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  • Thérèse O'Donnell (a1)


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 interrelated 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.

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Many thanks to Professor Dino Kritsiotis of the University of Nottingham and Professors Neil Hutton, Aileen McHarg and Kenneth Norrie and Dr Saskia Vermeylen of the University of Strathclyde. All responsibility for errors and omissions resides with the author.



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2 Webster, E, Dignity, Degrading Treatment and Torture in Human Rights Law (Routledge 2018); Leher, S, Dignity and Human Rights: Language Philosophy and Social Realizations (Routledge 2018); Capps, P, Human Dignity and the Foundations of International Law (Hart 2009); Debes, R (ed), Dignity: A History (Oxford University Press 2017); Bal, M, Dignity in the Workplace: New Theoretical Perspectives (Springer 2017). For overlaps see Masferrer, A and García-Sánchez, E (eds), Human Dignity of the Vulnerable in the Age of Rights: Interdisciplinary Perspectives (Springer 2016).

3 O'Donnell, T, ‘Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea? A Reflection on the Legal Dilemmas Presented by the Communications Decency Act 1996 and Reno v ACLU & Others’ (1998) 27 Anglo-AmLR 397. Eastaugh, C, Unconstitutional Solitude: Solitary Confinement and the US Constitution's Evolving Standards of Decency (Palgrave MacMillan 2017); Ofreneo, R, Asia and the Pacific: Advancing Decent Work Amidst Deepening Inequalities (ITUC-Asia Pacific 2013).

4 O'Donnell, T and Allan, C, ‘A Duty of Solidarity? The International Law Commission's Draft Articles and the Right to Offer Assistance in Disasters’ in Breau, S and Samuel, K (eds), Research Handbook on Disasters and International Law (Elgar 2016) 453; Steup, M, Knowledge, Truth, and Duty: Essays on Epistemic Justification, Responsibility, and Virtue (Oxford University Press 2000); Bascom, J, Ethics or Science of Duty (Putnam's Sons 1879).

5 Gibb, C, ‘A Critical Analysis of Vulnerability’ (2018) 28 International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction 327.

6 See also Susan Marks’ caution regarding ‘root causes’ discourse; Marks, SHuman Rights and Root Causes’ (2011) 74(1) MLR 57, 77–8.

7 R Woolsey, ‘The Politics of Vulnerability: 1980–83’ Foreign Affairs 805.

8 World Bank, ‘Tackling Inequality Vital to Ending Extreme Poverty by 2030’ <>.

9 Sivakumaran, S, ‘Armed Conflict-Related Detention of Particularly Vulnerable Persons: Challenges and Possibilities’ (2018) 94 International Law Studies 39.

10 See for example Bühlmann, F, ‘Trajectories of Vulnerability: A Sequence-Analytical Approach’ in Tillmann, R, Voorpostel, M and Farago, P (eds), Social Dynamics in Swiss Society. Life Course Research and Social Policies, vol 9 (Springer 2018).

11 S Sengupta and R Minder, ‘António Guterres Pledges to Help Vulnerable as Secretary General’ New York Times (6 October 2016).

12 A Cortina and J Conill, ‘Ethics of Vulnerability’ in Masferrer and García-Sánchez (n 2) 45.

13 UN Doc A/71/10, UNYBILC (2016) vol II, Pt Two, para 48.

14 Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its Fifty-Eighth Session Official Records of the General Assembly, Sixty-First Session, Supp No 10, UN Doc A/61/10, para 257.

15 ILC, Sixty-Third Session, UN Doc A/66/10, para 285 at 253.

16 UNGA Res 71/141 of 13 December 2016 and UNGA Res 73/209 of 20 December 2018 which reminds States of the ILC's recommendation for a convention and the importance of State comments on the draft Articles.

17 E Valencia-Ospina, Eighth Report on the Protection of Persons in the Event of Disasters, UN Doc A/CN.4/697, paras 412–413; E Valencia-Ospina, Preliminary Report on the Protection of Persons in the Event of Disasters, UN Doc A/CN.4/598 (5 May 2008) para 60; E Valencia-Ospina, Fourth Report on the Protection of Persons in the Event of Disasters, A/CN.4/643, para 25, citing UK and Russian views (A/C.6/65SR.24 and A/C.6/65SR.23 respectively).

