Understanding the Priorities for Civil-Military Co-operation (CIMIC)

Stuart Gordon (Copyright 2001)

Royal Military Academy Sandhurst*‘Modern war consumes governments and administrations in its path, leaving anarchy and chaos behind. If authority and the necessary minimum of order and administration are not at once re-established, disorder and subversion can all too quickly erode the victory that has been won in the field. It is said that the British habitually lose all the battles except the last. It will profit them nothing to win even the last, if they then throw away the peace.’

CA Donnison, Civil Affairs and Military Government (London: HMSO, 1966), p361.


Contemporary military operations take place in complex environments populated by multiple civilian and humanitarian institutions and a challenging array of issues that are not precisely ‘military’ in nature. This has increased the importance of managing the civil-military interface, particularly that between the military and the humanitarian community. This process of management is frequently described as Civil-Military Co-operation (or CIMIC). It is necessary to manage both the relationship with and separateness of the humanitarian community; however, the military tend to focus on the former at the expense of the latter. This has been compounded by the politicisation of humanitarian action, the lack of professional training for soldiers in this area and the fragility of the military’s institutional memory. This paper seeks to explore the issues confronting particularly the British military in terms of its management of the interface between itself and the broadly defined civil humanitarian community. It briefly explores the evolution of structures for managing the civil -military interface before identifying four sets of issues that confront CIMIC planners.

The Roller Coaster Evolution of CIMIC

Civil-Military co-operation is not a new phenomenon for the British Army. During W.W.II it developed as a means of dealing with the practical issues thrown up by civilian institutions and populations. [1] In 1940, as an Army in retreat, British officers found large scale movements of civilians to be a major impediment to operations. [2] Later, in 1941, as an invasion force, the Allies confronted not only the obstacles and distractions caused by large numbers of civilians moving away from the fighting but also the problems of restoring sovereignty, maintaining civilian food supplies, obtaining goods and services from the civilian economy, reviving civil administration in newly liberated states, discharging legal obligations to civilians in newly occupied territories and maintaining relations with voluntary agencies. [3] The denouement of this process was the creation of military government in both parts of Italy and briefly in post-war Germany.

The result of such experience was a large allied civil affairs [4] capability comprising over 15,000 troops and dealing with two broad and diverse sets of frequently overlapping issues: civil-military operations [5] and civil administration. Despite the frequently ‘generalist’ nature of activities it could be argued that by the end of the war civil affairs had become an increasingly influential ‘sub-profession’ within the British Army able to directly manage or influence a wide range of largely civil issues.

Cold War

Despite the diversity of function and purpose during both World War II and the short period of military government in post-war Germany, the profession of civil affairs was largely forgotten during the Cold War period. The civil affairs structures within 21 Army Group largely decayed until, by the beginning of the 1950s, there were comparatively few of the war time capabilities remaining in the British Army. The emphasis of Cold War civil affairs practitioners became progressively more narrowly defined; reflecting the experiences of preparing for a conventional war in West Germany with the national Federal German authorities assuming responsibility for its own population. [6] In such a context civil affairs became rather narrowly defined as ‘host nation support’ [7] and increasingly equated with community/public relations. The absence of an effective definition also lead to the confusion of civil affairs with the provision of politico-military advice provided by the civil service. The result of such confusions was to contribute to British civil affairs increasingly exhibiting a distinctly ad hoc and improvised approach. Without dedicated and earmarked civil affairs units it was perhaps inevitable that the civil affairs role degenerated into amorphousness.

Nevertheless, whilst civil affairs decayed after W.W.II, the importance of the civil-military interface was not lost on British commanders nor were they insensitive to the civilian dimension of operations or the penalties to be endured for mishandling relations with a civil community. Post War experiences in Palestine, Aden, Malaya, Cyprus and Northern Ireland illustrated that a strong civil-military component was an integral part of British counter- revolutionary warfare doctrine. Nevertheless, this did not translate into a specific civil affairs capability of the type seen in 21 Army Group. Rather, if anything, the ascendant theories of police and civil supremacy tended to crowd out the experience of a dedicated civil affairs structure and a limitation of the military role to that which was essential in support of the non-militarised elements of the executive. [8] Perhaps the key point is that whilst the idea of a generalised sensitivity to the civil – military interface was deeply ingrained by post War experience there was a generalised lack of ideas on how to capitalise on opportunities or provide the institutions necessary to structure this relationship. The result was that for the British, [9] civil affairs activities were largely relegated to being the ad hoc initiative of transitory individual local commanders.

