The tsunamis, hurricanes and earthquakes which hit parts of Asia and the Americas in 2004/2005 highlighted the need to be attentive to the multiple human rights challenges that affected persons may face. All too often their human rights are not sufficiently taken into account. Experience has shown that, while patterns of discrimination and disregard for economic, social and cultural rights may already emerge during the emergency phase of a disaster, the longer a displacement situation continues, the greater the risk is for human rights violations. Once people have been affected by a disaster, however, they often encounter further challenges to the full realization of their rights. These challenges can be avoided if the relevant human rights guarantees were taken into account from the onset by national as well as international actors. The guidelines focus on what humanitarian actors should do in order to implement a rights-based approach to humanitarian action in the context of natural disasters.
The guidelines consist of four parts: 1) Protection, security, physical integrity and dignity of life. This is applicable in case of evacuations, relocations and other life saving measures; protection against the negative impacts of natural hazards, violence, camp security and protections and explosive devices 2) Protection of rights related to basic necessities of life, including access to goods and services, provision of adequate food, water and sanitation services 3) Protection of other economic, social and cultural rights, such as education, property and possession, housing, livelihood and work 4) Protection of other civil and political rights, for example documentation, freedom of movement, family life, expression and electoral rights
Human rights are a bedrock requirement for the realization of the United Nations Charter’s vision. Although some UN agencies have expressly designated mandates, and possess specialized technical expertise in different aspects of the promotion, protection and realization of human rights, it is incumbent on all entities to address human rights concerns as part of their routine work programme. The guidance note provides Humanitarian Coordinators (HCs) with a specific, clear and field-oriented tool to facilitate the integration of human rights into humanitarian action. It also facilitates and encourages agencies to clarify their role vis-à vis the integration of the human rights agenda into their activities.
The guidance note begins by setting human rights law in context, and discusses its relevance to humanitarian action. Subsequent sections provide assistance to HCs for the gathering and assessment of human rights-related information and for the application of this information. The guidance note concludes with suggestions regarding the forms of human rights partnership and coordination systems which HCs might consider establishing, such as integrating human rights into the Consolidated Appeals Process.
Recognizing that people working in zones of conflict or under oppressive regimes, have already developed many innovative methods and programmes to prevent or mitigate abuses, it was decided to identify and share these practices in the hope that they could be adapted for use by humanitarian colleagues also working in difficult circumstances. The Growing the Sheltering Tree Project includes a book, containing programmes and practices gathered from the field, and this interactive website.
The book contains six chapters:
1) Chapter one introduces humanitarian assistance on how we work and how we witness
2) Chapter two presents humanitarian assistance and protection: developing an integrated approach
3) The third chapter brings together broader initiatives and approaches to strengthen the protection environment
4) Chapter four introduces preserving, protecting life, health and dignity through humanitarian action
5) In chapter five, the promotion and protection of the rights of specific groups is presented
6) Finally, chapter six contains remedial activities and action to ensure accountability