18 Kritsiotis, D, ‘Imagining the International Community’ (2002) 13(1) EJIL 961.

19 Hoffman, S and Oliver-Smith, A, The Angry Earth (Routledge 1999) 6.

20 The 1986 Convention on Assistance in the case of a Nuclear Accident and the 1998 Tampere Convention. See the Special Rapporteur's Preliminary Report, on the pot pourri of relevant multilateral and bilateral agreements, material drafted by expert bodies such as the Red Cross, internal UN rules, regulations and resolutions (notably UNGA Res 46/182 of 1991) and regional arrangements. See also UN General Assembly resolutions and political declarations. Preliminary Report, A/CN.4/598 (n 17) paras 33–35, 37 and ILC Report Fifty-Eighth Session, A/61/10 Annex C (n 14) paras 12–15. Key soft law instruments include the 1994 Mohonk Criteria for Humanitarian Assistance in Complex Emergences; the 2007 Guidelines for the Domestic Facilitation and Regulation of International Disaster Relief and Initial Recovery Assistance (the IFRC/IDRL Guidelines); the San Remo Principles (infra n 95); Oslo Guidelines on the Use of Foreign Military and Defence Assets in Disaster Relief (2007); Stockholm Principles and Good Practice of Humanitarian Donorship (2003) and the Sphere Project, Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Humanitarian Response.

21 Despite the establishment in 1927 of the International Relief Union and treaty attempts in 1984, systematization was unachievable, A/61/10 Annex C, (n 14) paras 18–23; KN Bookmiller, ‘Closing “the Yawning Gap”? International Disaster Response Law at Fifteen’ in Breau and Samuel (n 4) 51. Fidler, DDisaster Relief and Governance after the Indian Ocean Tsunami: What Role for International Law?’ (2005) 6 MJIL 458.

22 Kälin, W, ‘The Human Rights Dimension of Natural or Human-made Disasters’ (2012) 55 GermYbkIntlL 119.

23 Bookmiller (n 21) 46.

24 See IFRC, International Disaster Response Laws (IDRL): Project Report 2002–2003 (2–6 December 2003); ILC Report, Fifty-Eighth Session A/61/10, Annex C (n 14) para 8, 464–5; and the Analytical Guide to the Work of the International Law Commission (16 June 2016) <>.

25 Hyogo Framework for Action 2005–2015: Building the Resilience of Nations and Communities to Disasters (A/CONF.206/6); Handmer, J, Loh, E and Choong, W, ‘Using Law to Reduce Vulnerability to Natural Disasters’ (2007) 14 Georgetown Journal on Poverty Law and Policy 13.

26 Valencia-Ospina, Preliminary Report, A/CN.4/598 (n 17) paras 12, 26, 51, 62.

27 OHCHR, Frequently Asked Questions on a Human Rights-Based Approach to Development Cooperation 15 (2006) <>.

28 Charlesworth, H, ‘International Law: A Discipline of Crisis’ (2002) 65(3) MLR 377.

29 Draft Art 2 Commentary para 7, A/71/10 (n 13) 5.

30 Aguirre, BE, ‘Dialectics of Vulnerability and Resilience’ (2007) 14 Georgetown Journal on Poverty Law and Policy 39.

31 Preliminary Report, A/CN.4/598 (n 17) para 12.

32 Draft Article 5 Commentary para 5, A/71/10 (n 13) 13.

33 ibid 13–14.

34 UNICEF, Human Rights-Based Approach to Programming <>.

35 ILC Report Fifty-Eighth Session A/61/10 Annex C, (n 14) para 34, 478–80 ‘[h]uman suffering is to be addressed wherever it exists, and the dignity and rights of all victims should be respected and protected’.

36 Whereby provision of humanitarian assistance is based on needs assessment, A/61/10 Annex C (n 14) para 34, 478–80.

37 Draft art 6 Commentary para 5, A/71/10 (n 13). See also, UN Doc A/66/10 (n 15) 254.

38 Draft art 6 Commentary para 5, A/71/10 (n 13).

39 2007 Guidelines for the Domestic Facilitation and Regulation of International Disaster Relief and Initial Recovery Assistance (the IFRC/IDRL Guidelines) Article 4, para 3(a).

40 See art II para 3 of the Institute of International Law, Resolution on Humanitarian Assistance (2 September 2003) [hereinafter Bruges Resolution].

41 UNGA Res 69/135 of 12 December 2014, para 32.

42 Draft art 5 Commentary para 8, A/71/10 (n 13).

43 Action 2005–2015: Building the Resilience of Nations and Communities to Disasters A/CONF.206/6 and Corr.1, chap. I, resolution 2, para 13(d).

44 Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai, Japan, on 18 March 2015, <>. See broadly para 16 which stresses disaster prevention and reduction via strategies involving economic, structural, legal, social, health, cultural, educational, environmental, technological, political and institutional measures.

45 See also J Fowler, ‘Empower Women to Reduce Disaster Risk’ (8 March 2017) <>.

46 For an account of this terrain, Nicoletti, B, ‘The Prevention of Natural and Man-Made Disasters: What Duties for States?’ in de Guttry, A, Gestri, M and Venturini, G (eds), International Disaster Response Law (TMC Asser 2012) 177.

