The Department for International Development might support military intervention in response to humanitarian disasters in the future, following a policy review.
This is one course of action that international development secretary Hilary Benn will set out when he launches DfID's new humanitarian policy at the British Red Cross headquarters in London today.
The approach would be used when support by civilian agencies is judged to be insufficient. But it could meet opposition from groups that fear it will create confusion between humanitarian and military policies.
The policy document says: "DfID will look at the case for the deployment of military capabilities in different contexts, considering the implications for the protection of civilians, security of aid workers and the cost-effectiveness of using military rather than civilian assets."
The plans respond to the three central goals of the new humanitarian policy: to improve the effectiveness of humanitarian responses; to be a better donor; and to reduce risk and extreme vulnerability.
The new policy envisages DfID trying to work with governments in countries identified to be at risk to create risk management strategies.
But it will not affect funding for NGOs delivering emergency relief on the ground, and the department has confirmed its funding commitment to organisations such as the Red Cross.