NATO Aids Pakistan in Relief Efforts Again

On Friday, August 20th, NATO announced that it would provide disaster relief to flood-stricken Pakistan, in response to a request made by the country’s government. The first NATO aircraft carrying relief goods departed from Germany and arrived at the Chaklala Airbase near the capital city of Islamabad carrying goods including power generators, water pumps and tents. Pakistan is  now in the third week of its worst floods in memory. Nearly a third of the country has been hit, and more than four million Pakistanis have been made homeless. Eight million people are still in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.

“Pakistan requested NATO to assist with specific list of goods on the 7th of August, two weeks ago,” said Ambassador Maurits Jochems, NATO Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Operations, “and immediately our Disaster Response Coordination Centre went into action and coordinated in a clearing house function the donations by individual NATO nations and NATO partner nations.”

The (European-Atlantic) Disaster Response Coordination Centre (EADRCC) has indeed been acting as a clearing house for international aid for about two weeks. However the EADRCC is a coordinating body rather than a directing one. In the case of a disaster requiring international assistance, it is up to individual NATO and partner nations to decide whether to provide assistance, based on information received from the EADRCC. The deployment of NATO resources (in this case aircrafts) is a major step in this situation, signaling its gravity.

The EADRCC itself was created only in 1998 by  the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council as one of the two basic elements of its policy on “Enhanced Practical Cooperation in the Field of International Disaster Relief”. The other element is the Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Unit (EADRU) – a non-standing, multi-national force of civil and military elements, which can be deployed in the event of a major natural or man-made disaster in a member country of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC). The EADRU is comprised of national units that are under national control and will only be deployed on disaster relief missions upon request by the disaster-stricken country. Both the EADRCC and EADRU tasks are performed in close co-operation with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, which retains the primary role in the coordination of international disaster relief operations.

However with the August 20th decision, Pakistan became the 6th purely humanitarian aid and relief mission that the North NATO Council, NATO’s supreme political body, has approved in its 61 year history.  NATO’s first relief operation occurred in 1992  following the break-up of the Soviet Union. NATO assisted an international relief effort by flying teams of humanitarian assistance experts and medical advisors to Russia and other Commonwealth of Independent States nations. In 1999, NATO deployed the ACE Mobile Force to Albania, which established the Albanian Force that provided humanitarian assistance to the influx of refugees from the Kosovo Conflict. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, NATO coordinated cargo as well as national flights in the U.S., aiding the urgently needed movement of materials. In 2008, NATO warships were deployed to escort ships carrying relief supplies to Somalia in order to protect them from pirates. The most recent deployment of aid to Pakistan is in fact the second time NATO is aiding disaster relief in that country. After a devastating earthquake struck northern Pakistan in 2005, NATO established an air bridge to Pakistan as well as other assistance.

The 2005 disaster was a catalyst for dialogue between NATO and Pakistan. In May 2007, during the first-ever visit by a NATO Secretary General to Pakistan, both sides agreed to hold regular high-level political exchanges. The shared objective of bringing security and stability to Afghanistan has been the major goal of broader cooperation.

By Monika Wyrzykowska

Sources: NATO’s Operation 1949 – Present, NATO Launches Relief Operation In Flood-hit Pakistan, NATO Plane Carries Relief Goods to Pakistan, Canadian government to match all donations to Pakistan relief, The Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre, NATO-Pakistan relations

*Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are solely of the author’s, and do not represent those of The NATO Council of Canada.

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