47 Draft Art 9 Commentary, A/71/10 (n 13) para 3.

48 Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction in 2013, fourth session, Geneva (19–23 May 2013).

49 Draft Art 9 Commentary, paras 5 and 6, A/71/10 (n 13).

50 ibid para 17.

51 ibid para 3.

52 Sendai Framework (n 44) para 19(a).

53 ‘In the application of the present draft articles, States shall, as appropriate, cooperate among themselves, with the United Nations, with the components of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, and with other assisting actors.’

54 Allan and O'Donnell (n 4); and O'Donnell, T and Allan, C, ‘Identifying Solidarity: the ILC project on the protection of persons in disasters and human rights’ (2016) 49(1) GeoWashIntlLRev 53.

55 Such as humanitarian assistance, coordination of international relief actions and communications, and making available relief personnel, equipment and goods, and scientific, medical and technical resources. See also Draft Art 16 regarding an affected State's duties to protect relief personnel, equipment and goods.

56 For example, insufficient/corrupt building practices (see the examples of earthquakes in Turkey and China, notably in Szechuan in 2008) lax health and safety processes and safeguards (Oneryildiz v Turkey (2005) 41 EHRR 20); poor infrastructure, and poorly-resourced health services.

57 Franck, T, The Power of Legitimacy Among Nations (Oxford University Press 1990).

58 H Charlesworth (n 28).

59 D Nix-Stevenson, ‘Human Response to Natural Disasters’ (2013) July–September SAGE Open 1.1.

60 Elliott, JR et al. , ‘Himalayan Megathrust Geometry and Relation to Topography Revealed by the Gorkha Earthquake’ (2016) 9 Nature Geoscience 174.

61 ‘Cyclone Disaster, 01, May 2008’, Keesing's Record of World Events (1931–2015) (2008), vol 54(5) (May) 48576.

62 ‘Natural Disasters in Indonesia’ <>; ‘Indonesia Tsunami Relief Efforts Hit by Infrastructure Problems’ Financial Times (30 September 2018); ‘A Tsunami Strikes a Poor Part of Indonesia’ The Economist (30 September 2018).

63 R Drayton, ‘The Wealth of the West was Built on Africa's Exploitation’ The Guardian (20 August 2005).

64 J Purdy, ‘The Unequal Distribution of Catastrophe in North Carolina’ The New Yorker (18 September 2018).

65 UNCESCR, Concluding Observations on the Third Periodic Report of Japan, E/C.12/JPN/CO/3, para 24.

66 For example see the preamble to the Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which notes that parties should, when taking action to address climate change, respect, promote and consider their respective obligations on human rights, the right to health, the rights of indigenous peoples, local communities, migrants, children, persons with disabilities and people in vulnerable situations.

67 (including discrimination based on political opinion) ibid para 18.

68 UN Doc A/CN.4/SR.3054, 19, UN Doc A/65/10, para 312. See art II(3) of the Bruges Resolution (n 40).

69 E/C.12/1997/8 para 13. See also art 23 of Geneva Convention IV 1949 which mandates that all parties allow ‘free passage of all consignments of essential foodstuffs, clothing and tonics intended for children under fifteen, expectant mothers and maternity cases’.

70 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child arts 6, 24(2) and 27.

71 Art 11 of the 2006 International Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities obliges States, in consonance with their existing international obligations, to ensure the protection and safety of such persons in risky situations, including natural disasters.

72 ‘UN Offers Help to US in Aftermath of Hurricane Katrina's Devastation’ <>.

73 ILC Report, Fifty-eighth Session, UN Doc A/61/10 (n 14).

74 Valencia-Ospina, Preliminary Report (n 17) para 14.

75 E Valencia-Ospina, Second Report on the Protection of Persons in the Event of Disasters UN Doc A/CN.4/615, para 50.

76 Draft Art 2 Commentary, A/71/10 (n 13) para 6

77 ‘[i]f a Nation is suffering from famine, all those who have provisions to spare should assist it in its need, without, however, exposing themselves to scarcity … To give assistance in such dire straits is so instinctive an act of humanity that hardly any civilized Nation is to be found which would absolutely refuse to do so … Whatever be the calamity affecting a Nation, the same help is due to it.’ E de Vattel, Vol. III The Law of Nations or the Principles of Natural Law Applied to the Conduct and to the Affairs of Nations and of Sovereigns (Charles G Fenwick trans, Carnegie Inst. of Wash. 1916) (1758) 115.

78 ‘[W]hen the occasion arises, every Nation should give its aid to further the advancement of other Nations and save them from disaster and ruin, so far as it can do so without running too great a risk.’ Vattel ibid; see also ILC, Fifty-Eighth Session, Annex C, UN Doc A/61/10, (n 14) para 18, 472.

