Military Involvement in Humanitarian Aid Operations

Background and Context
The United Nations, Conflict and Humanitarian Aid
The Supply Chain in Humanitarian Aid Operations
The Military Involvement in Humanitarian Aid Operations
The Military Supply Chain for Expeditionary Operations
Bibliography and Further Reading


This paper will examine the background to and context of, humanitarian aid operations and looks at the interaction of the various organisations, particularly the aid agencies (Non-Governmental Organisations – NGOs) and UK military forces, as well as the supply chains used by both. It considers the use of military forces in deployed operations generally then examines humanitarian aid operations and the potential for co-ordination and co-operation between the armed forces and the other international players that take part in these scenarios. Finally it considers the challenges that will need to be faced and overcome in order to improve the provision of humanitarian aid in the most timely and effective manner.

Background and Context

In ‘winning’ the Cold War the Western Alliance (including the United Kingdom) has faced pressures to divert scarce resources away from defence spending back into other areas of public expenditure, such as education and health. In the case of the UK, this has meant a cut, in real terms, in the defence budget and downsizing of the armed forces. All this has occurred at a time of renewed interest in ‘Out-of-Area’ operations. The concentration on their role within Europe in deterring the Warsaw Pact has meant that the UK Armed Forces have had to rapidly relearn what it is to have ‘strategic mobility’, particularly in relation to moving ground forces, as was shown in the Gulf crisis of 1990 – 91. What was apparent was that after two decades of concentrating on the role of supporting in-place forces to meet a possible Warsaw Pact onslaught, this aspect of modern warfare had become alien to British defence policy and planning. A small capacity for acting out-of-area had been retained (as shown by the Falklands War) but the capacity for moving ground forces was strictly limited. (McInnes, 1998) It was also shown that the logistic support afforded to the UK forces in Germany had not been particularly good in that resources had tended to be concentrated on the ‘shop-window’ of combat capability in order to provide maximum deterrent value. Such a system was very quickly shown to be a false economy when it came to actually using those forces in the Gulf. (House of Commons Defence Committee, 1994)

The Strategic Defence Review recognised that crises affecting British security are likely to happen anywhere in the world, given the wider definition of what British security entails (political and economic stability for example), being one of the permanent five members of the United Nations Security Council and responsibilities under international treaties. (MoD, 1998; MoD, 1999; McInnes, 1998) Being involved with such ‘wider’ security interests is not a new phenomenon to the UK Armed Forces as up until the early 1970s, British troops were constantly being involved in missions that are now termed ‘Operations Other Than War’ or ‘Peace Support Operations’ such as disaster relief, handling refugees, riot control, counter terrorism and conflict prevention, as well as low and medium-intensity operations such as coalition warfare, counter insurgency and amphibious warfare. Almost all of these operations were conducted outside Europe in Africa, the Middle East, the Gulf and Asia and thus needed an element of strategic mobility and a capacity to act out-of-area with the dispatch of British forces from the Home Base or a major regional base such as Aden, Hong Kong, Cyprus or Singapore. The end of the Cold War has meant a return to a more traditional role for the UK Armed Forces. (McInnes, 1998) In fact, the two world wars fought in the first half of the Twentieth Century proved to be an exception for the British Armed Forces. Up until then, they had been concerned with worldwide commitments and served outside Europe as much as they had served inside it, had been fighting low intensity conflicts against poorly armed, organised and trained opposition, had been an all-regular force and had been comparatively small. In the years after the end of the Second World War, the armed forces of the United Kingdom at first gradually reverted to the old role of policing the Empire, but were increasingly drawn back into Europe as the withdrawal from Empire proceeded.

