Towards good humanitarian government: The role of the affected state in disaster response

Research reports and studies
October 2009
Paul Harvey

How do affected states respond in times of disaster?

This report highlights the need for international humanitarian actors to encourage and support states to fulfil their responsibilities to assist and protect their own citizens in times of disaster. Too often, aid agencies have neglected the central role of the state, using principles of neutrality and independence to effectively disengage from state structures, rather than engage with them. It also looks at how states should invest their own resources in assisting and protecting their citizens in disasters.

Finally this report challenges the accepted idea within the international system that disasters inevitably overwhelm the capacity of states to act. The impacts of disasters such as the Indian Ocean tsunami, or the South Asian earthquake – may well be overwhelming in their impacts, and may call for substantial outside assistance but this does not mean that states struck by disaster do not have the capacity to mount effective responses.

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