Post Cold War CIMIC’s Emergence

With the end of the Cold War CIMIC received a much greater degree of attention within the British Army. It became a central feature of British Peace Support Operations doctrine and its importance was also reflected in the increasing numbers of posts (from battalion to Ministry of Defence level) dedicated to aspects of managing the civil-military interface. Nevertheless, the increasing requirement for and salience of CIMIC is not a simple phenomenon. Rather it is the product of a wide range of contextual factors which have ultimately confused the clarity of purpose underlying CIMIC.

The end of the Cold War and the new, albeit unpredictable and inconsistent, ‘humanitarianism’ [10] of the Security Council led to a large growth in the number of UN missions; [11] particularly those with a multifunctional nature [12] and a combination of ‘quasi humanitarian,’ ‘developmental’ and ‘peacebuilding’ aspirations. [13] The resulting ‘holistic’ and solution oriented approaches harnessed an array of institutional actors, bringing the UN military into a far closer relationship with other civilian aspects of the mission. [14] The end of the Cold War also ensured that states such as the UK could contribute troops more frequently to peacekeeping operations than had been the case in the past. The increase in complexity and size of humanitarian emergencies and the volatility and danger of the environments also combined with the lack of rapid implementation capacity [15] of other civil and humanitarian institutions to increase the occasions upon which the military were deployed alongside humanitarian agencies and became involved in quasi-humanitarian activities. [16] There has also been a suspicion that without the mobilisation of clear national interests Western governments in particular have utilised military action for ostensibly ‘humanitarian’ ends as a substitute for more traditionally robust military responses. [17] This has caused a general blurring of the distinctions between ‘military’ and ‘humanitarian’ activities which has also been compounded by a confusion of the traditional, local level ‘consent building’ activities of militaries with the various relief, development and peacebuilding programmes of a variety of civil agencies.

This process of blurring has been furthered by UN intervention in wars taking place largely in urban environments, particularly in the former Yugoslavia. During the Bosnian war the urban populations, dependent upon comparatively sophisticated economic and social infrastructures, proved to be unable to provide for their own basic survival strategies once these structures were destroyed or undermined by warfare. This combined with the high levels of insecurity experienced by humanitarian agencies (and the routine obstructionism by warring factions) to lead UNPROFOR soldiers into routinely conducting activities such as needs assessment (and in marked contrast a reluctance to move into ‘protection’) and infrastructure repair. [18] Such programmes have generally required skills beyond those of most western militaries; geared largely for high intensity warfare. Hence the military have been drawn into actively facilitating the activities of other agencies and developing capacities for managing these relationships.

UNPROFOR also offers another explanation for the increased salience of CIMIC. The challenges and controversies of UNPROFOR [19] were, to some extent, legitimised by the increasing focus of the UN military on civil projects from February 1994. [20] CIMIC offered a means of legitimising a controversial and inadequate intervention which also lacked reference points in terms of clearly communicated (to a domestic audience) national interests. The need for legitimisation in such circumstances was made more pressing by the rise of a global and more intrusive media. In such a context the relationship between civilian and military institutions, and the treatment of the local population in the area of operations inevitably was subject to increased media scrutiny. Furthermore, the conditions and attitudes of the indigenous populations were an increasingly important consideration for commanders in the determination of the ‘end state’ of the campaign and gaining minimum levels of acceptance for UNPROFOR’s presence.

Globalisation and the triumph of liberal economic norms also provided another and surprisingly direct boost to CIMIC, initially at least in the UK. There was a clear desire to harness the commercial opportunities provided by post conflict reconstruction. [21] This reflected a degree of frustration among senior figures in the British construction industry, such as Sir Martin Laing, keen both to see national benefit for their industries deriving from peacekeeping missions involving British forces and to emulate the actions of the French and the US in harnessing their respective national militaries for exploiting post conflict reconstruction contracts. [22] With this purpose in mind, then Minister for Armed Forces, Nicholas Soames, pressed for the creation of a dedicated Civil Affairs capability. In effect Civil Affairs, for the UK, became the pragmatic expression of western liberal economic norms rather than simply being an outgrowth of an impulse to humanitarian action.