79 See Bookmiller (n 21) 46, 48; and Walker, P and Maxwell, DG, Shaping the Humanitarian World (Routledge 2008).

80 Fatemi, F et al. , ‘Social Vulnerability Indicators in Disasters: Findings from a Systematic Review’ (2017) 22 International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction 219.

81 E Valencia-Ospina, Fifth Report on the Protection of Persons in the Event of Disasters, UN Doc A/CN.4/652, paras 81, 52, 68; ILC, Report on the Work of Its Sixty-Fourth Session, para 57, UN Doc A/67/10, at 86 (2012); Valencia-Ospina Eighth Report (n 17) A/CN.4/697, 74–78.

82 Draft Art 7, A/71/10 (n 13).

83 Draft Art 13(2), A/71/10 (n 13).

84 Draft Art 1 Commentary, para 3, A/71/10 (n 13).

85 Ali, SF, Governing Disasters: Engaging Local Populations in Humanitarian Relief (Cambridge University Press 2016) 54–60, 73–5.

86 Bakewell, O, ‘Uncovering Local Perspectives on Humanitarian Assistance and Its Outcomes’ (2000) 24(2) Disasters 103.

87 Alfredsson, G and Macalister-Smith, P (eds), The Living Law of Nations: Essays on Refugees, Minorities, Indigenous Peoples and the Human Rights of Other Vulnerable Groups in Memory of Atle Grahl-Madsen (Engel 1996). Reyes, CL, ‘Gender, Law, and Detention Policy: Unexpected Effects on the Most Vulnerable Immigrants’ (2010) 25 Wisconsin Journal of Law, Gender and Society 301. See also Flores, LA Fisher, ‘“Protecting the Vulnerable Among Us” Notario Fraud and a Private Right of Action under the Texas DTPA’ (2015) 19 Journal of Consumer & Commercial Law 28.

88 Dausab, Y, ‘Access to Justice: The Use of International Law Clinics to Advance the Case for Vulnerable Members of Society’ (2011) 6 MdJIntlL 8; Padilla, J, ‘Lawyering Against Power: The Risks of Representing Vulnerable and Unpopular Communities’ (2012) 11 Seattle Journal. for Social Justice 173; Wilke, C and Willis, P, ‘The Exploitation of Vulnerability: Dimensions of Citizenship and Rightlessness in Canada's Security Certificate Legislation’ (2008) 26 Windsor Yearbook of Access to Justice 25.

89 Misra, N, ‘The Push and Pull of Globalization: How the Global Economy Makes Migrant Workers Vulnerable to Exploitation’ (2007) 4(3) Human Rights Brief 2.

90 McNeil, K, ‘The Vulnerability of Indigenous Land Rights in Australia and Canada’ (2004) 42 OsgoodeHallLJ 271.

91 Levine, C (ed), A Death in the Family: Orphans of the HIV Epidemic (UHF 1993).

92 1998 International Criminal Court Statute art 68(1) and art 43 regarding the Victims and Witnesses Unit (VWU). The U.N. Security Council's Arria-Formula Meeting on Vulnerable Groups in Conflict: ISIL's Targeting of LGBTI Individuals’ (2016) 48 NYUJIntlL&Pol 1191.

93 Henckaerts, J-M and Doswald-Beck, L, Customary International Humanitarian Law Vol I: Rules (Cambridge University Press 2005) (ICRC Study). For particular detail on specific treaty provisions see art 23 of Geneva Convention IV, art 70(2) of Additional Protocol I, art 18(2) of Additional Protocol II, and UNSC Res 1296(2000). The 2005 ICRC customary study also maintained that host States must not refuse assistance from humanitarian organizations ‘on arbitrary grounds’ 197. More generally, art 30 Geneva Convention IV allows protected persons to make aid-applications to the ICRC, national associations and any assisting organization. Art 38 provides that protected persons should be enabled to receive relief sent to them. Art 60 Geneva Convention IV, generally prohibits occupying powers from diverting relief consignments from their intended purposes (see also arts 61 and 62).

94 Geneva Convention IV art 63.

95 International Institute of Humanitarian Law, ‘Guiding Principles on the Right to Humanitarian Assistance’ (1993) 33 (297) IRRC 521,

96 See also Principle 6 which notes that in the event of refusal of either offers of assistance, or access to the victims when humanitarian access is agreed upon, States and organizations concerned may ‘undertake all necessary steps to ensure such access’ according to humanitarian and human rights principles.

97 Allan, C and O'Donnell, T, ‘A Call to Alms?: Natural Disasters, R2P, Duties of Cooperation and Uncharted Consequences’ (2012) 17(3) JC&SL 337.

98 1949 Geneva Conventions Common arts 2 and 3 and Additional Protocols I and II.

99 M Moseley, ‘Convergent Catastrophe: Past Patterns and Future Implications of Collateral Natural Disasters in the Andes’ in Hoffman and Oliver-Smith (n 19) 59.

