Human Rights and Humanitarian Action Reference Group

Human Rights and Humanitarian Action Reference Group

Human Rights and Humanitarian Action Reference Group

In June 1998, the IASC Working Group established the Reference Group on Humanitarian Action and Human Rights, which subsequently became a Task Force "to strengthen the understanding and integration of human rights in humanitarian action by all humanitarian agencies".

Among the achievements of the Task Force are the development of the “IASC Guidelines on Human Rights for Humanitarian Coordinators”, “Frequently Asked Questions on International Humanitarian, Human Rights and Refugee Law” and “Growing the Sheltering Tree – Protecting Rights through Humanitarian Action”
The launch of the Humanitarian Reform process with its focus on the Cluster Approach – with the subsequent establishment of the Protection Cluster Working Group – catalysed a re-discussion of the role of this Task Force – and more importantly – of the place occupied by human rights within the IASC.

With the recent advancements in rolling out the Cluster Approach, the  Task Force, which had been suspended in 2007, was able to re-focus the priority issues that IASC partners believe they will need to work on in order to enhance integration of a human rights dimension into humanitarian action. Given the importance attached to ensuring a forum for a Human Rights discourse within the IASC architecture, partners suggested a return to the original identity of a Reference Group with a non-time- and task-limited framework. This proposal resulted from the shared interest of the member agencies to continue working on the mainstreaming of human rights as a crosscutting issue for all IASC cluster/sectors and subsidiary bodies and was endorsed by the IASC Working Group in March 2007. The Reference Group meets biannually and whenever necessary on an ad hoc basis.  UN agencies  as well as the ICRC and IFRC and NGOs are members. The commitment of the interested IASC agencies – each with its comparative advantage, institutional knowledge, experience and skills – to the activities envisaged ensures a solid participatory approach at the institutional level.

»The Reference Group aims to:

  1. Support the Humanitarian Reform process by facilitating integration of a Human Rights-Based Approach;
  2. Integrate a human rights perspective in IASC advocacy initiatives;
  3. Develop user friendly tools to facilitate the integration of a human rights-based-approach in humanitarian action; and
  4. Increase the level of awareness and information sharing about human rights initiatives with relevance to humanitarian action.

Activities foreseen in the Reference Group will be undertaken in coordination with initiatives of the IASC Protection Cluster Working Group, in the spirit of complementarity and acknowledging the subsidiary role of the Reference Group on Human Rights and Humanitarian Action when issues have already been taken up or are agreed to be taken up by the Protection Cluster Working Group.

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