In many ways the Labour government was not immune either. Instead of the emphasis on free market commerce providing the environment in which British CIMIC structures thrived, Labour emphasised the ‘ethical dimension’ to foreign policy formulation and Britain’s role as a ‘force for good’. This was underlined by reinforcing themes within different ministries: the Department for International Development’s (DfID) Security Sector Reform (SSR) policy and the MoD’s Defence Diplomacy mission. [23] These provided an environment that explicitly recognised the blurring of the boundaries between civil and military sources of security and insecurity and the ‘decompartmentalisation’ of roles within emergencies.

The salience of the civil-military interface also increased as a consequence of the changed nature of military deployments. In 1996, Field Marshal Sir Peter Inge argued that:

We now realise through experience that we could be required to fight for extended periods without nearby well-found bases and without the benefit of good host nation support…. [24]

The new environments [25] and crises have required something more than raw military capability. Crises (particularly although not exclusively, in Bosnia) demonstrated an unavoidably ‘human’ nature with international interventions set within complex diplomatic processes. Engaging with these processes became essential if the coercive power of the military was to be employed successfully. This engendered a greater reliance upon civil-military interactions than a simple dependence on the raw actual, or potential, use of firepower. Thomas Schelling drew a similar distinction when he reminded us that “the power to hurt is bargaining power. To exploit it is diplomacy…” [26] The process of exploitation required from the military a much broader range of capabilities in order to create a strategic framework in which military, political and humanitarian action could develop synergistically. [27]

The need for such new capabilities was presaged with the deployment of British troops to Bosnia-Herzegovina in October 1992. This presented enormous practical challenges for which British military doctrine appeared to have few solutions. Consequently, both Bosnia spawned a new British doctrine for ‘Peace Support Operations’ (PSOs). This doctrine, Wider Peacekeeping, focussed upon the maintenance of ‘consent’ [28] and stimulated the development of mechanisms designed to build and maintain it. CIMIC and military-military liaison [29] (in theatre) were widely held to be critical to this. The British position as the lead nation in NATO’s ‘Allied Command Europe Rapid Reaction Corps’ (the ‘ARRC’) ensured that this emphasis upon CIMIC also developed within NATO’s crisis reaction structures. [30] This emphasis was further reinforced by the ‘peacebuilding’ aspects of NATO’s involvement in the implementation of the Dayton Agreement [31] and its post Cold War institutional adaptations, in particular the adoption of a crisis management role and increasingly broad approaches to the concepts of security and stability. [32] This was matched by a recognition of the increasing need to take into account ‘social, political, cultural, religious, economic, environmental and humanitarian factors when planning and conducting military operations.’ [33] CIMIC also potentially offered a means of dealing with resource shortages in national logistics capabilities made more apparent by operations conducted beyond the NATO area. In the context of declining and increasingly overstretched defence budgets, there was a general and growing need to reconsider and broaden the mechanisms for facilitating the provision of logistic and host nation support as well as reducing the reliance on national military resources.

The growing importance of CIMIC also reflected the vulnerability of NATO troops deployed in the former Yugoslavia and the intolerance of many NATO governments to casualties. NATO implicitly identified this as a reason, arguing that:

the force may be partially dependent on the civilian population for resources, information, and rely on the civil authorities to provide security in certain areas. It may even be impossible to gain full freedom of action and movement without their co-operation. Moreover, merely establishing good relations might be enough to deny the same advantages to hostile potentially hostile forces.’ [34]

This theme was explicitly adopted in NATO’s New Strategic Concept of April 1999 which implicitly highlighted the ‘protective’ role of CIMIC through the adoption of the new concept of ‘civilian environment protection.’ CIMIC’s development was also reinforced by other NATO adaptations, particularly its ‘outreach’ programmes where it was increasingly used as a means of strengthening Partnership for Peace (PfP) co-operation and contributing to NATO becoming an ‘agency for change’ in promoting European stability.

There was also a growing recognition of the legally and morally inescapable nature of CIMIC. Several NATO documents argued that ‘whatever the situation, allied commanders have a moral and legal responsibility towards the civilians in area which can only be met by co-operating with the civilian authorities and organisations.’ [35] As such CIMIC represented more than a practical response to the problems of managing the civil-military interface; it became an expression in warfare both of western liberal norms and casualty intolerance.

