Urgent Need for International Humanitarian Force

  • 18 November 2007

The enormity of the humanitarian crisis caused by the hurricane that hit Bangladesh, which has killed and displaced in their hundreds, necessitates the revival of a proposal made by former French President Jacque Chirac for the establishment of an “international humanitarian force” to mitigate the effects of natural catastrophes. The former French President had made the call after the unfortunate tsunami disaster of 2005, which killed about 146,000 people and displaced millions in many Asian and African countries.

The establishment of an international body for confronting the destructive impact of natural disasters, whatever its name or manner of operations, has become extremely important. The matter should be considered seriously, in the wake of many important developments. The first cause for concern relates to a dangerous rise in the number of natural catastrophes that the world is currently witnessing in the form of hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes. The greater frequency of these calamities can be attributed to a variety of factors; however, the most important of them relates to the disturbance in the earth’s climate, which many scientists had predicted and warned against for a long time. They had even been laying out plans and strategies for reversing global warming, because this issue relates to the future of humanity and its existence on Earth. The second issue relates to the high number of casualties in these disasters, as the number of fatalities is no longer in the tens or hundreds, but rather in the thousands. In addition, to the loss of human lives, economic losses are also running up into millions of dollars. This means that the world faces a grave threat and a specific mechanism should be evolved for dealing with the crisis. The third matter pertains to the fact that the experience in confronting natural disasters in recent times shows us, without any doubt, that confronting the problem would be beyond the capabilities of any single country in the world. The Katrina hurricane that hit the United States recently has proved this fact clearly. Therefore, there is need for effective international cooperation for joining forces and capabilities that could effectively confront the challenges. The fourth matter of concern is that despite efforts made by various countries and organizations in providing relief to disaster-hit areas in the aftermath of any natural catastrophe; the lack of coordination among these parties leads to dissipation of efforts, if not at times working at cross-purposes. The fifth consideration relates to the time factor that is an important element of any strategy in confronting natural catastrophes. The time factor in responding to a natural calamity plays an important part in minimizing the losses. However, the absence of a unified international organization or a single mechanism that could specialize in taking quick and coherent action in the face of catastrophes inhibits international efforts in responding speedily and effectively to sudden and destructive outbreaks of natural calamities around the world.