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International Disaster Response Law in Relation to Other Branches of International Law

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International Disaster Response Law


This chapter examines the relationship between international disaster response law (IDRL) and some other branches of public international law that variously contribute to shape its form and substance. It is argued that IDRL should be construed and implemented along the lines of Human Rights Law, International Humanitarian Law, Refugee Law, Global Health Law, International Environmental Law, and the Law of International Development. The IDRL rules stem from traditional sources of public international law, such as custom and treaties, however, general principles and soft law play a major role in its gradual development. Under IDRL, the traditional principle of State sovereignty is being challenged by the duty of cooperating to assist disaster victims. Human Rights Law, as a corpus of basic rules applying to all situations, provides a catalog of non-derogable rights. International Humanitarian Law extensively stipulates how persons in need of assistance are to be treated. It is also the basis of the fundamental principles governing humanitarian assistance, i.e., humanity, impartiality, and neutrality. Especially, humanity prompts the expansion of the scope of the principle of non-refoulement to persons forced to migrate in the wake of disaster. State obligations regarding public health and environmental protection contribute to the avoidance of health emergencies and environmental harm, thus making disaster prevention and disaster response easier. Disaster Risk Reduction is a critical component of both IDRL and the Millennium Development Goals set by the international community in order to take decisive steps against poverty and to boost development.

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  1. 1.

    Dupuy 1998, Abbott and Snidal 2004.

  2. 2.

    For a review of the existing treaty law concerning IDRL see Chap. 1 by de Guttry in this volume.

  3. 3.

    IFRC 2007, Law and Legal Issues in International Disaster Response, 34–52.

  4. 4.

    van Hoof 1983, 148–150.

  5. 5.

    Id. at 188.

  6. 6.

    Declaration on the Inadmissibility of Intervention in the Domestic Affairs of States and the Protection of their Independence and Sovereignty, A/RES/2131(XX) of 21 December 1965; Declaration on the Inadmissibility of Intervention and Interference in the Internal Affairs of States, A/RES/36/103 of 9 December 1981.

  7. 7.

    Case concerning the military and paramilitary activities in and against Nicaragua (Nicaragua v. United States of America) Judgment of 27 June 1986, ICJ Rep. 1986, paras 202–209.

  8. 8.

    Draft Articles on Responsibility of States for Internationally Wrongful Acts adopted by the International Law Commission at its fifty-third session (2001), ILC Yearbook 2001 II Part Two, Article 20.

  9. 9.

    See Chap. 1 by de Guttry in this volume.

  10. 10.

    See Chap. 10 by Costas Trascasas in this volume, Sects. 10.3 and 10.4.

  11. 11.

    Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Co-operation among States in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, A/RES/2625(XXV) of 24 October 1970; Strengthening of the co-ordination of humanitarian emergency assistance of the United Nations, A/RES/46/182 of 19 December 1991, 5–7; Article 5 as provisionally adopted by the Drafting Committee of the International Law Commission on Protection of Persons in the Event of Disasters A/CN.4/L.758 of 24 July 2009.

  12. 12.

    Preamble to the 1927 Convention Establishing an International Relief Union. See Macalister-Smith 1981.

  13. 13.

    A/CN.4/L.758 of 24 July 2009, A/CN.4/L.794 of 20 July 2011. See Chap. 3 by Zorzi Giustiniani in this volume.

  14. 14.

    1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) Articles 12 para 3, 18 para 3, 21 and 22 para 2.

  15. 15.

    1950 Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR) Article 15 para 1; ICCPR Article 4 para 1; 1969 American Convention on Human Rights (ACHR) Article 27 para 1. See Oraá 1992, 96; Svensson-McCarty 1998, 371; Beyani 2000, 131–144; Viarengo 2005, 983; de Schutter 2010, 513.

  16. 16.

    ECHR Article 15 para 2; ICCPR Article 4 para 2; ACHR Article 27 para 2.

  17. 17.

    1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) Article 4.

  18. 18.

    ICESCR Article 1 para 1.

  19. 19.

    Cotula and Vidar 2002, 6.

  20. 20.

    See Chap. 14 by Sommario in this volume, Sect. 14.3.

  21. 21.