The development of these themes led to a further broadening of thinking within NATO particularly relating to CIMIC utility within Article V operations. [36] In part this reflected US Civil Affairs formations’ received wisdom on the subject, reinforced by their experience in the Gulf. But it was also a logical extension of thought processes stimulated by European NATO members’ involvement in the implementation of the Dayton Accords. Increasingly within NATO, CIMIC was viewed as having utility throughout the spectrum of conflict. Consequently the Military Committee encouraged the development of CIMIC capabilities as a responsibility of member states (that is rather than a specifically NATO capability). [37]

Defining the Contemporary Issues

Despite such changes within both NATO and the British Army, CIMIC capabilities are still comparatively rudimentary in comparison with those that existed in the early 1940’s.

If CIMIC is to develop more effectively it needs to address four broad challenges: the issues raised by the ‘integration’ model; the need to reconcile definitional ambiguities and communicate more effectively CIMIC’s purpose; the increasing need to create a CIMIC ‘profession’; and a small but complex collection of ‘organisational’ challenges.

The ‘Integration’ Model

Whilst the increased importance of CIMIC within the British Army and NATO has already been explained there are a number of what Aaronson describes as ‘new realities’ [38] which have exercised a profound influence on the relationship between military and humanitarian action. These ‘new realities’ comprise three components: an increasing demand for ‘coherence’ in multidimensional interventions; [39] the increasing incidence of donor government involvement in emergencies both practically [40] and in terms of influencing the decision making of the agencies themselves and an increased and more frequent military presence in essentially ‘humanitarian activities’. Arguably these factors have caused both governments and the UN Secretariat to reconsider the interrelationship of the different aspects of their interventions. This has led to the formulation of strategic frameworks which guide both the nature of the intervention and the relationship between the component organisations and institutions. This ‘integrated approach’ has exerted a profound influence on the way in which the British military doctrine writers view their relationships with both other government departments and the range of international organisations and NGOs with which they interact once deployed. [41]

The integrated approach seeks to make order out of the diverse inter-institutional relationships that develop and also seeks to capitalise on the clear opportunities provided by collaboration. Nevertheless, it raises a number of challenging issues, not least of which is how the approach enables strategic policies to be formulated in such a way that the nature of humanitarian action is not compromised.

The ‘integrated approach’ is in some ways a product of an unintended elision from a recognition of the need for a ‘common understanding’ (or ‘complimentarist’ approach), through to a ‘coherent’ or ‘ordered’ multidimensional response and then to an ‘integrated’ or ‘holistic’ approach. [42] Aaronson [43] hints at how easy this elision is when he argues that emergencies:

‘require well thought out, long term solutions that address the underlying causes of conflict. Such solutions must be implemented in a concerted effort by a variety of external actors. Increasingly there has been a demand – not least from NGOs such as Save the Children – for complementary political, military and humanitarian action in countries in crisis, in the belief that a joint approach will be more likely to keep the peace, resolve conflicts, and restore normality.’

The integrationist approach is reflected both in terms of the British peacekeeping and, more latterly, the draft CIMIC doctrine but also in the UN document An Agenda for Peace and the report of the Brahimi panel. Aaronson criticises both, [44]pointing to SCF’s rejection of the contention contained in An Agenda For Peace that articulated the ‘growing perception that saw humanitarian assistance as a means to political and security oriented ends, rather than an urgent and inalienable right in itself.’ [45] The Brahimi report also implicitly recognises that military activity in complex emergencies is often more related to state building than separating forces and, for Aaronson this raises the danger that humanitarian objectives will be crowded out or at the very least compromised. The subordination of humanitarian action within such a broad strategic framework potentially reduces the ability of the humanitarian community to alleviate suffering, the objective at the very heart of humanitarian action. [46] Integration may also be challenged by practical issues. For example, in late 1999 KFOR commanders stressed the stability of the security environment as a means of building confidence in the peace. Simultaneously UNHCR stressed the remaining insecurity in order to avoid premature returns and refoulement. Consequently there is a need to preserve a ‘humanitarian space’ in which humanitarian activities can be conducted. [47]

