About shahlaali

Assistant Professor at the University of Hong Kong.

New book – Governing Disasters: Engaging Local Populations in Humanitarian Relief

A new book addressing the role of collaborative governance in disaster response has been published by Cambridge University Press: S. Ali, Governing Disasters: Engaging Local Populations in Humanitarian Relief, June 2016, 240 pp.gd

Description: With growing awareness of the devastation caused by major natural disasters, alongside integration of governance and technology networks, the parameters of humanitarian aid are becoming more global. At the same time, humanitarian instruments are increasingly recognizing the centrality of local participation. Drawing on six case studies and a survey of 69 members of the relief sector, this book suggests that the key to the efficacy of post-disaster recovery is the primacy given to local actors in the management, direction and design of relief programs. Where local partnership and knowledge generation and application is ongoing, cohesive, meaningful and inclusive, disaster relief efforts are more targeted, cost-effective, efficient and timely. Governing Disasters: Engaging Local Populations in Humanitarian Relief examines the interplay between law, governance and collaborative decision making with international, state, private sector and community actors in order to understand the dynamics of a global decentralized yet coordinated process of post-disaster humanitarian assistance.
  • Provides a comprehensive review of community engagement with international, state and private entities in responding to natural disasters
  • Identifies best practices in locally-engaged disaster governance through comparative analysis of survey data and disaster recovery case studies in six jurisdictions
  • Synthesizes findings in the form of law and policy recommendations
Reviews & endorsements:
Elegantly weaving theory with rich contextual studies, Professor Shahla Ali’s Governing Disasters elevates the study of law and disasters [by] setting agendas both for scholarship and policy.
  David D. Caron, King’s College London
Community involvement and public-private partnership are sometimes written off as popular buzzwords. This important and carefully documented book shows, however, that they can make a major difference in the effectiveness of disaster relief.
   Daniel Farber, University of California, Berkeley
In drawing on the new governance literature to explore the role of local actors in post-disaster humanitarian relief, Professor Ali generates important insights into the careful equilibrium of decentralization and coordination that is necessary for successful multi-level governance.
  Robert B. Ahdieh, Emory University, Atlanta
Offers a rich and comparative analysis of local participation in disaster response and recovery in six recent disasters. At a time when the international humanitarian community is stretched thin by multiple large-scale disasters, and the twin forces of conflict and larger natural disasters place millions in need of humanitarian assistance globally, there has never been a more apt time to consider seriously how best to support and enhance the capacities of local communities to respond to and manage disaster response. Governments, scholars and humanitarian and development practitioners will benefit enormously from reviewing the actual experience of local community participation in disaster recovery expertly examined in this work.
  Vincenzo Bollettino, Harvard Humanitarian Initiative

Fairytale mediation in Shanghai

With the opening of the Shanghai Disneyland, a new mediation centre was established to address disputes connected with the resort.  The mediation and litigation centre will be overseen by the Pudong New Area People’s Court.  According to Fu Yuming, vice-president of the court, “as a considerable number of visitors will be from other parts of the country, or even from overseas, and will stay for only a couple of days in Shanghai, we set up the center to fast-track court procedures and will provide visitors with one-stop service”. More information can be found here.dsn

Collaborative Governance: responding to disasters

ndBuilding on a growing body of economic, social and ethical work in the field of disaster response, recent empirical findings in the area of law & governance have been published examining how communities respond to natural disasters.

The key findings of this research are that where local partnership and knowledge generation and application is ongoing, cohesive, meaningful and inclusive, disaster relief efforts are more targeted, cost-effective, efficient and timely (S. Ali. (2016). Governing Disasters: Engaging Local Populations in Humanitarian Relief, Cambridge University Press).  The findings address an emerging obligation to incorporate local participation in global humanitarian instruments (Ali, S and Kabau, T. (2015) A Human Rights Based Approach to the Global Regulation of Humanitarian Relief: The Emerging Obligation to Incorporate Local Participation, BROOKLYN JOURNAL OF INTERNATIONAL LAW).  The findings also speak to the efficacy of ‘peer presence’ or substantive accompaniment in disaster response and report a statistically significant correlation between the level of “peer” engagement with a local community and perceived effectiveness of response (Ali, S. (2015) Toward Peer Presence in Post-Disaster Governance: An Empirical Study, HASTINGS INTERNATIONAL AND COMPARATIVE LAW REVIEW).  In addition, the findings examine the role of non-state actors in the evolution of humanitarian norms (Ali, S and Kabau, T. (2014) Non-State Actors and the Evolution of Humanitarian Norms: Implications of the Sphere Charter in Health and Nutrition Relief, JOURNAL OF INTERNATIONAL HUMANITARIAN LEGAL STUDIES, Brill/Nijhoff), the emergence of crowd-sourced governance in disaster response (Ali, S (2014). Crowd Sourced Governance in a Post Disaster Context, INTERNATIONAL AND COMPARATIVE LAW QUARTERLY, Cambridge University Press), and self-governance by humanitarian non-state actors (Ali, S. and Kabau, T. (2014). Self Governance by Humanitarian Non-State Actors in Health and Nutrition Relief, DEPAUL JOURNAL OF HEALTH LAW).  The findings also address the role of transparency rules in addressing polycentric environmental disaster-related disputes (Ali, S. (2015) Asian Disasters, Global Impact: Japan’s Fukushima Disaster and Prospects of Utilizing Investor-State Mediation and UNCITRAL Transparency Rules for Polycentric Environmental Disaster-Related Disputes, ASIAN DISPUTE REVIEW).

The research has been supported by the Hong Kong Research grants council (HKU 757412H). Comments and feedback are most welcome.  Please contact Cambridge Press if your library or University is interested in pre-ordering a copy of the manuscript.


Hong Kong to Begin to Hear Cases for the Permanent Court of Arbitration

imgresAccording to a recent SCMP article, Hong Kong will begin to hold arbitrations for disputes involving states and private and public companies, after China and Hong Kong signed agreements with an international court.

The agreement with the Permanent Court of Arbitration means that Hong Kong could handle many of its outstanding cases involving Asian parties.

Hong Kong will become the 10th jurisdiction in the world, and the fourth in Asia to hold arbitration cases based on a PCA deal.

New empirical findings on commercial arbitration

New data on practices and trends in commercial arbitration have been recently published. They include results of an empirical survey of perceptions and practices among experienced arbitrators conducted by Professor Thomas Stipanowitch of Pepperdine University. Reflections on the State and Future of Commercial Arbitration: Challenges, Opportunities, Proposals and its companion piece, Arbitration in Evolution: Current Practices and Perspectives of Experienced Arbitrators, will soon be published in the Columbia American Review of International Arbitration.  They may now be accessed at the following SSRN links:arbitration_r11_c10

http://ssrn.com/abstract=2519084   (Reflections on the State and Future of Commercial Arbitration: Challenges, Opportunities, Proposals)

http://ssrn.com/abstract=2519196   (Arbitration in Evolution: Current Practices and Perspectives of Commercial Arbitrators).

Review of Pilot Property Mediation Scheme in Hong Kong

The results of a pilot mediation scheme for property owners affected by compulsory sale of land in Hong Kong was released yesterday.  According to the Scheme, both minority owners and majority owners involved in compulsory sale applications to the Lands Tribunal can seek mediation service under the Scheme at a fee. Elderly minority owners who pass a means test will also be eligible for financial subsidy for their share of the mediator fee under the Scheme. The details of the findings can be found hereproperty_0.height-165.

Among the findings of the study were that the Scheme has served its historical mission and is now no longer cost-effective as direct negotiations are often preferred in some cases.

A Creative Space for Resolution


imagesEvidence has found that thinking creatively and resolving disputes is enhanced by environmental factors. This understanding is clearly reflected in the design of Conflict Change Consulting‘s new office in Hong Kong.  Its founder Sala Sihombing put careful thought into the impact of “light, color and design on productivity.”  This thinking has manifested itself in a beautiful open space that it at once calming and energizing, open and welcoming.  Have a look at some of the office photos here.