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 2: Global capitalism and the crisis of the public interest – sleepwalking into disaster

Christopher Newdick

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


One of law’s central concerns is equality of rights, yet law is conspicuous by its absence from the debate about global inequality. Extraordinary numbers of people have inadequate access to the basic necessities of life: food, water, education, health and a decent environment. For billions of people, this is a disaster. At a time of unparalleled global affluence, when the need for sharing global wealth and opportunity is more important than ever, the gap between rich and poor is expanding. How should we explain this process? This chapter considers Karl Polanyi’s contribution to our understanding of social rights and the ways in which public interests evolved during the last century. The discussion examines how subsequent norms of global capitalism have encouraged private interests to undermine collective welfare and the consequences of the law’s failure to engage itself with the problem.

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