    IFRC 2007, Law and Legal Issues in International Disaster Response, 36.

  22. 22.

    See Chap. 11 by Venturini in this volume.

  23. 23.

    1949 Convention (I) for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field, Articles 12–18; 1949 Convention (II) for the Amelioration of the Condition of Wounded, Sick and Shipwrecked Members of Armed Forces at Sea, Articles 12–21; 1977 Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions (Protocol I), Articles 10–11; 1977 Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions (Protocol II), Articles 7–12.

  24. 24.

    GC I Articles 24–37, GC II Articles 36–40, AP I Articles 12–17.

  25. 25.

    GC IV Articles 13–46. E.g., the duty to allow the free passage of consignments of medical and hospital stores (Article 23), to take the necessary measures to ensure child welfare (Article 24) and to facilitate enquiries made by members of dispersed families (Article 26).

  26. 26.

    GC IV Articles 25, 30, 35.

  27. 27.

    GC IV Articles 79, 55, 56.

  28. 28.

    GC IV Articles 79–135. The Commentaries to the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols provide explanations and further elaboration of the rules cited in the text (, accessed 16 February 2012).

  29. 29.

    See ICRC 1965, Pictet 1985, 61–71.

  30. 30.

    Impartiality and non-discrimination are referred to separately by the current ILC draft: see Article 6 as provisionally adopted by the Drafting Committee of the International Law Commission on Protection of Persons in the Event of Disasters A/CN.4/L.7576 of 14 July 2010. See Chap. 3 by Zorzi Giustiniani in this volume.

  31. 31.

    See Boyle 1999, Hillgenberg 1999, Chinkin 2000, O’Connell 2000, Boyle and Chinkin 2007, 211–212.

  32. 32.

    Boyle 1999, 903.

  33. 33.

    Chinkin 2000, 31–32.

  34. 34.

    Klabbers 1998, d’Aspremont 2008.

  35. 35.

    The archetype resolution being that on Strengthening of the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Emergency Assistance, A/RES/46/82 of 19 December 1991. See Chap. 15 by Creta in this volume, Sect. 15.2.4.

  36. 36.

    Such as the 1994 Yokohama Strategy for a Safer World, the 2005 Hyogo Declaration and the 2005–2015 Hyogo Framework for Disaster Reduction. See Chaps. 8, 9 and 15 by Nicoletti, La Vaccara and Creta in this volume, Sects. 8.3, and 15.2.4, respectively.

  37. 37.

    United Nations Economic and Social Council, Commission on Human Rights, Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, E/CN.4/1998/53/Add.2 of 11 February 1998.

  38. 38.

    Civil-Military Relationship in Complex Emergencies, An IASC Reference Paper (2004). See Chap. 24 by Calvi Parisetti in this volume, Sect. 24.3.1.

  39. 39.

    IASC (2011). On the IASC Guidelines and similar non-governmental instruments see Chap. 16 by Bizzarri in this volume, Sect. 16.2.3.

  40. 40.

    The Sphere Project was launched in 1997 by a group of humanitarian NGOs and the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. See Chap. 16 by Bizzarri in this volume, Sect. 16.3.3 and Chap. 20 by De Siervo, Sect. 20.3.3.

  41. 41.

    IFRC (2007) Guidelines. See Chap. 23 by Silingardi in this volume, Sect. 23.3.2.

  42. 42.

    Such as the Oslo Guidelines (1994) and the MCDA Guidelines (2003). See Chap. 24 by Calvi Parisetti in this volume, Sect. 24.3.1.

  43. 43.

    The terms ‘environmental refugees’ or ‘environmentally displaced persons’ are often used to refer to those people who have been forced to leave their traditional habitat because of an environmental disruption, either natural or man-made (de Moor and Cliquet 2009, 8).

  44. 44.

    Luopajärvi 2003, 706–712; OCHA (2004); Phuong 2005, 56–65. See also Chap. 16 by Bizzarri in this volume, Sect. 16.2.3.

  45. 45.

    Luopajärvi 2003, 687–691, Phuong 2005, 117–141.

  46. 46.

    1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (CRSR); 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees.

  47. 47.

    CRSR Article 1 para A (2).

  48. 48.

