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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

Categories of Military Forces

6. The military forces with which UNHCR may be involved or encounter include:

i. UN forces (peacekeeping);

ii. Regional or other forces acting under UN authority;

iii. Regional military alliances (e.g. NATO and ECOMOG), ad hoc coalitions;

iv. National forces;

v. Non-state forces.

UN Forces

UN Peacekeeping Forces

7. UN forces ("blue berets") usually fall into the categories of observer missions or peacekeeping forces. These UN forces are assembled from countries willing to contribute and who are acceptable to all the parties to the conflict.

8. Observer Missions are made up mainly of lightly armed officers whose main function is to interpret the military situation to assist political and diplomatic mediation.

9. Peacekeeping forces usually contain combat units with logistics support. In the past, peacekeeping activities have included:

i. Positioning troops between hostile parties, thereby creating buffer or demilitarized zones and the opportunity to act as a liaison between the parties to the conflict;

ii. Promoting the implementation of cease-fires and peace accords by observing and reporting on military activity, assisting in the disengagement, disarmament and demobilization of forces and prisoner exchanges;

iii. Assisting local administrations to maintain law and order, facilitating free and fair elections by providing security;

iv. Protecting humanitarian relief operations by securing warehouses and delivery sites and routes, escorting humanitarian aid convoys, ensuring security for humanitarian aid workers, and providing logistics support;

v. Supporting humanitarian operations by undertaking engineering tasks for the maintenance of essential utilities, services and aid delivery routes in a time of crisis, disposing of mines and other weapons, delivering humanitarian relief supplies or providing logistics assistance to humanitarian agencies.

UN Mandated or Authorized Forces

10. Under Chapter VII of the UN Charter the Security Council may authorize or mandate the deployment of national or regional forces with a "war-fighting" capability. These forces normally will have tighter security rules than UN peace keeping Forces and Observer Missions, and UNHCR staff may find access to facilities or information more difficult. Mandated forces often do not report to a civilian chief inside the area of operations, and may therefore see themselves as acting independently of the international authority directing the civil and humanitarian programmes.

Regional Forces

11. UNHCR may also work alongside regional forces such as peacekeeping or intervention forces set up under the direction of regional institutions (for example, the Organization for African Unity, (OAU) or NATO.

National Forces

12. Humanitarian agencies may have to coordinate or negotiate with host country military, police, gendarmerie, militia or other armed elements. UNHCR staff should balance the advantages and disadvantages of accepting assistance or security from such forces, particularly in circumstances where there is no clear command structure.

Non-state Forces

13. These often consist of rebel groups, militia and other armed groups which have little or no sense of discipline, a poorly defined chain of command and often no discernible political programme.