International and Comparative Disaster Law Essay Contest

About the author(s):

Katharine Fortin is an Associate Professor at Utrecht University where she teaches IHL and IHRL. Before joining Utrecht University, she worked at the ICTY, ICC and Norton Rose Fulbright. She is the author of The Accountability of Armed Groups under Human Rights Law (Oxford University Press, 2017) which won the 2018 Lieber Prize. She has written widely about the framework of law that applies to armed groups in non-international armed conflicts and is one of the editors of the Armed Groups and International Law blog.

Flyer - Disaster law essay contestThe first annual “International and Comparative Disaster Law Essay Contest” is due to take place early in 2015. The contest is being co-sponsored by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the American Society of International Law Disaster Law Interest Group (ASIL DLIG), the International Disaster Law Project (IDL) of the Universities of Bologna, Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna, Roma Tre and Uninettuno, with support from the International Institute of Humanitarian Law.

Purpose of competition

The essay contest aims to stimulate creative thinking and analysis about disaster law in a comparative and/or international perspective. It is open to students enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate degree program at any university (anywhere in the world) at the time of submission. Essays may examine any issue related to law and disasters due to natural hazards, but must do so either from a comparative or an international law perspective, or both (see below for examples). Comparative essays should examine laws or legal issues from no less than three countries.


Papers must be written solely by the candidate(s), in English, and may not have been submitted for publication elsewhere. The deadline for submissions is 11:59 p.m. Central European Time, 30 January 2015. See full details see here for more information.


The winner of the contest will receive:

  • A waiver of fees and support for travel (up to a maximum of USD 1,600 on economy fare) and accommodation in order to attend the week-long “International Disaster Law Course” ( organized by the IDL and IFRC and hosted by the International Institute for Humanitarian Law in Sanremo, Italy, on 27th April to Friday 1st May 2015.
  • A free annual membership in the American Society of International Law and waiver of fees for attendance of the 2015 Annual meeting on April 11-15, 2015.

The winner and runners will also have their papers published as “Working Papers” of the IFRC’s Disaster Law Programme. They will retain copyright of their papers and may subsequently publish them elsewhere, according to the terms of the Working Papers series.

A message announcing the name of the winner and runners up of the contest will be sent to all members of the ASIL DLIG, as well as to the co-sponsors and made public on the ASIL website.

 Sample topics

As noted above, participants are free to choose any topic they like related to law and disasters linked to natural hazards. The following are a few potential themes provided only by way of illustration:

What impact do existing disaster law treaties have on domestic disaster management?

Can mandatory insurance rules reduce disaster risks in developing countries?

Is there a customary duty to seek international assistance when local resources are overcome by a disaster?

How can legislation improve post-disaster economic recovery?

Should the rules for humanitarian assistance be different in conflicts and disasters?

What is the role of domestic courts in improving the safety and resilience of communities?

What are the pros and cons of a rights-based approach to disaster response?

What are the prospects for a comprehensive global treaty on international disaster assistance?

Should there be a global system of certifying humanitarian NGOs?

Why aren’t land use rules and building codes preventing more deaths and losses?

What special protections do indigenous peoples require with respect to disasters?

How do derogations and limitations to human rights in disasters affect outcomes for affected persons?

What is the right balance between sovereignty and protection when it comes to international disaster response?

What are the most reasonable and successful governmental approaches to post-disaster compensation to affected persons?

How can we reduce legal barriers to speedy and equitable housing solutions after disasters?

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