October 1997

Chapter 5: Logistic Support for Peace Support Operations

Humanitarian Missions

505. Humanitarian missions are conducted to relieve human suffering, especially in circumstances where responsible authorities in the area are unable, or possibly unwilling, to provide adequate services and support to the population. This suffering among large numbers of people may be the result of natural or man-made disasters such as earthquake, flood, famine and radioactive or chemical contamination. It may also be a consequence of war or the flight from political, religious, or ethnic persecution. Alliance involvement in humanitarian missions will be determined through the same decision-making process within NATO as peacekeeping or conflict prevention missions. Humanitarian missions may be executed in the context of a peacekeeping or conflict prevention operation, or it may be a completely independent task.

506. The three principal categories of humanitarian missions are:

  1. Disaster Relief: Deliberate planning for disaster relief operations is a difficult task, but analysis of past natural or man-made calamities can serve as a guide for national and local authorities to take appropriate precautions, such as stockage of water purification equipment, non-perishable food, tents, beds, and blankets. Potential donor nations may form special response teams to handle disaster relief, and may establish a stock of relief supplies, preferably in coordination with the efforts of UN Department of Humanitarian Affairs (UN-DHA) Geneva. Similarly, NATO Headquarters should be kept informed by member nations of their civil and military resources which might be contributed to disaster relief operations outside their national territory, and establish procedures and guidelines for the employment of military resources in disaster relief to aid timely response.

  2. Refugee/Displaced Person Assistance: Beyond the actions necessary to respond to a disaster, there may also be requirements to deal separately with the movement of people displaced from their homes voluntarily or by force either as refugees or displaced persons. A refugee assistance task force may well become involved in providing the logistic support system to include transportation and its supporting logistic chain. Adequate transportation assets may be extremely difficult to arrange. Consideration must be given to prioritization of those to be moved, by age, infirmity, sex or family groups. Negotiations with group leaders will be required. Transport used for relief supplies should be considered as the most readily available assets.

  3. Humanitarian Aid: Humanitarian aid missions may pose significant challenges to any elements assigned this task as they usually occur in conjunction with civil strife or military confrontation. When the requirements for humanitarian aid are caused by a breakdown in the civil distribution systems, the mission area may encompass a large area or even an entire country. There may be little or no cooperation from authorities who control points of entry or the transportation assets. The relief supplies may likely be considered so valuable that their delivery is threatened by criminal elements. The greater the difficulties of the situation, the more likely it is that Alliance military and civil resources can provide invaluable contributions to national and international relief agencies.

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