Disasters and public health emergencies are inevitable and can happen anywhere and anytime. However, they can be mitigated and their impacts can be minimized by utilizing appropriate measures in all four different phases of disaster management, i.e., mitigation and prevention, preparedness, response, and recovery. Several factors are crucial for achieving successful disaster management. Altogether, this Issue offers new insights into emergency and public health crisis management from a multiagency perspective and allows discussion about new potential risks; lessons learned; and the introduction of new concepts such as flexible surge capacity, and shows some new aspects of practicing multiagency collaboration before, during, and after disasters and public health emergencies.
Objectives: Biological weapons are one of the oldest weapons of mass destruction used by man. Their use has not only determined the outcome of battles, but also influenced the fate of entire civilizations. Although the use of biological weapons agents in a terrorist attack is currently unlikely, all services responsible for the surveillance and removal of epidemiological threats must have clear guidelines and emergency response plans.
Methods: In the face of the numerous threats appearing in the world, it has become necessary to put the main emphasis on modernizing, securing, and maintaining structures in the field of medicine which are prepared for unforeseen crises and situations related to the use of biological agents.
Results: This article presents Poland’s current preparation to take action in the event of a bioterrorist threat. The study presents both the military aspect and procedures for dealing with contamination.
Conclusions: In Poland, as in other European Union countries fighting terrorism, preparations should be made to defend against biological attacks, improve the flow of information on the European security system, strengthen research centers, train staff, create observation units and vaccination centers, as well as prepare hospitals for the hospitalization of patients—potential victims of bioterrorist attacks.
In light of human rights violations in Northern Uganda, this research note presents preliminary data on Ugandans’ attitudes on peace and justice. The findings reflect the respondents’ desires for truth reconciliation as well as their desires to hold perpetuators of violence accountable for their actions. However, the findings show that justice is not a top priority for Ugandans in comparison to more tangible needs for health, peace, money, and education. A majority of Ugandans in the North are open to the reintegration of former LRA members in society, albeit conditionally on diminished social and political rights for past LRA leaders.
The opportunities for engaging the Afghan public in the process of constitution building and legal reform are quickly disappearing. Decades of war have left the legal system, and its legal culture, in ruins. The project of constitutional and legal reform will be central to the success of reconstruction efforts. For the first time, Afghan legal professionals, civil society leaders, and other groups have the chance to engage in the rebuilding of their country’s legal foundations: both to stabilize a still-insecure country, and to transform their society in more long-lasting ways. However, as the Constitutional Loya Jirga approaches, many key questions regarding the nature of the new Afghan legal order remain, and many Afghans are beginning to feel that they have been left out of the process. The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) is in an ideal position to engage civil society groups and legal professionals in wider debate about the protection and integration of human rights standards in the new legal system. Its mandate includes the harmonization of international human rights standards with national law, and perhaps more importantly, the Commission enjoys access to a nation-wide constituency of individuals and groups who support the central government and the modernization of Afghan law. This roundtable report, which presents topics and analysis from a roundtable co-hosted by AIHRC and the Program on Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research (HPCR) at Harvard University and entitled Human Rights and Rule of Law: Constitutional and Legal Reform, attempts to capture the outcomes of one such effort at engagement and discussion. This Roundtable was one of the first such meetings in Kabul to engage a broad representation of civil society leaders, legal professionals, and Loya Jirga delegates from provinces outside Kabul. In total, there were about forty participants, with half of the group from Kabul and half from other cities and towns. The Roundtable was led by members of the AIHRC, with attendance and participation by members of the Judicial Reform Commission. A series of background papers in Dari was drafted by HPCR (in close consultation with members of the AIHRC) prior to the Roundtable, and made available to the participants along with a copy of President Hamid Karzai’s most recent decree on the Constitutional Loya Jirga and a paper on legal reform in Afghanistan.
Urban warfare constitutes one of the most serious threats to the security and integrity of civilians in times of war. It represents, consequently, one of the most challenging areas of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) in practice. This note reviews the rules of IHL applicable to the conduct of hostilities in urban environments, and identifies key legal provisions desgned to enhance the protection of civilians in these areas.
For two weeks in April and May 2002, the Conflict Prevention Initiative (CPI) of the Harvard Program on Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research (HPCR) hosted the first ever international e-conference on “Securing Communities for Reconstruction in Afghanistan,” attracting over 90 participants. The majority of the participants were Afghan NGO and civil society leaders working in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Others included representatives of various inter-governmental organizations, INGOs, academic institutions and donor governments. This report summarizes the principal themes of the discussion and concludes with a series of recommendations for various actors involved in the process of reconstruction in Afghanistan. These recommendations include both those specifically formulated by participants as well as those drawn more generally from the conference discussion. In addition, actual quotes from the participants are interspersed throughout the report in shaded boxes to suggest the richness and depth of the discussion. The e-conference was preceded by conversations with NGO leaders in Kabul, as well as roundtables with Afghan civil society leaders in Peshawar, Pakistan and Mashad and Zahedan, Iran. The roundtables were designed both to produce substantive inputs for the e-conference as well as to gather perspectives from those who may not have regular internet access. In this way, both the roundtables and the e-conference were designed to engage participants from their separate localities and yet still connect them with broader discussions and analysis.
