At a time when natural disasters are becoming more frequent and more devastating, Qatar is calling for more effective use of military resources for disaster relief.
Speaking at a ministerial working dinner at the International Peace Institute, the Prime Minister of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr Al-Thani, said that “it is time to adapt our militaries to deal with the forces of nature, not just the force of arms.”
He detailed a proposal to create a humanitarian operation force called HOPEFOR. “We must marry two distinct cultures: military and humanitarian. We need the FOR of the military to deliver the HOPE of the humanitarian community,” he said. “Let us work together to create a force for good to help people in time of disaster.”
Increasingly, military assets are being used in disaster-relief operations. In 2004, thirty-five countries sent military resources to Southeast Asia to support relief efforts after the tsunami. In January 2010, twenty-six countries deployed military assets to Haiti after the devastating earthquake.
While military support can make the difference between life and death, “the civilian nature of humanitarian operations should not be compromised,” cautioned the Prime Minister. “When military resources are used for disaster relief, they should be mobilized in a way that is predictable, structured, and timely, in line with humanitarian principles, and upon the request of the affected state,” he said.
At the dinner, participants discussed how to strengthen implementation of the Guidelines on the use of Military and Civil Defense Assets in Disaster Relief (also known as the Oslo Guidelines). In the presence of the UN’s new Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos, participants exchanged views on how to strengthen the UN’s emergency response system, particularly the Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
“The goal is to support existing humanitarian structures, not replace them,” said the Prime Minister.
In order to improve training, promote respect for humanitarian principles, improve coordination on the ground, and develop networks among practitioners, the Prime Minister of Qatar offered to establish a Centre of Excellence for Emergency Relief in Doha.
As a follow-up to the dinner, Qatar and IPI, in cooperation with OCHA, will convene expert-level discussions on how to make more effective use of military assets for disaster relief, and the modalities and conditions for such operations.
Read the Prime Minister’s speech in: