TUE7.3: Rights-Based Approaches and the Human Factor in Disaster Risk Reduction
Tuesday, 26/Aug/2014:
5:00pm - 6:00pm

Session Chair: Helen Teresa SULLIVAN, Rider University
Session Chair: Magnus HAGELSTEEN, Lund University
Location: Sertig

Session Abstract

Session Chair(s) Summary:

  • Research: More research needs to investigate human behaviours at times of disaster. It is encouraged that this research is based on empirical data, which utilizes the scientific approach in seeking answers.
  • Education & Training: Advocate for Human Rights into DRR, climate change adaptation and resilience strategies. Education of populations results in a strengthening of human behaviour at times of crisis. If the population know what to expect they often act in a reasonable manner.  A stereotype of looting and violence following a crisis does not have to occur if the population is informed. This has been show to be the case in Switzerland and may be able to scale to larger countries facing a crisis or disaster. If populations are educated and trained in disaster mitigation and risk reduction behaviours at the time of crisis a more even handed, non-violent and altruistic will result.
  • People have to learn what works and what doesn't. An increased awareness and understanding how actions and activities in pre- and post-disaster situations may have unforeseen consequences, some ill. Our actions and activities will have an impact on the society, both short and long term perspective, from social, technological, political, legal, economic, environmental perspective  
  • Implementation & Practice:  Incorporate human right into HFA2 (post 2015 framework), human rights can enhance individuals' resilience to face disasters caused by natural hazards. Better housing with better building codes
  • Policy: A Human Rights approach must be stressed for incorporation into countries, possibly through treaties. Some flexibility of portions of these treaties must be allowed at times of crisis. Human Rights based approach must also be incorporated into different  types of international frameworks and policies.  
  • Governments need to uphold Human Rights needs especially for vulnerable populations who often experience the worst outcomes.
  • Policy changes must be encouraged to prevent ill-conceived plans from being enacted, which often result in negative outcomes. Informed policy development where outcomes focus on maintaining a resilient society. Aid and recovery plans should not disrupt or displace the normal functioning and livelihood of the affected population.
  • Rights for humanitarian assistance should be supported in all countries. Some countries have no consideration for the rights of vulnerable groups, including those with disabilities, women, the elderly, children, migrants, and displaced populations.
  • Policy related to climate change and variation must consider the impact on vulnerable groups, as those are typical
  • At the community level focus on strategies that work and that do increase vulnerability.

Ensure that policy on technology use in disaster response ensures that privacy rights are respected, in particular with reference to camera usage.


Forgotten beacons: Restoring human rights in the risk reduction, resilience & adaptation agendas

Sarah Elizabeth HENLY-SHEPARD

Disaster Resilience, L.L.C., United States of America

Critical to preventing, mitigating and adapting to crises, are the upholding of basic human rights as set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, including the right to life, liberty and security of person (Article 3) the right to a standard of living adequate for health and well-being (Article 25), the right to education (Article 26), with local empowerment and dignity-building involvement as the basis for all activities (Articles 1, 22, 23) (UN 1948). International human rights law can serve as an ethical foundation for risk-reduction strategies, promoting equity and offering protection and fulfillment of basic rights. However, a significant gap is the failure of international institutions and policies to adequately recognize and address these linkages. Thus, it is essential to leverage research and policy to address this gap and engage in a more equitable and effective approach to reduce underlying vulnerabilities and improve justice. The methods include a literature review of scientific and gray literature, including United Nations Official documents, with a focus on human rights- and ethics-based models and frameworks that address resilience to disasters and climate change. Findings indicate a paucity of publications in both the scientific and gray literatures, a lack of adequate linkages between the science and practice, and an inadequate representation of human rights, justice and equity in resilience research conceptual models and frameworks. To address the identified gaps in science, practice and policy-making, an integrative Rights-inclusive Resilience Conceptual Model is proposed, with suggested indicators for operationalization of the model. Through iterative benchmarks for evaluation of community resilience via locally-validated qualitative and quantitative indicators, as well as construction of a composite index for an overall resilience score, the purpose of the model is to enable accountability and transparency of policies and programs at achieving resilience and human rights.