The purpose of this note is to present a first report on the progress of the Security Management Initiative project as of March 15, 2005. This report covers the research and consultation phase, in preparation for the development of a draft curriculum and assessment tools, to be presented to an expert group in May 2005.
The Conflict Prevention Initiative of the Harvard Program on Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research convened an online conference on setting the priorities for preventive action in Nepal from 25 January to 1 February 2001. Eighty respected scholars, NGO activists and officials were selected from Nepal and around the world to join this important forum. The participants were carefully chosen to represent a wide variety of different perspectives on the sources of the current insecurity. The objective of the conference was to provide a closed forum for the exchange of information and analysis on the sources of social, political and economic insecurity in Nepal as well as to deliberate on the most effective strategies for conflict prevention in the region. This conference was the first to develop the use of online conferencing to facilitate exchange between scholars and practitioners from around the world on conflict prevention strategies. This provided an opportunity to bring together a diverse group of individuals, many of whom would be unable to meet in a more traditional forum. This report presents a succinct summary of the main issues and findings of the online discussion, including recommended policies for organizations involved in the promotion of human security in Nepal. It summarizes over 140 contributions by over 80 participants, many of them from Nepal. The contributions were not censored and represent a vast array of political opinions regarding the sources of instability in Nepal. The role of the Program was to present the various perspectives and distill innovative recommendations from the discussion, and not to determine the value of these observations or to judge their appropriateness. Consequently, the report reflects the views of the participants and not necessarily those of the Harvard Program. The report is divided into three sections. The first section outlines the historical background of the unrest. The second provides a discussion of the most significant factors contributing to the current instability. An analysis of a wide range of measures that may contribute to increased stability in Nepal forms the final section.
In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina swept through New Orleans and the surrounding communities, inflicting massive destruction and displacing hundreds of thousands. In the wake of the disaster, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security lifted minimum wage restrictions, thus creating an environment ripe for exploitation of both documented and undocumented workers by their employers. This study presents the experiences of laborers in the construction industry following Hurricane Katrina, and makes recommendations for how federal, state, and local authorities may protect Gulf Coast laborers against exploitation and unfair treatment.
This paper examines the issues of disorder, emergency, and conflict and their management in a rule of law-based framework, with illustration from the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States and the war in Iraq. Noting that the promotion of the rule of law by state institutions has decreased in recent years, the paper postulates that the manifestation of violence as a result of sociopolitical unrest and armed conflict, whether domestic or international, is an indicator of a defective functioning of institutions, and that the maintenance and strengthening of the rule of law at all times are key to an effective enjoyment of human rights and to the practice of democracy. The paper notes that there exist a number of distinct corpora of rules in international and domestic law that are applicable to an orderly, efficient, and rights-respecting management of disorder. In particular, it calls for a symbiotic application of international humanitarian law and international human rights law. Whereas the latter is a general law which is implemented at all times, the former is a special branch of law that to be only enacted during conflicts. Yet, though clearly different, the two bodies overlap, particularly in times of emergency as both seek to protect human dignity and reduce human suffering. Clarifying the core connections and establishing an explicit recognition of the international human rights normative framework and humanitarian values to democracy is particularly called for in times of emergency. The typical state response to internal disorder is to enforce stricter interpretations of security laws, assert the power of the state government, and enact emergency legislation meant to facilitate investigation and prevention of violent emergencies. In that respect, the paper places emphasis on the existence of legal limits to emergency powers noting the extent to which derogation is codified formally. Similarly, the paper argues that legitimacy of the power to compel is a fundamental component of the rule of law, particularly in situations where institutions are failing. The practical result, during emergencies, is that no room is provided (or no longer available) for the articulation of citizens’ aspirations as no structural accountability derivative of democratic dynamics is present. In times of crisis and social disorder, dangers to the effective enjoyment of rights can originate (i) in the context of the implementation of derogation to rights, (ii) in the process of the administration of justice, or (iii) in the course of the enforcement of security laws. Limiting the effect of emergency powers and delineating clearly permissible derogations, so that the state of emergency is regarded as a temporary situation and not a norm, is a central aspect of the regulation of societal disorder processes. During emergencies, particular attention should also be paid to the administration of justice, which can come to suffer from degraded or weakened institutions. The modus operandi is the perpetuation of effective and justiciable remedies under the umbrella of a constitution incorporating the principles of international human rights and freedoms.
Circle of Health International (COHI) conducted this Women's Health Needs Assessment to identify the specific and immediate needs of women, and to provide evidence-based recommendations for short and long-term women's health programming in the Fond Parisien area. These recommendations are based on the results of surveys conducted with 64 women living in the American Refugee Committee (ARC) camp in Fond Parisien. This document highlights the present and future needs of the women living in this IDP camp, and provides specific recommendations to address the unique health needs of women within this population.
