The independent resource on global security

The Effectiveness of Foreign Military Assets in Natural Disaster Response

OCHA FMA cover.jpg
Publisher: SIPRI
SIPRI, Sweden:
ISBN 978-91-85114-57-3
March, 2008


This study examines the advantages, limitations and implications of involving foreign military assets - personnel, equipment and expertise - in the relief operations that follow major natural disasters. It presents the findings of a research project carried out by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) with the support of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Foreign military assets have made large contributions to several recent natural disaster relief operations, yet their use in such operations remains controversial. The questions asked range from matters of principle—is it appropriate for foreign forces to take part in humanitarian work?—to more practical considerations such as cost, how effectively foreign military assets can participate in civilian-led humanitarian operations and how the presence of foreign military assets affects the ability of civilian humanitarian organizations to act independently and safely. This study provides an overview of the current use of foreign military assets in natural disaster response, including how and why they are deployed. It also analyses the role played by foreign military assets in several major disaster relief operations: in Mozambique following the floods in 2000, in Haiti following floods and tropical storm Jeanne in 2004, in Aceh province, Indonesia, following the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004, and in Pakistan-administered Kashmir following the South Asia earthquake of 2005.


Executive summary


Chapter 1. Background

Chapter 2. A changing landscape for disaster relief assistance

Chapter 3. Overview of the use of foreign military assets: 1997-2006

Chapter 4. The decision to use military assets

Chapter 5. The effectiveness of using foreign military assets in natural disaster response

Chapter 6. Findings and recommendations

Annex A. Case study: Floods and cyclones in Mozambique, 2000

Annex B. Case study: Floods and tropical storm Jeanne, Haiti, 2004

Annex C. Case study: Indian Ocean tsunami, Aceh province, 87 Indonesia, 2004

Annex D. Case study: South Asia earthquake, Pakistan, 2005

Annex E. Lists of respondents

Annex F. Questionnaires used in the study


Sharon Wiharta is a researcher with the SIPRI Armed Conflict and Conflict Management Project at SIPRI.
Hassan Ahmad is the chief executive of the Singapore-based humanitarian NGO Mercy Relief.
Jean-Yves Halne is a researcher with the Euro-Atlantic, Regional and Global Security Project at SIPRI.
Josefina Löfgren is a researcher and political analyst working in the fields of emergency relief, international education and conflict prevention.
Tim Randall is director of the Oxford Disaster Management Group, providing consultancy, research and operational support in the field of disaster management.