Iraq: Humanitarian and Military Relations

Published: 12 March 2003

Humanitarian aid is most effectively delivered by civilian humanitarian agencies under UN leadership. Military involvement can compromise the effective delivery of aid and lead to unintended consequences, potentially threatening the security of civilian aid workers.

Any war in Iraq, however, may prove to be exceptional. Extreme insecurity may limit civilian agencies' ability to work. If there is an occupation, international law obliges occupying forces to ensure the supply of food and other necessities. Military forces must be prepared to provide aid if Iraq is too insecure for civilian agencies to operate. However, as soon as conditions allow, civilian agencies, under UN leadership, should provide that assistance.