100 Allan, C and O'Donnell, T, ‘An Offer You Cannot Refuse? Natural Disasters, the Politics of Aid Refusal and Potential Legal Implications’ (2013) 5(1) Amsterdam Law Forum 36.

101 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) (1966) art 6; see also Natural Disaster: Mudslide – Positive Obligations – arts 2, 13 and art.1 of Protocol 1’ (2008) 4 EHRLR 541; Stallworthy, M, ‘Human Rights Challenges and Adequacy of State Responses to Natural Disaster’ (2009) 11(2) EnvLRev 123; and Ford, SIs the Failure to Respond Appropriately to a Natural Disaster a Crime Against Humanity? The Responsibility to Protect and Individual Criminal Responsibility in the Aftermath of Cyclone Nargis’ (2010) 38 Denver Journal of International Law and Policy 227.

102 ICESCR arts 11, 12, 14(2); Barber, R, ‘Protecting the Right to Housing in the Aftermath of Natural Disaster: Standards in International Human Rights Law’ (2008) 20(3) IJRL 432; and art 2 of both ICESCR and ICCPR.

103 B Oskin, Japan Earthquake and Tsunami of 2011: Facts and Information, (7 May 2015) <>.

104 Aginam, O, ‘From Isolationism to Mutual Vulnerability and Back: International Law and Unfair Distribution of Global Disease Burdens’ (2001) 95 AmSoc'yIntlLProc 58.

105 Fineman, M, ‘Vulnerability and Inevitable Inequality’ (2017) 4 Oslo Law Review 133; MacIntyre, A, Dependent Rational Animals (Bloomsbury 2009).

106 M Crock, ‘The Protection of Vulnerable Groups’ in Breau and Samuel (n 4) 383, 383–7.

107 ‘Massive Earthquake Strikes Chile’ <>.

108 Report on the 2010 Chilean Earthquake and Tsunami Response by the American Red Cross Multidisciplinary Team <>.

109 Roughly 20 per cent of the country's population, <>.

110 <>. See also Sewordor, E et al. , ‘Challenges to Mobilising Resources for Disaster Recovery and Reconstruction: Perspectives of the Haitian Diaspora’ (2019) 43(2) Disasters 336, 338.

112 Borgen Project (n 110).

114 ‘Impact of the 12 January Earthquake’ <>.

115 By July 2011 5,899 had died as a result of the outbreak, and 216,000 were infected, <>.

116 Piarroux, R et al. , ‘Understanding the Cholera Epidemic, Haiti’ (2011) 17(7) Emerg Infect Dis. 1161. ‘Secretary-General Apologizes for United Nations Role in Haiti Cholera Epidemic, Urges International Funding of New Response to Disease’ <>. A Sidder, ‘How Cholera Spread So Quickly through Haiti’ National Geographic (18 August 2016).

117 Butterbaugh, L, ‘Why Did Katrina Hit Women So Hard?’ (2005) 35(9/10) Off Our Backs 17

118 Nix-Stevenson (n 59) 1.

119 Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee on the Second and Third U.S. Reports to the Committee (2006) UN Doc CCPR/C/USA/CO/3 (2006). See also Rivera, J and Miller, DS, ‘Continually Neglected: Situating Natural Disasters in the African American Experience’ (2007) 37(4) Journal of Black Studies 502.

120 For discussion on the engagement of local populations post-disaster see Ali (n 85) 87–95, 265–70 and 273–8.

121 See arts 6 and 26 of the ICCPR. See also Ali (n 85) 270–2.

122 See generally Allan and O'Donnell (n 4), (n 97) and (n 100).

123 See Valencia-Ospina, Second Report, A/CN.4/615 (n 75) para 49.

124 Valencia-Ospina, Eighth Report (n 17) para 69; Draft Art 3's Commentary, A/71/10 (n 13) para 5.

125 Draft Art 1 Commentary, A/71/10 (n 13) para 2 and Valencia-Ospina, Eighth Report (n 17) para 88. Some causes are accidental, some not; see Davis, M, Late Victorian Holocausts: El Niño Famines and the Making of the Third World (Verso 2001) 279.

126 ‘such a distinction could be artificial and difficult to sustain in practice in view of the complex interaction of different causes leading to disasters’ Valencia-Ospina, Eighth Report (n 17) para 47, and Draft Art 3 Commentary, A/71/10 (n 13) para 4

127 ‘If the ‘root causes’ discourse that has emerged within human rights circles reveals some aspects of the explanation for human rights abuse, … it can also conceal other aspects. In particular, … flaws have been illuminated at the level of law, procedure and policy. Yet these flaws have been made to seem like simple misunderstandings or oversights, deficiencies of leadership or accountability, or quirks of local history or culture. The idea that they may themselves be explicable with reference to some wider systemic context has been mostly removed from view. For all the insistence that human rights abuses and the vulnerabilities which expose people to them are man-made disasters, the drift of our analysis is that natural disaster is the model on which the explanatory effort is imaginatively constructed.’ Marks (n 6).

