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Hurricane Katrina

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Radix:  Radical Interpretations of and Solutions for Disasters

Hurricane Katrina

At the end of August 2005, Hurricane Katrina made landfall along the U.S.A's Gulf of Mexico coastline, resulting in what might be one of the most lethal disasters to date in the U.S.A. and one of the most expensive disasters involving environmental phenomena so far. This disaster struck during the second term of President George W. Bush as the U.S.A. was becoming increasingly isolated internationally. The international response, though, tended towards sympathy and desire to help. The following Hurricane Katrina disaster diplomacy issues are explored:

Countries and International Organisations with Significant Conflict with the U.S.A.

Up to 9 September 2005, several countries and international organisations offered aid despite significant sources of conflict or recent political disagreement with the U.S.A. Enmity with the U.S.A. ranges from past and, at the time, possibly future violent conflict (e.g. Cuba and Iran) to diplomatic ice mainly due to the Iraq war (e.g. France and Spain and hence the EU despite splits within that organisation) to mutual dislike and distrust (e.g. China and Mexico). The summary is:

Other Disaster Diplomacy Links

Other than Countries and international organisations with significant conflict with the U.S.A., the following initiatives with potential relevance to disaster diplomacy occurred after Hurricane Katrina:

  • Disasters Charter:
             The Disasters Charter has been signed by the space agencies: European Space Agency (ESA), Centre national d'études spatiales (CNES), Canadian Space Agency (CSA), Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Comisión Nacional de Actividades Espaciales (CONAE) , and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). For Hurricane Katrina, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) activated the charter on 1 September 2005 and French Civil Protection activated the charter on 2 September 2005.

  • IEA (International Energy Agency):
             Agreed on 2 September 2005 to provide 60 million barrels of oil and gas products over the next month. Considering all the disastrous diplomacy wrought by the U.S.A. due to oil-related issues, from war to environmental protection, it is ironic that the IEA countries are willing to satiate the U.S.A.'s overdemand for oil.

  • NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation):
             In addition to requesting first aid kits, blankets, and food, the U.S.A. asked NATO to help transport the EU aid using the new NRF (NATO Response Force). An interesting situation in that the U.S.A. proposed the NATO rapid reaction force and opposed the E.U. rapid reaction force. Now, E.U. aid is being transported by NATO to help the U.S.A.

  • Tsunami Diplomacy Links:
             Some of the quickest offers of aid came from countries affected by the 26 December 2004, including Bangladesh, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and Thailand (see also India above). Comments from these countries suggested that they remembered the Americans' generosity and wished to reciprocate, even to the extent of Sri Lanka calling its $25,000 donation "a token contribution".
             A new realm of disaster diplomacy opens up: Would providing aid to a country--enemy, friend, or in between--lead to a similar future response? Does tit-for-tat exist? Would not providing aid to a country--enemy, friend, or in between--lead to a similar future response?

  • U.S.A. Reaction:
             The American government's initial reaction was to try to avoid accepting external assistance. On 1 September 2005, President Bush stated "I'm not expecting much from foreign nations because we haven't asked for it. I do expect a lot of sympathy, and perhaps some will send cash dollars. But this country is going to rise up and take care of it...You know, we would love help, but we're going to take care of our own business as well, and there's no doubt in my mind we'll succeed."
             Later, the State Department mentioned "We will accept all offers of foreign assistance. Anything that can be of help to alleviate the difficult situation, the tragic situation of the people of the area affected by Hurricane Katrina will be accepted... America should be heartened by the fact that the world is reaching out to America at a time of need" while denying a change in position. Meanwhile, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that "no offers of assistance will be refused".


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