The United Nations, Conflict and Humanitarian Aid

The first forty years or so of the United Nation’s history saw the organisation sponsor some thirteen Peace Support Operations. From 1988 to 1992 it sponsored another thirteen (Connaughton, 1992) and up until 2000 sponsored a total of forty, many of which are still ongoing. (Guthrie, 2001) As the UK Armed Forces were gradually concentrating on their role within NATO as they withdrew from the Empire and thus these sorts of operations gradually received less and less attention. It was not until 1988 that the Army produced guidance on peacekeeping duties (Army Field Manual, 1988). The UK Armed Forces have a long history of conducting these sorts of operations in both the colonial and post-colonial eras. The new post-Cold War environment emphasises Peace Support Operations and places new pressures upon commanders (such as strict rules of engagement). These operations are often multi-national in character, involve a wide range of civilian agencies and have necessitated a rapid development of doctrine. There are still no ‘standing force’ arrangements within the United Nations, which to some is still the most important body for dealing with complex humanitarian emergencies. (Ramsbottom and Woodhouse, 1996) The proliferation of conflict since the end of the Second World War and particularly the end of the Cold War in many parts of the developing world (Croft and Treacher, 1995) has led to a new thinking as regards the provision of assistance in aid operations. The end of the Cold War has led to the end of the ideological conflict between Russia and the United States and therefore the withdrawal of much of the political support as well as military and economic aid that was given out to a number of ‘favoured’ countries, organisations or groups. There has been a massive increase in the movement of peoples due to the ever-widening gulf in national wealth between the developed and developing nations, which is likely to engender conflict. (Snow, 1993) The emergencies that now develop are usually characterised by a large media presence (the ‘CNN’ factor), which increases pressure on national decision makers to respond, a large international aid effort and in many cases, a large military presence to keep the peace. (James, 1997) This sort of effort is usually targeted at the immediate saving of lives, requiring massive material support and the employment of considerable logistic assets.

The Supply Chain in Humanitarian Aid Operations

Humanitarian relief supply chains can be seen as a systems exercise, involving the integration and co-ordination of widely scattered groups of specialists. (Stevenson, 1994) There are many different types of logistic programmes, and activities that have to be planned and implemented around the specific catastrophe that has occurred, but forward planning can be initiated through the use of an accepted template (see Figure 1) for disaster planning. (Carter, 1991).

Most agencies have specific structures to react to new emergencies, after which specifically constructed teams are assembled to take over the work. Permanent staff within each aid organisation maintain the strategic management of the aid programmes underway, actively raise funds, assess potential black spots, and manage the stocks and supply chain to meet programme requirements. Most organisations keep strategic stock at locations throughout the globe, ensuring that aid is available to an area whose infrastructure may be unable to meet the demand. This however, requires a certain level of co-operation between donors as in many cases, aid organisation logistical structures are still in their infancy.

In order to be effective, a supply chain in a humanitarian aid operation should be ‘owned’, that is, responsibility taken by one of the players in the scenario. (Moore and Antill, 2000c) Such a concept would be in line with the commercial practice in, and academic theory of, supply chain management. The lack of ownership of the supply chain stems from the complexities and difficulties inherent in such operations, such as relationship issues, that impair the smooth operation of the cycle. The aims and objectives of individual agencies are not always conducive to an integrated and co-ordinated effort. Objectives that have become highly politicised at the strategic level can impair the benefits that can be gained from a concerted and co-operative effort among the various players at the operational level. Logistic activities have, up until recently, been undertaken in a fragmented and sub-optimised manner and based upon outdated logistics philosophies.

It is possible to identify a generic supply chain (see Figure 2) that applies in many of the humanitarian aid scenarios. Such a supply chain is usually designed to allow a one-way flow of goods and equipment into the theatre of operations to where it is needed the most. (Hoff, 1999)

The ‘players’ in such humanitarian aid scenarios all have differing management styles and administrative structures and whilst the supply chain appears straightforward, the complexities in the relationships that occur as well as the impact of having different structures and procedures may conspire against the establishment of effective supply chain strategies. This is exacerbated by aid programmes often being seen as development opportunities with the contribution that supply chain management can make being overlooked or underrated. Commercial best practice and academic theory have not been widely accepted leading to an emphasis within the supply chain that is transactional rather than relational.

