Peace for all - inclusion of people with disabilities in peace processes

The UN estimates that about 15-20 percent of the world's population has some form of disability, but in conflict-affected areas, this figure may increase by about 18-20 percent due to new war-related injuries, inadequate medical care and general collapse of community service.

Despite this, only 6.6 percent (118/1789) of all peace agreements worldwide mention anything at all about people with disabilities. Therefore, there is also no plan for how this target group should be included in the implementation of peacebuilding activities.

According to local disability organizations in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Sri Lanka, which were consulted in MyRight's study "Peace for all", people with disabilities are generally excluded from decision-making processes, including peace processes.

Some reasons for this are:

  • Prejudices and negative attitudes that mean that people with disabilities are not seen as equal bearers of rights and capable of contributing to the development of society: There are also big differences between people with different types of disabilities as well as between women and men. In addition, children, ethnic and religious minorities and particularly poor people with disabilities are particularly marginalized.

    In peace agreements and peace processes, people with a congenital disability and war veterans can also be treated differently. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, for example, the public sees no reason for people with a congenital disability to take part in the peace process because they did not take an active part in the war. War veterans, on the other hand, have become more included and compensated for war-related injuries. This risks creating tensions between different groups of people with disabilities and makes the peace process itself less efficient and sustainable because certain groups are left out.

  • Lack of availability: Infrastructure and community services are often completely or partially destroyed during wars and other disasters and the reconstruction process takes a very long time, especially in low-income countries such as Sri Lanka. The UN and other international actors supporting national peace processes are not doing enough to adapt their activities so that they are fully accessible to people with disabilities. They often select people with disabilities with needs that are easier to meet instead of the people who have the greatest need for the intervention.

  • Limited knowledge and lack of resources: Officials and staff within the UN and other international organizations do not have sufficient knowledge of disability issues and there is a lack of resources for accessibility adjustment in project budgets where, for example, costs for assistants to people with disabilities are often forgotten.  

At the policy level, there have been improvements in recent years.

With regard to peace and security, the UN Resolution on the Protection of Persons with Disabilities in Armed Conflict (UNSCR 2475), adopted in 2019, is the biggest step forward. The UN and other international actors such as the World Bank and the EU have also adopted strategies to integrate disability issues in all areas of work. However, more needs to be done to ensure that these frameworks are complied with. 

People with disabilities have a great interest in participating in peace-building activities and have sometimes taken their own initiatives for peace and reconciliation.

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, for example, the Sarajevo Association of Blind People established contacts with visually impaired associations from different parts of the country as early as 1997, and shortly thereafter began launching joint campaigns and activities to improve the living conditions of visually impaired people across the country. Many similar stories where people with the same type of disability have united in a common struggle regardless of ethnic, religious and administrative differences were described by MyRight's partner organizations in Bosnia and Herzegovina during the study. Similar activities have been carried out in Sri Lanka, but people with disabilities also express that they do not have the opportunity to get involved in these issues due to poverty and difficult living conditions.

Crisis and conflict hit persons with disabilities harder

More than half of all persons with disabilities live in countries affected by crises and conflicts. Crises and conflicts hit persons with disabilities particularly hard. They often find it more difficult to escape and often receive no or incomplete information.

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