Civil-military coordination: the search for common ground

April 2011 to March 2013

Effective civil–military coordination is essential to the humanitarian objective of saving lives and alleviating suffering. However, in recent years civil–military coordination has faced a number of major and often interconnected challenges, including expanded international intervention in fragile and conflict-affected states, the increased frequency and scale of natural disasters related to climate change and the rapid proliferation of humanitarian actors.

In the face of these multiple challenges, increased interaction and dialogue between military and humanitarian actors is essential. However, recent operational experience (such as in Haiti, Myanmar and Pakistan, as well as Afghanistan and Iraq), real-time evaluations of crisis response, and the often one-sided policy debates on the securitisation of aid have all demonstrated continuing weaknesses in civil–military coordination. Military and humanitarian actors have consistently failed to reach a common understanding of the role that each plays, the challenges they face and, critically, the priority needs of affected populations and how these can or should be addressed.

This project aims to bring together military and humanitarian actors to discuss current challenges to civil–military coordination, to consider how existing frameworks relate to recent global political and other developments, to try to find agreement regarding respective competences and responsibilities and to work together to ensure more effective civil–military coordination at policy, strategic and operational levels.


The search for common ground: civil–military relations in Pakistan

Research reports and studies | March 2014 | Lauren Greenwood and Gowthaman Balachandran
How do humanitarian agencies engage with militaries that are both a belligerent in the conflict and the primary responder to disasters? Drawing from interviews with key military and civilian actors engaged in humanitarian response, this report explores the complexities...

Country-specific civil–military coordination guidelines

Research reports and studies | August 2012 | Victoria Metcalfe and Michelle Berg
This HPG Working Paper reviews existing country-specific humanitarian civil–military coordination guidelines, considers how they have been used to contextualise global policy and explores how they have been used in practice to support a more effective humanitarian...

Trends and challenges in humanitarian civil–military coordination

Bibliography and literature reviews | May 2012 | Victoria Metcalfe, Simone Haysom and Stuart Gordon
This literature review identifies key trends emerging from the literature on civil–military coordination in conflicts and natural disasters. It deals with the interaction between international humanitarian and international or foreign military actors operating in...