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Dr Rebecca Monson
ANU College of Law, Australian National University
Dr Caroline Compton
UNSW Law, University of New South Wales
Professor Daniel Fitzpatrick
Faculty of Law, Monash University
Dr Adil Hasan Khan
Melbourne Law School, University of Melbourne
Dr Fanny Thornton
Faculty of Business, Government & Law, University of Canberra

Legal scholars, disaster studies and humanitarian practitioners alike frequently recognise the challenges to state sovereignty and the rule of law associated with climate change and natural disasters. Nevertheless, there remains a continued emphasis on the role of the state in responding to ‘risk’, ‘insecurity’ and ‘vulnerability’ associated with factors such as race, class, gender and place. Amongst donors, scholars, and NGOs, the state is usually conceptualised as a source and site of stability and security capable of addressing vulnerability and precarity. This is the case even for ‘weak’, ‘fragile’ or ‘failing’ states which are perceived to lack the capacity to deliver stability, security and certainty. Indigenous forms of resilience or localised approaches to adaptation or mitigation are simultaneously ignored, downplayed or even actively undermined. Indeed, in many instances, disaster recovery introduces the state into previously stable communities, and through the implementation of ‘recovery plans’ and ‘building back better’, communities are destabilised and alternative ways of knowing and governing are disrupted.

This panel exposes and questions the assumptions of legal centralism, including their particular and contested temporalities and spatialities, which continue to dominate the approaches adopted by donors, governments and NGOs. Papers in this panel not only question whether social, political and environmental stability can ever be achieved though the rule of law, but whether a ‘stable’ legal environment is the best means by which to build resilience and achieve security.

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