Finding the missing thread: The inclusion of a human rights-based approach in tackling climate change mitigation, adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction


1National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland; 2Adam Mickiewicz University of Poznan, Poland

The discussion on how to address climate change, both in terms of mitigation and adaptation, has paid scant attention to human rights. We argue that a human rights-based approach (HRBA) provides excellent tools towards a real positive change, including, but not limited to climate change. We compare four case studies and their national legal framework on disaster risk reduction (DRR): Brazil, Dominican Republic, Ethiopia and Nepal. The focus is on how human rights affect progress or lack of it in the advancement of DRR, climate change adaptation and climate change mitigation. We suggest that the mere existence of national legislation covering natural disasters may not be sufficient. Regardless of various ambitious policies on natural disasters if such basic issues like the human rights protection and empowerment of local community is missed, this will hamper the efficiency and effectiveness of efforts to reduce or manage disaster risk and climate change. We argue therefore for the inclusion of a HRBA in the post-Hyogo Framework of Action.

Can the observance of human rights of individuals enhance their resilience to cope with natural disasters?


National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland

Human rights relate to the idea of rights of human beings arising from their very human nature and inherent dignity. It is generally accepted that members of society in a position of vulnerability are more likely to face serious human rights violations. The paper focuses on how do human rights address the most vulnerable in society, with the view of assessing if and how they can enhance the resilience of individuals also when confronted with natural disasters. Attention is paid to governments and their responsibility to protect individuals from human rights violations, besides enhancing their agency in society through the observance of human rights, access to relevant information, participation in decision-making and education. The article suggests that human rights can enhance individuals' resilience to face natural disasters; hence human rights shall inform disaster-related programs and studies.

Understanding the role of human and nonhuman actants in post-disaster contexts: A tentative deployment of Actor Network Theory to evaluate its usefulness

Graham John BREWER1, Helen GIGGINS1, Aoibheann MCVEIGH2, Jason Kyle VON MEDING1, Jamie MACKEE1, Thayaparan GAJENDRAN1

1University of Newcastle, Australia; 2Queens University, Belfast

Post-disaster reportage often concentrates on the catastrophic and harrowing human impact together with heroic acts of mercy: a useful, and from the aid agencies perspective vital by-product of such information is the mobilisation of donors. Subsequent sober and analytical reviews of the same events balance success with failure in order to learn and improve performance in future disaster theatres. It is inevitable that the bulk of data is collected from key individuals in major organisations associated with disaster recovery and reconstruction, and it is unsurprising that little consideration is given to the nonhuman actants that they direct or influence: examples include food aid, shelter, resources and processes associated with reconstruction, and the policies and protocols associated with relevant government agencies. Actor Network Theory (ANT) suggests that nonhuman actants share the stage equally with human actants when considering problems that occur at the socio-technological interface, and while ANT conventionally has been utilised to consider the challenges faced when integrating high-level technology systems with humans this paper speculates that the technique has the potential to reveal useful lessons when considering the complex problems faced during disaster recovery and reconstruction. Another tenet of ANT is that the researcher becomes an actant within the network and that all actants within the network, be they human or nonhuman, are invested in solving a problem. Through the use of three case studies this paper suggests that a) nonhuman actants in disaster contexts may exert influences that were not foreseen when they were deployed, and that b) human actants may exert unintended influences: critically these actants include researchers and reporters. The research concludes that ANT have the potential to be useful in understanding complex post-disaster contexts.

Human behavior in disaster: Considerations in the context of Switzerland


Risk Dialogue Foundation, Switzerland

Although it is widely known that understanding human behavior in disaster situations is important in order to respond effectively, it has so far received only limited attention in disaster management. The goal of our study is to examine the main factors that influence behavior in disaster situations and to study potential applications for disaster management in Switzerland. Our review of research that has been done into human behavior during disasters shows the main factors that should be considered in disaster management in order to foster appropriate behavior in such situations. The three main factors that we identified are risk perception, self-efficacy expectations and knowledge; these, in turn, are largely influenced by communication (both for prevention and during disaster situations), individual and social dispositions and disaster specific characteristics. Our study reveals the relevance of target group and disaster specific communication. We also identify a research gap in terms of empirical studies of the behavioral aspects in disaster situations, as well as on the integration of multidisciplinary perspectives. As most of the findings presented in current literature originate from international studies (Europe and the United States), they cannot be transferred to the Swiss context without restrictions. It is necessary, therefore, to examine the specific case of Switzerland in greater depth since this small country is for the most part disaster unexperienced. In addition to taking Switzerland’s socio-economic situation into consideration, it is important to account for its particular federal structure, the organization of its civil defense and the population’s specific cultural values and attitudes.