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Putting human rights are at the heart of emergency relief efforts

Graphic: NHRI officer talks with women from rural communities affected by the 2015 earthquake

As a changing climate increases the risk of natural disasters, NHRIs often find themselves working at the front line with communities in crisis.

Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights LogoOffice of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
Asia Pacific Forum LogoAsia Pacific Forum

As a changing climate increases the number and severity of natural disasters, national human rights institutions (NHRIs) in the Asia Pacific can increasingly find themselves working at the front line with communities in crisis.

In 2015, the National Human Rights Commission of Nepal assembled monitoring teams on the day the country was rocked by a mega-quake. They travelled to those districts hardest hit by the quake to monitor and report on relief efforts.

In the Philippines, staff from the Commission on Human Rights were closely involved in providing humanitarian assistance to communities devastated by super-typhoon Yolanda in 2014.


Justice Anup Raj Sharma, Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission of Nepal, describes the moment the 2015 earthquake struck Kathmandu and the immediate response of the Commission to monitor the human rights situation of the individuals and communities most severely affected.


The lessons learned from these and other interventions were discussed at workshop involving representatives from 10 NHRIs in the region.

Initiated by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) Regional Office for South and South East Asia, and delivered in partnership with the APF, the workshop explored the critical role that NHRs can play to protect human rights in times of humanitarian crisis.

"The work of NHRIs in monitoring human rights across the community, and especially for those groups who are vulnerable to discrimination, can help strengthen preparedness and humanitarian responses in times of crisis," APF Regional Training Manager Kate Turner-Mann said.

"NHRIs can also use their advisory role with national authorities to ensure that human rights principles are integrated into national disaster management plans and humanitarian action programs," she added.


Graphic: Participants talk in a small group


The workshop, held in Bangkok from 2-3 April 2019, involved 21 participants from the NHRIs of Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Thailand.

The aim was to strengthen the capacity of NHRIs in South Asia and South East Asia to promote and protect human rights on behalf of those groups most vulnerable in times of humanitarian action, including women, children, older people and people with disabilities.

Discussions also considered the role of NHRIs, with their local knowledge and partnerships, to support OHCHR and other UN agencies in the delivery of humanitarian assistance.

Following the workshop, the APF and OHCHR will continue these discussions through an online community of practice.

Online learning modules will also be developed and a final training workshop for NHRIs in the Asia Pacific will be held in late 2019.

Date: 12 April 2019


Image credits

  1. NHRI officer talks with women from rural communities affected by the 2015 earthquake - National Human Rights Commission of Nepal
  2. Participants talk in a small group - APF/ Kate Turner-Mann