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The Multifaceted Contribution of the EU in the Field of International Disaster Response

Susanna Villani


In recent times, imperatives of humanity and solidarity have led to increasing international interventions in order to assist the victims of severe disasters. In this context, the EU has progressively become a global disaster manager, by creating specific arrangements and strategies for effectively responding to overseas emergencies, thus coexisting with the policies of the Member States. The influence exercised by the EU in the field of disaster response at international level should be evaluated from an operational and a normative point of view. One of the most relevant instruments the Union can rely on for providing in-kind assistance to the victims of severe emergencies occurring in third countries is the Union Civil Protection Mechanism. As demonstrated during the 2014 Ebola outbreak, this instrument is part of the EU’s external identity, capable of creating synergies with other international subjects involved in the phase of response, as well as of positively impacting on the overall reaction to overwhelming disasters. The weight of the EU as a global actor in the field of disaster response can also be assessed through its contribution to the work of the International Law Commission (ILC) in the elaboration of the Draft Articles on the “Protection of persons in the event of a disaster”. In this regard, the EU legal order has been source of inspiration for the ILC. However, the EU has yet to acquire an autonomous role in significantly shaping the substantive parameters of the international legal system in the field of disaster relief.

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