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Civil Military Coordination in Disaster Response and Complex Emergencies Sebastian Rhodes Stampa UN Regional Civil Military Coordination Officer OCHA Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific Contact: Kathmandu 02.09.09

INTRODUCTION 1. OCHA’s Civil Military Coordination Service (CMCS). 2. What is Civil Military Coordination? 3. Why do we need to do it? 4. What are the main Challenges to Civil Military Coordination? 5. Military Support to the Civil Powers – Civil Military Coordination at the National Level. 6. Civil Military Coordination in Disaster Relief Operations. 7. Civil-Military Coordination in Complex Emergencies. 8. Conclusion.

UN OCHA Civil-Military Coordination Section (CMCS) Who we are:   

OCHA – Geneva, Emergency Services Branch 12 Staff in Geneva Regional Civil Military Coordination Officers

What we do:      

Focal Point for UN Civil-Military Coordination Humanitarian Common Service Guidelines, Strategy, and Tools Deploy as CMCoord Officers Support to Exercises Training/Advocacy

UN CMCoord – What is it?

UN Humanitarian Civil Military Coordination: The essential dialogue and interaction between civilian and military actors in humanitarian emergencies necessary to protect and promote humanitarian principles, avoid competition, minimize inconsistency, and when appropriate pursue common goals.

The key elements are information sharing, task division, and planning. Basic strategies range from coexistence to cooperation. Coordination is a shared responsibility facilitated by liaison and common training.


Increasing Role for Military Forces in Disaster Response: The scale of the Indian-Ocean Earthquake and Tsunami and the South Asia Earthquake disasters led to an unprecedented level of assistance being provided by national and international militaries to the affected States and humanitarian community. This assistance was central to the overall relief efforts in quickly accessing hard-to-reach areas and filling many technical gaps that civilian capabilities were unable to immediately provide.


Shrinking Operational Environment: In most humanitarian emergencies (complex and natural disaster) humanitarian responders will encounter armed actors. Now, more than ever before, there are likely to be multiple types of forces, including domestic, foreign, international or multinational forces and when such actors are present there are also likely to be significant coordination challenges.

CMCoord – What are the Challenges? If we do work with the military there are: Coordination challenges in the realms of security, medical evacuation, logistics, transport, communications, information management;

Challenges include minimizing the competition for scarce resources such as ports, supply routes, airfields and other logistics infrastructure.

CMCoord – What are the Challenges? In addition, armed actors are likely to seek to establish relationships with the civilian population and in many cases attempt to provide them assistance. In some cases (Natural Disasters), military forces can provide useful resources and support to the affected country or region, population or humanitarian actors. In other cases (Complex Emergencies), the perceived association with the armed actors can compromise humanitarian efforts and may pose an additional security threat.

CMCoord – What are the benefits? •

Logistical Assets: Logistical support from strategic airlift to tactical fixed wing and rotary airlift, sealift, overland transportation and related support mechanisms and personnel.

Medical Assistance: Field Hospitals, technical expertise and equipment, MEDIVAC etc.

Communications Support: Specialised communications capabilities and potential support to humanitarian operations.

Manpower: Perhaps the largest potential provider of highly disciplined and well trained manpower at very short notice to support Humanitarian operations.

Security: An clear role in providing protection for humanitarian aid workers as required.

Dealing with these challenges requires training, appropriate experience and in some cases dedicated staff.

National Civil Military Coordination At the national level, in many countries throughout the region, Armed Forces have had long experience in responding to disasters. In most cases they act in support of the Civil Authority’s Disaster Management and Response Systems. Key to their best use is: •

Establishment and Maintenance of Regular Contact;

Clear understanding of capabilities and capacities (both ways);

Integration into National Disaster Management Systems;

Clearly defined role in National Disaster Response Plans ;

Regular Joint Exercises (CPX, FTX).

Many National Disaster Management and Response Organisations employ either serving or former military staff in key roles in order to facilitate liaison.

An Example of Military Integration into a National Disaster Management Structure Appointed Senior Government Minister (PM?)

Line Ministries (National)

National Disaster

Armed Forces HQ

Management Committee

Regional Disaster Line Ministries (Regional)

Line Ministries (District)

Management Committee

District Disaster



Management Committee

Line Ministries (Local)

Local Disaster Management Committee

Impacted Area


The Oslo Guidelines To establish the basic framework for formalizing and improving the effectiveness and efficiency of the use of military teams and expertise in international disaster relief.

The Scope of the Oslo Guidelines 1. The Oslo Guidelines address the use of MCDA following natural disasters, technological or environmental emergencies in times of peace. 2. They provide non-binding guidance and a model legal framework for international military and civil defence assistance to disaster relief operations 3. Relief organizations are encouraged to adopt key principles and concepts for the use of MCDA.

Core Principles Humanity: Human suffering must be addressed wherever it is found, with particular attention to the most vulnerable in the population, such as children, women and the elderly. The dignity and rights of all victims must be respected and protected. Neutrality: Humanitarian assistance must be provided without engaging in hostilities or taking sides in controversies of a political, religious or ideological nature. Impartiality: Humanitarian assistance must be provided without discriminating as to ethnic origin, gender, nationality, political opinions, race or religion. Relief of the suffering must be guided solely by needs and priority must be given to the most urgent cases of distress.

Do No Harm: Considerations on civil-military coordination must be guided by a commitment to ‘do no harm’. Humanitarian agencies must ensure at the policy and operational levels that any potential civil-military coordination will not contribute to further the conflict, nor harm or endanger the beneficiaries of humanitarian assistance.

Civil-Military Relationship in Complex Emergencies - An IASC Reference Paper 28 June 2004 AIM Highlights, in a generic manner, the nature and character of civil-military relations in complex emergencies. Reviews some fundamental humanitarian principles and concepts that must be upheld when coordinating with the military. Makes practical considerations for humanitarian workers engaged in civilmilitary coordination

Key Principles and Concepts Perception of Humanitarian Action The delivery of humanitarian assistance to all populations in need must be neutral and impartial – it must come without political or military conditions and humanitarian staff must not take sides in disputes or political positions. This will have a bearing on the credibility and independence of humanitarian efforts in general. *Any civil-military coordination must also be mindful not to jeopardize the longstanding local network and trust that humanitarian agencies have created and maintained.

US Japan Civil Military Disaster Assistance Workshop Tokyo

Key Principles and Concepts Security of Humanitarian Personnel Any perception that humanitarian actors may have become affiliated with the military forces within a specific situation could impact negatively on the security of humanitarian staff and their ability to access vulnerable populations.

US Japan Civil Military Disaster Assistance Workshop Tokyo

Humanitarian Space The independence, flexibility, and freedom of action necessary to gain access and provide assistance to beneficiaries in a humanitarian emergency. It is achieved through acceptance and adherence to the humanitarian principles.

US Japan Civil Military Disaster Assistance Workshop Tokyo

These Guidelines are Available at:


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