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The Relationship between Human Rights and Disaster Risk Reduction Revisited: Bringing the Legal Perspective into the Discussion

Journal article
Authors Karen da Costa
Paulina Pospieszna
Published in Journal of International Humanitarian Legal Studies
Volume 6
Issue 1
Pages 64-86
ISSN 18781373
Publication year 2015
Published at
Pages 64-86
Language en
Keywords disaster prevention, disaster risk reduction, human rights, human rights-based approach, natural disaster, vulnerability
Subject categories Law, Political Science


This paper explores the link between human rights and disaster risk reduction. We revisit the notion of a human rights-based approach in the context of natural disasters, analyzing how this concept may contribute to greater accountability and empowerment of those involved in disaster risk reduction. To better understand the processes of empowering rights holders and holding duty bearers into account we adopt legal analytical lenses. By doing so we review four country case studies and their main regulations on disaster risk reduction, taking into account the extent to which they adopt a human rights-based approach. We argue that countries whose legal frameworks allow for community engagement point towards greater community empowerment. Similarly, countries whose legal provisions make possible for holding States accountable for their underperformance in disaster situations suggest greater levels of accountability. We also consider key international human rights instruments binding the four case studies in order to analyze whether and to what extent international human rights obligations may support advocacy and accountability in disaster risk reduction. Based on the analysis of these case studies we consider that empowerment and accountability processes in drr can reinforce each other, and that human rights may contribute to progress in these areas.

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