UN, European Commission launch guidelines for relief work in crises

27 June 2003

The United Nations and the European Commission today launched new guidelines for the use of military assets in humanitarian emergencies, stressing the impartiality of relief operations and the main tasks and responsibilities required in disaster situations.

The "Guidelines On The Use Of Military And Civil Defence Assets To Support United Nations Humanitarian Activities In Complex Emergencies" (MCDA) were launched by Kenzo Oshima, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, and Poul Nielson, EU Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid during a ceremony in Brussels aimed at seeking wide use of the document.

The guidelines are a non-binding, generic document that lays down the main principles, concepts, tasks and responsibilities of the players in a complex emergency, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Any use of military and civil defence assets should be clearly limited in time and scale and present an exit strategy element, the document says. Like all UN humanitarian assistance, they are to be provided at no cost to the affected State or receiving agency.

In addition, the guidelines state that any humanitarian operation using such assets must retain its civilian nature and character, and remain under civilian control and authority. Assistance must be provided in accordance with the basic humanitarian principles of humanity, impartiality and neutrality.

The guidelines are the result of nearly three years of deliberations between UN Member States, international and regional organizations, and agencies from both the humanitarian and the military communities. They are complementary to and build on those adopted by the international community in 1994 in Oslo for the use of military and civil defence assets in the context of natural, environmental and technological disasters.


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