There are a number of additional reasons as to why the aid agencies have been slow to adopt supply chain management strategies. Firstly, relief supply chains are designed to deliver (in the main) a one-way flow of goods, equipment and material into the theatre of operations. The basis of aid operations is donation, with the majority of equipment remaining in, and becoming the property of the country in which the disaster occurred. (Molinaro, 2000)

This simple one-way chain is complicated by the internal relationships that exist. The procurement and logistics functions seem to be undervalued by the organisations concerned and the system as a whole, although there are of course exceptions. Even here, many involved in the logistics side of operations are dissatisfied at not being involved in the original assessment phases of an emergency (although this has started to change in some quarters). Reasons for this vary, possibilities being the lack of understanding in the remainder of the organisation (purchasing being seen as an everyday transactional activity), the fact that ordinary administrative staff used to carry out logistics and procurement activities (giving the impression that anyone could do it), logistics is the last link in the internal supply chain and therefore receive the blame if things are delayed as they are mainly judged solely on delivery times and that logistics is not considered a core function in many agencies. (Molinaro, 2000) This traditional and reactive approach to procurement and logistics hampers enhancement in performance.

This is exacerbated by humanitarian aid organisations suffering from regionalisation and parochialism, and while many are attempting to integrate their procurement and logistics functions, they have met with varying degrees of success. (Molinaro, 2000)

This could be overcome through planned training and education programmes. However, opportunities seem to be very limited for procurement and logistics personnel in aid organisations. (Craft, 1999) Training courses seem to be aimed at ensuring personnel learn the internal procedures so that they can fit into the organisation’s operations as quickly as possible. (Burke, 2000) There is also a noticeable impact from the traditional and reactive approach to supply chain management where the logistics and procurement functions were separate. This resulted in different people (with different backgrounds) being recruited for the different streams. (Molinaro, 2000)

In this respect, integrated logistic systems are essential for performance improvement as the existing administrative systems are not designed for the ‘holistic’ nature of supply chain management. Professionalism will bring a demand for better management and control systems. In many of the aid agencies, even the UN, where such systems exist, their use is fairly arbitrary and suffers from poor monitoring, data input discipline and understanding. (Molinaro, 2000; Martin, 2001)

It has also been identified that there is a general concern about the way donors distribute their aid, the reactive nature of funding, the unwillingness to fund managerial overheads, the threat to an organisation’s freedom of action and the increased pressure for accountability. (Molinaro, 2000; Thornton, 2001; Barton, 2000)

This is exacerbated by difficulties within the area of UN / NGO co-ordination which are well documented (Molinaro, 2000; de Mello, 2001; Moore and Antill, 2000c; Tomlinson, 2000; Hawley, 2000), with issues such as co-ordination verses control, competition, publicity, conflicts of interest and funding predominant. There have been however, instances of successful co-ordination through logistics and the supply chain. For example, recent operations in Ethiopia have had NGOs and UN agencies using World Food Programme (WFP) aircraft to move goods and equipment around. Nevertheless, Agencies are often reluctant to be co-ordinated but there is potential for UNHCR to track and co-ordinate the shipment of goods. (Molinaro, 2000)

NGOs constitute the main interface between the relief system and the beneficiaries and are almost at the end of the supply chain. The position they hold as the implementers of aid relief can conflict with their stand as advocates for such relief. (Molinaro, 2000)

Finally, in general terms, the attitude of relief organisations to the commercial sector is one of distrust and suspicion of the profit motive, with commercial transactions undertaken only reluctantly. Commercial firms may see humanitarian aid relief as a chance to make maximum returns due to the lack of commercial awareness and experience on the part of the relief agencies. Attitudes are however changing slowly with the realisation that the commercial sector has a role to play in future operations and can be brought into aid operations in innovative ways. Moreover, the movement of personnel between the relief organisations as contracts expire may be a barrier to the entry of commercial contractors. This could be eroded if professional logistics and procurement specialists enter the field. (Molinaro, 2000)

These issues highlight the complexities that must be overcome in order that the supply chain for humanitarian aid may be optimised. However, to this must be added the involvement of the military.

