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Policy intervention | 29 October 2014

Open Letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and WHO Director General Margaret Chan

Dear Secretary-General and Director-General,

As you know, more than six months after the Ebola outbreak started in a village in Guinea the situation in West Africa is deteriorating. This is both a humanitarian tragedy and as acknowledged in UN Security Council Resolution 2177, a developing threat to international peace and security.

We know you have made urgent calls for more financial support from the international community and we support these calls. We also know that the response required is complex and covers the need for additional logistics support, more hospital capacity, more health workers, and better support for medical evacuation of international staff helping to deal with the crisis.

We are writing to you today to ask that you request assistance from NATO in dealing with this unfolding tragedy.
NATO has access to unique capabilities that could make a difference in this situation. Some member states like the United States and Spain either have hospital ships that could be deployed or other naval vessels with treatment facilities aboard that could provide extra hospital capacity to international standards.

NATO militaries have medical teams that could quickly help to staff new treatment centres being built and CBRN specialists that could offer technical help. NATO military logistics assets (both air and sea) could fill important gaps to help important equipment and supplies reach the right locations quickly. And NATO has a strong track record of coordinating the efforts of a wider range of international actors, as demonstrated both through its international partnership programmes and through its regional cooperation to meet the counter piracy threat off the coast of Somalia.

It is not always appropriate or necessary that military institutions play a part in humanitarian or health crises but NATO is rightly proud of its role in helping to respond to the earthquake in Pakistan in 2005, and of its role in helping the African Union in Darfur. We believe that so long as any military assistance provided was consistent with the Oslo Guidelines on the Use of Foreign Military and Civil Defence Assets in Disaster Relief prepared by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, then a role for NATO would be justified, valuable and widely welcomed in this instance.

We have written simultaneously to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg today urging him to make clear publicly the organisation’s willingness to receive any request from you positively. We hope you will also be prepared to discuss with the governments of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone the acceptability of any such assistance.

The international response to the Ebola epidemic must surely become a demonstration of our common humanity. We commend you for all that you are doing to meet this challenge in difficult circumstances. NATO could and should be a part of this effort. We hope you will consider and respond to this request positively.


1. George Robertson (Lord Robertson of Port Ellen), former NATO Secretary General, former Defence Secretary, member of the House of Lords, United Kingdom.

2. Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, former NATO Secretary General, former Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Netherlands.

3. Michel Rocard, former Prime Minister and current Ambassador of the Polar Regions, France.

4. Massimo D’Alema, former Prime Minister and former Foreign Minister, Italy.

5. Ruud Lubbers, former Prime Minister, the Netherlands.

6. Des Browne (Lord Browne of Ladyton), former Defence Secretary, current Chair of the ELN and member of the House of Lords, United Kingdom.

7. Paul Quilès, former Defence Minister and former President of the Defence and Armed Forces Committee of the National Assembly, France.

8. Volker Rühe, former Defence Minister, Germany.

9. Hikmet Çetin, former Foreign Minister, Turkey.

10. Bob Ainsworth MP, serving Member of Parliament and former Defence Secretary, United Kingdom.

11. Mogens Lykketoft, Former Foreign Minister, Denmark.

12. Fatmir Mediu, former Defence Minister, Albania.

13. Volodymyr Ogrysko, former Foreign Minister, Ukraine.

14. Alan West (Admiral the Lord West of Spithead), former First Sea Lord of the British Navy and member of the House of Lords, United Kingdom.

15. Charles Guthrie (General the Lord Guthrie of Craigiebank), former Chief of the Defence Staff and member of the House of Lords, United Kingdom.

16. Adam Daniel Rotfeld, former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Poland

17. Uffe Ellemann-Jensen, Former Minister for Foreign Affairs, Denmark.

18. Klaus Naumann, General (ret), GEAR, former Chairman of the NATO Military Committee, Germany.

19. John McColl, former NATO Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe (DSACEUR), United Kingdom.

20. Sir Nick Harvey MP, serving Member of Parliament and former Minister of State for the Armed Forces, United Kingdom.

21. James Arbuthnot MP, serving Member of Parliament and former British Chair of the Defence Select Committee.

22. Roderich Kiesewetter, serving Member of the German Bundestag and former Bundeswehr General Staff, Germany.

23. Pierre Lellouche, former Minister of European Affairs and Minister of International Trade, France.

24. Laurens Jan Brinkhorst, former Undersecretary of state of Foreign Affairs and former Leader of the D66-group in the Second Chamber of the Parliament, Netherlands.

25. Sir Menzies Campbell MP, serving Member of Parliament and former Leader of the Liberal Democrats, United Kingdom.

26. David Owen (Lord Owen), former Foreign Secretary and member of the House of Lords, United Kingdom.

27. Douglas Hurd (Lord Hurd), former Foreign Secretary and member of the House of Lords, United Kingdom.

28. Werner Hoyer, former State Minister, Germany.

29. Hans van den Broek, former Foreign Minister and European Commissioner for External Relations, Netherlands.

30. Bernard Norlain, former Air Defense Commander and Air Combat Commander of the French Air Force, France.

31. Carlo Trezza, Member of the Advisory Board of the UN Secretary General for Disarmament Matters and Chairman of the Missile Technology Control Regime, Italy.

32. Wolfgang Petritsch, former EU Special Envoy to Kosovo and former High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Austria.

33. Jan Kavan, former Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, Czech Republic.

34. John Kerr (Lord Kerr on Kinlochard), current member of the House of Lords, former UK Ambassador to the US and the EU, United Kingdom.

35. David Hannay (Lord Hannay of Chiswick), current Member of the House of Lords, former Ambassador to the EEC and the UN, United Kingdom.

36. Tedo Japaridze, Member of Parliament and Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Georgia.

37. Giorgio La Malfa, Former Minister of European Affairs, Italy

38. Vahit Erdem, former Member of the Turkish Grand National Assembly, Chief Adviser to President Süleyman Demirel, Head of the Turkish Delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly and Vice-President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, Turkey.

39. Jaakko Blomberg, former Ambassador to Canada, Ambassador to Estonia and Special Adviser on Cyprus to the European Commissioner for Enlargement, Finland.

40. Simon Lunn, former Secretary General to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, United Kingdom.

41. Jaakko Iloniemi, former Ambassador to the CSCE and Ambassador to the United States, Finland.

42. Özdem Sanberk, President of the International Strategic Research Organisation (USAK/ISRO) and former Undersecretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Turkey.

43. Henrik Salander, former Ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament, Secretary-General of the Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission, Sweden.

44. Rolf Ekéus, former Ambassador to the United States and Director of the United Nations Special Commission on Iraq, Sweden.

45. Charles Clarke, former Home Secretary, United Kingdom.

46. Silvestri Stefano, President of the International Affairs Institute of Italy, consultant for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministries of Defence and Industry, Italy.

47. Raimo Väyrynen, former Director at Finnish Institute of International Affairs

48. Francesco Calogero, Professor Emeritus of Theoretical Physics at the Italy Universita di Roma La Sapienza, former Secretary General of Pugwash, Italy.

49. Ivo Šlaus, former Member of Parliament and member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Honourary President of the World Academy of Art and Science and member of the Club of Rome, Croatia.

50. Balázs Csuday, serving Permanent Representative of Hungary to the United Nations, Hungary.

51. David Triesman (Lord Treisman), member of the House of Lords, Foreign Affairs spokesperson for the Labour party in the Lords, former Foreign Office Minister, United Kingdom.


Download the open letter here.