The humanitarian principle of impartiality – providing assistance on the basis of need alone – requires that humanitarian actors must respond in a way that considers the needs of all people affected by a crisis as they determine priorities. Yet, we know that the humanitarian system still does not systematically include older people and people with disabilities.
Sphere welcomes the development of these tested standards to guide the humanitarian community. We supported the important piloting of this work as a vital contribution to Sphere’s core beliefs: that all people affected by crisis have a right to life with dignity, and that all possible steps must be taken to alleviate suffering in these crises. Without an understanding of the needs and priorities of all – and especially those often less visible in a crisis – humanitarians cannot claim to be supporting dignity and rights on an impartial basis.
On the international stage, commitments have been made towards achieving the inclusion of older people and people with disabilities in humanitarian action. The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) calls for “all necessary measures to ensure the protection and safety of persons with disabilities in situations of risk, including situations of armed conflict, humanitarian emergencies and the occurrence of natural disasters.” The World Humanitarian Summit in 2016 led to the Charters on Inclusion and the Agenda for Humanity, which recognised that a more systematic approach is needed to ensure we leave no one behind in humanitarian action.
These standards provide practitioners and organisations with clear actions that can be taken to protect, support and engage older people and people with disabilities and help us all realise these commitments. They provide guidance to identify and overcome barriers to participation and access in diverse contexts, and at all stages of the humanitarian programme cycle.
These standards represent an important and welcome step towards promoting and improving actions to address the needs of all, with principled impartiality. I hope that you will join us in sharing them broadly, advocating and training for their application, and bringing them wholly into humanitarian practice.