    Unless their government willfully deprived them of assistance on one of the grounds set out in the refugee definition: see Kolmannskog and Myrstad 2009, 314 n 8.

  49. 49.

    CRSR Article 33 para 1.

  50. 50.

    Mandal 2005, 31–60, Betts 2010, 219 and 223.

  51. 51.

    McAdam 2006 n 9 and accompanying text.

  52. 52.

    See Kolmannskog and Myrstad 2009, 322 with reference to the UNCHR call for the suspension of return to the areas affected by the 2004 tsunami.

  53. 53.

    Betts 2010, 211 and 226.

  54. 54.

    World Health Organization (2006); see Keim 2011.

  55. 55.

    Fidler 1998, Jost 2004, 146.

  56. 56.

    Gostin 2008, 240; Acconci 2011, 8–10.

  57. 57.

    1948 Constitution of the World Health Organization, Article 28(i).

  58. 58.

    See Fidler and Gostin 2006; Acconci 2011, 352–354. On the UN Cluster Approach see Chap. 20 by De Siervo in this volume, Sect. 20.2.3.

  59. 59.

    World Health Organization, International Health Regulations (2005) Second Edition, Article 21. According to the WHO Constitution, regulations adopted by the Health Assembly are binding upon all WHO members except for those that notify rejection or reservations. The 2005 IHR entered into force on 15 June 2007 and they have since then acquired universal acceptance. See Accessed 10 February 2012.

  60. 60.

    IHR (2005) Articles 5 and 13. See Gostin 2008, 245–254, Rodier 2008, and Acconci 2011, 170–172.

  61. 61.

    IHR (2005) Articles 15, 16.

  62. 62.

    Sixty-fourth World Health Assembly, Strengthening national health emergency and disaster management capacities and resilience of health systems WHA64.10, 24 May 2011.

  63. 63.

    IHR (2005) Article 57 para 1.

  64. 64.

    Recently, the Nansen Conference on Climate Change and Displacement in the Twenty-first Century of 6–7 June 2011 focused on vulnerability, resilience and capacity for adaptation of communities in areas prone to disaster due to climate change as well as on the protection of displaced people. See Accessed 18 October 2011.

  65. 65.

    Bodanski 2010, 9–15.

  66. 66.

    Kamminga 1995, 111–131; Lang 1999, 157–172; Sands 2003, 231–290.

  67. 67.

    1979 Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution; 1989 Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal; 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change; 1994 United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in Those Countries Experiencing Serious Drought and/or Desertification, Particularly in Africa; 1997 Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change; 2001 Stockholm Convention on persistent organic pollutants.

  68. 68.

    See Chap. 8 by Nicoletti in this volume.

  69. 69.

    1998 Convention on the protection of the environment through criminal law, Council of Europe Treaty Series no. 172, Accessed 16 February 2012.

  70. 70.

    See Chap. 17 by Nifosi-Sutton in this volume.

  71. 71.

    Commission of the European Communities, Communication from the Commission on the precautionary principle, Brussels, 2 February 2000, COM(2000) 1 final.

  72. 72.

    Principle 7 of the United Nations Global Compact’s Ten principles (, accessed 16 February 2012). The Global Compact is a UN initiative directed to businesses to align their operations and practices with ten universally recognized principles in the fields of human rights, labor, environment and combating corruption. See Sahlin-Andersson 2004.

  73. 73.

    A/Res/55/2 (, accessed 16 February 2012). Section IV of the Millennium Declaration, entitled “Protecting Our Common Future”, explicitly recommends collective efforts to reduce the effects of natural and man-made disasters.

  74. 74. Accessed 16 February 2012.

  75. 75.

    UNDP 2004, 16.

  76. 76.

    Road map towards the implementation of the United Nations Millennium Declaration, Report of the Secretary–General, 6 September 2011, A/56/326. See also Chap. 9 by La Vaccara in this volume.

  77. 77.

    The Millennium Development Goals Report 2011, United Nations, New York 2011, 4–5.


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Venturini, G. (2012). International Disaster Response Law in Relation to Other Branches of International Law. In: de Guttry, A., Gestri, M., Venturini, G. (eds) International Disaster Response Law. T.M.C. Asser Press, The Hague, The Netherlands.

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