Disability and Armed Conflict

Completed in December 2021

An estimated 15 percent of the world’s population, approximately 1 billion people, have some form of disability (involving physical, psychosocial and/or intellectual impairments) a large percentage of which will be living in conflict-affected states.

Conflict not only renders a person disabled directly, e.g. when a landmine blast amputates a leg, it also inflicts indirect harm since persons with disabilities may face physical and/or communication barriers to accessing emergency information and humanitarian assistance, rendering them more vulnerable to harm and potentially exacerbating a pre-existing impairment. Persons with disabilities are also at higher risk of injury or death during periods of armed conflict, either as specific targets or through insufficient support to allow them to flee the violence. Despite the high number of persons with disabilities affected by armed conflict and the particular support that they need, persons with disabilities are too often the forgotten victims of armed conflict.

Objective

Building on our publication Disability and Armed Conflict – the first study on this issue released in 2019 – this project carried out by Alice Priddy aimed to ensure better protection of persons with disabilities in situations of armed conflict and in its immediate aftermath by:

  • Raising awareness about the legal obligations to protect and assist persons with disabilities during conflict under international humanitarian law (IHL) and international human rights law
  • Providing academic and policy communities – states, intergovernmental and non-governmental organisations, armed non-state actors, humanitarian organisations and persons with disabilities – with concrete guidance to apply IHL in a disability-inclusive manner
  • Providing guidance to the armed forces on how to integrate a disability perspective into military manuals and the training of their militaries
  • Contributing to a change in policies in the humanitarian sector to fully respect the rights of persons with disabilities

NEWS

A Royal Air Force CH-47 Chinook helicopter arrives to extract troops at the end of an operation in Afghanistan News

New Guidance on How to Integrate a Disability Perspective into Military Manuals

28 June 2021

Our new Military Briefing: Persons with Disabilities and Armed Conflict provides guidance to the armed forces on how to integrate a disability perspective into military manuals and the training of their militaries.

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View of the cover page of the publication Diability and Armed Conflict News

Our New Publication Addresses the Devastating Impact of Conflict on Persons with Disabilities

7 May 2019

Our new publication brings attention to the devastating impact conflict has on persons with disabilities and highlights that many of the key international humanitarian law provisions that serve to minimize the impact of armed conflict are not being applied in a disability inclusive manner, resulting in persons with disabilities being killed, seriously injured or left behind as families flee armed attacks.

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Group photo of particiants in the training News

A Workshop in Vietnam on How the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Applies to Survivors of the Conflict

19 February 2019

Our local partner in Vietnam, the Association for Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, hosted a one day workshop as part of our research project Disability and Armed Conflict.

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OUTPUT

Addressing the Devastating Impact of Armed Conflict on Persons With Disabilities

The publication Disability and Armed Conflict – the first study on this issue released in 2019 – brought attention to the devastating impact conflict has on persons with disabilities. It highlighted that many of the key international humanitarian law (IHL) provisions that serve to minimize the impact of armed conflicts – such as the proportionality assessment and advanced effective warnings – are not being applied in a disability-inclusive manner, resulting in persons with disabilities being killed, seriously injured or left behind as families flee armed attacks.

Via recommendations, discussions with key stakeholders and broad dissemination in the human rights and humanitarian sectors, it triggered significant changes in the way humanitarian actors and states address this issue.

Guidance to Armed Forces

Our Military Briefing: Persons with Disabilities and Armed Conflict provides guidance to the armed forces on how to integrate a disability perspective into military manuals and the training of their militaries. Launched in 2021, it translates the findings of our larger academic research into practical advice and avenues to incorporate this issue into military operations.

Concrete Changes on the Ground

The project's team conducted training sessions in Palestine, Ukraine and Vietnam, to provide stakeholders on the ground – local organizations of persons with disabilities, state representatives, UN agencies and other international humanitarian organizations – with an overview of international law applicable to persons with disabilities and their inclusion in norms related to the conduct of hostilities.

