Challenges for “Affected States” in Accepting International Disaster Aid: Lessons from Hurricane Kat

Elizabeth Katchka is Counselor to the Chief Counsel in the Office of Chief Counsel, FEMA. Her article discusses the International Law Commission (ILC) draft articles on the protection of persons in the event of disasters, which purport to “facilitate an adequate and effective response to disasters that meets the essential needs of the persons concerned, with respect to their full rights” by setting forth complementary principles governing both individual state responsibilities and international cooperation in disaster response. The principles presented in the draft articles reflect an application of established international law principles as well as current, practical challenges to coordinating international disaster cooperation. This article applies specific ILC draft articles targeting the role of the state impacted by a disaster to the United States’ experience in managing international assistance in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In particular, it highlights the critical responsibility of the national government to take advance, deliberate steps to implement the principles set out in the ILC draft articles—ensuring sufficient legal authorities and protocols and plans for implementing them in a disaster context—if it hopes to effectively maximize the supplemental resources available from the international community to support its domestic response to a catastrophic disaster.