UNITED NATIONS HUMANITARIAN CIVIL-MILITARY COORDINATION
Asia and the Pacific is the most disaster-prone region in the world, experiencing both recurrent small and medium-scale events as well as devastating large-scale natural disasters. At the same time, there were 129 active conflicts in 2013 in the region, accounting for nearly one third of the world’s conflicts – the highest of any single region. Factors such as climate change, urbanization, poverty and competition over natural resources, continue to create vulnerability and exacerbate tensions across the region. Maintaining a focus on the region's complex emergencies, which often receive less attention, therefore requires innovative forms of civil-military coordination engagement, advocacy as well as preparedness work and response.
United Nations Civil-Military Coordination (UN-CMCoord) encompasses preparedness, response and post-response. For each of these phases, there are context-specific challenges and opportunities for the successful implementation of civil-military coordination principles and standards within Asia and the Pacific.
Following the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami and the adoption of the Hyogo Framework for Action, new and more robust legislation governing how countries respond to disasters within their borders was established in the Asia-Pacific region. A series of conferences on the Asia-Pacific Military Assistance to Disaster Relief Operations (APC-MADRO) led to the development of the Asia Pacific Regional Guidelines for the Use of Foreign Military Assets in Natural Disaster Response Operations. The key purpose of these guidelines is to assist the planning of foreign military assistance in support of disaster response operations in the Asia-Pacific region. The guidelines were endorsed at the beginning of 2014 and translated into a key advocacy tool for OCHA ROAP to advocate for the recognition of a single set of regional humanitarian civil-military guidance. At the same time, the guidelines represent a benchmark to facilitate the harmonization of civil-military coordination guidance, which is being developed by a number of regional actors.
There is recognition among all regional stakeholders that military capacities in Asia-Pacific countries are often the first capabilities offered and make a valuable contribution in responding to regional natural disasters. This is especially the case at the front-end of response operations – in the immediate aftermath of a disaster, it is militaries which, possessing standing forces and often unique capabilities and assets, can deploy rapidly to support initial assessments and response operations and enable national authorities and humanitarian responders to identify and service initial needs while longer term and more structured operations are being established. At the same time, regional stakeholders recognise that more systematic and better regulated engagement amongst actors that possess a comparative advantage in the quick mobilization of relief assistance and logistical capacity required during an initial phase can help national authorities to improve their response. Improved harmonization and alignment of existing civil-military coordination guidance for Asia and the Pacific would represent a key tool to achieve this integrated engagement. In this context, the OCHA Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific is hosting a regional civil-military coordination workshop, to be held on 16-17 October 2014, in Bangkok, Thailand, to initiate a joint process involving host governments, militaries and the broader humanitarian community and agree on the strategic parameters and a common planning modality for response to predictable large-scale emergency events in the region.
In Asia and the Pacific, there are countries where conflict is either ongoing or possible. Therefore, civil-military coordination in these contexts focuses on minimizing competition and conflicting requirements; it also performs an advisory role on the appropriate use of military and civil defence assets (MCDA), taking into account the risk to humanitarian relief workers and their ability to operate effectively at that moment, and in the future, against the immediate needs of affected communities.
Post- Response (Best Practices and Lessons Learned)
Given the number and severity of disasters in the region, Asia and the Pacific offers the opportunity to conduct and document best practices, feeding into the development of innovative policy and guidance, preparedness activities and training. In this context, OCHA ROAP is already collaborating with a number of regional actors (including Joint Staff Colleges and Peacekeeping Training Centers) to integrate UN-CMCoord and humanitarian assistance/disaster relief into training courses and regional discussion fora. Studies, evaluation and exercises around lessons learned can provide innovative solutions and also inform global discussions on civil-military coordination. A milestone opportunity in this regard will be provided by the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS), to be held in early 2016 in Istanbul. The WHS Regional Consultation for North and South-East Asia, which took place in Tokyo on 23 and 24 July 2014, provided a unique opportunity to promote CMCoord as a key tool that can facilitate dialogue and interaction with all parties to a conflict in a clear and coherent way and enable a more effective and principled delivery of assistance and protection to affected populations.
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APC Madro Guidelines