UN General Assembly Resolution Adopts "Hopefor"

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Recommendations of the International Conference on the HOPEFOR Initiative to enhance the effectiveness and coordination of the use of military and civil defence assets for natural disaster response

27-29 November 2011
Doha, State of Qatar

The State of Qatar, the Dominican Republic and The Republic of Turkey, have endorsed the HOPEFOR initiative in the context of promoting civil-military coordination at the international and regional levels and the effective use of military and civil defence assets (MCDA) in natural disaster response.
The HOPEFOR initiative was initially launched by His Excellency Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr Al-Thani, Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of the State of Qatar, in June 2010 in New York, aiming at improving the use of MCDA in relief operations.

Notable calls have also been made for a more effective and needs-based response to natural disasters, most prominently by His Excellency Dr. Leonel Fernandez, President of the Dominican Republic, and His Excellency Abdullah Gül, President of the Republic of Turkey, at the General Debate of the United Nations General Assembly on 23 September 2010. Qatar, the Dominican Republic, and The Republic of Turkey decided to join efforts in presenting the HOPEFOR initiative and initiating a process of reflection on improving the effectiveness and coordination of MCDA for natural disaster response within the context of the United Nations and its membership.

After officially launching the initiative, several in-depth consultations have taken place with Member States and a wide range of stakeholders to further refine the HOPEFOR initiative and propose tangible options and results.
On 21 February 2011, the Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of the State of Qatar addressed the President of the 65th session of the General Assembly on the steps taken regarding the HOPEFOR initiative (A/65/772) . The background paper entitled “HOPEFOR Initiative - A Global Cooperative Framework to Improve the Effectiveness of Military and Civil Defence Assets in Relief Operations” prepared by Qatar and consulted with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, was then shared among the wider membership of the United Nations.

In preparation for the Doha International Conference, Qatar, the Dominican Republic and Turkey co-organized a workshop on the HOPEFOR initiative last June, with the participation of civil-military coordination experts drawn from states, United Nations humanitarian organizations, regional organizations, and non-governmental organizations. The overall objective of the workshop was to discuss and refine the options listed in the Initial Background Paper with a view to informing the expert - level consultations during the conference.

The General Assembly of the United Nations at its sixty-fifth session adopted resolution A/RES/65/307 on 1 July 2011 entitled “improving the effectiveness and coordination of military and civil defence assets for natural disaster response”, which was presented by the State of Qatar, the Dominican Republic and the Republic of Turkey with the co-sponsorship of other Member States. In paragraph six of the resolution, the General Assembly “takes note with interest of the decision of the State of Qatar, the Dominican Republic and the Republic of Turkey to co-convene an international conference, to be held in Doha in 2011, to discuss the concept of the HOPEFOR initiative and consider the options outlined in the paper thereon and steps for their implementation, as appropriate, in close collaboration with Member States, regional and international organisations and the Emergency Relief Coordinator.” The resolution reaffirmed the principles of neutrality, humanity, impartiality and independence for the provision of humanitarian assistance, and emphasized the fundamentally civilian character of humanitarian assistance, and reaffirms the need in situations of natural disaster in which military capacity and assets are used to support the implementation of humanitarian assistance, for such use to be undertaken with the consent of the affected State and in conformity with international law, including international humanitarian law, as well as humanitarian principles.

In response to the will of many countries and organisations to further the dialogue on the options outlined in the background paper on the HOPEFOR initiative and in order to emphasize the involvement of all international and regional partners with a view to formulating the implementation steps, an international conference on the HOPEFOR initiative to enhance the effectiveness and coordination of the use of MCDA for natural disaster response was held from 27 to 29 November 2011 in Doha.

The conference reiterated the need to more actively promote a common understanding of, and respect for the core humanitarian principles and the principled engagement in disaster response. Delegates also reaffirmed the importance of ensuring that MCDA to support humanitarian assistance are needs-based, appropriate, complementary to the humanitarian response operations, timely, unique in capability and availability (last resort), and in conformity with international law and humanitarian principles, as well as international guidelines, such as the Oslo Guidelines, the MCDA Guidelines, International Disaster Response Laws (IDRL), and country/context-specific guidance, where present.

The participants in the conference discussed in depth all of the topics listed in workshops and panels, notably on training and doctrine, operational capacity, preparedness and prevention, strengthening networks of personnel and the creation of a regional Centre of Excellence with the aim of increasing the effectiveness of the appropriate use of MCDA to support humanitarian operations. They also took into account previous initiatives and regional and international experiences in this context.

The conference reiterated its support for the mandate of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the key role it plays in the international humanitarian response system in mobilizing and coordinating effective and principled humanitarian assistance.

After a careful study of the mechanisms within the United Nations system for the response to natural disasters, and the commendation of the significant role played by the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in support for the HOPEFOR initiative.

The Conference adopted the following recommendations:
I - Strengthening of existing institutional systems and frameworks and areas for cooperation
The Conference stresses the need to strengthen institutional systems and frameworks at the local, regional and international levels and emphasizes the need for effective cooperation and more efficient coordination in the response to natural disasters, including response to environmental and technological consquences, while reiterating that the primary role and responsibility in disaster response lies with the affected state.

The Conference recommends the following:
1. Promotion of international, regional and sub-regional coordination mechanisms to promote the effective use of foreign MCDA in response to natural disasters in support of existing international structures, while respecting national ownership and leadership.

2. Strengthening the existing strategic coordination mechanisms, particularly the Consultative Group on the Use of the Military and Civil Defence Assets, through regional meetings and further working groups and to explore the formalization of structures, to include the addition of a board structure within the Consultative Group and the enhancement of regional and sub-regional representation.