Despite renewed commitment by States to respect and ensure respect for the rules of international humanitarian law, the surge of violence against civilians has continued. Entire populations in Europe, Africa and Central Asia have been displaced, harassed or subjected to extreme forms of violence as a consequence of armed conflicts, in violation of the most fundamental rules of international humanitarian and human rights law.As a result, traditional schemes of protection enshrined in international law are increasingly questioned, revealing the need to develop new strategies to enhance the protection of civilians in times of war. In his Report to the Millennium Assembly, United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan wrote: “International conventions have traditionally looked at states to protect civilians, but today this expectation is threatened in several ways. First, states are sometimes the principal perpetrator of violence against the very citizens that humanitarian law requires them to protect. Second, non-state combatants, particularly in collapsed states, are often ignorant or contemptuous of humanitarian law. Third, international conventions do not adequately address the specific needs of vulnerable groups, such as internally displaced persons, or women and children in complex emergencies.”
International human rights law and international humanitarian law are parallel and complementary branches of international law with their distinct and distinctive supervision arrangements. In the conflicts taking place in the world today, both the institutions of international humanitarian law and international human rights law are called upon to apply and uphold international humanitarian law. The International Committee of the Red Cross has the lead responsibility internationally for watching over the implementation of international humanitarian law, while the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Commission on Human Rights, its subsidiary bodies, and the human rights treaty bodies have the lead responsibility for overseeing the implementation of international human rights law. Basic human rights are being violated on a widespread scale during armed conflicts, and international human rights law operates in parallel alongside international humanitarian law in situations of armed conflict. Violations of international humanitarian law, especially as regards civilians, women and children, are violations of basic human rights with which the High Commissioner for Human Rights must be concerned as part of her responsibilities for the worldwide promotion and protection of human rights. Situations may arise increasingly when a High Commissioner for Human Rights is called upon to react to human rights violations in situations of armed conflict. In such situations, a High Commissioner is perforce required to address violations of international humanitarian law. This calls for the exercise of care and discernment on the part of the High Commissioner. Situations must be handled on the basis of principles, first of international humanitarian law, second of international human rights law, and principles of coexistence regarding institutions of international humanitarian law and international human rights law. Specifically, it is fundamental that the High Commissioner be cognizant of and act in the spirit of the principles pervading international humanitarian law. Generally, it is imperative upon a High Commissioner to help discharge the duty of protection and the responsibility to protect.
Combatancy has throughout the history of organized warfare been an exclusionary concept. Distinguishing between combatants and civilians has long represented an important aspect of warfare and has been recognized as the indispensable means by which humanitarian principles are injected into the rules governing conduct in war. Yet the protection of participants in warfare under international humanitarian law remains characterized by a certain level of uncertainty as regards the codified provisions for combatants and civilians. Who qualifies as a combatant is a question that has plagued those seeking to establish a comprehensive normative regime governing participation in hostilities. Acting on behalf of a state has constituted the primary means of attaining combatant, and therefore legitimate, status. As a result, a significant number of participants in warfare do not meet the established criteria and are, consequently, considered ‘illegitimate’ or ‘unlawful.’ This includes those fighting in international armed conflict as well as groups engaged in armed conflict not of an international character. The uncertain status of these ‘illegitimate’ warriors is evidenced by the variety of terms used to describe them. The traditional dual privileged status approach of dividing a population into combatants and civilians is only as effective as the accuracy with which the definition of ‘combatant’ is established and to the extent there is a clear understanding of when civilians lose the protection of their status by participating in hostilities. Recently, the question of combatancy and the protection of captured enemy personnel has gained prominence due to the decision of the United States government in 2002 to deny prisoner of war status to the Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters. Similarly, there is considerable controversy as to the standard of treatment to be applied to captured unlawful combatants. Historically, a consistent result of being determined to be an unauthorized participant in hostilities has been harsh treatment at the hands of the captor. Questions are asked whether civilian participants in combat are a type of ‘illegal’ combatant, fall under civilian status, or merit their own status under international humanitarian law. The idea of an intermediate status is rejected by many analysts.
The fourth Geneva Convention, adopted 50 years ago, on 12 August 1949, describes the actions that warring parties must take to protect civilian populations from the worst excesses of war. Building on the concept developed in the previous three conventions—that certain activities and people, especially civilians, can be seen as hors de combat—the fourth Geneva Convention defines in detail the many ways in which civilians must be dealt with to shield them from the direct and indirect effects of conflict between combatant forces. Among the responsibilities that this convention sets for the warring parties are explicit actions that would grant medical personnel, and all aspects of the medical enterprise, complete protection from interference or harm. This neutral status for medical relief (and, by extension, all humanitarian aid) rests on the reciprocal assumption that those who deliver this relief are practising in accord with their professional ethics and will take specified steps to maintain their neutral posture vis à vis the warring parties.