128 A Sen, The Idea of Justice (Penguin 2009).

129 Nussbaum, MC, Creating Capabilities (Belknap Press 2011).

130 Lyster, R, Climate Justice and Disaster Law (Cambridge University Press 2015) xix, 105–7.

131 See Thompson, J, Intergenerational Justice (Routledge 2013).

132 See generally M Davis (n 125) 279–310 (for an excellent analysis of the production of vulnerability and underdevelopment).

133 I Macdonald, ‘France's Debt of Dishonour to Haiti’ The Guardian (16 August 2010).

134 <>. See also politically motivated US involvement in Haiti and its relationship to the latter's condition in 2010 which may suggest its own obligation of reparations. B Quigley, ‘Why the US Owes Haiti Billions’ <>.

135 Lyster (n 130) 106.

137 ‘Poverty is defined by historical processes that deprive people of access to resources while vulnerability is signified by historical processes that deprive people of the means of coping with hazard without incurring damaging losses that leave them physically weak, economically impoverished, socially dependent, humiliated and psychologically harmed’, Bankoff, GRendering the World Unsafe: ‘Vulnerability’ as Western Discourse’ (2001) 25(1) Disasters 19, 25 citing Chambers (1989) 1. Vulnerability has since been helpfully categorized into six distinctive types: economic; technological; residual (lack of modernization); delinquent (corruption, negligence); newly generated and total (general precarity) Wisner, B and Alexander, D, ‘Vulnerability’ in Penuel, K, Statler, M and Hagen, R (eds), Encyclopedia of Crisis Management (Sage 2013) 980–3.

138 Drayton, R, The Caribbean and the Making of the Modern World (Penguin 2016).

139 ‘In the application of the present draft articles, States shall, as appropriate, cooperate among themselves, with the United Nations, with the components of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, and with other assisting actors.’

140 Johnson, R, ‘Periods of Peril: Windows of Vulnerability and Other Myths’ (1983) 61(4) Foreign Affairs 950.

141 Wisner (n 1).

142 Gibb (n 5) 328 drawing on Hewitt, The Idea of Calamity in a Technocratic Age’ in Hewitt, K (ed), Interpretations of Calamity (Allen and Unwin 1983).

143 Gibb (n 5) 328 drawing on, among others, Giddens, A, ‘Risk and Responsibility’ (1999) 62(1) MLR 1 and Forsyth, T, Critical Political Ecology (Routledge 2003).

144 Gibb (n 5) 330 drawing on Pelling, M, ‘Natural Disasters?’ in Castree, N and Braun, B (eds), Social Nature (Blackwell 2001).

145 See G Bankoff, ‘The Tale of the Three Little Pigs: Taking Another Look at Vulnerability in the Light of the Indian Ocean Tsunami and Hurricane Katrina’ <>; and Gibb (n 5) 330, drawing on N Smith, ‘There's No Such Thing as a Natural Disaster, Understanding Katrina: Perspectives from the Social Sciences’ (Social Science Research Council: 2006).

146 Poorly designed and constructed buildings, inadequate protection of assets, lack of public information and awareness, limited official recognition of risks and preparedness measures, and disregard for wise environmental management.

147 2009 UNISDR Terminology on Disaster Risk Reduction <>.

148 UNGA Res 69/284.

149 Report of the Open-ended Intergovernmental Expert Working Group on Indicators and Terminology Relating to Disaster Risk Reduction (2016) A/71/644.

150 ‘The conditions determined by physical, economic, social and environmental factors, which increase the susceptibility of a community to the impacts of a hazard.’ This repeated the 2005–2015 Hyogo Framework for Action definition (n 25).

151 Wisner (n 1).

152 Davis, M, ‘The Political Ecology of Famine’ in Peet, R (ed), Liberation Ecologies (2nd edn, Routledge 2004) 44, 53.

153 Wisner, B et al. , At Risk: Natural Hazards, People's Vulnerability and Disasters (2nd edn, Routledge 2004)

154 Hewitt, K, Interpretations of Calamity (Allen and Unwin 1983).

155 Gibb (n 5) 327; see also K O'Brien et al., ‘Why Different Interpretations of Vulnerability Matter in Climate Change Discourses’ Climate Policy 7(1) (2007) 73–88. See also Wisner et al. (n 153).

156 See for example the ‘spaces of vulnerability’ model, Gibb (n 5) 329, citing Watts, M and Bohle, H, ‘Hunger, Famine and the Space of Vulnerability’ (1993) 30(2) GeoJournal 117. See also Wisner et al. (n 153) and the pressure and release model.

