Monthly Archives: October 2013

The Duty to Provide Humanitarian Assistance in the Event of Disasters

The Duty to Provide Humanitarian Assistance in the Event of Disaster is increasingly the subject of study and action, by governments, international organizations and scholars.  The Institut de droit international has issued a Resolution on this topic in 2003 (the Bruges Resolution on Humanitarian Assistance), and the International Law Commission (ILC) has been working on draft articles on the Protection of Persons in the Event of Disaster since 2007 and has already adopted 21 draft articles on first reading. Furthermore, in 2014 the ILC decided to transmit the draft articles adopted on first reading to governments and several international organizations (the ICRC) for comments and observations.

The topic raises questions of sovereign responsibility to those individuals affected by the disaster: both the responsibility of the authorities in the affected state and the responsibility of other states.

We are grateful to Judge Kenneth Keith of the International Court of Justice for sharing with us his “Natural Disasters and International Law – A Preliminary Note” which he presented at the Tokyo Session of the Institut de droit international (September 2013). This preliminary note describes and evaluates the emerging efforts to progressively develop the law in this area.

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The ICJ as Trustee of Humanity? Analyzing the Court’s Attention to the Human Factor in Boundary Delimitations and Boundary Regimes

“Good fences make good neighbors” — the old saying takes on new meaning as increasing demands on dwindling natural resources require transboundary sharing regimes. Other questions about “good fences” arise with globalization and the attendant need for international regulation of national policies for managing the trans-border movement of goods, services, capital and, of course, people. Even more challenging for the traditional notion of sovereignty are questions concerning the normative constraints on the delineation of boundaries and on boundary regimes. One of the most sensitive questions is how much weight states should assign to the human factor, namely to the needs of populations affected by the delimitation of the boundary. In April 2013, the International Court of Justice demonstrated acute sensitivity to the human factor. In a delimitation dispute between Niger and Burkina Faso, the court offered fresh insights on how to integrate the human factor into states’ boundary delimitation agreements and the regulation of cross-border movement of people affected by the borders. This sensitivity may reflect more generally the court’s increased willingness to intervene in the exercise of sovereign discretion. Continue reading