An Enchanted Tool? Humanitarian Assistance and the ILC Draft Articles on the Protection of Persons in the Event of Disasters

Dug Cubie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Despite previous attempts at codification of international law regarding international responses to natural and human-made disasters, there is currently no binding international legal framework to regulate the provision of humanitarian assistance outside armed conflicts. Nevertheless, since the International Law Commission (ILC) included the protection of persons in the event of disasters on its programme of work in 2006, it has provisionally adopted eleven draft articles that have the potential to create binding obligations on states and humanitarian actors in disaster settings. Draft articles adopted include the definition of ‘a disaster’, the relationship of the draft articles to the international humanitarian law of armed conflict, recognition of the inherent dignity of the human person, and the duty of international cooperation. However, the final form of the draft articles has not been agreed. The Codification Division of the UN Office of Legal Affairs has proposed a framework convention format, which has seen support in the ILC and the UN General Assembly Sixth Committee. The overall aim of this article is to provide an analysis of the potential forms of international regulation open to the ILC and states in the context of humanitarian responses to disasters. However to avoid enchanting the ILC draft articles with unwarranted power, any examination of form requires an understanding of the substantive subject matter of the planned international regulation. The article therefore provides an overview of the international legal regulation of humanitarian assistance following natural and human-made disasters, and the ILC’s work to date on the topic. It then examines two key issues that remain to be addressed by the ILC and representatives of states in the UN General Assembly Sixth Committee. Drawing on the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, the development and implications of binding and non-binding international texts are examined, followed by an analysis of the suggested framework convention approach identified by the Special Rapporteur as a potential outcome of the ILC work.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)119-151
Number of pages32
JournalIrish Yearbook of International Law
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • International Law Commission
  • disasters
  • humanitarian assistance


Dive into the research topics of 'An Enchanted Tool? Humanitarian Assistance and the ILC Draft Articles on the Protection of Persons in the Event of Disasters'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this