The Military Involvement in Humanitarian Aid Operations

The provision of aid by military forces is not a new phenomenon. Such instances have occurred since before the time of Alexander the Great and have continued through the Napoleonic Wars, the World Wars of the Twentieth Century (particularly the Second World War and the devising of the Marshall Plan) up until the present day, including the Berlin Airlift (1948-9), the Congo, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Sudan, Iraq, the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda and Mozambique. (Doel, 1995) It seems that when disasters, either natural or man-made occur, governments often turn to the military for help as the military have certain resources immediately to hand, such as food, medicine and fuel as well as transport and human assets with which to distribute them. (Weiss and Campbell, 1991)

With the end of the Cold War, the UK Government has become more involved in the provision of humanitarian aid, not only through the funding of UN Agencies and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) but also with the tasking of the armed forces with a greater responsibility for undertaking such missions outside what was the traditional area for possible NATO operations. This was formally adopted under the Strategic Defence Review (MoD, 1998) where the Military Tasks assigned to UK armed forces were altered to reflect the changing defence environment, the armed forces’ roles within that and the new foreign policy focus. With respect to such operations, it was stated that “. . . in a less stable world, we have seen more operations of this type . . . Britain will play its full part in such international efforts. At one end of the spectrum this might involve logistic or medical support to a disaster relief operation. At the other, it might involve major combat operations . . . our forces have developed particular experience and expertise in operations of this kind”. (MoD, 1998) Such an outlook has been continued in more recent Government documents in that the UK has “a responsibility to act as a force for good in the world” (MoD,1999) and that “we can nevertheless expect continuing pressures to contribute to peace support and humanitarian operations. (MoD, 2000) The involvement of the UK Armed Forces is however constrained by the contraction of the defence budget, the downsizing of the armed forces, Britain’s economic position and the expansion of UK commitments that has taken place since the end of the Cold War (Dorman, 1995) and resources that are used to fund the use of military forces in humanitarian aid operations cannot be used in other areas.

In operations such as these, there needs to be a distinction between humanitarian aid (man-made) and disaster relief (natural) operations. The difference usually lies in the degree of preparedness and response time involved. Humanitarian crises (such as those in Kosovo, the former Yugoslavia, East Timor and Rwanda) rarely happen at a moments notice or overnight, and are usually monitored by the aid agencies in an attempt to give themselves time to prepare and alert the remainder of the international community if a catastrophe is about to happen. Natural disasters (such as in Mozambique, Ethiopia, Bangladesh and Turkey), while slowly becoming more predictable, can still strike with little warning and rely more on the training, education and preparedness of those in the actual disaster zone to hang on until the relevant concerned organisations and agencies can mobilise their resources and come to the rescue. Whilst this inevitably takes time, military forces are seen as a pool of prepared, disciplined and available source of assistance while the international aid community gears itself for action. (Hoff, 1999)

However, the involvement of the military in such operations is not without challenges. A balance must be sought in allowing the civilian aid agencies a free hand in utilising the available military resources, whilst being aware that military manpower is trained to fight and engage in combat operations. There is quite a wide cultural difference between the civilian aid worker and the soldier. (Hoff, 1999; Whitman, 2001)

The Armed Forces obviously need to be involved in conflict prevention, outreach programmes, training missions, defence diplomacy, humanitarian emergencies and disaster relief operations as these all contribute to a more stable security environment. They also show that the Armed Forces can be employed in worthwhile tasks while not training for, or involved in, major combat operations and that the defence budget is being spent as a tangible force for good. There is however a challenge to prepare and train a soldier to participate in high intensity conventional operations on the one hand, while preparing and training them to participate in peace support, humanitarian aid and disaster relief operations, where the measure of success will be the numbers of lives saved as opposed to taking objectives and eliminating the enemy as a fighting force. (Guthrie,2001)

Further, a large number of players often operate within these scenarios either from the civilian side (NGOs or UN Agencies) or the military (particularly if there has been a multi-national force put together, as in East Timor, the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda). The various players have different perspectives, agendas and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and it is difficult to get them all to operate smoothly to ensure the effective management of the operation, as the Americans have found out “their successful conduct requires the US military to work with a wide variety of institutions and organisations” (Alberts and Hayes, 1996) to reduce what is called friction in military circles (Van Creveld, 1977; Clauswitz, 1832) but has also been called tempo drag. (Kiszely, 1999). This is the factor that is most readily seen in the natural time lag that occurs between a commander giving an order and the order actually being carried out. In some extreme cases it can obscure the original intention of the order and there are many factors that conspire to increase this delay. (Patrick, 1979)

