Emergency Relief Coordinator
International Conference on the HOPEFOR Initiative
29 November 2011
Your Excellency, Sheik Hamad Bin Jassim Bin Jabr Al-Thani,
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
I would like to thank the State of Qatar for its generous
This international conference comes at a particularly opportune
moment and my thanks to Qatar, Turkey and the Dominican Republic
for co-sponsoring it.
Last year, more than one natural disaster with humanitarian
consequences – small and large – occurred per day, causing the
death of nearly 297,000 people, affected almost 208 million
others and resulted in an estimated $110 billion in damages.
This year is no different and it is clear that there will be
more in the future. Conflict, population growth, rapid
urbanisation, environmental degradation, water shortages,
increasing food prices and climate change are just some of the
trends leading to larger, more severe and more complex
humanitarian emergencies than ever before.
In addition, more governments are becoming engaged in
international humanitarian efforts and there has also been a
proliferation in the number and diversity of actors responding
to disasters and affected people will want to have more say in
how to meet their own needs as they become more informed about
what is available and more aware of their rights. The
participation of regional organisations in humanitarian action
has already increased and is expected to grow further in the
To addresses these challenges, we need to strengthen and reform
the current response system. 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. And we need more
The appropriate role for the military in humanitarian response
has been the subject of ongoing debate and discussion. This
debate has become even more pertinent in the last few years as
humanitarian crises have become more complex with a potent mix
of conflict and natural disasters occurring simultaneously in
Over the last two years, the devastating earthquakes in Haiti,
Japan and Turkey as well as the disastrous flooding that
affected Pakistan demonstrated how national and international
military forces can provide invaluable support to improve the
effectiveness of the humanitarian response.
It is clear that in many disasters around the world, domestic
and foreign military playing and continue to play a significant
and increasing role, doing excellent life-saving work in record
The military can often move more quickly, on a larger scale and
in more difficult conditions than most civilian or humanitarian
However, the presence of militaries during humanitarian
emergencies can also complicate matters, making our work more
difficult when we work in conflict situations – or complex
emergencies – or in natural disasters occurring in complex
The core principles that underpin humanitarian work –
neutrality, impartiality, and operational independence – are
particularly important when we work in those complex settings
and where there may be many parties to a conflict. It is vital
that we remain neutral and are perceived to be so. We cannot
take sides as our job is to help everyone in need.
That is why it is so important that we reach a common
understanding of the respective roles and responsibilities of
military and civilian actors during humanitarian emergencies,
and define the rules of engagement.
For instance, the Haiti and Pakistan operations in 2010 showed
the importance of developing a common understanding of
civil-military coordination and use of military and civil
defence assets as part of preparedness and contingency planning.
The fact that national civil-military guidelines were developed
in Pakistan prior to the 2010 floods largely contributed to the
successful civil-military interface at the national level and
quicker, more efficient decision-making to accept or refuse
offers of foreign military assets based on needs.
In Haiti, on the other hand, the lack of prior understanding or
agreements led to confusion, ineffective coordination
structures, and delayed decision making, with foreign military
and civil defence assets being either not used or used in an
Based on these and other experiences over the past two decades,
we have made great progress in providing a structured,
principled framework for humanitarian civil-military
coordination. For instance with internationally recognised
guidelines, the formation of the Consultative Group on the use
of military and civil defence assets and OCHA’s Civil-Military
However, despite these developments, there are areas which
require further work.
We need to improve the understanding of the different cultures
within the two communities, the appropriateness of the
capacities and capabilities of the humanitarian community and
the military units deployed, and the ability of affected States
to effectively integrate foreign military and civil defence
assets in national responses.
We also need to ensure that the “right” type of units and assets
are deployed and that there is appropriate training to
facilitate transition from reliance on military assets to
That is why this initiative - led by Qatar with the Dominican
Republic and Turkey, to look at ways in which we can improve the
effectiveness and coordination of military and civil defence
assets deployed in support of the response to natural disasters,
is so crucial.
And important decisions have already been made, for example that
new initiatives in the field of humanitarian-military
coordination should support and complement, but not duplicate or
compete with the current international humanitarian response
The clear support expressed for a needs-based approach to
humanitarian operations, as well as for the principles and
concepts contained in the Oslo, MCDA and other guidelines is
Of particular importance is the principle of last resort, which
states that humanitarian organisations should only request the
use of military assets when those assets are unique in
capability or availability. We all recognise that given the
complexities of many operating environments, this is a key
principle which needs to be upheld.
I am pleased to see that the Conference outcome document
stresses the core role of training, exercises, policy
development, and operational capacity and preparedness – with
the aim of increasing the effectiveness of the use of military
and civil defence assets to support humanitarian missions.
There has also been an extremely constructive discussion on
establishing regional Centres of Excellence for humanitarian
civil-military coordination to promote at the regional and
international levels a common understanding of and respect for
principled engagement in disaster response, ensuring that the
use of military and civil defence assets is more effective in
supporting humanitarian assistance.
Your excellency, I welcome Qatar’s decision to host a centre
here in Doha. It will add significant value to on-going work in
And we at OCHA, continuing our advisory role to the HOPEFOR
initiative, stand ready to support this centre as an essential
vehicle for training, policy dialogue and the regional sharing
We also look forward to further discussion on strengthening
global and regional networks of civil-military coordination
practitioners. This conference is an important step in the
process of building an improved, strengthened humanitarian
I thank Turkey to agreeing to host the next conference.
It is clear that in today’s world, no one government, no one
agency, no one aid organisation can address crises alone.
If we are to meet the challenges which will continue to face us,
we have to find new ways of sharing ideas, pooling resources and
An effective relationship between humanitarian organisations and
militaries, based on shared principles and a clear understanding
of our respective roles is crucial, and this conference and its
outcomes provide a significant step in this regard.