Table of Contents

Research Handbook on Disasters and International Law

Research Handbook on Disasters and International Law

Research Handbooks in International Law series

Edited by Susan C. Breau and Katja L.H. Samuel

International law’s role in governing disasters is undergoing a formative period in its development and reach, in parallel with concerted efforts by the international community to respond more effectively to the increasing number and intensity of disasters across the world. This Research Handbook examines a broad range of legal regimes directly and indirectly relevant to disaster prevention, mitigation and reconstruction across a spectrum of natural and manmade disasters, including armed conflict.

Chapter 1: Introduction

Susan C. Breau and Katja L. H. Samuel

Subjects: environment, disasters, environmental governance and regulation, environmental law, law - academic, environmental law, law and development, public international law, politics and public policy, environmental governance and regulation


The global context for this Research Handbook is that the intensity and frequency of ‘natural’ and ‘man-made’ disasters is on the increase. As Margareta Wahlström, head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), noted just prior to the review of the Hyogo Framework for disaster risk reduction and the subsequent adoption of the Sendai Framework on disaster risk reduction 2015–2030: Despite many successes and greatly improved performance in disaster management, it is sobering to note that 700,000 people have died in disaster events over the last ten years. A total of 1.7 billion people have had their lives disrupted in some way. It is of great concern that economic losses in major reported disaster events come to $1.4 trillion. It was further observed that since 2008, an estimated 155 million people have experienced short- or long-term displacement attributable to climate-related disasters. In parallel, there are many ongoing conflicts around the world of varying magnitude which are the source of much human suffering and tragedy, such as the civil war in Syria, as well as the increasingly widespread terrorist activities of Islamic State. Many countries are currently suffering from different disasters, ranging from major drought and related famine to catastrophic cyclones and severe flooding. In response to such significant challenges, the international community is seeking to grapple with them through a number of global initiatives, notably the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015–2030, the UN Sustainable Development Goals 2015, the UN Climate Change Conference 2015, and the World Humanitarian Summit 2016.