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.
Awareness-raising: To increase awareness among local populations the Guiding Principles should be translated into all relevant languages and dialects and distributed.
During a natural disaster it is imperative to develop a public information strategy to raise awareness for human rights issues for IDPs, as well as go to the affected areas to meet with IDPs, international and national NGOs and the government to determine the effects of the disaster.
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 in the United States, the evacuation plans for New Orleans in 2005 were based on private vehicles – even though there were racial and class differences in vehicle ownership.
While most middle class white people had access to private cars, many poor and African-American residents did not. More recently, in the evacuation of New Orleans prior to Hurricane Gustav in August 2008, it was clear that officials had still not heeded the lessons learned from Katrina.During an emergency response, NHRIs must ensure the participation of IDPs in all processes and engage both state and non-state actors about the risks face by IDPs.After a disaster NHRIs must monitor the state of IDPs, contribute to UN monitoring mechanisms and help with rehabilitation, compensation and reconstruction for IDPs.Natural Disasters, Human Rights and the Role of NHRIs National Human Rights Institutions are well-placed to play a role in upholding human rights standards for those affected by natural disasters.Last year, some of you participated in a session lead by Joyce Leader who was working with us, to explore some of the ways that NHRIs can become involved in monitoring displacement.And these organizations as well – UN agencies, international and national non-governmental organizations, civil society, and IDP communities themselves – have a responsibility to ensure that their approaches and programs incorporate a human rights focus.In fact, most often, rights are violated not because of conscious intention but because of the lack of awareness or planning based on a rights-based approach.I’d like to share some of these guidelines with you.Strengthening NHRI capacity: There are many strategies to strengthen NHRIs’ capacities.Working with UN, civil society and other non-state actors: Communication with the UN, civil society and other non-state actors should begin before a natural disaster takes place.While working with these groups it is essential to disseminate the Guiding Principles, advise on the risks to the human rights of IDPs and seek advice from the UN and other relevant actors.