Disasters, Relief, and Neglect: The Duty to Accept Humanitarian Assistance and the Work of the International Law Commission

60 Pages Posted: 6 Oct 2010 Last revised: 7 May 2013

J. Benton Heath

Government of the United States of America - Department of State

Date Written: October 5, 2010

Abstract

In the wake of several large-scale natural disasters, such as the 2008 cyclone in Myanmar, some scholars and diplomats have argued that states should be under a duty to accept humanitarian assistance. This paper discusses the circumstances under which states should be required to admit foreign or international aid. I first develop a principled framework based in existing human rights law, while arguing against efforts to expand the "responsibility to protect" to cover natural and technological disasters. Then the paper surveys previous efforts to articulate the duty of states to accept humanitarian aid, and analyzes these provisions in terms of their various elements. Drawing on this analysis, I argue that a state should not be able to arbitrarily refuse international aid where it is unwilling or unable to respond to a disaster itself.

Keywords: Humanitarian assistance, disasters, International Law Commission, codification, human rights, economic and social rights, sovereignty and non-intervention, international co-operation, Myanmar/Burma, Cyclone Nargis

Suggested Citation

Heath, J. Benton, Disasters, Relief, and Neglect: The Duty to Accept Humanitarian Assistance and the Work of the International Law Commission (October 5, 2010). New York University Journal of International Law and Politics (JILP), Vol. 43, No. 2, p. 419, 2011. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1688137

J. Benton Heath (Contact Author)

Government of the United States of America - Department of State ( email )

United States

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