The roles that rule of law and human rights principles can and should play in the recovery process after a natural disaster deserve attention.
The label attached to the storm's victims has legal consequences for their treatment and the rights they may assert. Identifying them as "internally displaced persons" under international law, rather than "survivors," will ensure their legal rights and protections.
Although Hurrican Katrina was a force of nature, its aftermath was a man-made disaster. Man-made social inequities contributed to environmental justice implications that magnified this disaster.
A Truth Commission on Katrina would enable the United States to learn from the experience and prevent a governmental and nongovernmental default like it from occurring again.
Hurrican Katrina and its aftereffects destroyed the New Orleans indigent defense system, which was widely known to be one of the worst in the nation. Despite resistance, the New Orleans Public Defender's Office is on track to be better than it was before the storm.
The Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004 was one of the worst natural disasters in recorded human history, directly affecting fourteen countries. It marked a turning point for the global human rights movement.
Humanitarian relief from recent natural disasters met with many barriers, many of which are still present. Modernization and alignment of disaster relief policies are overdue, including an international protocol for rapid clearance of relief supplies.
Very few thought to come to the aid of those housed in the Orleans Parrish Prison, Templeman jail building, or House of Detention in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina struck. Five of the few who helped are profiled.
Some have been brave enough to blame the slow disaster response and continued lack of progress in New Orleans on the U.S. racial divide.