NLIHC and Disaster Law Project Submit Final Recommendations to UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

NLIHC and the Disaster Law Project (DLP) submitted final recommendations to the United Nations’ International Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) on July 15 regarding disaster recovery policies the committee should review during its assessment of U.S. policies. The document sets out a series of recommendations for ways the federal government can remove racial discrimination from the current system of disaster response and recovery. When disasters strike, the lowest-income survivors – who, because of generations of racist policies, are disproportionately people of color, as well as seniors and people with disabilities – are often hardest hit, have the fewest resources, and face the longest, steepest paths to recovery. The document is the second submission to ICERD from NLIHC and DLP; in May of this year, both organizations submitted suggested themes for ICERD’s review of efforts by the U.S. federal government to eliminate racial discrimination.

“Poverty and race are closely linked determinants of disaster exposure and adverse disaster outcomes that reflect historical legacies of racial injustice and exploitation,” reads the report. “Despite progress in outlawing the most blatant forms of racial discrimination, these disparities persist along racial lines in matters related to disaster resilience and recovery capacity, implicating U.S. compliance with central ICERD obligations.” The report includes multiple recommendations for meeting those obligations, calling on the federal government to:

  • Ensure that disaster resources, including evacuation information, emergency shelter, and means of transportation, are available to individuals in low-income minority communities, and accessible to non-English speakers.
  • Ensure that appropriate emergency shelter is provided on a non-discriminatory basis to individuals who are homeless, and those involved in the criminal justice system.
  • Adopt legislation that would automatically suspend immigration enforcement during a declared emergency of disaster.
  • Prioritize equity in disaster response and recovery programs to protect the right of renters and people who are homeless, and to ensure that minority households are not disadvantaged compared to wealthier, white homeowners.
  • Codify a positive right to housing, including a property interest in continuing post-disaster housing assistance, under appropriate disaster recovery statutes and regulations.
  • Clarify that both direct and indirect racial discrimination is prohibited under relevant provisions of the Stafford Act, and agency implementing regulations. 
  • Require a “one-for-one” replacement of federally subsidized rental units that are damaged or destroyed by a disaster, and codify the Disaster Housing Assistance Program (DHAP) to provide comprehensive housing assistance and case-management to displaced disaster survivors.
  • Establish a positive right to legal representation following a disaster, while expanding access to pro-bono assistance and adequately funding disaster legal services programs.
  • Require transparency by directing FEMA to collect and disclose disaggregated data on disaster benefit applications and appeals, and to make available demographic data on the impact of disasters and federal recovery efforts. Processes should be created to allow access to response and recovery data for research purposes.   

You can read the report here: