International roundtable encourages Civil-military Coordination for Disaster Prevention and Relief in Central Asia [EN/RU]

Almaty, 3 July 2013 – An international meeting on civil-military coordination in disasters with participation of the international humanitarian community and ministries of defense, emergencies and foreign affairs from Central Asia, its neighborhood, and intergovernmental organizations took place in Almaty, Kazakhstan today. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan is hosting the event.

The meeting participants discussed the advantages and importance of civil-military coordination to prepare for and cope with disasters, acknowledging differences between humanitarian and military mandates.

Military actors are becoming increasingly involved in disaster relief worldwide, including in Central Asia. “The military can rapidly mobilize crucial assets and bring in unique expertise to response operations,” acknowledged in the opening remarks Marcel Vaessen, Head of the regional office of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Ambassador Toni Frisch, Chair of the Consultative Group on the Use of Military and Civil Defence Assets (MCDA) stressed that for civilians to lead humanitarian response they must be professional. “Humanitarian actors provide aid based on the need and principles of neutrality, impartiality and independence,” he added. The participants agreed that all emergency relief providers must be aware of each other’s role and responsibilities in the aftermath of a crisis.

The event organizers – the International Peace Institute (IPI), OCHA and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) – initiated the roundtable to ensure that civil-military cooperation in Central Asia takes place long before disasters happen and is based on global best practices. Separate discussions of the roundtable were dedicated to the role of regional disaster relief networks and centers of excellence. Specific recommendations for Central Asia were put forward.

Walter Kemp, IPI’s Director for Europe and Central Asia, encouraged participants to take a programmatic, rather than a political approach. “When disaster strikes, bureaucracy and borders suddenly seem much less important”, he said.

The Central Asia region is highly susceptible to large-scale natural disasters, in particular earthquakes and floods. An increased focus on future humanitarian civil-military coordination and military-to-military activities in the region becomes ever more relevant against the backdrop of the impending withdrawal of the International Security Assistance Force from Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

The United Nations Resident Coordinator in Kazakhstan, Stephen Tull, encouraged open dialogue on the role of NATO, CSTO and SCO in Central Asia during and after the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. Mr. Tull reminded the participants of the recently launched Centre for Disaster Response and Risk Reduction in Almaty that could significantly contribute to improved humanitarian civil-military coordination in Central Asia.

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