The military aid provided by the UN, international organisations or individual states can in certain circumstances, be seen as a problem by the aid agencies. The military can be seen as a challenge to the aid agencies’ independence with the resulting increase in threat from the belligerents, as for example, in Operation Provide Comfort in Somalia. This is because an important factor in the delivery of aid by the agencies is their perceived impartiality and the consequent reduction in the importance of the aid in terms of conducting military operations. Association with military forces deployed under UN auspices increases the risk that the agencies will be become identified with one of the parties, even after the conflict has stabilised. (Doel, 1995)

The military forces that are sent are not always equal to the task of providing both logistic support and protecting themselves and the aid workers, being lightly armed and politically constrained, as was seen in the former Yugoslavia (Doel, 1995). Also, not all military forces are trained to the same standard, employ the same technology, use the same procedures, speak the same language and, in addition, have different cultural backgrounds and therefore will have a different approach to and be more or less effective in, these sorts of operations. (Tomlinson, 2000). Hence co-ordination becomes an increasingly difficult proposition.

Added to this, there are arguments that there is a conflict between the very nature of the respective missions and deployments of the aid agencies and the military, in that the provision of humanitarian aid, as practised by the aid agencies is strictly apolitical, while the deployment of military forces is usually in the pursuit of a political goal and if not, will fail to address the underlying political conditions that prompted the need for aid, in respect of man-made disasters. (Doel, 1995)

Thus, it is important that rules of engagement be drawn up before the start of an operation that allow the military to do what they have been sent to the theatre of operations to do – protect and assist the civilian aid agencies and the relief effort. They will reflect legal and political constraints however, but will always authorise the use of force in self-defence and should never inhibit a commander from taking any and all measures to protect his force. (Duncan, 1998) Unfortunately, Operations Other Than War and Peace Support Operations (especially humanitarian aid operations) are often not taken very seriously by the military, which are reluctant to view it as proper soldiering. (Duncan, 1998) This can be evidenced by the fact that many armed forces place minimal importance on it with a “difference between stated doctrine and an insufficient capability to match it.” (Nobbs, 1997)

All of these issues are underpinned by the fact that the military and civilian aid organisations compete for similar funds (for example, the UK Armed Forces tend to be reimbursed by the Foreign Office or the Department for International Development) it should be incumbent on the military to ensure value for money in the services they offer. For example, aircraft are often used to fly in non-emergency aid when it could be undertaken much more cheaply by sealift, rail or road transport. (Duncan, 1998)

From this it is possible to develop areas of ‘mismatch’ when seeking to integrate the various players in a holistic manner. These can be identified in Figure 3 (Skeats, 1998). This is known as the ‘integrating mismatch’ and identifies areas of weakness and deficiencies within the system of operation, which are very relevant to the humanitarian supply chain. All these elements could be viewed as obstacles to the co-ordination of the relief supply chain. “There is insufficient direction at the strategic level and little co-operation in terms of training and exercise.” (Skeats, 1998) At its core lies the lack of a strategic multi-agency response as each organisation has its own strategic headquarters to activate the aid process. The initial focus for implementing a co-ordinated multi-agency response could be a combined base logistics centre. Solutions to logistic issues demand long-term relationships based on trust and mutual understanding enhanced by joint training and exercises. There is also room for the expansion of education, which could cover a wide range of topics including culture, law, the characteristics and organisation of NGOs and UN Agencies and the processes of in-theatre operational logistics.

Not withstanding these challenges there are considerable potential benefits and opportunities that are presented by using the armed forces to provide, or assist in the provision of, logistic support to humanitarian aid and disaster relief operations. The armed forces can bring considerable expertise and professionalism in undertaking logistically challenging roles. They can bring a task focus that is inculcated in their modus operandi, which is rarely matched by civilian aid agencies. The essential logistic equipment, expensive for aid agencies is often readily available for the military; indeed it provides their reason d’être. Above all there is within the armed forces a ready pool of experienced logistics personnel who can act swiftly and effectively when tasked.

