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Brussels, 10 March 2008

European Commission and United Nations launch field handbook on civil-military coordination in humanitarian crises

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the European Commission today launched The UN Civil-Military Coordination Officer Field Handbook, a set of practical guidelines designed to assist these humanitarian staff in coordinating with military actors during an emergency response.

“Coordination between civilian and military actors is often essential during an emergency response,” said John Holmes, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator. “The UN Civil-Military Coordination Officer Field Handbook will provide our field practitioners with the comprehensive, practical guidance they need to help ensure that such coordination is effective and based on internationally recognized principles and guidelines,” he said.

"Commission support for the development of the UN Civil-Military Coordination Officer Field Handbook is a concrete expression of our long-standing commitment to promoting effective coordination between civil and military actors in crisis zones, in full respect of their distinct mandates" said Louis Michel, the European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid. "The Handbook will help UN Civil-Military Coordination Officers as well as other professionals involved in these coordination activities to carry out their daily tasks in ever more challenging and complex situations."

The increasing number and scale of humanitarian emergencies, in both natural disaster and conflict settings, has led to more situations where military forces and civilian relief agencies are operating in the same theatre. For example, civilian relief actors may require military assets to help them perform tasks that would otherwise not be possible to the scale and in the time required, such as using heavy lift helicopters for the transport of emergency distributions of food and medicine to remote areas. In such situations, the United Nations deploys humanitarian civil-military coordination (UN-CMCoord) officers to ensure that the use of military assets in humanitarian response is coordinated, effective and provided in a way that conforms to internationally recognized guidelines and principles.

Such guidelines and principles stipulate that the respective mandates, objectives and operating procedures of civilian and military actors in humanitarian emergencies must remain distinct, and that humanitarian assistance provided by any actor must be neutral, impartial and based on identified humanitarian needs. The Handbook explains these guidelines and principles and provides hands-on advice to the UN-CMCoord officers faced with such issues in the field.

The European Commission funded the organisation of the technical workshops and the preparatory work for the elaboration of the Handbook, which is also intended to be a practical tool for other relief agencies and field personnel.

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