Empowerment: Persons with Disabilities

Last Updated: February 19, 2009

Persons with disabilities have been approached as a group specifically at risk in emergency and post-conflict situations. This section first presents the definitions and conceptual issues around terminology used by stakeholders working on issues pertaining to persons with disabilities; different ways practitioners conceive of persons with disabilities' situations; and the strategies used by stakeholders to address them, such as discrimination, empowerment (also called self-fulfillment), inclusion (or reasonable accommodation), independence, mainstreaming, protection, and vulnerability.

After a framing of the terms and concepts this section outlines how efforts to mainstream issues for people with disabilities have evolved in the last decade or so, particularly in the fields of development, human rights and humanitarian emergencies. Though initially specific to conflict situations, this evolution is progressively penetrating the peacebuilding agenda. After examining how this evolution has occurred, this section addresses the impact of conflict on persons with disabilities. Conflict situations increase the marginalization of persons who already have a disability and raise the number of newly disabled persons. Persons with disabilities are considered as being among the most affected, discriminated against, and at further risk of abuse. However, this section argues that persons with disabilities must also be viewed as engaged actors and potential full partners in peacebuilding processes.

A number of international, national and local actors, intergovernmental, governmental and nongovernmental, are engaged in work with persons with disabilities. The following section, albeit not comprehensive, mentions the different initiatives and types of programs under way, as well as the most engaged stakeholders on the topic.

Finally, the writing presents a short summary of some of the key debates and implementation challenges discussed by academics, practitioners and policymakers in relation to the process of fully including persons with disabilities in peacebuilding processes. In brief, these challenges highlight: the diversity of disabilities; the importance of a holistic approach; the importance of a community-based approach; the importance of active participation in the different stages of peacebuilding programs; the practical constraints of approaches centered on this group. These elements and other dimensions of the concrete implementation of the persons with disabilities agenda are detailed in the key documents and the wide range of guidelines presented at the end of this section.

The news, reports, and analyses herein are selected due to there relevance to issues of peacebuilding, or their significance to policymakers and practitioners. The content prepared by HPCR International is meant to summarize main points of the current debates and does not necessarily reflect the views of HPCR International or the Program of Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research. In addition, HPCR International and contributing partners are not responsible for the content of external publications and internet sites linked to this portal.