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Dr Marie Aronsson-Storrier’s teaching and research helps answer the question: how do we regulate the prevention and mitigation of disaster losses around the world?

Marie is enthusiastic about the Global Crisis, Conflict and Disasters programme, particularly the access it gives students to the research community and events.

“They see us in action and are able to participate in a really practical way, which I think is important. The programme also brings in staff from the wider University.”

As such, Marie’s teaching focus is research-led. She specialises in the developing field of international disaster law, as well as related areas of international law, in particular, human rights, sustainable development, water security, sanitation, armed conflict and international law on the use of force.

“This is a world-first and it is a very timely programme, driven by global priorities both in terms of the practice of states but also in global discourse and on the academic side of things – Disaster Law is becoming a field of its own.”

Making a difference

Marie explains the programme lets students see that the Global Law at Reading research and teaching hub is part of the research community.

“It’s helpful in order to be able to give students the opportunity for internships and to send them on out in the world.”M/em>

Students are attracted to the programme for a variety of reasons. Some are more interested in focusing on displaced persons and refugees, while others are more focused on the delivery of humanitarian aid either in disasters or conflicts. Some students are interested in the subject in a more conceptual way, and are interested in continuing onto a PhD – some are simply drawn to the programme because the subject matter excites them.

“In general, I have found that they are very driven by a sense of wanting to do good, and a desire to make a difference. This creates a really interesting atmosphere in the classroom.”

“The students taking this programme are very diverse with diverse backgrounds, but what they have in common is this drive to help address these global gigantic challenges.”

Interdisciplinary research

Marie highlights the benefits of being able to bring in staff from the wider University to teach on the programme. This has included Hannah Cloke, Professor in Hydrology in the Department of Geography. Hannah's research has been crucial in helping to develop a system that will help to forecast floods accurately, almost anywhere in the world; it has the potential to save thousands of lives.

Ros Cornforth, Director of the Walker Institute, has also contributed to one of the modules. The overarching aim of the Walker Institute is to use research to enable the development of climate-resilient societies, which are able to adapt in an uncertain, changing world. In addition to colleagues from Global Law at Reading, valuable contributions have been made by Rosa Freedman, Director of the Global Development Division, as well as Alex Arnall and Henny Osbahr from the School of Agriculture, Policy and Development.

"We've also worked with students who can now take an MSc in Applied International Development with an International Law pathway. Those students were studying human rights but also took disaster management so there is a great cross-fertilisation of programmes and this collaborative teaching really helps interdisciplinary research, and vice versa.”

Bringing together different areas of law

What Marie loves about the programme the most is the way it brings together different areas of law as well as different areas of study.

“ “It has a challenge approach: we are looking at the contemporary challenges and thinking what can be done about them across scales and across disciplines.”

"Law is just one tool. We need to look at the challenges from other perspectives and to get a really comprehensive view. This is what I think really sets this programme apart and it makes it so interesting for our research projects.”

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