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Thank you to Poland and all the co-sponsors for convening this Arria meeting on the occasion of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. As one of the first countries to sign the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and strong supporter and advocate for the full enjoyment of all human rights for persons with disabilities, I am pleased that Germany is a co-host of this event.
I thank in particular all the distinguished briefers, including from civil society and academia, for raising awareness for the high risk situations that persons with disabilities have to face during and after armed conflicts. Your work is absolutely valuable and strongly needed in these times of longer, more protracted armed conflicts.
The situation of persons with disabilities in armed conflicts deserves to receive more attention by this Council than it gets today, since this matter touches directly upon human rights and International Humanitarian Law and is inextricably linked to peace and security. Firstly, because armed conflicts are a main cause for injuries that cause disabilities, not only among members of the armed forces, but particularly among the civilian population. Armed conflicts leave behind numerous victims of physical violence, many of them permanently disabled. Secondly, because persons with disabilities are more intensely affected by crisis and conflict: When order breaks down and societies cannot provide basic services any more, disabled persons are among the first to suffer. Furthermore, persons with disabilities are more likely to become victims of human rights violations, especially women and girls with disabilities face a disproportionally higher risk of sexual violence.
Please allow me to seize this opportunity to underline the importance of International Humanitarian Law in relation to our topic today. The rules and principles of International Humanitarian Law aim at alleviating human suffering in armed conflicts. One of its core principles, the principle of distinction, prohibits deliberate attacks on the civilian population, which usually has little to no protection against the violence exerted in armed conflicts. It is clear that injuries resulting from such attacks are a main cause of disabilities and impairment. The Security Council has a special responsibility to put its full weight behind the call for compliance with the rules and principles of International Humanitarian Law. The Security Council needs to live up to this responsibility because compliance with IHL minimizes harm to civilians and in effect reduces indiscriminate attacks on the civilian population as a main cause for injuries and disabilities among civilians
In addition, I would like to highlight three measures of particular importance when it comes to protecting person with disabilities in humanitarian crises and risk situations:
First, we need to ensure a human rights-based approach for the promotion and protection of persons with disabilities - not only during armed conflict but also in a wider context of peacekeeping missions and peacebuilding, also in line with Article 11 of the CRPD and Article 70 of the First Additional Protocol of the ICRC. This means both increasing accessibility of humanitarian assistance, and increasing participation of persons with disabilities in related planning and decision making processes.
Second, we need to collect more data on how many persons with disabilities are actually affected by armed conflicts. We need to exchange information on adequate measures to improve their situations on the ground, especially with regard to access to humanitarian aid.
Third, persons with disabilities need to be included in the development of these measures. In my government’s guidelines for crisis prevention, we have committed ourselves to an inclusive approach. We strive to promote the potential of, inter alia, persons with disabilities more strongly, especially with regard to inclusive peace processes. In the area of humanitarian action, my government is committed to systematically improving the protection and promotion of human rights of persons with disabilities. As a donor, we have already begun to request of our implementing partners to actively address these aspects in their projects, for example by requiring specific information in proposals for funding, e.g. disaggregated data and information on how a project accounts for the needs of persons with disabilities. Additionally, we will continue project specific funding, for example for the non-governmental organization “Humanity and Inclusion” to develop dedicated training and information resources. At the same time we support the development of dedicated international guidelines by the Inter Agency Standing Committee (IASC) Task Team on Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities.
As incoming member of the Security Council you can count on Germany’s full support to further improve the Security Council´s awareness of the situation of persons with disabilities in armed conflict, also in the context of the women, peace and security agenda.
Thank you, Madame President.