Select Committee on Defence Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum submitted by Randolph C Kent on the Future of NATO

  It is clear that NATO has the capacity to provide significant assistance to those affected by disasters and emergencies. To date, NATO has begun to develop a disaster early warning system as well as an ability to respond to various types of disasters within Europe. However, there are four sets of issues that NATO will have to consider particularly carefully as it embarks upon such undertakings; the types of humanitarian crises that will have to be confronted within the foreseeable future; appropriate civilian-military planning structures; key operational issues affecting civilian-military activities; and geographical reach.


  The agents of future disasters will encompass a broader range of hazards than now, from terrorism to infrastructural decay, from global warming to economic collapse. Moreover, these hazards are likely to become more inter-active. Future disasters and emergencies may well reflect the interplay among seemingly diverse factors such as technology, the environment and security.

  A considerable amount of attention has been paid to individual disaster agents and, to a lesser extent, to the contexts in which such agents may impact. Little if any attention has been paid to how different types of disaster agents and potential areas of impact inter-relate and how they can trigger large-scale catastrophes.

  If NATO is truly to play a significant role in supporting humanitarian assistance in the future, it will have to have a more developed concept about the types of humanitarian issues that will have to be confronted in the future. Towards that end, greater attention must be made by member-states to develop integrated and coherent futures analyses leading to scenario-building and training as well as to integrated early warning and monitoring systems.


  In the context of NATO's future support role in humanitarian assistance, greater attention will have to be given to the ways that the military components of NATO interact with a broad spectrum of civilian actors. This issue has become a common-place in civilian-military discussions, but has failed to result in the sorts of arrangements that future humanitarian crises will require.

  The military and civilian sector, particularly when it comes to non-governmental actors, will have to pay far greater attention to ways of planning together and to ways, in the midst of operations, of adjusting such plans collaboratively. Planning in this context often has less to do with methods than mind-sets, and for this reason various ways to acculturate the main actors into their respective operational and planning modalities might well be the principal consideration.

  Towards that acculturation objective, NATO could develop secondment policies that could reach out into the non-governmental sector as well as other areas of the humanitarian world. It, too, could develop inter-institutional planning processes to ensure close military-civilian planning—as has recently been initiated between humanitarian and military actors in the United Kingdom, under the auspices of MOD.


  Related to above, NATO could take the lead in addressing the sorts of operational difficulties that arise now and may well arise more frequently during times of difficult humanitarian crises. Such issues span a range of considerations, including the military's approach to its primary projection role, utilisation of military resources in support of civilian operations, security and exit strategies.

  In each of the complex emergencies involving military force, including NATO's involvement in the former Yugoslavia, these sorts of issues have affected military-civilian relationships, to the detriment of both. These considerations reflect certain core institutional perspectives, procedures and dynamics; but that said, there are ways to deal with such operational issues as there are ways to deal with the intricately related issue of planning.

  Two obvious but hitherto poorly implemented approaches to deal with such operational concerns begins with troop training, manuals and education at the level of military academies and staff colleges. While these sorts of solutions have always been accepted in principle, they have never been fully accepted as directly relevant to the core concerns of the military. This assumption, like other issues related to the military ethos, will have to be changed. Similarly, more concerted efforts will have to be made to relate the operational procedures and activities of the military into those of major humanitarian players.


  The geographical limit of NATO engagement is an issue that will be central to a review of NATO's future. Depending upon that decision . . . or perhaps even despite it . . . NATO's role in support of humanitarian activities could eventually prove to be an important example to other regional and national organisations around the world which may require military support for humanitarian initiatives.

  In that regard, the planning perspectives as well as operational modalities that NATO and civilian counterparts should develop could serve as useful models and bases for training elsewhere in the world.

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