The assumptions underpinning the ‘integrationist’ approach are also not shared universally. Implicitly, the model assumes a common focus on a sustainable peace and developmental objectives [48] and that this is reflected, in a practical sense, in NGO programming decisions. However, there are obviously profound differences between agencies that stress the immediacy and purity of humanitarian emergency assistance (simply as a means of alleviating suffering) and those that stress a human rights agenda or a more developmental approach. Not all will sympathise with the implicit western agenda of creating a liberal polity or even accept the conditionality that frequently applies to assistance programmes. [49] Furthermore, these differences frequently exist within and across agencies and theatres. Whilst there will always be agencies that accept an integrated approach, clearly co-ordination mechanisms which only provide for them will marginalise a whole array of actors for which a ‘parallel’ or ‘complimentary’ approach is more suitable. In other words there is a requirement to manage both ‘integration’ and ‘separateness’; with the latter managed in such a way that ‘ostracism’ is not the result. [50]

Consequently it is possible to view the ‘integrationist’ and ‘complimentarist’ approaches not as points on a continuum but as representing fundamentally different approaches based upon a perception of a genuine difference between humanitarian action and military action in a humanitarian guise. The root of the problem lies partly in the definitions of ‘impartiality’ used by both communities. The UN system tends to use ‘impartiality’ as a tool to describe the application of the UN charter without prejudice – in other words ‘impartiality’ is reduced to being a mechanism for formulating responses to a lack of ‘compliance’ with internationally accepted standards, a peace agreement or the UN Charter. [51] In contrast the humanitarian community tends to view ‘impartiality’ as necessitating a universal response based upon an objective assessment of ‘need’ conducted without favour, prejudice or the application of political criteria (neutrally). [52] The military usage of the word ‘humanitarian’ also generally fails to recognise the normative absence of a political component, or at the very least the profound discomfort with it, in definitions used by the humanitarian community. [53] As a consequence the British military are often singularly unable to conceive of their ‘humanitarian’ activities as less than humanitarian. [54] This has been reinforced by the perceived political hijacking of the apparently apolitical word ‘humanitarian’ to describe NATO’s activities in the Kosovo in 1999. Consequently, there is a profound need for a process of clarification in order to develop both a clearer mutual understanding of the respective operating principles, their impact upon the institutional architecture and the degree of complementarity between military and humanitarian action (and what factors affect this). In effect, the integrationist model fails to accommodate the fact that military and humanitarian action are not two parts of a seamless strategy. Rather there are several forms of military activity in the supposedly humanitarian sphere. Arguably this can be broken down into three broad types: that action which needs to be isolated [55] from programmes conducted by the humanitarian community; that which needs to be insulated to some degree but co-ordinated and deconflicted and, finally, that which is in direct support. [56] This process of ‘differentiation’ will also require the development of a new form of language reflecting the degree to which military ‘civic programming’ represents either a form of humanitarian mimicry conducted for military or political purposes or, at the other extreme, a form of ‘solidarist’ endeavour. [57]

Differentiating the types of military activity will obviously not be easy and will be complicated both by individual preferences and institutional perspectives [58] as well as the degree of openness shown by the military. But creating mechanisms that establish such ‘differentiation’ may contribute to the creation of an effective modus vivendi between the various elements of the humanitarian and military communities.

The integration model is not, however, simply a product of military doctrine. It has also been called for tangentially by prominent NGO staff such as Oxfam’s Nick Stockton. In this case the purpose is to limit military ‘encroachment’ on humanitarian space by creating complimentarities. Through the expedient of limiting the military role to that of supporting the humanitarian community through the provision of physical protection (extended to the civilian and humanitarian community) or through the liberation of logistics assets he argues that it will be possible to maintain civilian (i.e. humanitarian) supremacy in the definition of priorities. [59] This also represents a prescription for limiting the militarisation of humanitarian efforts both in terms of extent and duration. Nevertheless, given the central role of CIMIC in facilitating military operations of many types such a simple subordination is unlikely to occur generally.

Integration – On Whose Terms?

Nevertheless, before identifying the problems of integration it is worth identifying that at least in the context of multilateral operations the idea of an ‘integrated’ management structure may be more aspirational than real even at the level of states and international organisations. It has not, for example, proven possible to create a single person in charge of either operations in Kosovo or Bosnia (post Dayton).

The problems of being perceived to create an integrated approach tend to be greatest in the context of third party military interventions in unresolved conflict. [60] In such circumstances, ‘integration’ and even excessive ‘association’ with the ‘third party’ military force may serve to erode concepts of humanitarian impartiality; relied upon to secure access to communities on both sides of a confrontation line. This is particularly problematical if there is a danger that the military force will enter into the conflict as a belligerent. [61] Stockton [62] takes the analysis further, pointing to the difficulties of ‘association’ and ‘integration’ when the military’s role is to reinforce ‘consent’ which has broken down or in circumstances where the military are used in order to gain humanitarian access. The problem for the humanitarian community then becomes both the practical problem of association with one belligerent complicating relationships with others, but it also goes to the very heart of humanitarian beliefs in that there is an inherent contradiction in using even the threat of force in order to deliver assistance. [63] In this respect there are obvious limitations on the degree of ‘integration’ that is desirable.

It is also extremely easy for ‘integration’ to be resented as ‘encroachment.’ Stockton argues that this may be resented for both cultural and practical reasons. The NGO community harbours a tradition of embattlement with authority, especially that in uniform, and this might colour relationships with profound implications for the degree of integration that is likely to prove possible. Practically, military deployments tend to monopolise media coverage; generating resentments resulting from the perceived loss of fundraising. A military agenda may also be perceived as crowding out a humanitarian one. For example, during the Australian led intervention in East Timor, many humanitarian agencies complained of the dominance of the security agenda and the exclusion of humanitarian issues from much of the planning in the first two months. [64] Humanitarian action alongside an enforcement force may also be perceived as being utilised by politicians to legitimise military action and overcoming controversies relating to mandates and legality. This may also prejudice the willingness of members of the humanitarian community to become part of an ‘integrated’ structure.

The integrationist approach may also fail when the military fall short of the expectations of the humanitarian community. For example, prior to operation Provide Assurance UNHCR was invited by Canadian diplomats to define their requirements in terms of military assistance. The UNHCR stipulated ensuring access to, and security within, the refugee camps as well as the disarmament of the Hutus. Canada replied that it was unlikely that they would be mandated to do any of these things. The reverse may also be true and integration may fail when the humanitarian community does not meet military expectations. Stockton argues that the US intervention in Somalia occurred at a point when the humanitarian agencies were largely locked in their own compounds as a result of the very insecurity that led to the US intervention. Stockton suggested that the perceived ‘humanitarian vacuum’ was viewed by the US military as a shirking of responsibilities which led both to military encroachment onto humanitarian activities and complicated relationships. The tendency of western militaries to underestimate NGO capabilities tends also to encourage the military into humanitarian gestures which are often of little real benefit.[65]

This is not to say that the ‘integrationist’ approach will not always be appropriate. In ‘unconflictual’ situations a more ‘integrated’ approach may pose fewer difficulties particularly when military action directly supports humanitarian efforts rather than replaces civil capacity or decision making authority.

Integrationism may also be reinforced by broader structural changes within the NGO community. One of the consequences of greater donor agency operational involvement in emergencies is that humanitarianism is increasingly driven by strategic policy frameworks established by governments. This results is a greater emphasis upon conditionality and fitting into the political framework established by collaborating governments. Furthermore, the scale of contemporary emergencies has highlighted the need for many NGOs to work in consortia both in order to respond to the scale and to develop the economies (and hence efficiencies) of scale necessary to attract donor funding. Consequently, both pressures may tend to draw NGOs into becoming donor agency implementing partners in what amount to ‘integrated’ strategic frameworks. [66]

Perhaps the key point to draw from this analysis is that the nature of the civil -military interface is extremely dynamic and not reducible to one universally applicable model into which the humanitarian community simply slots en masse. [67] Hence co-ordination structures are likely to remain context dependent. The problem confronting CIMIC planners is how best to accommodate the diversity within the NGO community and the resulting fluidity of military -humanitarian interaction. This itself requires a greater number of organisational models and the development of a more extensive knowledge base of those providing commanders with advice on how best to manage the interaction.

What’s in a Definition?

The second major challenge is definitional. The draft British and NATO definitions of CIMIC are fundamentally different in terms of the degree to which CIMIC supports the commanders’ mission. Whilst both doctrines do stress mission primacy, the absence of the phase ‘in support of the mission’ from the British definition (itself drawn largely from the OCHA definition) hints at a different set of underlying assumptions. The question is whether this is semantic or represents a more fundamental shift away from the language of CIMIC developed during W.W.II and now showing its age.

