ASIL Annual Meeting (Washington DC, 28 March 2019)

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Panel Discussion on ‘The Critical Contribution of Law towards Global Efforts to Mitigate Disaster Risk.”

During the recent prestigious Annual Meeting of the American Society of International Law, GSDM’s director, Katja Samuel, convened and moderated a panel in her capacity as co-chair of the Disaster Law Interest Group (DLIG).

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The topic of the panel was “The Critical Contribution of Law towards Global Efforts to Mitigate Disaster Risk”, framed around key themes examined in the recently published Cambridge Handbook on Disaster Risk Reduction (2019) for which Katja was the lead editor and project lead. The key focus of the panel was as follows:

“The scale and impact of disasters is rising exponentially, with insurance sector cost estimates for ‘natural’ disasters increasing from $188 billion (2016) to $300 billion (2017). In response, the global shift since the 1990s, reflected in the Sendai Framework on Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) (2015-2030), has been towards concentrating resources on disaster prevention and mitigation, including through improved preparedness and response mechanisms. The Sendai Framework establishes ambitious goals, exhorting the development of innovative approaches and dynamic cross-sectoral partnerships. Yet, to date, the legal community has largely not been fully integrated into existing efforts or collaborations, including with the scientific, technological or health sectors. This is partly attributable to commonly poor levels of understanding about the dynamic role of law as a tool of disaster risk mitigation, including developing DRR law. As this panel explores, there is a critical need for public/private stakeholders, whether national or international, to more actively draw upon and embed legal instruments (e.g. international human rights, environmental, disaster, health and maritime law) within their mechanisms and responses to reduce disaster risk and impacts: for instance, through improving consistency and coherence of standards, strengthening existing weak governance mechanisms, ensuring greater compliance and accountability, whilst better protecting vulnerable populations.”

The panel was participated in by four of the Handbook’s contributors: Professor Kirsten Bookmiller (Millersville University, and co-editor), Professor Giulio Bartolini (University of Roma Tre), Professor Hugo Cahueñas-Muñoz (Universidad San Francisco de Quito) and Mr Michael Cooper (University of Oxford (North America)), with other contributors present, including DLIG co-chair, Arnold Pronto (United Nations, Office of Legal Affairs). The panellists contributed different perspectives on DRR and international law, such as in relation to North American cross-border cooperation, human rights and disaster responses, cultural heritage and property, as well as underpinning conceptual understanding of the very notion of ‘disaster’ including in relation to DRR.

It was good to also have the editorial team of the Handbook’s publishers, Cambridge University Press, represented during the panel and subsequent book promotion.

Launch of ‘The Cambridge Handbook of Disaster Risk Reduction and International Law’.
Launch of ‘The Cambridge Handbook of Disaster Risk Reduction and International Law’.

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