3. Development of a sustainable mechanism for operational regional civil-military coordination, communication and cooperation in support of the existing international response system among all actors in the field through the organisation of training, conferences and international, regional and sub-regional meetings.

4. Development of innovative measures and procedures to ensure a more effective use of MCDA (requesting and providing procedures for MCDA) taking into account the humanitarian principles, the Good Humanitarian Donorship Initiative, the principles of last resort and the needs-based use of MCDA in all phases of relief operations in response to natural disasters, with the participation of international actors in support of local and national authorities.

5. Promote the further dissemination and implementation of the Oslo and MCDA Guidelines to humanitarian and military actors at the international, regional, and national levels.

6. Establishment of new, and where appropriate, the integration of existing regional and sub-regional databases for the inventory, monitoring and documentation of MCDA, teams, and individual expertise suitable for use in disaster response operations and facilitating their engagement in a principled and coordinated manner, according to national practice and applicable national laws and regulations.

7. Development of procedures for the timely deployment and integration of purpose-trained civil-military coordination/liaison officers in support of the United Nations humanitarian coordination system in humanitarian response operations.

8. Establishment of a roster of qualified civil-military coordination personnelcapable of operating at national and regional levels in natural disaster response operations.

9. Support through regional centres of excellence for the development and dissemination of national doctrine, standard operational procedures and legal status agreements for the use, request, and deployment of MCDA and the coordination of these assets in natural disaster response in order to facilitate national, regional, and international response operations.

10. Support the upgrade and update of UN/OCHA’s handbooks on civil-military coordination in an inclusive and participatory manner with interested Member States and humanitarian organisations to adapt these handbooks to regional needs and realities.

11. To invite OCHA, with the support of interested States, international and intergovernmental organizations and civil society, to conduct a thorough study with the ultimate goal of identifying further gaps and providing recommendations on enhancing the effectiveness of civil-military coordination and operations. This study could serve as a follow-on to the OCHA-commissioned study entitled “The Effectiveness of Foreign Military Assets in Natural Disaster Response”, conducted by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) in 2008, and incorporate recent experiences from large-scale disasters that would assist in informing decision- and policymaking, as well as developing practical solutions to increase the effectiveness of employing military and civil-defence assets. Central to this recommendation is the creation of an advisory committee representing regional and sub-regional interests to steer the direction of the study and determine resourcing requirements.

12. To continue to include the options of the HOPEFOR initiative and the implementation of the recommendations of this Conference in the agenda of the Consultative Group on the Use of Military and Civil Defence Assets and other relevant regional and international fora according to applicable rules of procedure.

II - Capacity building and preparedness
The Conference stresses the need to improve national, regional and international capacities through encouraging the cooperation between centres of excellence and the establishment of centres of excellence in all regions, as appropriate, and commends in this context the integration of experiences of the existing regional and national centres of excellence.

The Conference recommends the following:
1. The development of practical applications to serve as a model for civil-military coordination in support of the existing international framework.

2. Promoting cooperation and partnerships among international, regional and sub-regional centres of excellence in order to benefit from expertise, resources and exchange of information, and to contribute to the strengthening and expansion of the network of practitioners in the field of humanitarian civil-military coordination.

3. Encouraging dialogue, cooperation and understanding between humanitarian and military practitioners on the ground for the optimal use of military and civil defence assets in response to natural disasters.

4. To work on strengthening the preparedness capacities through the creation of structures and utilization of equipment and through international and regional early warning systems to support the use of MCDA and improve their response to natural disasters.

5. Collecting, documenting, and disseminating best practices to guide decision-making, policy development and operations.

6. Consolidation and dissemination of concepts, competencies, and principles, in civil-military coordination among civilian and military personnel and specialists in support of internationally recognized values and principles, including through jointly-developed civilian and military simulation exercises.

7. To further promote the collaboration between States, regional organizations, and international humanitarian organisations with a view towards enhancing capacity building actions and the development of national, sub-regional and regional doctrine and databases.

The Conference commends the announcement by His Excellency Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr Al-Thani, Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the State of Qatar for the establishment of a centre of excellence based in Doha and the intention of the State of Qatar to develop the implementation strategies, actions, and the legal options for the establishment of the centre, as well as the follow-up and coordination. The centre can serve as a platform for the common understanding of principled, effective, and coordinated use of MCDA and for training, joint simulation exercises, doctrine development, policy dialogue and the sharing of regional experiences and best practices.

The Conference welcomes the call by the State of Qatar, the Dominican Republic and Turkey to organize regional meetings and workshops to continue consultation, cooperation and coordination regionally and sub-regionally, which can be a basis for strengthening the effective use of MCDA in support of existing international coordination efforts and invites all other regions to convene similar workshops.
The Conference requested the co-sponsors to inform the United Nations General Assembly in its current session on the outcome of the conference in response to A/Res/65/307, and encourages the General Assembly to constructively continue the dialogue on the recommendations.

The participants express their appreciation to the State of Qatar for hosting the International Conference on the HOPEFOR Initiative to enhance the effectiveness and coordination of the use of military and civil defence assets for natural disaster response and providing all necessary support to make it a success. They also thank all Members States who co-sponsored the General Assembly resolution A/RES/65/307. They expressed pleasure and look forward to the organisation of the next landmark event within the HOPEFOR framework in the Republic of Turkey in early 2012.

They also express their appreciation to the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs for the significant role it played in reaching a consensus on the recommendations of this conference.