How Climate Change Will Impact Aid Delivery in Areas Affected by Conflict

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By Vincenzo Bollettino and Lea Ivy Manzanero

Like many other countries, the Philippines relies on its military to bring aid to disaster-stricken communities. Climate change will exacerbate already existing vulnerabilities and will make delivery of aid even more complex especially in areas of armed conflict. A recent paper published by Vincenzo Bollettino and Lea Ivy Manzanero in the Climate, Disaster and Development Journal discusses how coordination is implemented for humanitarian aid from Philippine government instrumentalities, by the military, uniformed personnel, and civilian sectors, as well as from multilateral organizations and non-government organizations, both local and international during state of national calamities. The Typhoon Haiyan experience brought changes in the implementation of disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM) and the role of the military. The study aims to encourage discussions on humanitarian civil-military coordination in the Philippines by presenting perceptions on the role of the military in DRRM both during peacetime and conflict, from government agencies involved in disaster risk reduction and management, including the military and uniformed personnel as well as humanitarian and relief agencies. It explores existing frameworks in humanitarian-civil military coordination at the national level and in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

Purposive sampling was conducted in Luzon and Mindanao covering thirty (30) respondents from the members of the Philippine military and uniformed personnel, disaster management agencies, and humanitarian non-governmental organizations who responded to a semi-structured interview after providing consent. The existing frameworks are examined for community and conflict resilience using the lens of DRRM, climate-induced hazards, and the humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, independence, and impartiality.

Key findings include:

  • During peacetime, the military and uniformed personnel continue to be trained and capacitated for first responders’ role.
  • During conflict, delivering aid when there are disasters is viewed as taking away the focus on the primary role of the military to protect the country.
  • Involvement of the military in disaster response should be limited and civilian agencies should be strengthened.
  • Perspectives from humanitarian and relief agencies highlight how participation of the military during delivery of aid in areas of conflict pose more risks and could make humanitarian responders move vulnerable to attack by non-state actors.
  • Sometimes, politicians use military escorts during delivery of aid which compromises the humanitarian organizations’ principles of independence and impartiality as they operate within the disaster-stricken community.
  • There is confusion on the role of the military in disaster response in areas with armed conflict.
  • There are expectations from the military to help in DRRM, to maintain peace and security in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), and to assist the BARMM Government.
  • In the case of BARMM, DRRM is intricately linked with development and peacebuilding activities, with the coordination with the military having an important role.

The study reveals significant challenges in protecting the integrity of independence of military and humanitarian actors in areas impacted by both conflict and disaster. Balancing mandated tasks such as security, maintaining peace and order, preserving sovereignty, and preventing terrorism with adherence to humanitarian principles and frameworks even while striving to deliver basic humanitarian services in the nexus of climate change and conflict remains challenging. This underscores the need for principled humanitarian civil-military coordination to avert threats to both humanitarian aid workers and disaster-stricken populations. The increasing role of the military in areas of conflict to achieve strategic or tactical objectives is testing existing frameworks of civil-military coordination. Further study is needed to understand the degree to which these expanding roles impact humanitarian outcomes.

Visit the Climate, Disaster and Development (CDD) Journal website to read the abstract or to download a copy of the article “Climate Change and Civil-Military Coordination in the Philippines: How climate change disasters will impact aid delivery in areas affected by conflict.” 

The CDD Journal is an open-access platform for peer-reviewed papers on all aspects and intersections of climate, disasters, and development, and their interaction. It is open to submissions focused on the areas of climate science, vulnerability and risks; climate change adaptation; disaster management; resilience; and climate policy and development. Please refer to the call for submission flyer, guide on getting published in the CDD Journal, and the manuscript submission guidelines for more information.

The CDD Journal is also looking to expand our pool of experts. Please refer to our call for reviewers if you are interested in becoming involved in the journal.

Vincenzo Bollettino, PhD is the Director of the Program on Resilient Communities of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative. Dr. Bollettino has twenty-five years of professional and academic experience in disaster preparedness and resilience, civil-military engagement in emergencies, and humanitarian leadership.

Lea Ivy Manzanero, MA is the Project Lead of the Program on Resilient Communities of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative. Lea has been involved in research and capacity building on emergency preparedness, disaster resilience, recovery, and rehabilitation since the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.