Last Updated: Friday, 19 September 2014, 13:55 GMT

Guidance on Use of Military Aircraft for UN Humanitarian Operations During the Current Conflict in Afghanistan

Publisher UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
Author Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA); Military and Civil Defence Unit (MCDU)
Publication Date 7 November 2001
Cite as UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Guidance on Use of Military Aircraft for UN Humanitarian Operations During the Current Conflict in Afghanistan, 7 November 2001, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4289f4254.html [accessed 20 September 2014]

1. It is recognized that where civilians/humanitarian capacities are not adequate to meet urgent humanitarian needs in Afghanistan and time constraints required, military aircraft, possibly including helicopters, may have to be deployed as a matter of last resort because of their unique capability. In these circumstances, preference should be given to aircraft donated by parties not engaged in combat operations, of which several offers have been received, in order to ensure effective and timely delivery of humanitarian assistance.

2. Key issues with respect to using military aircraft for UN humanitarian operations in and around Afghanistan are:

a) the preservation of the impartiality and neutrality of humanitarian action. This is important particularly for being able to negotiate with all parties to the conflict and maintain access to all vulnerable groups;

b) ensuring staff security (i.e. ensuring that staff do not become targets through identification and association with military activities through the use of military aircraft);

c) ensuring that the UN retains the lead role and direction of the humanitarian effort and preserving the operational independence of humanitarian organisations. A failure to do so risks the alienation of humanitarian organisations that wish to disassociate themselves with any operations involving military aircraft, resulting in a potential loss of partners for secondary distribution and other humanitarian activities, and

d) ensuring UN credibility.

The risk of compromising humanitarian operations could be reduced if all parties to the conflict agreed that in particular circumstances, the humanitarian imperative necessitated the use of military aircraft as a last resort

3. Principles: Four key principles have been identified for the proposed use of military aircraft in UN humanitarian operations:

a) last resort - which means all civilian/humanitarian alternatives have been exhausted;

b) unique capability - which means no appropriate civilian/humanitarian resources exist which can undertake the task;

c) timeliness - the urgency demands immediate action;

d) clear humanitarian direction in the use of these assets.

The 1995 IASC Operating Principles for the Use of Military Assets in Humanitarian Operations continue to apply.

4. Context in which principles are applied: While there are ongoing hostilities, it will be necessary to distinguish between operations in theatre and those outside. In theatre, the use of military aircraft should be avoided. Only under extreme and exceptional circumstances would it be appropriate to consider the use, in theatre, of military aircraft of the parties engaged in combat operations. Specifically, this situation may occur when a highly vulnerable population cannot be accessed by any other means. Outside the theatre, military aircraft of the parties engaged in combat operations may be used in accordance with these principles but preference should first be given to aircraft of parties not engaged in combat operations.

5. Aircraft of parties not engaged in combat operations may be used in the following situations that are currently envisaged, although the use of military aircraft in UN humanitarian operations should be limited to the extent possible and used in the following order of preference:

a) to deliver humanitarian assistance from non-neighbouring countries to neighbouring countries or between neighbouring countries;

b) to deliver humanitarian assistance to airfields at the border with Afghanistan, for secondary distribution within Afghanistan;

c) to deliver humanitarian assistance to field airstrips within Afghanistan, for secondary distribution within Afghanistan;

d) for airdrops into designated drop zones, from where relief assistance will be collected by humanitarian workers for secondary distribution within Afghanistan; or

e) for airdrops for direct collection by beneficiaries.

6. The key humanitarian agencies state that any military aircraft employed within Afghanistan for humanitarian purposes should be visibly identified in a manner that clearly differentiates them from aircraft being used for military purposes, namely that they should be painted white and marked with the UN symbol. Though desirable, this is not considered necessary for military aircraft being use for UN humanitarian operations in neighbouring countries, although in certain circumstances, this may have to be reviewed for operations in some areas of Pakistan.

7. The use of military aircraft should be directed by a civilian body, namely the UN Joint Logistics Center (JLC). All requests for enhanced capacity to conduct UN humanitarian operations should be channelled through the JCL, utilizing the current and any new procedures codified by OCHA's Military and Civil Defence Unit (MCDU). The JLC will determine whether civilian capacities exist with another source and if not, will determine the most appropriate military assets to be sought and deployed. The JLC will also determine when extreme situations justify exceptions to these principles.

Search Refworld

Countries

Topics