Thursday, September 2, 2021

Human Rights and Hurricane Ida Part II

Human Rights and Hurricane Ida Part II

By Lauren E. Bartlett

It has now been four days since Hurricane Ida made landfall in Louisiana and has since forged a path of destruction all the way up the East Coast to Maine. At this point almost one million electric customers in Louisiana remain without power, 30,000 in Mississippi and now over 100,000 customers in the Northeast are also without power. Schools in the New Orleans region are closed indefinitely and the Governor of Louisiana told those who had evacuated not to come home until officials say otherwise. Thousands of people were displaced by Hurricane Ida and it remains to be seen when and if they can come home.

On Monday, in Part I of my posts on Human Rights and Hurricane Ida, I discussed the U.N. Human Rights Committee’s recommendations regarding the human rights of internally displaced persons after Hurricane Katrina. 

Today, I will focus on the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination’s recommendations regarding the disparate impacts on low-income African Americans displaced by and dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.  In its Concluding Observations (see paragraph 31) after its periodic review of the United States in 2008, the CERD Committee stated that the United States should:

  • Increase efforts to facilitate right of return, where possible, or to guarantee access to adequate and affordable housing, where possible their place of habitual residence; and
  • Ensure genuine consultation and participation of persons displaced by Hurricane Katrina in the design and implementation of all decisions affecting them.

The CERD Committee makes it clear here that human rights law requires U.S., state and local governments to increase efforts to facilitate the right of return low-income African Americans displaced by Hurricane Ida.  Moreover, decision making regarding emergency housing assistance and recovery must include genuine consultation and participation by low-income African Americans displaced by Hurricane Ida. We need to and can do better in rebuilding this time around, and luckily we have clear guidance as to some of what went wrong in times past.

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