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Abstract

This paper defines a role for human rights and human rights workers in the discussion of humanitarian emergencies. The approach is to look at how human rights law, monitoring, and information can be useful in two ways: (1) to warn of an impending humanitarian emergency, and (2) as part of efforts to resolve the crisis. Too often scholars and policy-makers assume that human rights issues ought to drop out of the humanitarian picture. This paper shows why human rights are downgraded as imperatives at certain stages of the discussion, and, how using human rights principles and reports can assist in tackling humanitarian emergencies effectively. Clearly human rights violations are important indicators of a potential humanitarian disaster. But the spheres of human rights and humanitarian assistance remain worlds apart. The paper looks in detail at problems faced by human rights personnel in Rwanda, Liberia, Mozambique, and the former Yugoslavia. Clapham looks at how to enhance rapid response at the beginning of a crisis, how to report on human rights, and how to tackle impunity and the legacy of the past. He suggests that the human rights movement is a crucial resource in analysing humanitarian emergencies. United Nations reform opens up new possibilities for integrating human rights work into global efforts to prevent humanitarian emergencies.

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