The Right to Know

The role of transparency, access to information and freedom of expression in overcoming disasters

Authored by: Alice Riccardi

Routledge Handbook of Human Rights and Disasters

Print publication date:  March  2018
Online publication date:  March  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138069916
eBook ISBN: 9781315115238
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter investigates the emerging approach to the right to know in international disaster law, by focusing on its two components – i.e. the right to access to State-held disaster information, and to be proactively informed by States. As to the former, a clear trend exists granting access to everybody, irrespective of an interest to be stated. Hence, the right to access disaster information is becoming an autonomous one with a marked collective dimension. Moreover, the application of the principle of transparency to the human rights realm will prompt further developments, e.g. binding States to collect disaster information. As to the right to be proactively informed, it is commonly portrayed as a procedural duty of States to prevent infringements upon other rights. However, analysed sources reveal two trends. First, States shall monitor hazard exposure to inform the population whenever a given threshold of seriousness is reached. Second, the traditional idea that natural disasters are always unpredictable (narrowing States’ prevention duties) is losing ground. Dissemination duties applicable to industrial activities should be transplanted into natural disaster scenarios, when the risk is inherent to a territory. Hence, the population should be regularly updated with, inter alia, contingency plans and location-based disaster information.

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