Humanitarian Issues: Effective civil-military partnerships are crucial in disaster response

29 November, 2011
UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos addresses the International Conference on the HOPEFOR Initiative on 29 November 2011 in Doha, Qatar. Credit: IRIN
UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos addresses the International Conference on the HOPEFOR Initiative on 29 November 2011 in Doha, Qatar. Credit: IRIN

Addressing the International Conference on the HOPEFOR Initiative in Doha, Qatar today, UN Humanitarian Chief Valerie Amos highlighted the need to strengthen civil-military relations at a time when the world is facing greater humanitarian challenges and more and more governments respond to conflicts and natural disasters.

“We need to be more strategic. We need to increase accountability. We need to be better prepared. And we need to use all the resources at our disposal, building new partnerships, including with the military,” she said.

The HOPEFOR Conference, co-sponsored by the Qatar, Turkey and the Dominican Republic, looked at ways of improving effectiveness and coordination between civil-military defence assets during natural disasters.

Citing lessons learned from recent disasters in Haiti, Pakistan, Japan and Turkey, Ms. Amos talked about how national and international military forces can provide invaluable support during natural disasters, as they can often move more quickly, on a larger scale and in more difficult conditions than most civilian or humanitarian organizations.

“However, the presence of militaries during humanitarian emergencies can also complicate matters, making our work more difficult when we work in conflict situations or in natural disasters occurring in complex emergency settings,” Ms. Amos added. “It is vital that the humanitarian community remains neutral – and is perceived to be so. We cannot take sides as our job is help everyone in need.”

USG Amos welcomed Qatar’s plans to host a regional Centre of Excellence for humanitarian civil-military coordination in Doha, which aims to promote a common understanding and respect for principled disaster response through essential training, policy dialogue and sharing of regional experiences.

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