The opportunities can be highlighted further by a comparison of the similarities in the supply chain management processes established for military operational deployments with those for civilian humanitarian aid operations.

The Military Supply Chain for Expeditionary Operations

For much of the Cold War period, it has been generally accepted that the UK Armed Forces would have a role to play outside of the NATO area due to the special responsibilities that the UK had as the head of the Commonwealth, lingering great power sensibilities, residual imperial obligations, a member of the UN Security Council and the concern over the potential spread of communism. The UK’s willingness and ability (although limited) to use the armed forces in operations far from the Home Base was shown on many occasions, such as Korea, Suez, Cyprus, Oman, Kuwait, Jordan, Malaya, Kenya, Aden, Belize, the Falklands and the Gulf. There are in fact similarities between the situation now and that which the UK faced in the early part of the Cold War (McInnes, 1998) in that Britain has accepted that it has international obligations that may require the use of military forces overseas; The British role overseas is not merely reactive, but should be proactive as well, featuring crisis prevention and deterrence; The capacity for independent action remains constrained (for both financial and force structure reasons); Moving military forces to a distant theatre of operations and sustaining them is a costly and demanding task; Overstretch is an ever-present problem and the cost of overseas operations remains high.

Whereas the problem of reacting to worldwide events was previously solved by a combination of garrisons (both local and regional) and a mobile strategic reserve (McInnes, 1998), that method is no longer available to the UK. The UK now faces the task of projecting its armed forces directly from the Home Base to almost anywhere in the world. (Cross, 2000) It is however vital for the MoD to recognise that there are constraints on the resources available to it and ensure that operations are supported adequately and utilise the best practises from the business sector to act as drivers in the way the forces are organised and operated. (Cross, 2000) Future operational deployments will therefore be very different from the ones planned for under NATO in that the armed forces will have to go to the operation, instead of the operation come to them, and operate in areas will have infrastructures that are nowhere near as well developed as Western Europe. In some ways, the generic model for the support of an expeditionary operation (see Figure 4) is similar to the conceptual framework that is used by the aid agencies and NGOs for the supply of humanitarian aid.

The operation starts when the force, its equipment and the materiel to support it are outloaded from the bases and depots in the Home Base, moved to the Air and Sea Ports of Embarkation (APOE or SPOE), loaded onto the transport that is awaiting them and moved through the Coupling Bridge to the Air and Sea Ports of Debarkation (APOD or SPOD). The area that will house the logistic support elements for the deployed force in the theatre of operations is known as the Force Rear Support Area (FRSA), the size of which can vary quite considerably depending where in the world the operation is, what the type of operation is and what forces have been sent to conduct the operation and will therefore contain a number of Assembly Areas, Staging Areas, Deployed Operating Bases and possibly a Theatre Reception Centre. (Cross, 2000)

While many aspects of the logistic support afforded to the UK Armed Forces retains elements that have been carried over from the Cold War (Moore and Antill, 2000a), it is starting to change in a number of important ways to accommodate the operations that are increasingly being undertaken in the post-Cold War world. One of the main changes is the greater acceptance for the role of contractors in supporting the UK Armed Forces on deployed operations far from the Home Base. (Cross, 2000; Smart 2000; Moore and Antill, 2000b; Reeve, 2001) In itself, this can bring challenges in respect of legality, ethics, medical support and the skills and competencies of those involved, within an environment where tensions arise because of the differing operating basis of each of the ‘players’ (military forces – commercial organisations – aid agencies).

It can be seen from the outlines given above, the tasks and activities that are undertaken in the military supply chain are similar too, and could integrate with, the supply chain for the humanitarian aid agencies.