157 Robbins, P, Political Ecology (2nd edn, Wiley-Blackwell 2012); for illustrations see also Gould, KA, Jacob, MMG and Remes, AC, ‘Beyond “Natural Disasters Are Not Natural”: The Work of State and Nature after the 2010 Earthquake in Chile’ (2016) 23 Journal of Political Ecology 93; Walker, P, ‘On ‘‘Reconsidering Regional Political Ecologies’’13 years on’ (2016) 23 Journal of Political Ecology 123; Koensler, A and Papa, C, ‘Introduction: Beyond Anthropocentrism, Changing Practices and the Politics of ‘Nature’ (2013) 20 Journal of Political Ecology 286. For critical perspectives see Vayda, A and Walters, B, ‘Against Political Ecology’ (1999) 27 Human Ecology 167; Vayda, A and Walters, B, ‘Event Ecology, Causal Historical Analysis, and Human-Environment Research’ (2009) 99(3) Annals of the Association of American Geographers 534. For some thoughts on resolving theoretical conflicts see Penna-Firme, R, ‘Political and Event Ecology: Critiques and Opportunities for Collaboration’ (2013) 20 Journal of Political Ecology 119.

158 Mascarenhas, A and Wisner, B, ‘Politics: Power and Disaster’ in Wisner, B, Gaillard, JC and Kelman, I (eds), The Routledge Handbook of Hazards and Disaster Risk Reduction (Routledge 2012) 48.

159 See Wisner (n 1) and his citation of D Alexander, ‘Vulnerability’ in K Penuel, M Statler and R Hagen (eds), Encyclopedia of Crisis Management (2013) 980.

160 See Wisner ibid and his citation of Anderson, M and Woodrow, P, Rising from the Ashes: Development Strategies in Times of Disaster (Lynne Rienner (1998 [1989])).

161 Wisner ibid.

162 Birkman, J, ‘Measuring Vulnerability to Promote Disaster-Resilient Societies: Conceptual Framework and Definitions’ in Birkmann, J (ed), Measuring Vulnerability to Natural Hazards (United Nations University Press 2006) 9.

163 Anderson and Woodrow (n 160).

164 Wisner et al. (n 153) 11.

165 ibid.

166 Villalpando, S, ‘The Legal Dimension of the International Community: How Community Interests Are Protected in International Law’ (2010) 21 EJIL 387, 409–10.

167 Lauta, KC, Disaster Law (Routledge 2015).

168 Brookfield, H, ‘Environmental Damage: Distinguishing Human from Geophysical Causes’ (1999) 1(1) Global Environmental Change Part B: Environmental Hazards, 3. See also Fuchs, S, ‘Susceptibility Versus Resilience to Mountain Hazards in Austria – Paradigms of Vulnerability Revisited’ (2009) 9 Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences 337.

169 Gibb (n 5) 331–2, referencing Forsyth (n 143).

170 Bankoff (n 137) discussed extensively below.

171 Anghie, A, Imperialism, Sovereignty and the Making of International Law (Cambridge University Press 2005); Anghie, A et al. (eds), The Third World and International Order (Martinus Nijhoff 2003); Fassbender, B and Peters, A., The Oxford Handbook of the History of International Law (Oxford University Press 2014).

173 Bankoff (n 137); Bankoff, G, Frerks, G and Hilhorst, T (eds), Mapping Vulnerability: Disasters, Development and People (Earthscan 2004); G Bankoff, ‘No Such Things as “Natural Disasters”: Why We Had to Invent Them’ Harvard International Review (24 August 2010) <>. Bankoff, G, ‘Comparing Vulnerabilities: Toward Charting an Historical Trajectory of Disasters’ (2007) 32(3) Historical Social Research 103.

174 Hewitt, K, Regions of Revolt: A Geographical Introduction to Disasters (Longman 1997) 164–5; Watts and Bohle, (n 156) 121 cited with approval by Bankoff (n 137) 26.

175 Bankoff, ibid, 27–9, citing with approval the work of Hewitt, 167.

176 Bankoff, ibid, 28.

177 Gibb (n 5) 332 referencing Gupta, A and Sharma, A, ‘Globalization and Postcolonial States’ (2006) 47(2) Current Anthropology 277.

178 See Koensler and Papa (n 157) and Latour's, B challenge in We Have Never Been Modern (Harvard University Press 1993).

179 Gibb (n 5) 332, drawing on the work of Mitchell, T, Rule of Experts: Egypt, Techno-Politics, Modernity (University of California Press 2002).

180 Bankoff (n 137) 29 citing Guha, R, Dominance Without Hegemony, History and Power in Colonial India (Harvard University Press 1997) 11 and 6–7.

181 ibid 29.

182 ibid 30.

183 ibid, 30 citing Hoffman and Oliver-Smith (n 19) 6, 20.

