Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management

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Volume 22 Issue 4 (December 2014), Pages 185-242

Ad hoc Rules, Rights, and Rituals: The Politics of Mass Death (pages 223-237)

In spite of the growing incidence of mass death incidents due to factors such as climate change, technology, terrorism and globalization there are relatively few rules and procedures in place to deal with the dead and where rules do exist they are often ignored or broken. Furthermore, because of the very different cultural, legal, financial, and religious nature of states and victims international agreements, conventions and best practices are difficult to establish. This paper highlights the often political and ad hoc nature of the decisions that have to be made by responders and the challenges this presents for policy‐makers as well as the families of the victims. While accepting the need for flexibility in emergency situations, the paper identifies some of the areas where public policy reforms and frameworks are most needed in order to establish clearer rules and procedures for dealing with the dead. Finally, the paper calls for the policies and procedures that do exist to be informed by and subject to the same principles of public administration, such as accountability and transparency, that govern other areas public policy.

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