by Matt Picciotti
This post is part of the student blogger project from the summer session of International Telecommunications Law.
Matt Picciotti is a second year law student working towards a Certificate in Remote Sensing, Air, and Space Law. Prior to attending law school Matt graduated from Mississippi State University with a degree in Business Administration. He is a private pilot and plans to pursue a career in the aviation field.
An effective telecommunications system plays a vital role in the development and continued functioning of many countries. In the wake of a natural disaster the ever increasing dependency on these systems can have a crippling effect on disaster relief efforts if they become unavailable. Furthermore, the varying and laws and regulations of different countries’ pose yet another barrier to delivering aid and telecommunications equipment. The Tampere Convention seeks to remedy some of the regulatory barriers that hinder states from giving aid by way of telecommunication equipment.
Prior to the Tampere Convention disaster relief workers seeking to bring telecommunications equipment into a disaster area had to comply with various regulations. Often times they were required to pay duties on the equipment. Other times they may have been required to obtain the proper licenses for that state. The combined effects of these varying barriers can be seen through ineffective disaster relief aid. To remedy these regulatory obstacles the Tampere Convention was developed.
The Tampere Convention seeks to set out guidelines that will help the flow of telecommunications equipment, personnel, and aid into disaster stricken states. Though not mandatory the convention makes attempt to account for states interest in sovereignty while developing workable standards to overcome obstacles in the way of disaster relief efforts. Allison Rahrig discusses several issues the Tampere convention addresses in her article “Love They Neighbor: The Tampere Convention as Global Legislation.”1 Specifically, she discusses reducing regulatory barriers, immunity for relief personnel, and state sovereignty.
Rahrig feels the most important part of the convention is removing regulatory barriers such as fees on importing equipment, operator licenses, and restrictions on the movement of telecommunication personnel throughout the state. She also discusses the conventions immunity for relief personnel from arrest, detention, and legal process resulting from actions within the scope of the relief effort. Rahrig goes on to discuss the issue of state sovereignty, and how the convention addresses this by allowing the state seeking relief to maintain control over telecommunications assistance along with the power to reject any assistance. Furthermore, states providing assistance are under a duty to not interfere with the affairs of the state seeking relief.
After reading Rahrig’s article I feel that the Tampere Convention is a step in the right direction to streamline and facilitate disaster relief efforts by way of telecommunications equipment. State sovereignty is an important issue in international law, and I believe the Convention takes this into account by allowing states the free will to deliver and accept aid rather than making it mandatory. Some would argue that the convention does not give any incentive to developed states to render aid to developing states due to the control that it affords the state seeking relief. I on the other hand see the convention working as an incentive for both the state seeking aid and the state delivering it. States seeking aid do not want to risk jeopardizing their sovereignty while states delivering aid do not want to be bound to deliver aid. The convention remedies this by allowing the state seeking relief controls over efforts in its territory, in contrast the state delivering aid is under no obligation to do so and can seek cost for its services. Finally, the state rendering aid may see the reduced barriers to delivering telecommunications equipment as an effective means to build relations with developing nations.
1Allison Rahrig, “Love They Neighbor: The Tampere Convention as Global Legislation,” 17 IND. J. GLOBAL LEGAL STUD. 273 (2010).
2Id. at 281-82.