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However, the guidelines insist that only the full respect of all four groups of rights can ensure adequate protection of the human rights of those affected by natural disasters, including of those who are displaced. The guidelines go on to state that “in all cases States have an obligation to respect, protect and to fulfill the human rights of their citizens and of any other persons in their territory or under their jurisdiction.” States thus have a responsibility: to prevent violations of these rights from occurring or re-occurring; to stop them when they do occur, and to ensure reparation and full rehabilitation if a violation has happened.When governments are unwilling or unable to fulfill these responsibilities, the international community needs to support and supplement the efforts of the government and local authorities.
As with all situations of internal displacement, the primary duty and responsibility to provide such protection and assistance lies with the national authorities of the affected countries.
Those affected by natural disasters have the right to request and receive such protection and assistance from their governments.
I’d like to share with you some of the experiences of NHRIs in another part of the world – Asia – to see if their experiences could be helpful to you in Africa.
At its meeting in September 2001, the Asia Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions expressed interest in developing their capacity to promote and respect the human rights of IDPs.
Presently both Brookings and the Protection Cluster Working Group are organizing training sessions for government officials responsible for disaster response as well as non-governmental organizations.
Such training is necessary in order to ensure that a rights-based approach to disaster response is incorporated into all phases of operations.
Thus for practical reasons, the Operational Guidelines divide human rights into four groups, namely: The Operational Guidelines suggest that the first two groups of rights may be the most relevant during the emergency, life-saving phase.
Thus in the initial disaster response, it is usually more important to ensure adequate access to water than to provide replacement identity cards to those who have been displaced.
While evacuation plans provided bus transportation for those without cars, displaced New Orleans residents were taken by bus to large communal shelters while those who evacuated by car were directed to churches, private homes and hotels. Experience has shown while patterns of discrimination emerge during the initial emergency response phase, the longer that displacement lasts, the greater the risk of human rights violations.
The Brookings-Bern Project on Internal Displacement developed a manual on the Operational Guidelines to provide more concrete guidance to disaster responders and this manual is currently being revised in light of experiences in the field.