Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, 39 - Roma 0669207671

FIRB 2012 - International Disaster Law Project: Rules and principles of International and EU Law concerning the Prevention and Management of Natural and Man-made Disasters

Duration: 36 Months (3/25/2013 - 3/25/2016)


Recent studies hint at an increased incidence of calamitous events due both to natural phenomena and dangerous human activities. At times these two factors come together, generating catastrophes capable of causing immense human and material losses and irreversible harm to the environment.

States affected by disasters often sought help from the international community which assisted concerned populations providing relief. In doing so, involved actors confronted with a fragmented and deficient international legal framework. As a consequence, the effectiveness of assistance action had been frequently compromised.

Moreover, at present international regulation of disaster prevention and mitigation activities appears to be unsatisfactory. Indeed, only few legal instruments exist which, what is more, only apply to specific categories of disasters, or either are regional in scope. The large majority of them have no binding effect.

The IDL Project generally aims at uncovering those aspects, in the belief that a more through legal regulation might help reducing the destructive potential of disasters and their human and material costs. The perusal will indeed help in discovering legal gaps and inconsistencies, and will be instrumental to the formulation of recommendations meant at addressing them – in order to eventually render more effective those international mechanisms aimed at disaster prevention and management.


Over the course of the IDL Project, members of the team provide regular output, with both the aims of fuelling the academic debate on themes related to International Disaster Law and addressing the general public. Multiple outputs are being produced, consisting of: (i) events (conference, seminars, workshops); (ii) scientific publications (articles, books, working papers, newseletter); (iii) code of conducts and manuals aimed at promoting the application of IDL by relevant stakeholders; (iv) normative proposals in order to specifically address the shortcomings of the Italian legal system.


The main objective of the IDL Project is the one of improving the effectiveness of those international mechanisms aimed at disaster prevention and management. In order to gain such goal, the Project intends to:

  • Identify existing International Law norms regulating disaster prevention and management
  • Develop a shared vocabulary of IDL-related terms
  • Classify rights, duties and responsibilities of States, IOs and non-State actors
  • Develop a catalogue of rights to which disasters' victims are entitled
  • Define the legal framework that regulates the implementation of international relief operations
  • Describe regional mechanisms in the are of disaster response
  • Assess the degree to which IDL has been incorporated into domestic legal systems

Eventually, by achieving these specific objectives, the IDL Project will contribute to the identification of existing gaps, improve awareness among relevant actors and encourage scholarly debate on the topic.

Sant'Anna Unit

Coordinated by dr. Emanuele Sommario, research conducted as Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies is divided into four clusters. First, Sant'Anna will place IDL within the historical, political and factual context that has triggered its emergence and eventually spurred its rapid development. Second, it will assess the scope of IDL and its semantics, by conducting a survey of relevant universal, regional and bilateral treaties and soft law instruments dealing with it. Third, Sant'Anna will analyse the contribution of other branches of International Law to the development of IDL, in order to ascertain whether norms not specifically created to address disaster situations might nonetheless influence IDL regulatory framework. Lastly, it will explore the regional dimension of IDL with respect to Africa, the Americas and Asia through a comparative analysis, which will provide other Units with a state-of-the-art map of regional initiatives and allow them to compare their relative effectiveness.


Coordinated by dr. Flavia Zorzi Giustiniani, the Uninettuno Unit will address issues related to rights, obligations and responsibilities of disasters' affected States. To this end, the research will be divided into three clusters. First, Uninettuno will explore the question of humanitarian access and the related role of the affected State, touching aspects such as the actual meaning of sovereignty and consent. Second, via adopting a victim-centered perspective, the Unit will unveil minimum standards of human rights protection in case of disaster, in light of Special Rapporteur Valencia Ospina intention to devote the second part of the International Law Commission Draft Articles on the Protection of Persons in the Event of Disasters to victims' rights. Lastly, the Unit will verify the existence or progressive development of an obligation for States to prevent disasters and subsequently investigate legal mechanisms of disaster prevention.

Roma 3 Unit

Coordinated by dr. Giulio Bartolini, the Roma Tre Unit twill review the rights, obligations and legal responsibilities of external actors intervening in territories strucked by disasters. Moreover, it will analyse the role of International Law in defining duties and limits of disasters relief missions in three clusters. First, humanitarian access by third actors and the relevance of the R2P doctrine in the context of disasters will be studied. Second, Roma Tre will investigate the implementation of international relief actions and legal operative issues, focusing on (i) regulatory obstacles related to the handling of relief goods and equipments, (ii) the status of disaster relief personnel, (iii) the civil-military cooperation and the use of armed forces in relief action, (iv) the emerging role of Private Security Companies and (v) the funding of relief operations. Lastly, Roma Tre will explore the responsibility and accountability of third actors for wrongful acts committed during relief activities.

Bologna Unit

Coordinated by dr. Federico Casolari, the Bologna Unit will review response solutions offered by the EU legal order to disasters, given the unique and multifaceted mechanism developed therein following the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty. The research will be divided in two clusters. First, the study concerning IDL aspects within the EU legal order will lead to examine (i) the interaction between IDL and EU law, (ii) EU instruments addressed to emergencies and (iii) its response to natural and man-made disaster occurring both inside the Union and overseas. Second, Bologna will look at the implementation of EU legal solutions to disasters in municipal legal systems. Indeed, the effectiveness of EU response to disasters depends on the implementation mechanisms resorted to by States in order to abide to their obligations. The emphasis will here be on the Italian legislation and on the one of those States that have recently introduced ad hoc legal instruments.


Active Learning Network for Accountability and Performance in Humanitarian Action (ALNAP)United KingdomContactsWeb
International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Geneva (IFRC Disaster Law Programme)SwedenContactsWeb
International Institute of Humanitarian Law, Sanremo - GenevaSwedenContactsWeb
Italian Deparment for Civil ProtectionItalyContactsWeb
Italian Red Cross, National Commission for the Dissemination of International Humanitarian LawUnited KingdomContactsWeb
University of Cordòba, Departamento Ciencias Jurìdicas Internacionales, e Històricas y Filosofia del DerechoSpainContactsWeb