Between Reluctance and Necessity: The Utility of Military Force in Humanitarian and Development Operations
Author: Robert Egnell
Size: 40 pages (1.18 MB)
The civil-military relationship in peace operations, involving military, humanitarian and development personnel, has been premised on the idea of separate roles and a sequenced interaction. Military forces provide security following a peace agreement and, consequently, create a sufficiently secure environment for relief and development actors to provide the aid. Recent operations in Liberia, Afghanistan, and Iraq, however, illustrate overlap; the military is increasingly engaging in humanitarian activity and the humanitarian community is increasingly using security and logistics assistance from the military. Two clear trends have emerged in humanitarian operations in fragile contexts:
Despite the fact that both trends are often seen as necessary developments for increased effectiveness in complex peace support operations, there are a number of issues to be considered when employing such strategies. With increased integration, humanitarian principles can be watered down and the humanitarian activities risk being eroded. Moreover, armed forces, while being expensive to train and deploy, have little humanitarian expertise and commitment. There are limits to the number of tasks soldiers can be trained to perform effectively. While the humanitarian impact of military involvement in such activities is often limited at best, the unintended effects may be serious if the activities are ‘misunderstood’, or if an alternative narrative is presented by insurgents.
The negative consequences of civil-military integration mean that such approaches should not be seen as a silver bullet in the struggle for global peace and security. Rather, the humanitarian space should be preserved based on the impartiality, neutrality and independence of humanitarian organisations. While communication and cooperation (driven by humanitarian principles) will be necessary, a division between humanitarian and political activities in the field should be maintained.
Egnell, R., 2009, 'Between Reluctance and Necessity: The Utility of Military Force in Humanitarian and Development Operations', Security Policy Library 1-2009, The Norwegian Atlantic Committee, Oslo
Organisation: The Norwegian Atlantic Committee, http://www.atlanterhavskomiteen.no/eng/Om_oss/om_oss.html