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Accepting responsibility? The role of the state in disasters five years on from the tsunami

Time (GMT +00) 17:30 19:00


Paul Harvey - Partner, Humanitarian Outcomes and Research Associate, ODI

David Fisher - Coordinator, International Disaster Response Laws, Rules and Principles (IDRL) Programme, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies


Deborah Baglole - Humanitarian Specialist Conflict, Humanitarian and Security Department Operations Team, DFID


Sarah Collinson - ODI


In October ODI released a new report examining the role of the state in humanitarian action. It argued that international actors (donors, UN agencies, NGOs) needed to pay more attention to putting into practice rhetorical commitments to the states primary role in assisting and protecting its own citizens in times of disaster. The 5th anniversary of the tsunami provides a salutary moment to reflect on progress towards greater recognition of national capacities for disaster response. The tsunami evaluation coalition concluded that national authorities were too often ‘brushed aside’ in the tsunami response. The recent rash of Indian Ocean disasters in Indonesia and the Philippines provide an opportunity to examine if states are playing a stronger role. Paul Harvey presented the ODI report, having just returned from a trip to Indonesia looking at OCHA’s role in the current earthquake response.

One way for governments to improve their capacity to play their primary role in the midst of an international relief operation is to ensure that their own legal and institutional frameworks for the reception of external assistance are adequately prepared.  With this in mind, in 2007, the State parties to the Geneva Conventions unanimously adopted a new set of “Guidelines for the domestic facilitation and regulation of international disaster relief and initial recovery assistance” at the 30th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent.  The IFRC’s David Fisher gave an overview of the progress in implementation of the Guidelines.