A call to alms? natural disasters, R2P, duties of cooperation and uncharted consequences

Craig Allan, Therese O'Donnell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


This article, which was initially prompted by Myanmar’s behaviour following Cyclone Nargis in May 2008, considers affected states’ responses to natural disasters, as regards the receipt of international aid-assistance. Such catastrophic phenomena provide a context for re-examining the boundaries of an affected state’s sovereign discretion, and its fettering via concepts such as Responsibility to Protect (R2P) and duties of international cooperation. Increasingly commonplace pronouncements regarding international solidarity and responsibilities toward the plight of disaster-stricken populations are reflected in the International Law Commission’s current study in this area. Part I briefly tracks post-Cold War hawkish approaches to enforcing human rights and the emergence of R2P. Part II considers the fractured nature of international disaster response law which provided the opportunity for R2P’s invocation post-Nargis. Despite its eventual, explicit, exclusion from application to natural disasters per se, Part III maintains that R2P’s rhetorical influence persisted, both in diplomatic parlance and in the current ILC Draft Articles which embolden an international cooperative duty, particularly as regards the duties of an affected state. As well as critiquing this new articulation of co-operation (especially as regards freedom to reject aid) and its supposed distinctiveness from R2P, the consequences resulting from an affected state’s dereliction of its protective duty are pondered, as is the assertion that the proposed ILC duties present no major threat to an affected state’s sovereignty.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)337-371
Number of pages35
JournalJournal of Conflict and Security Law
Issue number3
Early online date18 Sept 2012
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • natural disasters
  • responsibility to protect
  • emergency aid


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