Meeting Summary: Informal Expert-level Briefing for Members of the UNSC on UNSCR 2475/2019
News08 June 2021
8 June 2021
Informal Expert-level Briefing for Members of the Security Council
Defining Concrete Steps to Protect Persons with Disabilities in Armed Conflict: How to Support Implementation of Security Council Resolution 2475/2019
On 8 June 2021 the Permanent Mission of Ireland to the United Nations in conjunction with the International Disability Alliance (IDA), hosted a closed briefing taking stock of progress since the unanimous adoption in 2019 of UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 2475, the first of its kind to address the situation of persons with disabilities in armed conflict. The meeting was an opportunity for Security Council members to hear from and have a dialogue with persons with disabilities, their representative organisations and experts in the field about opportunities to make progress and advance the implementation of the resolution.
Council Members were encouraged to reflect on what had been achieved in the two years since the adoption of UNSCR 2475 and to bring a renewed focus to the Security Council’s work on persons with disabilities to live up to the mandate given to the Council by the resolution.
The meeting heard from Henry Murillo Salazar, a Colombian peace and disability activist. Mr. Murillo Salazar described his personal journey, describing how he uses a wheelchair following a spinal injury acquired after he was shot by armed groups because of his activism on social justice issues. Mr. Murillo Salazar spoke of his work raising awareness for persons with disabilities and survivors of armed conflict. He called for governments to listen to persons with disabilities, for persons with disabilities to be included in Colombia’s peace process, and for enhanced data collection on the impact of armed conflict, particularly on women and children with disabilities. He stated that peacebuilding without persons with disabilities may result in further exclusion and discrimination, but efforts to ensure their inclusion can help facilitate compromise, enhance flexibility, and lead to better outcomes.
Ms. Bogna Ruminowicz of the Permanent Mission of Poland to the United Nations, who played a key role in securing UNSCR 2475 in 2019, spoke of how the resolution was achieved. The first meeting of the Council dedicated to the topic was an Arria-formula meeting organized by Poland and other partners in December 2018. Encouraged by positive feedback, they began to look at how persons with disabilities could be included in the Council’s work in a more holistic way. With very little agreed language to build upon, it was necessary to draw from resolutions similar in thematic substance such as those on Protection of Civilians (POC), Children and Armed Conflict (CAAC) or Women, Peace and Security (WPS). It was important to ensure a human rights focus and to look at all factors affecting the rights of persons with disabilities, including discrimination, as well as to provide stakeholders involved in peacekeeping and humanitarian emergencies with more information on how to best protect persons with disabilities. Engaging and empowering persons with disabilities in the work of the UN Security Council was a key objective. Two years on from the resolution, she outlined some specific recommendations, including: the importance of having more briefers with disabilities participating in the work of the Council; enhanced reporting from UN Missions to help gain understanding of the impacts on the ground and shape policies; and for the Council to consider mandating a report from the Secretary-General on the issue in future.
UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities, Mr. Gerard Quinn, gave a presentation detailing the evolution of the rights of persons with disabilities in situations of armed conflict and exploring what more could be done to advance UNSCR 2475. Starting with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), he noted that the Convention was revolutionary because it ‘de-problematised’ the person, moving people from ‘object’ to ‘subject’. In this way, the CRPD is grounded in autonomy, inclusion and equality, emphasises the right to be consulted. Further, Article 13, which stipulates Access to Justice, paves a way to end impunity. However, most International Humanitarian Law literature carries an implicit tendency to view persons with disabilities in the opposite way, as object rather than subject. This gives only partial visibility to persons with disabilities, which is inconsistent with the fact that typically 15 per cent of any given population will have a disability. Such an approach also hindered accessibility. Special Representative Quinn noted that Article 11 of the CRPD, which concerns situations of risk and humanitarian emergencies, bridged the gap to International Humanitarian Law. In many ways, UNSCR 2475 is continuing the vital bridge-building established by Article 11. It contains many important components, including the duty to protect, the duty to assist, the duty to consult, and the need to end impunity. It also takes an intersectional approach, and identifies the need for enhanced capacity building, reporting, and ongoing dialogue between civil society and the Council.
Gopal Mitra, UN Disability Inclusion Strategy Team, Executive Office of the Secretary-General, opened by stressing that persons with disabilities are not inherently vulnerable. Risks arise when systems break down because the barriers related to stigma and a lack of accessibility cause persons with disabilities to be impacted disproportionately by armed conflict. He stressed the importance of a comprehensive UN approach, integrating UNSCR 2475, covering both programme operations and the internal activities of UN. The UN system has been working on such an approach since June 2019 through its Disability Inclusion Strategy, but tracking of indicators for 2019 shows mixed results, with goals met on only 12% of indicators. Accountability and reporting by the UN system is key. Mr. Mitra drew attention to positive initiatives by peacekeeping and political missions on disability awareness, including the establishment of a working group in Iraq, and the development of an action plan in the Central African Republic.
Ms. Elham Youssefian, International Disability Alliance, highlighted the importance of ensuring that persons with disabilities have opportunities to raise their voices in peace and security contexts. There is a need for the international community to overcome challenges and find solutions that are practical and consider all different groups. Thus far, three women with disabilities have briefed the Council but we need to hear more about the intersections encountered by activists with disabilities. Mission mandates should seek not only to protect persons with disabilities, but also to include their perspectives. The Security Council must become more accessible, including in its physical premises but also in enabling the participation of briefers with disabilities, and for instance through the accessibility of its website and documents. She affirmed that IDA stands ready to support this.
In Q&A session, Council Members asked about taking forward UNSCR 2475 implementation, addressing gaps, providing education for children with disabilities in armed conflict, and ensuring an intersectional approach. Special Rapporteur Quinn highlighted opportunities for progress through the inclusion of language in mandates reflecting in particular the latter part of UNSCR 2475 on data collection, analysis and on-the-ground consultation. Mr. Mitra stressed that in terms of application, accessibility is key. We need to work on smart investments and addressing a lack of capacity to implement the agenda. He stressed that inclusive education delivers dividends including in situations of armed conflict or displacement. Ms. Elham underlined the need to mainstream specific references and measures for persons with disabilities in Council products, mandates, and UN activities including peacekeeping missions.
Permanent Mission of Ireland to the United Nations
28 July 2021