Vulnerability and the International Law Commission's Draft Articles on the protection of persons in the event of disasters

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This article ponders the possibilities existing for legal re-understandings of vulnerability and adopts the International Law Commission’s Draft Articles on the Protection of Persons in the Event of Disasters (2016) as its principal discursive context. Despite some promise and potential, the draft Articles retreated to conservative understandings of disaster-vulnerability and missed an opportunity for a sophisticated formulation. This article argues for disaster law’s engagement with contemporary social science research. The work of critical geographers, historians and anthropologists in political ecology is particularly apposite. By rejecting geophysical outlooks in favour of structuralist understandings of disaster vulnerability, such research facilitates consideration of inter-related histories and the role of economics in producing disaster-vulnerability. This article argues that such perspectives allow for reconsideration of current legal understandings regarding disaster-vulnerability (particularly in relation to international cooperation and risk and reduction) and thereby offer some promise for enriching disaster law’s comprehensiveness and relevance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)573-610
Number of pages38
JournalInternational and Comparative Law Quarterly
Issue number3
Early online date18 Jun 2019
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jul 2019


  • vulnerability
  • disasters
  • International Law Commission
  • political ecology
  • interdisciplinarity

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