WFP Co-hosts Civil-Military Pandemic Planning Conference

Senior military pandemic planners from around the world and their national civilian counterparts gathered at WFP's Rome headquarters on Monday for the opening of a week-long conference looking at ways to enhance collaboration and coordination.

ROME -- WFP hosted the first day plenary session of the conference, which was planned in partnership with USAID and the US military before the recent concerns about A/H1N1 influenza, or 'swine flu' surfaced.

WFP’s Executive Director, Josette Sheeran, and Deputy Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer, Amir Abdulla, were among those in attendance. High level speakers included Ambassador Mary Yates of the US Africa Command and General John Goodman, Director of the Center for Excellence (US Pacific Command). Additionally, senior delegations from some 26 countries, along with experts from UN agencies, USAID, NGOs, IFRC and others were also present.

Unique channel

This is the first time WFP has engaged with the most senior civilian and military pandemic planners from around the world, and provides the organisation with a unique and important channel for dialogue to link the humanitarian community and civil planners with national militaries and other uniformed personnel.

"Effective civil-military collaboration is an important consideration for WFP’s operations, and will undoubtedly be a practical step in coordinating humanitarian response,” said Peter Scott-Bowden, who heads WFP’s Pandemic Response Unit.

Essential services

“The maintenance of essential services is an area in which there may be a need for military – or uniformed personnel such as the army, police or border authorities – to provide assistance in coordination with civil and humanitarian organisations.”

The work of WFP can often involve significant interaction with militaries and civil authorities, both in immediate response to disasters and in more complex emergencies, requiring longer term collaboration.

WFP has worked with national authorities in a number of emergencies to date, including the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan and the 2008 floods in Mozambique, to name a few. Partnerships with national authorities such as civil-military counterparts allow WFP to maximise its resources to reach more people in more places.