The changing nature of modern emergencies and practical realities on the ground have gradually necessitated various forms of civil-military coordination for humanitarian operations.
Sometimes in disaster relief and in very specific circumstances in complex emergencies, the humanitarian community may require the military to provide certain niche capabilities only available from the military community. Such capabilities might include communications services, sea and airport repairs and operation, fuel management, road and bridge repairs. The humanitarian community can also need assets that are not unique to the military, but which the humanitarian/civil protection community does not have because of capability shortfalls (e.g. strategic airlift, engineers, etc). Recent examples of such cooperation included the 2010 floods in Pakistan and the 2011 evacuation of third country nationals from Tunisia.
In addition, under exceptional circumstances, the military might also be required to provide safe and secure environments to allow humanitarian actors access to deliver humanitarian aid.
In situations where military assets might play a role in supporting civilian humanitarian response, there are specific guidelines agreed by UN Member States, international organisations and humanitarian actors on the use of military and civil defence assets (MCDA guidelines) in natural disasters and complex emergencies. (see links below). These guidelines aim at ensuring that humanitarian space is not endangered and that humanitarian assistance abides by the principles of independence, neutrality and impartiality.
DG ECHO closely coordinates with the crisis management actors of the European External Action Service to make sure that whenever EU military assets are mobilised in support of humanitarian operations, this is done in accordance with the above rules and principles. OCHA’s Civil-Military Coordination Section (CMCS) is the custodian of the UN guidelines and documents on civil-military coordination and use of MCDA.