Conference Contribution Details
Mandatory Fields
Dug Cubie
Association of Human Rights Institutes (AHRI) Annual Conference
Coordination, Coherence and Accountability: The Need for a UN Independent Expert on Human Rights and Disasters
University of Edinburgh
Peer Reviewed Abstract
Optional Fields
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was forged in the suffering and brutality of the Second World War. It is therefore no surprise that Article 3 clearly states: “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person”. Yet violations of human rights can occur in a wide range of humanitarian crises, not just during armed conflicts. Indeed, the fundamental principle of human dignity, central to the UDHR, was recently acknowledged as a cornerstone of disaster management in the International Law Commission’s draft articles on the Protection of Persons in Event of Disasters. Yet there remains a gap in institutional structures and normative guidance as to the practical and operational implications of enforcing international human rights obligations in disasters. Ensuring the protection of rights in disasters is arguably contingent on two mutually reinforcing aspects: (i) more coherent, co-ordinated efforts to clarify how human rights apply in disasters; and (ii) improving available mechanisms for national, regional and/or international monitoring and accountability. Considering the broad range of potential actors that can be called upon to apply, assess and interpret human rights throughout the various phases of disaster management, this paper argues there is a need for greater co-ordination and coherence across the relevant operational and normative bodies. In particular, the UN Special Procedures tend to be a neglected institutional arrangement in the international human rights architecture. This is regrettable, since Special Procedures hold great promise for fostering human rights protection due to, inter alia, their ‘unique access to States’ and capacity to normatively ‘break silos’ by traversing across relevant human rights commitments. Building on previous work of the present authors, this paper analyses why a UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Disasters is best placed to provide overarching support to both the UN and national authorities by acting as a focal point to promote more coherent norm development and improving accountability for all stakeholders.