International Disaster Response Law (IDRL) in Kenya: A study on Kenya’s legal preparedness for facilitating and regulating international disaster assistance



This report contains a review of international humanitarian assistance at the time of disasters as governed by the legal and policy framework in place in Kenya. It has also reviewed the existing framework and system for coordination of response to disasters. The study is informed by the “Guidelines for the domestic facilitation and regulation of international disaster relief and initial recovery assistance” (also known as the “IDRL Guidelines”) as adopted at the 30th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent in 2007. The IDRL Guidelines serve as a practical tool to advise governments on how to prepare their disaster laws and plans for international relief operations.

Findings of the Report

One of the main findings of the report is that existing legislation provides for numerous guidelines that apply either directly or indirectly in the regulation of international humanitarian assistance during disasters. However, Kenya does not yet have a comprehensive disaster management policy or law that can provide a basis for this regulation. During the period of the research, the Government was working on a draft disaster management bill, which has not yet been passed into law or presented to parliament. The draft bill has left out key areas of regulation governing international humanitarian assistance.

In addition to the bill, there is also a draft National Disaster Management Policy (NDMP) that has also not yet been approved by either the Cabinet or Parliament. The draft NDMP provides for strong guidelines relating to the institutional and normative framework governing disaster management. From the research, it is clear that large portions of the proposed NDMP are already in practice. As such, whereas there is weak legislative and policy architecture, the practice in several aspects of regulation of international humanitarian assistance is strong. This is facilitated by existing executive orders and good will from various concerned departments and officers.

From an institutional perspective, the research findings note that there are multiple public agencies and departments that play critical role in disaster management. However, interviews conducted by the researchers show significant weakness in terms of coordination, risks of duplication and bureaucracy that could negatively hamper international humanitarian assistance.

Key recommendations

The report makes detailed recommendations in the various chapters. However, the following emerge as key recommendations based on the findings of the research:

  1. There is need for a comprehensive policy and legislation on disaster management. The framework should not only develop critical areas that have not yet been regulated but also harmonize existing regulations in various legislations that could be applicable to international humanitarian assistance. Areas that need special attention include mechanisms for requesting international assistance; entry of personnel and goods for humanitarian assistance; early warning and information sharing regulation; accountability by agencies and persons engaged in humanitarian assistance.

  2. There is need to harmonize and strengthen coordination among agencies charged with disaster management. As it is, multiple institutions exist with no clear mechanism for coordination. Specifically, the report recommends the National Disaster Operations Centre (NDOC) to be strengthened as the coordinating agency for disaster response. The NDOC requires to be institutionalized through law with a clear description of mandate and relationship with other agencies.
    In addition, the role of the County Governments in coordinating disaster response within their own counties needs to be strengthened. The draft NDMP provides for different classifications of disasters with both the County and National Governments playing a role albeit in different levels. However, the interviews conducted through this research show the need for further clarification on the specific roles of both levels of Government.

  3. The report makes a strong case for strengthened coordination and oversight of international humanitarian assistance by the civil society. This includes the need to enhance coordination meetings between the civil society and government and the need to include civil society in key decision-making bodies. There should also be special registration of agencies whose mandate and objective is largely to support in international humanitarian assistance. There is also need for adoption of a mechanism for temporary registration of such agencies during times of disaster.