Many of the complexities that have been highlighted can be categorised as either internal or external to the relief effort. Internal complexities occur due to the differences that exist, not only between the aid agencies and the military forces, but between the agencies themselves and the military forces themselves. All the ‘players’ that become involved in these types of operations operate with their own agendas, standard operating procedures, have their own organisational cultures and history. It will be difficult to reconcile all the organisations’ approaches with one another to produce and implement an effective supply chain management strategy. Internal conditions have limited the aid agencies in their move to adopting supply chain management, a direction which the military are adopting and adapting due to the conditions of the post-Cold War defence environment. In-theatre, aid agencies may be concerned about working with the military, as despite the benefits that they can bring to an operation (a disciplined, well-equipped force that can protect itself and the aid workers and has its own logistic assets), there is always a danger that there may be a hidden political agenda at work that may become a threat to one of the aid agencies major strengths – their perceived neutrality. Such benefits come at a price though as the agencies and the military often compete for the same funds, which makes it a necessity that the military shows value for money in its involvement in aid operations. For the military, time and resources spent training, equipping and deploying on Peace Support Operations is time and resources that cannot be used for other aspects of their role in the defence of national security.

External complexities that can have an effect include the changing nature of warfare and the international environment which has accelerated since the end of the Cold War and the end of the ideological rivalry between the United States and Russia. The conflicts that have erupted in recent years are increasingly based on religion, ethnicity or race and are less amenable to Superpower control given the withdrawal of economic and military support from many areas of the world. Such conflicts can also endanger aid operations in that unless a positive and binding political settlement has been instituted and a suitably equipped peacekeeping force established, there is a possibility that the fighting could erupt (the conflict effectively moves along the conflict scale from left to right as shown in Figure 5) again endangering not only the peacekeeping force but the aid workers too. There is also the impact of the media and the ‘CNN’ factor, which can increase the pressure on Governments to act in these sorts of situations, probably using the military as well as factors such as the weather and terrain that can affect operations. Arguably, some issues of the issues identified here can be overcome relatively easily through enhanced processes, improved systems, co-ordinated data sharing and communication. However, other issues will require fundamental reappraisal of working cultures and ethos. Although neither can be achieved without the goodwill of all concerned, the potential prize for the human race generally, is too great to ignore.

While there are obviously complications, challenges and definite problems in having civilian aid agencies and military forces working in tandem in an emergency, it is likely that “no matter what the depth of the paradoxes inherent in military assistance in humanitarian aid operations, the moral and political imperatives at work will be sufficiently strong as to ensure that military forces and NGOs engaged in humanitarian relief will need to operate, if not altogether, then in the same theatre of operations.” (Doel, 1995)


Command Arrangements for Peace Operations, Alberts, D S & Hayes, R., 2nd Edition, NDU Press, Washington, 1996. See it at See it at cover
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Chapters in Edited Books

Croft, S & Treacher, T. ‘Aspects of Intervention in the South’and Dorman, A M. ‘Western Europe and Military Intervention’ in Military Intervention: From Gunboat Diplomacy to Humanitarian Intervention, Dorman, A M & Otte, T G., Dartmouth Publishing, Dartmouth, 1995. See it at See it at cover
De Mello, S V. ‘The Evolution of UN Humanitarian Operations’ and Whitman, J. ‘Those Who Have the Power to Hurt but Would Do None: The Military and the Humanitarian’ in Gordon, D S and Toase, F H. (ed) Aspects of Peacekeeping, Frank Cass, London, 2001. See it at See it at cover
James, A. ‘Humanitarian Aid Operations and Peacekeeping’ in Belgrad, E A & Nachmias, N. The Politics of International Humanitarian Aid Operations, Praeger, Westport, USA, 1997. See it at See it at cover

Official Publications

House of Commons Defence Committee. Implementation of the Lessons Learned from Operation Granby, HC43 / 928, Fifth Report, Session 1993 – 4, HMSO, London, 25 May 1994. See it at See it at cover
Ministry of Defence. The Strategic Defence Review and Supporting Essays, Cm3999, The Stationary Office, London, July 1998. See it at See it at cover
Ministry of Defence. (2000) Defence Policy 2001, Ministry of Defence Website, URL:



How to cite this article: Antill, Peter, Military Involvement in Humanitarian Aid Operations,

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