Civil emergency planning is first and foremost a national responsibility. However, NATO’s broad approach to security, as described in the 1999 Strategic Concept, recognizes that major civil emergencies can pose a threat to security and stability.
Countries can no longer rely on purely national solutions for large-scale emergencies, particularly given the complex nature of today’s threats and the unpredictable security environment.
While the United Nations retains the primary role in coordinating international disaster relief, NATO provides an effective forum in which the use of civilian and military assets can be dovetailed to achieve a desired goal. Given the requirement for the military and civilian communities to develop and maintain robust cooperation, civil emergency planning in NATO focuses on the five following areas:
- civil support for Alliance Article 5 (collective defence) operations;
- support for non-Article 5 (crisis response) operations;
- support for national authorities in civil emergencies;
- support for national authorities in the protection of populations against the effects of weapons of mass destruction;
- cooperation with Partner countries in preparing for and dealing with disasters.
Civil support for Alliance Article 5 (collective defence) operations
During an invocation of Article 5, the collective defence clause of the North Atlantic Treaty, civil support to the military takes the form of advice provided by civilian experts to NATO military authorities in areas such as decontamination of toxic and industrial chemicals and civil transport, be it air, ground, or sea. Support is provided to military authorities to assist them in developing and maintaining arrangements for effective use of civil resources.
For example, in Active Endeavour, the Alliance’s counter-terrorism operation in the Mediterranean, civil ocean shipping experts provided advice to Allied navies on commercial standards and international law regarding the searching of ships.
Advice and support are demand-driven. In other words, NATO military authorities must request such help if they consider it necessary. Support is provided during peacetime, as well as during the planning and execution of an operation.
Civil support to the military within civil emergency planning should not be confused with civil military cooperation (CIMIC), which concerns interactions between deployed military forces, local authorities and aid agencies in an area of operations in the context of a conflict or disaster situation. CIMIC establishes relationships with civil actors, harmonizing activities and, in some cases, sharing resources, in order to reach goals faster and more efficiently.
Network of civil experts
A group of 380 civil experts located across the Euro-Atlantic area are selected based on specific areas of support frequently required by the military. They cover civil aspects relevant to NATO planning and operations including crisis management, consequence management and critical infrastructure. Provided by nations, experts are drawn from government and industry. They serve for three years, participate in training and respond to requests for assistance in accordance with specific procedures known as the Civil Emergency Planning Crisis Management Arrangements.
Civil Expertise Catalogue and “Reachback”
The Civil Expertise Catalogue is a list of assets and capabilities which are available to NATO’s military authorities, operational commanders, and the entire military chain of command. Expertise is usually located in national ministries, or in a commercial businesses.
The Catalogue is administered by the Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre. Any military commander in need of information or advice on a civilian matter can address a request to the Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre. The process for requesting information is what is known as “reachback”.
The Civil Emergency Planning Rapid Reaction Team
The Civil Emergency Planning Rapid Reaction Team is a concept designed to evaluating civil needs and capabilities to support a NATO operation or an emergency situation. This concept was approved in 2006.
Within 24-hours of approving a request for advice, a Rapid Reaction Team composed of civil experts taken from the Civil Emergency Planning Committee’s Planning Groups can be deployed to assess civilian requirements across the functional areas of civil protection, transportation, industrial resources and communications, medical assistance and food/water.
If necessary, the team can be augmented by members of the NATO Headquarters international staff, the NATO military authorities, and other national experts. In the case of a humanitarian disaster, the Rapid Reaction Team would coordinate closely with the United Nations and the affected country.
The first example of a deployment of civil experts in accordance with the Rapid Reaction Team procedures happened in August 2008 as a result of the crisis in Georgia.
Comprehensive Approach Specialist Support (COMPASS)
NATO Civil Emergency Planning is responsible for the management of the Comprehensive Approach Specialist Support (COMPASS) database which is a list of national civilian specialists deployable for short, medium and long term assignments. They are specialised in the political, reconstruction and stabilisation and media fields. Their role is to advise NATO forces on fulfilling their task in coordination with other international organisations.
Support for non-Article 5 (crisis response) operations
The mechanisms in place for providing civil support for Article 5 operations are applied to non-Article 5 operations as well.
Non-Article 5 operations have been more common thus far than their Article 5 counterparts. Non-Article 5 crisis response operations are those that are mainly conducted in non-NATO countries to prevent a conflict from spreading and destabilizing countries or regions (e.g. peacekeeping operations such as in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo).
Beginning in the 1990s, NATO engaged in a number of non-Article 5 crisis response operations on three continents: initially in the former Yugoslavia in Europe and subsequently in Afghanistan and Iraq in Asia and in the Darfur region of Sudan in Africa. These operations have covered a wide variety of missions, from crisis prevention to emergency crisis response.
For example, at the request of NATO commanders in Afghanistan, civil experts have provided advice on commercial toxic chemicals, thereby allowing commanders to make operational decisions on their handling.
