Natural disasters are traditionally seen as situations creating challenges mainly related to the provision of humanitarian assistance. Less attention has been devoted to the need for human rights protection in this particular context.
In particular, the tsunamis, hurricanes and earthquakes, which hit parts of Asia and the Americas in 2004 and 2005, as well as the Haiti earthquake of 2010, highlighted the fact that affected persons may face multiple human rights challenges in the aftermath of natural disasters, such as:
- Lack of safety and security (e.g. rampant crime, secondary impacts of natural disasters, etc.);
- Gender-based violence;
- Unequal access to assistance, basic goods and services and discrimination in aid provision;
- Abuse, neglect and exploitation of children;
- Family separation, particularly for children, older persons, persons with disabilities and other individuals who may rely on family support for their survival;
- Loss/destruction of personal documentation and difficulties to replace it, in particular due to inadequate birth registration mechanisms;
- Inadequate law enforcement mechanisms and restricted access to a fair and efficient justice system;
- Lack of effective feedback and complaint mechanisms;
- Unequal access to employment and livelihood opportunities;
- Forced relocation;
- Unsafe or involuntary return or resettlement of persons displaced by the disaster; or
- Lack of property restitution and access to land.
This is a revised version of the 2006 IASC Operational Guidelines on Human Rights and Natural Disasters. To request a hard copy, please contact the Project at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Annex sections include a comprehensive glossary of terms used in the Operational Guidelines, a list of protection of specific groups of persons cross-references to relevant guidelines and a list of all the codes of conduct, guidelines and manuals referenced in the above report.
These Operational Guidelines primarily aim to help international and non-governmental humanitarian organizations and members of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee to ensure that disaster relief and recovery efforts are conducted within a framework that protects and furthers human rights of affected persons.
Natural disasters are traditionally seen as situations creating challenges mainly related to the provision of humanitarian assistance. Less attention has been devoted to the need for human rights protection in this particular context. These challenges could be mitigated or avoided altogether if the relevant human rights guarantees were taken into account by national and international actors, in all phases of the disaster response: preparedness, relief and recovery. A human rights-based approach provides the framework and necessary standards for humanitarian assistance activities. In addition, a protection perspective can bring a strategic dimension to humanitarian assistance programs, namely one of promoting and securing the fulfillment of human rights.