Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

A Human Rights-based Approach to Disaster Response in Haiti

While the devastation of Hurricane Matthew recalled the human rights crises that followed Haiti’s 2010 earthquake, it also brought up a topic that wasn’t discussed as much after the earthquake: a rights-based approach to disaster relief. According to international law, a human-rights-based approach entails capacity-building, participation, transparency, accountability, and non-discrimination. Applying all of these principles will allow organizations and funders to truly collaborate with Haitian people and organizations to make sure that there is lasting change long after debris from the Hurricane has been cleaned up.

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Applying Human Rights Principles to Disaster Response

Karen Ansara and Brian Concannon, International Human Rights Funders Group

November 2, 2016

Hurricane Matthew’s devastation in Haiti provides both a historic opportunity and a daunting challenge to funders who care about human rights. We have the opportunity to help the world do a better job this time–to learn lessons from the response to Haiti’s 2010 earthquake and other disasters, and ensure more concrete, sustainable interventions. We can achieve this by insisting on a human rights-based approach in our own grantmaking and by leveraging our experience to encourage improvements in the larger disaster and recovery response by governments, NGOs and individuals.

Hurricane Matthew struck Haiti on October 4, 2016 with 145 mile-per-hour winds and 20 inches of rain. It destroyed buildings and crops–over 80% of both in many areas—as well as roads and bridges. An estimated 1,000 people died. Haiti’s death toll will likely continue to rise: on October 18 the Haitian Ministry of Health reported 2,189 suspected cases of cholera since the hurricane and an 85% increase in daily reported cholera cases.

The human rights-based approach, established in international law, recommends that response initiatives:

  • -Prioritize capacity-building of the host state and civil society;
  • -Ensure participation of the target population in design and execution;
  • -Practice transparency by making information about the intervention accessible to the community;
  • -Ensure accountability to the target communities and country; and,
  • -Insist on non-discrimination, with particular attention to marginalized groups such as women and people with disabilities.

 

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