Monday, June 2, 2008

Restoring Peace In Complex Emergencies: Give military bigger role in disaster relief ops, says Najib

SINGAPORE: The military has to be given greater role in carrying out humanitarian assistance and disaster relief as it has the capability and experience to handle such crisis situations. "It has to be recognised that military is a critical component in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief," Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak told an international security dialogue yesterday.
Najib, who is also the defence minister, said the recent natural disasters in Myanmar and China had proven the military's important role in humanitarian relief operations. The traditional relief mechanism, which incorporated the government, business and volunteer organisations that for years had been adequate to meet the needs for relief work were found to be inefficient and ineffective when dealing with crises involving an entire nation.

Speaking at a plenary session themed "Restoring Peace In Complex Emergencies" at the 7th IISS (International Institute for Strategic Studies) Asia Security Summit - The Shangri-La Dialogue, Najib said challenges of such magnitude required for a more comprehensive and dynamic approach. He said the Asean Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management should recognise the military role if it wanted to increase its capacity building to enable it to undertake assistance in a more effective manner.
Although there were diverging views on the military involvement, there was wider consensus among Asean countries that the armed forces indeed had a key role in the area. "This is in line with the secondary or peace time role of the military in support of the ideals of a security community,” said Najib, who is also Defence Minister, noting that the standby arrangement under the Asean Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Response, which were still being finalised, would facilitate deployment of military and civilian components at short notice.
On the centre, Najib said he hoped it could provide the leadership for regional response as it would deal with multiple contributors and agencies, and coordinate its activities effectively and eliminate the risk of inappropriate use of funds and resources. The Deputy Prime Minister also emphasised on the need to share information as it was vital for bthe success of the complex emergency operations.
On restoring security in complex emergencies, Najib said he was of the view that such efforts should not be undertaken on the basis of a unilateral action and Iraq was a classic example in the case. He said it was of utmost importance to respect the sovereignty of the affected state to dispel fear of interference into the internal affairs of that particular state. “Therefore, upon restoring security, there should be graceful exit by the countries involved in the process,” Najib said.
He said peace building in a complex emergency must be based on trust and transparency and the mediator should not dictate terms and conditions in cases where there was a need for parties to negotiate settlements. “Instead, it was important to create a conducive environment for them to negotiate to ensure lasting peace,” he added.
Speaking at a media conference after the summit, Najib said the cyclone tragedy serves as an acid test for Asean’s capability in helping its members faced with a real crisis. He said it was important for Asean, as an association, to show the world it had come a long way and that in the Myanmar case it should be able to help the country.
He said Asean was willing to send more military personnel and logistics requirements such as helicopters and boats to help distribute foreign aid to the victims who remained cut off in the cyclone-stricken zones and were starving.

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