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Disaster Diplomacy  

Carmela Lutmar and Leah Mandler

Almost every disaster brings up hope that natural disasters can somehow open up space for peaceful diplomatic interaction between parties in conflict, be they warring states or warring domestic factions. Advocates of “disaster diplomacy” argue that while earthquakes, floods, windstorms, and tsunami result in human tragedies, these events also generate opportunities for international cooperation, even between enemies. While quantitative research focusing on disaster and conflict clearly shows the connection between the two phenomena, the causal effect is not always straightforward. Certainly, conflict-prone zones suffer from higher vulnerability and risk than places where people reside in peace, just as frequently disaster-stricken areas provide more opportunities for conflicting parties to clash. However, the chicken-and-egg question remains to be clarified as most disasters in conflict zones are complex, long-term disasters exacerbated by human activity. At the same time, more detailed case studies of individual disasters substantiate the claim that natural disasters sometimes encourage diplomacy, but also emphasize significant differences in circumstances and conflict characteristics among others.