The Discussion Paper and Non-Binding Guidelines on the “Use of Military or Armed Escorts for Humanitarian Convoys” were originally endorsed by members of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) on 14 September 2001. The purpose of the guidelines was to assist a wide range of actors on when and how to use military or other forms of armed escorts to accompany humanitarian convoys. In July 2011, the 79th meeting of the IASC Working Group requested the IASC Task Force on Humanitarian Space and Civil-Military Relations, an IASC subsidiary body, to update the guidelines. The following text is the result of consultations and collaboration between IASC members, in addition to the United Nations Department of Safety and Security (UNDSS), Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) and field colleagues from a variety of organisations. This updated document reflects the evolution of security risk management procedures within the UN and non-UN organisations, the increase of actors now commonly present in humanitarian operating environments, and the increasing complexities of undertaking principled humanitarian action.
These guidelines do not seek to promote or endorse the use of armed escorts for humanitarian convoys. In fact, the updated guidelines clearly prioritise the need to consider alternative means for establishing and maintaining access to the affected people in the first instance. Thereafter, the guidelines serve to ensure a principled approach is employed when armed escorts are considered by the humanitarian community. The overriding principle articulated in this document is that armed escorts should be used only as a last resort, in exceptional cases, and then only when a set of key criteria is fulfilled. It is acknowledged that there may be occasions when not all of these criteria can be fully met. In such circumstances utmost care must be given to balancing security risks with program criticality.
These updated guidelines remain non-binding and are intended to assist humanitarian actors to fully consider the implications of using armed escorts to facilitate humanitarian operations.
They provide humanitarian organisations with a framework for determining if and when to use armed escorts and, secondly, how to do so effectively. The guidelines do not provide prescriptive directions as to whether or not to use such escorts for humanitarian convoys.
Instead, they are designed to assist organisations to make principled and pragmatic decisions, with full consideration for humanitarian principles and the security of humanitarian operations.