An Offer You Cannot Refuse? Natural Disasters, the Politics of Aid Refusal and Potential Legal Implications

Amsterdam Law Forum, Vol. 5, No. 1, pp. 36-63, 2013

28 Pages Posted: 8 Apr 2013

See all articles by Craig Allan

Craig Allan

Pinsent Masons LLP

Therese O'Donnell

University of Strathclyde - School of Law

Date Written: April 1, 2013

Abstract

After Cyclone Nargis struck Myanmar in early May 2008, the ruling regime imposed conditions upon the receipt and entry of disaster relief. This was met by a significant amount of international condemnation, which was often bolstered by invocations of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine. The legalities of disaster aid refusal very quickly became a serious topic of academic and practitioner discourse. While the politics of aid donation is a much-studied terrain, the politics of aid refusal has, until recently, received less attention. However, a recent strain of research in political science has sought to remedy this imbalance. This article considers what international lawyers can draw from this discourse and whether such a perspective can inform legal reforms, notably those being currently proposed by the International Law Commission (ILC). As well as questioning assumptions regarding the apoliticism of disaster aid, this article also considers the links between humanitarianism and regime change, utilising the case study of Cyclone Nargis. The role of R2P and its muscular humanitarianism is also examined, as is the extent to which it informs the current ILC proposals. The final section of the article considers humanitarian perspectives and the waning influence of ‘new humanitarianism’, which challenged fundamental legal concepts of impartial, neutral, needs-based aid.

Keywords: aid refusal, natural disaster, R2P, International Law Commission, Cyclon Nargis, Myanmar, humanitarianism, aid distribution, O'Donnell, Allan

Suggested Citation

Allan, Craig and O'Donnell, Therese, An Offer You Cannot Refuse? Natural Disasters, the Politics of Aid Refusal and Potential Legal Implications (April 1, 2013). Amsterdam Law Forum, Vol. 5, No. 1, pp. 36-63, 2013, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2246702

Craig Allan

Pinsent Masons LLP ( email )

30 Crown Place
Earl Street
London, EC2A 4ES
United Kingdom

Therese O'Donnell (Contact Author)

University of Strathclyde - School of Law

Graham Hills Building
50 George Street
Glasgow, G1 1QE
United Kingdom

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