A Photo Exhibition to Raise Awareness

Determined to bring attention to the lives of persons with disabilities living in armed conflict, we partnered with the photographer Giles Duley to tell the stories of some of those affected by armed conflict.

His photo exhibition, accessible to persons with a visual impairment, told the stories of persons with disabilities during and following armed conflicts including Odai in Gaza, Yasmine in Iraq, Betty in Uganda and Kholoud who fled Syria with her family and now lives in Holland after having spent almost three years in Lebanon.

Publications

cover of the publication

Military Briefing: Persons with Disabilities and Armed Conflict

March 2021

Alice Priddy

The Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights

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Cover page of the publication

Briefing No°14: Disability and Armed Conflict

April 2019

Alice Priddy

Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights

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Past Events

Implementing Article 11 of the CRPD in Armed Conflict: Making Persons with Disabilities More Visible

17 June 2021, 10:00-11:15

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Photo Exhibition: Disability and Armed Conflict

26 August - 29 September 2019

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First to be Forgotten – Persons with Disabilities and Armed Conflict

9 May 2019, 18:00-19:30

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Photo Exhibition: Disability and Armed Conflict

6 May - 3 June 2019

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Exposition Photo: Handicap et Conflit Armé

6 May - 3 June 2019

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MORE ON THIS THEMATIC AREA

Aerial view of destroyed buildings News

Experts Discuss the Use of Open-Source Information to Document IHL and Human Rights Violations

10 January 2023

A one-day consultation aimed at discussing with a variety of experts the challenges, opportunities and best practices arising from an increased reliance on open source information in accountability processes.

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Armoured vehicle patrolls the border, Tajikistan News

RULAC: Fighting between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan Amounts to an International Armed Conflict

26 September 2022

According to our RULAC online portal, the border fighting between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan that took place in mid-September 2022 amounts to an international armed conflict (IAC).

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Short Course

The Law of Non-International Armed Conflicts

16 March - 4 April 2023

This online short course discusses the protection offered by international humanitarian law (IHL) in non-international armed conflicts (NIACs) and addresses some problems and controversies specific to IHL of NIACs, including the difficulty to ensure the respect of IHL by armed non-state actors.

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Côte d'Ivoire,  Abidjan, military instruction center in Akandjé. An ICRC dissemination session on international humanitarian law for the 1st bataillon of commando paratroopers. Short Course

The Implementation of International Humanitarian Law

7 February - 21 March 2023

This online short course will cover the ‘nuts and bolts’ of implementation, including national legislation, dissemination and training, and discuss the mechanisms such as the International Fact-Finding Commission, as set out in the treaties.

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Mine Project

Business, Human Rights and Conflict-Affected Regions

Completed in July 2021

This project aimed at identifying and clarifying policies and practices for states and businesses, including public and private investors, across the full ‘conflict cycle’ and the ‘protect, respect and remedy’ pillars of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

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Central African Republic, Ouham province, village of Ouogo. International Humanitarian Law dissemination session to members of the Peoples' Army for the Restoration of Democracy. Project

From Words to Deeds: A Study of Armed Non-State Actors’ Practice and Interpretation of International Humanitarian and Human Rights Norms

Completed in January 2017

This project aimed at compiling and analysing the practice and interpretation of selected international humanitarian law and human rights norms by armed non-state actors (ANSAs). It had a pragmatic double objective: first, to offer a comparative analysis of IHL and human rights norms from the perspective of ANSAs, and second, to inform strategies of humanitarian engagement with ANSAs, in particular the content of a possible ‘Model Code of Conduct’.

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Cover page of the study Publication

From Words to Deeds A Study of Armed Non-State Actors’ Practice and Interpretation of International Humanitarian and Human Rights Norms: Research and Policy Conclusions

published on September 2022

Annyssa Bellal, Pascal Bongard, Ezequiel Heffes

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Cover of the publication Publication

From Words to Deeds: A Study of Armed Non-State Actors’ Practice and Interpretation of International Humanitarian and Human Rights Norms: Al-Qaeda

published on September 2022

Annyssa Bellal, Pascal Bongard and Ezequiel Heffes

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