MoD writes peacekeeping guide

New guidance governing the armed forces' relationship with NGOs in peacekeeping operations overseas aims to encourage closer engagement between the two parties in such situations.

The guide, from the Ministry of Defence Joint Doctrine and Concepts Centre, follows three years of consultation with dozens of development charities and international NGOs, including the British Red Cross, Save the Children and Oxfam.

The document, entitled Joint Warfare Publication 3-50: The Military Contribution to Peace Support Operations, is based on experiences from peacekeeping operations since the early 1990s, including Bosnia, Kosovo and Sierra Leone, as well as the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. It updates a previous document from 1999.

The guide covers the dealings of military personnel with all other parties relevant to a peacekeeping operation, ranging from indigenous people to aid agencies and the media. It identifies three "potential areas of discord" between NGOs and the military: the need to maintain humanitarian space; military provision of humanitarian assistance; and the use of language, particularly the words 'humanitarian', 'impartiality', and 'security'.

It suggests that there are benefits in complementary working, and suggests that in order to optimise this, military personnel should focus on the best NGOs, share information with them, and respect their independence.

It also advises military staff to understand the methods employed by the NGOs. It says: "For humanitarian actors, the process by which objectives are achieved matter as much as the end result. Methods may appear slow and ineffective.

"However, they will be designed to build local skills and empower local people to take responsibility for themselves."

Navy Captain Ian Richardson, assistant director for peace support operations at the centre, said the publication is intended for a wide audience. "Although it is optimised for the military, it is also of use to civil society, including the NGO community," he said.

"Quite often, NGOs are on the ground for many years before we arrive and remain there after we leave. We want better mutual understanding and trust, so NGOs know where Government stands, while both sides respect the other's points of view."

A spokesman for the British Red Cross said: "We think it is positive that the UK Armed Forces seek to update their joint doctrine for Peace Support Operations, in the light of their own experience and that of other agencies."

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