Author(s) at Oxford Brookes


  • Akerkar A, Devavaram J, 'Understanding Rights Based Approach in Disasters: A case for affirming human dignity' in Collins A, Jones S, Manyena B, Jayawickrama J (ed.), Hazard, Risks and Disasters in Society, Elsevier (2015)
    ISBN: 978-0-12-396451-9
    This chapter argues that a rights-based approach in disasters is committed to the reduction of social vulnerability and promotion of equity in society in its postdisaster responses. This in turn means going beyond the dominant framing of rights by the state or dominant groups in the society that may not respond fully to the experiences of rightslessness felt by the marginalized groups after a disaster. What is needed is the critical assessment of rights by such groups, also termed as subaltern groups, suggesting that, although marginalized, they also have a voice and perspective on disaster response that needs to be included. It is this critical assessment of rights by subaltern groups that could inform a nuanced rights-based approach in disasters. The chapter uses the case study of one such subaltern group, namely, the women widowed in the tsunami of December 2003 in Tamil Nadu, India, and their long journey to dignified recovery to exemplify this learning. It also shows that the attainment of social rights and affirmation of dignity and equity were important disaster recovery goals for these women. More generally, a rights-based approach demands working closely with the subaltern groups, listening closely to their critical assessment of rights, and working with them to exercise their agency to affirm their rights and dignity. This calls for a commitment by organizations to work on a sustained basis for longer periods of time after disasters.