Also, during the Alliance’s support to the 2004 Summer Olympic Games in Greece, civilian representatives from the Euro-Atlantic Coordination Centre worked closely with military operators in the contingency planning for a possible terrorist attack using chemical, biological or radiological agents. Civil support for these operations has been critical to their success.
Support for national authorities in civil emergencies
Providing support to national authorities in times of civil emergencies, natural or man-made, is conducted on an ad hoc basis as requested by national authorities in times of crisis or under extraordinary circumstances.
Requests for assistance from member or partner countries are addressed to the Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre, which circulates them to the member countries and Partnership for Peace countries. The Centre facilitates the coordination of reponses, and then sends the resulting offers of assistance back to the requesting country.
For example, if a country requests food rations and housing supplies for suffering populations, the Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre will match the offers of assistance from contributing nations with the requests of the stricken nation. In this way, duplication of effort is avoided.
Specific instances of assistance included providing support in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated the United States gulf coast in August 2005. In total, 189 tons of relief and emergency supplies were flown to the United States via an emergency transport operation led by NATO.
In certain cases, approval to provide assistance to civil authorities must come from the North Atlantic Council, the Alliance’s principal decision-making body. This can happen when the requestor is not a NATO member or Partner country, or when collective Allied military resources are used. This was the case in 2005 in Pakistan – which is neither a member nor a partner country – when it requested assistance from the Alliance in the aftermath of a massive earthquake in the Kashmir region. NATO airlifted close to 3,500 tons of urgently-needed supplies to Pakistan and deployed engineers, medical units and specialist equipment to assist in relief operations.
Most recently, in the wake of massive floods, Pakistan again requested NATO assistance in delivering humanitarian aid from donor countries and organisations. The NATO Council agreed to providing a NATO air-bridge. Between August and November 2010, 23 flights have been flown delivering nearly 1000 tons of humanitarian supplies such as pumps, generators, tents, high energy biscuits and baby food.
Support for national authorities in the protection of populations against the effects of weapons of mass destruction
As a result of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks and subsequent attacks in Madrid and London, Civil Emergency Planning activities have focused on measures aimed at enhancing national capabilities and civil preparedness in the event of possible attacks using chemical, biological or radiological agents (CBRN).
At Prague in 2002, a Civil Emergency Action plan was adopted for the protection of populations against the effects of Weapons of Mass destruction. As a result, an inventory of national capabilities for use in CBRN incidents (medical assistance, radiological detection units, aero-medical evacuation) has been developed. In addition, guidelines and standards have been developed for EAPC nations to draw upon in the areas of planning, training and equipment for first responders to CBRN incidents. These activities have contributed to enhancing Allies and Partners ability to assist one another in the face of such attacks.
A comprehensive EAPC programme on CBRN training and exercises has been developed. Treatment protocols for casualties following a CBRN attack were developed by NATO’s Public Health and Food/Water Group. NATO’s Civil Protection Group has developed public information guidelines for use before, during and after a crisis.
NATO’s Transport Group has established mechanisms for co-ordination of nationally provided civil transport resources for Alliance use in such areas as mass evacuation and medical evacuation. NATO has also developed a Memorandum of Understanding on the facilitation of vital civil cross border transport to accelerate and simplify clearance for international assistance sent in response to a major incident.
Cooperation with Partner countries
Partner countries – those countries that have relationships with NATO through its various cooperation frameworks – have made a significant contribution the Alliance’s civil emergency planning and disaster preparedness capabilities.
Countries of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council are represented on the Alliance’s civil emergency planning boards and committees. They are also involved in education and training activities.
Civil emergency planning is also a principal component of NATO’s Mediterranean Dialogue. In addition to holding periodic joint meetings between representatives of Mediterranean Dialogue countries and the Civil Emergency Planning Committee, these countries have been invited to participate in several civil emergency planning activities, including training courses and seminars. Further to the Istanbul Summit’s call in 2004 for a more ambitious and expanded partnership with Mediterranean Dialogue countries, cooperation on disaster response and civil emergency planning has intensified.
Since 2004, civil emergency planning cooperation has been further extended to include the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative countries. To date, NATO team visits to the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Qatar have enabled information exchanges on NATO’s civil emergency planning activities.
Within the framework of the NATO-Russia Council, an ad hoc group on civil emergencies facilitates coordination between NATO’s civil emergency planning authorities and the Russian Federation. To date, Russia has hosted a number of important terrorist incident simulation exercises which have significantly contributed to fostering practical cooperation. The consequence management exercise “Lazio 2006,” held from 23-26 October 2006, saw over 250 personnel from Italy, the Russian Federation, Austria, Croatia, Hungary and Romania work side-by-side to test how they can work effectively together in case of a radiological emergency.
Cooperation between NATO and Ukraine began in 1995, following heavy rains and flooding in the Kharkiv region. Support during subsequent flooding has consolidated successful cooperation, and NATO’s Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre has coordinated assistance to the region on several occasions. Ukraine has hosted a number of civil emergency planning exercises.