Military Medical Ethics – Scenario Database

Relations between Western Military Forces and NGOs

ID/Number: 43
Last updated: 12 Aug, 2019
Revision: 1
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Setting: A rural region of a country where Western military forces are engaged in active combat.

Scenario: "An international medical NGO is supporting several rural health clinics in a country where Western military forces are engaged in active combat. The expatriate staff of the NGO are responsible for ensuring the distribution of medicines and equipment to these clinics.

A dispute breaks out amongst the staff about how closely the NGO should work with the Western military forces and the provisional government. Two points are raised in favour of closer cooperation.
First, it is suggested that requesting a military escort would allow the NGO to transport supplies more securely and efficiently to remote clinic sites, thus minimizing the chance of interruptions in patient treatment.
Second, the NGO could contribute to the rebuilding of the country’s healthcare system by collaborating with the provisional government by providing advice and reporting the problems and needs of the population that they have identified during their project.

However, there is significant concern amongst the staff that the neutrality of the NGO would be comprised by working too closely with the military. Worries are also voiced that a perceived link to the occupying forces could lead to the NGO’s staff and clinics becoming the target of attack by opposing militias."

Source: Humanitarian Healthcare Ethics. 2014. ENHA Case Study Series: Relations between Western Military Forces and NGOs.

Questions for the discussion of this scenario

1. Discuss whether and to what extent the NGO should cooperate with the military forces and/or the local government. Which ethical arguments speak in favour or against such a cooperation?

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CIMIC Neutrality
This scenario is also listed in the following categories
folder Military Medical Ethics Scenarios -> Civil-military cooperation -> Cooperation in the field
folder Military Medical Ethics Scenarios -> Neutrality of the medical personnel

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