Chilean Defense Minister Inaugurates Conference on Humanitarian Aid
By Dialogo September 06, 2011
Before an audience of the defense chiefs of nine countries gathered in Santiago, Chile, for the Third Annual South American Defense Conference, on August 31, Andrés Allamand said that the Latin American region is at high risk of natural disasters and that one of the current missions of the Chilean Armed Forces is participation in humanitarian-aid operations and operations to alleviate the effects of natural disasters or other emergencies.
Cosponsored by the Chilean Armed Forces and the U.S. Southern Command, the 2011 edition of the South American Defense Chiefs Conference is focused on military support for humanitarian aid and disaster response, in addition to seeking to promote joint efforts among the countries of the region.
“Chile has been participating in joint rescue and humanitarian-aid actions for many, many years. A recent example took place when a Chilean Army patrol marched through snow for kilometers to rescue 37 foreigners trapped in a bus due to a snowstorm in the Colchane region, on the border with Bolivia,” the minister said.
Minister Allamand explained that this participation is divided among the branches of the Armed Forces:
Army – Mountain Rescue Patrol: Search for, aid to, and rescue of individuals in danger or lost in mountainous areas.
Navy – Maritime Search and Rescue Service: Search for ships for the purpose of saving lives after an accident on the high seas.
Air Force – Aerial Search and Rescue Service: Search for aircraft and rescue of those onboard. Provides aid in other kinds of emergencies.
According to Minister Allamand, the Armed Forces not only make up an integral part of the Chilean emergency-response and civil-protection system, but also participate actively, in accordance with their capacities and competencies, in activities related to the prevention of and preparation for emergencies, as well as in emergency response and the delivery of humanitarian aid to the population.
The minister summarized the lessons learned after the February 27, 2010, earthquake. In his opinion, the country’s system of communications as a whole should be improved, as well as its mass alert systems and logistical capabilities, and probable estimates of risk and demand should be used. Among Chilean strengths, Minister Allamand highlighted the polyvalence of the rescue units, the capacity for organization, the leadership of the commanders of the country’s Armed Forces, and Chileans’ civic commitment.
Allamand also explained that the Ministry of National Defense’s role is to obtain and systematize information, establish deployment plans and protocols, designate regional delegates, and coordinate support resources with emergency committees, other institutions, and regional delegates through the Joint General Staff.
The defense minister concluded his address with a summary of four basic points about his country’s current situation:
Chile is developing a security and defense strategy intended to respond to current challenges in those areas, giving priority to the protection of individuals.
Chile believes that common legal provisions for the use of the military in support of populations affected by natural disasters should be established in the region.
Chile believes that each country’s institutional framework for responding to emergencies should take into account the capacity for interoperability.
Chile has vast – national and international – experience in preventing and managing disasters, experience that is at the disposition of the regional community.