One radical interpretation of disasters currently being explored is that of Disaster Diplomacy, which started with a section in the Cambridge Review of International Affairs vol. XIV, no. 1, Autumn-Winter 2000 (the
included articles are listed below). The articles generally indicated that Disaster Diplomacy had some, but not an overriding influence, on international affairs. Nonetheless, a theoretical analysis indicated the possibilities for using disaster for change in international affairs and why such a situation may not have been present in the case studies examined.
The reaction to these articles indicated a need to expand to try to fully explore how Disaster Diplomacy can be interpreted for:
(a) improving disaster management activities when confronted with international political barriers; and
(b) recognising the true role of disaster in international affairs.
The recent earthquake in Gujarat has reinforced these notions and the need for further investigation:
;From http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/world/south_asia/newsid_1139000/1139807.stm (Saturday, 27 January, 2001, 13:19 GMT)
Rival Pakistan offers India help
India's traditional enemy, Pakistan, has put aside differences with its neighbour to offer relief aid for victims of the Gujarat earthquake. Pakistan was among a growing number of nations stepping forward to provide money, supplies or teams of experts to help India cope with the devastation left by Friday's earthquake. “I have been saddened at the tragic loss of life and property in the earthquake,” Pakistan's military leader,
General Pervez Musharraf said in a statement.
''The government and people of Pakistan share the grief of the bereaved families.'
Pakistani officials said the desperate situation of the survivors in Gujarat transcended political differences.
;From the Telegraph (Tuesday 30 January 2001) www.telegraph.co.uk “Children pulled out alive from quake rubble”
Pakistan joined the growing list of countries sending aid to India, raising the possibility of “earthquake diplomacy” - similar to the mutual humanitarian gestures that helped to improve relations between Greece and Turkey after earthquakes in both countries in 1999.
India and Pakistan have fought three wars and relations are perennially tense over the conflict in disputed Indian-controlled Kashmir. Pakistan's military ruler, Gen Pervaiz Musharraf, complained at first that India had turned down a Pakistani offer to send sniffer dogs.
But later Pakistan's Foreign Minister, Abdul Sattar, announced that New Delhi had welcomed Islamabad's offer of tents and blankets. India's Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, toured the region worst affected in a helicopter yesterday and said the rescue effort had to be accelerated.
Other possible examples are North Korea (due to the floods, drought, and famine) and China/Taiwan (the 1999 earthquake which initially had Beijing requesting that all international assistance go through Beijing). Moving on from case studies, further exploration is required to look at the entire disaster management cycle to determine how disasters may assist in issues such as diplomatic efforts, international relations, human rights, conflict resolution, and sustainable development. No one wants disaster, but the least we can do is to attempt to extract as much positive aspects as possible from a difficult situation. Furthermore, disaster management activities such as prevention, mitigation, adaptation, and planning occur in the absence of disaster but certainly apply to Disaster Diplomacy and disaster as an agent for change in other developmental aspects.
Further Development and Contact Details
If you would be interested in further exploring Disaster Diplomacy to see how it can make an impact and how our community can use it to make an impact beyond the journals and soundbites, please contact me at:
The Martin Centre
University of Cambridge
6 Chaucer Road
CB2 2EB U.K.
Introduction to Disaster Diplomacy (from the section in Cambridge Review of International Affairs vol.
XIV, no. 1, Autumn-Winter 2000, edited by Ilan Kelman and Theo Koukis)
Do natural disasters induce international cooperation amongst countries that have traditionally been „enemies‟? This notion of „Disaster Diplomacy‟ has never been fully addressed despite its potential to significantly impact international affairs.
The occurrence or threat of natural disasters creates opportunities to facilitate better cooperation or relations amongst states in conflict through fostering linkages which otherwise might not have existed. The cooperative spirit generated from common efforts to deal with disasters—through either perceived necessity or
possibly overrides pre-existing prejudices, breaking down barriers choice from the humanitarian imperative—
which then may never be rebuilt. Even when the initiative derives from only the general populace, it could influence bilateral and multilateral relations in areas such as trade, environmental management, and cultural exchange.
As a result of this process, certain conditions may be created for economic, political, or ideological divides and conflicts to be gradually superseded by cooperative structures and mechanisms. „Spillover‟ from merely technical or scientific collaboration and humanitarian assistance to successful diplomatic rapprochement can occur. Alternatively, perhaps nothing except changes at the highest level will ever eradicate deeply entrenched interstate enmity, with the inertia of „Disastrous Diplomacy‟ being the usual state of affairs.
This section embraces the challenge of examining which prerequisites and circumstances could yield a successful transformation, due to natural disaster, of international relations by investigating specific case studies covering three natural disasters—earthquakes, drought, and the El Niño phenomenon—on three
continents in order to provide a valid empirical basis for hypothesising on the concept of „Disaster Diplomacy‟. These case studies are then analysed in the context of a theoretical model which could assist in identifying when and why Disaster Diplomacy would occur.
Combining disaster management with international relations is rarely achieved, implying that this section is at the forefront of international relations theory and practice. We are convinced that the insightful and detailed analyses provided by the authors are just the beginning of further discussion and deliberation on the existence and ramifications of Disaster Diplomacy.
Disaster Diplomacy Articles in Cambridge Review of International Affairs vol. XIV, no. 1, Autumn-Winter
“Greek-Turkish Rapprochement: The Impact of „Disaster Diplomacy‟?”
by James Ker-Lindsay
“To claim that the earthquakes brought about rapprochement is both factually wrong, and indeed weakens the
basis for the process.”
“Climate-Related Disaster Diplomacy: A US-Cuban Case Study.”
by Michael H. Glantz
“A broad-ranging rapprochement is not likely to result from a specific response to a climate-related problem.”
“Drought Emergency, Yes...Drought Disaster, No: Southern Africa 1991-93.”
by Ailsa Holloway
“While diplomatic dividends can indeed flow from disaster relief efforts, in this instance, joint cooperation was only possible once potential military, economic, and other forms of regional confrontation had been controlled.”
“Disaster: Agent of Diplomacy or Change in International Affairs?”
by Louise K. Comfort
“Disaster—or threat of disaster—provides opportunities for enhancing collaboration among states, but the
properties and mechanisms for adaptation must either exist or be developed for effective results.”