Disaster diplomacy began with Kelman and Koukis (2000:214) asking: 'do natural disasters induce international cooperation amongst countries that have traditionally been "enemies"?'. They implied that local or regional disasters could positively affect bilateral relations amongst states which would not normally be prone to such co-operation, and that although disasters are felt at the local scale they might stimulate political co-operation at an international level. The potential for a locally situated disaster to affect international politics far beyond the physical reach of the disaster event is referred to here as a potentially globalizing effect of disaster. A similar but temporal disjunctive exists in the often fleeting interest of actors in disaster and diplomacy, compared to the longer-term gestation of root causes.
This chapter explores the disaster diplomacy thesis through several case studies. Relationships are examined between the political levels at which disaster diplomacy operates, and the local, national and global pressures that shape whether or not the potential for disaster diplomacy is realized. The challenge is to counteract an inherent contradiction between disaster and diplomacy cause and effect, where disaster diplomacy tends to become 'globalized' over a short time-frame while the local and global root causes of disaster often remain over the long-term. The unanswered question is whether we could predict when a specific disaster event might be a catalyst for international disaster diplomacy.
The principle behind exploring disaster diplomacy was that:
The occurrence or threat of disaster 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 choice from the humanitarian imperative -