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Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Humanitarian Response

Protection Principle 4: Assist people to claim their rights, access available remedies and recover from the effects of abuse

The affected population is helped to claim their rights through information, documentation and assistance in seeking remedies. Peope are supported appropriately in recovering from the physical, psychological and social effects of violence and other abuses.


This principle includes the following elements:

Guidance notes

Supporting affected people in asserting their rights

  1. The government and other relevant authorities are responsible for ensuring that the rights of the affected population are respected and fulfilled. Whether through legal systems or other channels, humanitarian agencies should consider supporting affected populations to claim their rights.
  2. Entitlements: Agencies should inform affected people of their entitlements both within a given aid programme and under the laws and regulations of the country in question. (Re)establishing people’s rights to housing, land and property must be given particular attention.
  3. Information and consultation: The affected population should be informed by authorities and humanitarian agencies in a language and manner they can understand. They should be engaged in a meaningful consultation process regarding decisions that affect their lives, without creating additional risks (see Core Standard 1 ). This is one way of assisting them to assert their rights.

  4. Securing or replacing lost documents: Humanitarian agencies should assist the affected population in securing documentation – or replacing lost documents – in order to access their rights. People generally have rights regardless of possessing particular documentation. But in order to access the full range of entitlements, some form of documentation or identification, such as a birth certificate, marriage certificate, passport or land title, is usually required. Access to property documentation is often particularly important following a disaster but in a number of countries, ownership is not necessarily clearly documented through legal titles and can become a major point of contention. Death certificates needed to be organised to avoid unnecessary financial and legal problems for relatives. Death certificates are usually not available when there is unceremonious disposal of corpses, a practice that should be avoided.
  5. Legal documentation recognised by the government or relevant authorities must not be confused with documents issued by humanitarian agencies, such as registration documents, ration cards or transportation vouchers. Official documentation issued by authorities should not determine who is eligible for assistance from humanitarian organisations.

    Access to remedies
  6. People are entitled to seek legal and other redress from the government and relevant authorities for violations of their rights. This can include compensation for loss or restitution of property. They are also entitled to expect that the perpetrators of such violations will be brought to justice. This can play a major role in restoring trust and confidence among the affected populations. Humanitarian agencies may be able to assist people in accessing justice or refer the issues to agencies that are able to provide such support.
  7. Healthcare and rehabilitation support: People should be supported in accessing appropriate healthcare and other rehabilitation support following attacks, gender-based violence and related problems (see Essential health services – control of communicable diseases standard 3  and Essential health services – child health standards 1–2  ).
  8. Where remedial assistance is available from non-governmental sources, people should be helped to identify and access such assistance, where appropriate.

    Community-based and other psychosocial support
  9. Positive communal coping mechanisms such as culturally appropriate burials, religious ceremonies and practices, and non-harmful cultural and social practices should be supported.
  10. Activities for children: Where appropriate, communities should be encouraged to organise structured, supportive educational and protective activities for children through non-formal means such as child-friendly spaces. Community protection mechanisms should include self-help activities that promote psychosocial well-being.
  11. Help organise appropriate psychosocial support for survivors of violence. Ensure that survivors have access to community social networks and self-help activities. Access to community-based social support should be complemented by access to mental healthcare.
  12. Integrated support system: Those agencies working on psychosocial support and mental health in various sectors should collaborate to build an integrated system of support for the population (see Essential health services - mental health standard 1).
  13. Clinical support: Establish mechanisms for the referral of severely affected people for available clinical support.