advocacy and briefing paper [http://blog.handicap-international.org/influenceandethics/2015/12/01/a-new-inclusion-resource-disability-thematic-briefing-papers/]

[xxi] 2016, “Charter on Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action” http://humanitariandisabilitycharter.org/

[xxiii] Handicap International, 2015. “Humanitarian Response: how to include everyone?” Advocacy and briefing paper [http://blog.handicap-international.org/influenceandethics/2015/12/01/a-new-inclusion-resource-disability-thematic-briefing-papers/]

[xxiv] 2016, “Charter on Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action” http://humanitariandisabilitycharter.org/ paragraph 1.8

[xxv] UN Comittee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), Considerations of reports submitted by States Parties under article 35 of the Convention, Initial reports of States parties due in 2012: Canada, 7 July 2015; CRPD/C/CAN/1

[xxvii] 2016, “Charter on Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action” http://humanitariandisabilitycharter.org/: paragraph 2.1.a

[xxxi] 2016, Charter: paragraph 2.5.c.; UN: UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with disabilities. 2006

Published on 08/09/2016 - 15:20.

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