Human Rights for Disabled in Conflicts and Refugee settings - ignored and forgotten?

The Atlas Alliance, Norwegian Centre for Human Rights and Plan Norway welcome you to the International Day for Disabled Persons.

Speakers include State secretary Bård Glad Pedersen, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Norwegian Red Cross and Norwegian Refugee Council

Full programme


Concept note – 3rd of December – International Day of Persons with Disabilities

December 3rd is the UN’s international day of persons with disabilities. The Atlas-Alliance, the Norwegian Center for Human Rights (NCHR) and Plan Norway are marking this day by holding a conference on the rights of persons with disabilities in times of armed conflict and disasters. The key questions that will be addressed are: What is the scope of disability rights in times of armed conflict and refugee situations? How are the human rights of disabled persons dealt with in the humanitarian sphere when the State fails and serious human rights violations are committed? 


The objective of this conference is to increase awareness about disabled persons as an especially vulnerable group in times of conflict and in refugee situations, and increase knowledge of their rights in such circumstances. We also want to engage in a debate on how various actors in humanitarian situations are applying human rights, and what kind of improvements can be made with regards to ensuring the rights of persons with disabilities.

Why this issue?

According to UN figures, around 15% of the world’s population has a disability. According to the UNHCR, the number of refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced people who were forcibly displaced at the end of 2013 was 51.2 million.  In turn, this means that around 4.5 million of the refugees have a disability. The numbers are probably higher since wars and disasters are continuously increasing the amount of persons with disabilities.

The UNDP has stated that: “Persons with disabilities are disproportionately affected in disaster, emergency, and conflict situations due to inaccessible evacuation, response (including shelters, camps, and food distribution), and recovery efforts”.

We have chosen to focus particularly on armed conflict situations, and how this affects refugees with disabilities.

Human rights in conflicts and emergencies

It is a fundamental principle when thinking about human rights that the State has the primary responsibility for protecting and fulfilling the human rights of its citizens. The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) also recognizes this relationship between the State and the individual. But who is responsible when the State fails to fulfill its duties? What happens with human rights in conflict situations, and how do such situations affect the most vulnerable groups in society? How can the various humanitarian actors contribute to the fulfillment of the rights of disabled persons? And not to forget, what is the responsibility of the receiving States in offering protection to the most vulnerable refugees and asylum seekers with disabilities?

Target group

The target group for this conference includes Norwegian non-governmental humanitarian organizations, UN-organizations and the Norwegian authorities.


The conference would firstly map out what is the scope of rights refugees with disabilities have, seen from a human rights and humanitarian law perspective. This will be followed with a presentation on the work of the various humanitarian actors, including the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), Red Cross, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NCR) and Handicap International, accompanied with a discussion and recommendations on what can be done to improve the protection and implementation of their human rights. Moreover, through a number of pictures and stories by freelance journalists who have visited refugee camps in both Iraq and Turkey, we shall try to present an overview of the situation in the ground.


We have put together a working group from the NCHR, Plan Norway and the Atlas-Alliance. The State Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Bård Glad Pedersen, has confirmed that he will open the conference. The Norwegian Refugee Council and the Red Cross have also expressed their interest in participating in the event, and we have confirmed attendance from the UNHCRs office in Geneva.

For more information, please contact:

Gentian Zyberi, Norwegian Centre for Human Rights, email:

Marius Rodin Karlsen, Plan Norway, email:

Trine Cecilie Riis-Hansen, The Atlas Alliance, email:


Publisert 20. okt. 2014 17:03 - Sist endret 10. sep. 2015 14:54