184 Antolini, D, ‘Marine Reserves in Hawai'i: A New Call for Community Stewardship’ (2004) 19(1) Natural Resources & Environment 36; Wilgus, DS, ‘The Nature Of Nuisance: Judicial Environmental Ethics and Landowner Stewardship in the Age of Ecology’ (2001) 33 McGeorge Law Review 99; Rampersad, ERIndigenous Adaptation to Climate Change: Preserving Sustainable Relationships through an Environmental Stewardship Claim & Trust Fund Remedy’ (2009) 21 GeoIntlEnvtlLRev 591; Shelton, D, ‘Dominion And Stewardship’ (2016) 109 AJIL Unbound 132; Simpson-Wood, T, ‘Changes in Latitudes Call for Changes in Attitudes: Towards Recognition of a Global Imperative for Stewardship, Not Exploitation, in the Arctic’ (2014) 37 SeattleULRev 1239; Gourley, R, ‘Towards Ethical Stewardship: Balancing Natural and Historic Cultural Resources in National Parks’ (2017) 35 VaEnvtlLJ 522; ‘Materials On Community Stewardship Entities’ (2008) SN055 ALI-ABA 451, Heritable Knowledge Framework and the Development of Communal Innovation Trusts: An Ethical Framework for Development, Stewardship and Trade’ (2009) 5(1) IBA Convergence 106; Henriksen, T, ‘The Arctic Ocean, Environmental Stewardship, and the Law of the Sea’ (2016) 6 UCIrvineLRev 61.

185 Beck, U, Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity (Sage 1992).

186 T Stephens, ‘Disasters, International Environmental Law and the Anthropocene’ in Breau and Samuel (n 4) 153, 75.

187 Cook, BR, ‘Disaster Management Culture in Bangladesh: The Enrolment of Local Knowledge by Decision Makers’ in Krüger, F et al. , (eds), Cultures and Disasters: Understanding Cultural Framings in Disaster Risk Reduction (Routledge 2015).

188 Bankoff (n 137) 29–31.

189 ibid.

190 SC Breau, ‘Responses by States’ in Breau and Samuel (n 4) 69.

191 Stigter, CJ et al. , ‘Using Traditional Methods and Indigenous Technologies for Coping with Climate Variability (2005) 70 Climatic Change 255, 264.

192 MOST/CIRAN: ‘The bethma practice: promoting the temporary redistribution of lands during drought periods’, Sri Lanka, BP.21, Best Practices on Indigenous Knowledge Database, Cited in Stigter et al., ibid.

193 MOST/CIRAN: ‘Improving tassa planting pits: Using indigenous soil and water conservation techniques to rehabilitate degraded plateaus in the Tahoua region of Niger’, NIGER, BP.10, Best Practices on Indigenous Knowledge Database, cited in Stigter et al., ibid.

194 Cruikshank, J, ‘Glaciers and Climate Change: Perspectives from Oral Tradition’ (2001) 54(4) Arctic 377.

195 Gibb (n 5) 332.

196 See the report of the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights regarding the World Bank and Human Rights <>; see also Charlesworth (n 28) 390.

197 Gibb (n 5) 333.

198 ibid 330–1, drawing on the work of Adger, WN, Eakin, H and Winkels, A, ‘Nested and Teleconnected Vulnerabilities to Environmental Change’ (2009) 7(3) Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 150.

199 A La Vaccara, ‘An Enabling Environment for Disaster Risk Reduction’ in de Guttry et al. (n 46) 199.

200 van Dissel, S Cartier and de Graaff, J, ‘Differences between Farmers and Scientists in the Perception of Soil Erosion: A South African Case Study’ (1998) 6(3) Indigenous Knowledge and Development Monitor 4 cited approvingly in Stigter et al. (n 191) 266.

201 Gibb (n 5) referencing Taylor, M, ‘Climate Change, Relational Vulnerability and Human Security: Rethinking Sustainable Adaptation in Agrarian Environments’ (2013) 5(4) Climate and Development 318.

202 Villalpando (n 166) 396–7, drawing on Gabcíkovo-Nagymaros Project (Hungary/Slovakia) [1997] ICJ Rep. 7, at 78, para 140.

203 ILC Report Fifty-Eighth Session A/61/10 (n 14) para 257 and Annex C paras 3–4.

204 Villalpando (n 166) 400–1.

205 Nef, J, ‘Human Security, Mutual Vulnerability, and Sustainable Development: A Critical View’ (2006) 7 Whitehead Journal of Diplomacy and International Relations 55.

Many thanks to Professor Dino Kritsiotis of the University of Nottingham and Professors Neil Hutton, Aileen McHarg and Kenneth Norrie and Dr Saskia Vermeylen of the University of Strathclyde. All responsibility for errors and omissions resides with the author.



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