In light of the increasing impact of climate change, natural disasters are increasing and having dramatic effects on countries and local communities.
A natural disaster is defined as being characterized by the abnormal intensity of a natural agent (flood, mudslide, earthquake, avalanche, drought) when the usual measures to be taken to prevent this damage were not able to prevent their emergence or were not able to be taken.
In the effort of filling the legal gaps in disaster risk prevention and reduction, in 2001 the Red Cross created the International Disaster Response Law Programme (IDRL). This first legal step aimed at exploring the role of law as a response to disasters and as a relief mechanism in case of international catastrophes.
Just few years later, in 2003, the 28th international conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent formally introduced the IDRL Programme. In this occasion, legal experts of the two parties gathered to discuss and solve the legal gap and obscure areas of international humanitarian law in the event of disasters.
It followed that, in 2007, the 30th international conference adopted a new set of guidelines for the domestic facilitation and regulation of international disaster relief and initial recovery assistance. This aimed at the development of new tools to improve the legal preparedness for intervention in case of disasters.
Finally, in 2011, during the 31st conference the parties were involved in the development of a mechanism to assist States in incorporating the recommendations of the guidelines resulting in a “Model Act for the Facilitation and Regulation of International Disaster Relief and Initial Recovery Assistance”.
This conference also had the role of encouraging States to review their national legislation with the objective of assessing the responsiveness and adequacy of national responses based on the ability of responding to listed issues concerning disaster risk reduction and regulatory barriers to shelter after natural disasters. Following these developments, in 2012, the Programme changed its name to “Disaster Law Program” to represents its ever-evolving character.
The recent introduction and development of IDRL makes it an emerging area of international law, aimed at improving the humanitarian response to natural disasters. This was proven fundamental in providing support and response to major natural disasters like the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami or 2010 Haitian earthquake, highlighting the need to protect and assist people in the event of catastrophes.
Due to the increase of natural disasters caused by the effects of climate change, a constant and careful effort should be addressed at promoting legal research and development of adequate international strategies to respond to natural disasters and provide well-timed help to local communities affected by calamities.