Can legal frameworks for disaster response be improved?

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Cubie, Dug
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University College Cork
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We are all familiar with images of search and rescue teams, medics, and engineers arriving to help after a disaster, such as following the March 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami or the massive floods in Pakistan in July 2010. In recognition of the devastating impact natural or human-made disasters can have on individuals and communities, an estimated US $7billion was spent globally in 2008 on emergency assistance including food, shelter and medical care. The mere words “Pompeii”, “Krakatoa” or “Chernobyl” conjure up scenes of death and destruction. So how can lawyers assist in disaster responses? Can legal frameworks for disaster response be improved? Cynics may say that things always get more complicated when lawyers become involved. Rules, regulations and red tape — surely all of these legal tools only delay vital life saving assistance? Yet legal practitioners at a national and international level are increasingly aware that we have a lot to contribute to ensure that humanitarian assistance is delivered efficiently and effectively to people severely affected by natural or human-made disasters. My research examines the evolving international legal mechanisms to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance following disasters. Drawing on international humanitarian, refugee and human rights law, there is increasing discussion of a “right to humanitarian assistance”. Yet rights that are not enforceable are at best aspirational, so my research will determine whether such a right actually exists and what it might mean in practice.
International legal mechanisms , Delivery of humanitarian assistance , Disasters , Right to humanitarian assistance
Cubie, D. (2011) 'Can legal frameworks for disaster response be improved?', The Boolean, 2, pp. 36-40. Available at: (Accessed: 8 February 2023)
© 2011, the Author.