Doctor of Philosophy
School of Law
Natural disasters strike every year, and they are often very harsh. It is scientifically proven that climate change is increasing the frequency of extreme weather events, such as hurricanes, cyclones, floods and droughts. So was the hurricane season 2017 one of the most devastating on the record, while in 2019 the strongest cyclone ever recorded to hit the African continent made landfall just a few weeks after the devasting cyclone Idai. Sadly, these phenomena are slowly becoming the new normal. The international law behind natural disasters is fragmented. The Geneva Conventions do not apply, since they are limited in their scope to armed conflicts. Therefore, also the ICRC has no mandate to ensure relief for the victims of natural disasters. However, this issue is currently being addressed. The ILC included a project, called Protection of Persons in the Event of Disasters, into their programme of work. A full set of articles was submitted to the UN General Assembly for treaty adoption in 2016.
Next to the fact that there is a legal uncertainty with regard to natural disasters, there is also the other fact that low-GHG-emitting developing States are more prone to disasters than are other States. It seems unfair that the poorest of the poor suffer the most from anthropogenic climate change triggered primarily by the conduct of developed States. At the same time, the victims of natural disasters are extremely reliant on the conduct of the affected States. In one possible case, the affected State is overwhelmed with the natural disaster and does not seek international help. This research focuses on such a case of injustice, and as such aims to answer the following questions:
(1) Do developed States and emerging markets have a responsibility under international law to financially assist disaster-prone developing States with regard to early warning mechanisms and post-disaster reconstruction?
(2) Does the by a disaster affected State affected by a disaster have an obligation under international law to provide early warning and humanitarian assistance to the affected population? If the affected State is not able to provide early warning and humanitarian assistance by itself, does it have an obligation to seek international assistance?
Birchler, Alexandra Martina, International Disaster Law – The Responsibility of States Before and in the Aftermath of a Disaster, Doctor of Philosophy thesis, School of Law, University of Wollongong, 2019. https://ro.uow.edu.au/theses1/674
Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.