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close this bookHandbook for Emergencies - Second Edition (UNHCR, 1999, 414 p.)
close this folder24. Working with the Military
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentCategories of Military Forces
View the documentPossible Roles of Military Forces in Humanitarian Operations
View the documentCoordination Between Military Forces and Civilian Agencies
View the documentKey References


· In humanitarian emergencies UNHCR staff will sometimes work alongside military forces: these might be UN forces ("blue berets"), national or regional forces acting under mandate from the UN, or other national or regional forces;

· Humanitarian agencies must be, and be seen to be, neutral and impartial acting solely on the basis of need. It is important that these agencies maintain independence even from UN authorized military activities;

· Each operation will need to develop a coordinating structure suited to the situation, the type of forces and the required civil-military relationship;

· The UN Department of Peace-keeping Operations (DPKO) is responsible for all UN peacekeeping operations and has overall responsibility for UN relations with military forces.

1. Working with military forces can bring both opportunities and challenges for humanitarian agencies.

2. Military forces can support humanitarian agencies only within the limitations of their own resources and priorities, and within the limitations of their authority to provide humanitarian assistance, including how and to whom the assistance is provided.

Legal Framework for International Military Action

3. One of the purposes of the United Nations, as set out in its Charter, is to maintain international peace and security. The Charter invests the Security Council with this specific responsibility, and describes the measures which can be taken to achieve this in Chapters VI and VII of the UN Charter.

4. Chapter VI, dealing with the peaceful settlement of disputes, mandates both the Security Council and the General Assembly to make recommendations upon which the parties in dispute can act. Peacekeeping operations under Chapter VI take place, at least in theory, with the consent of the parties to the conflict.

5. Chapter VII, dealing with mandatory measures, allows for enforced solutions to a dispute where the Security Council has identified "a threat to the peace, a breach of the peace or an act of aggression". Article 42 provides for the use of armed force "as may be necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security".