The current NATO definition is:

The co-ordination and co-operation in support of the mission between the NATO commander and civil population including national and local authorities as well as international, national and non-governmental organisations and agencies. [68]

The emphasis is on minimising the negative impact of the civilian population and organisations on the achievement of a commander’s mission. Historically it has comprised Civil-Military co-operation (CIMIC), resource control operations and, in its most extreme manifestation, military government. ICRC, unsurprisingly discounts the co-operative element of ‘CIMIC’ given the emphasis placed upon the rigid subordination of these relationships to mission primacy. In effect it is not a proposal for a genuine ‘partnership’ of equals.

In contrast the draft British definition implicitly contains the idea of CIMIC being a component of the broad strategy for transition to peace. Its current definition is:

The relationship of interaction, co-operation and co-ordination, mutual support, joint planning, and constant exchange of information at all levels between military force structures, civilian organisations and agencies, and in-theatre civil influences, which are necessary to achieve an effective response, (according to agreed objectives, [stet})in crisis operations. [69]

As such it can be viewed as the gearing between the military mission, narrowly defined, and the broader objectives of a range of civil institutions inextricably linked in an integrated effort. As such it represents a logical result of the ‘integrated approach’. However, if the difference from NATO’s definition is more than semantic it raises a number of issues. Firstly, it potentially provides those engaged in ‘CIMIC’ with a mission broader than that of the commander they serve. The question then arises as to whether this represents an invitation to ‘mission creep’ (or ‘mission development’ ) or is simply a sensible recognition that the narrow compartmentalisation of the military mission is now profoundly outdated? Secondly, does the British definition open up the possibility of a more genuine form of partnership with all elements of the NGO community than the NATO definition and how will this be achieved in practical terms?

What is the Purpose of CIMIC?

This leads onto the issue of defining the purpose of CIMIC and communicating it more effectively to those who will be affected by it. There needs to be a greater understanding of the conditions under which CIMIC is specifically ‘humanitarian’ and when it is employed as a tool of ‘liberal diplomacy’ or rigidly subordinated to and supportive of the senior military commander’s mission. It should also be born in mind that historically CIMIC has been both about building peace and preparing for war. Practically this has meant reducing civilian interference in military activities and even restricting humanitarian activity.

CIMIC clearly has multiple personalities but its dominant one has traditionally been political. At the lowest level this has manifested itself as building local ‘consent’ to the presence of a military force and therefore providing it with a means of protection. [70] However, it can also ‘buy’ the political loyalty of the civilian population as part of a broader set of governmental policies. For example, the Sierra Leone Government’s attempts to promote medical, health, food and human rights programmes are in part stimulated by a desire to build up the legitimacy of the government in preparation for any renewal of hostilities with the Revolutionary United Front (RUF).

Similarly, CIMIC may legitimise military deployments and reinforce the idea that in ‘humanitarian war’ violence can creatively be put to the service of humanitarian ends. For example, NATO’s Albanian Force (AFOR) was deployed partly to legitimise NATO’s air campaign in the absence of an authorising Security Council Resolution and partly to deal with a refugee exodus that also challenged the logic underlying the bombing campaign. [71] In effect NATO’s ‘humanitarian’ role represented a means for legitimising abstract national interests (such as the organisational interests of NATO in dealing effectively with Milosevic) not easily communicated to domestic populations in the face of casualties or controversies over the legal basis of intervention. In such a context an active CIMIC programme provides an obvious route to legitimising other forms of military activity and demonstrating the surplus of positive over negative effects.

Nevertheless, the obvious partiality of military CIMIC and the coincidence of what could be described as ‘military solidarist’ and strategic imperatives [72] is likely to complicate relationships with humanitarian agencies with a more universalist orientation. This ‘political’ approach to humanitarian action by the military is also likely to be reinforced by the adoption of a greater coercive element in most NATO states’ PSO doctrines. The relationships are also likely to be complicated by unrealistic expectations as to what military deployments will contribute to the humanitarian agenda. Both UN Military deployments to Haiti and NATO deployments to Bosnia have demonstrated an unhealthy preoccupation with force protection. More widely, military priorities have frequently been driven by issues and timetables ‘external to the dynamics of the crisis itself.’ [73] As such soldiers will never be free agents. Their comparative advantages (in terms of a cornucopia of logistics assets, their objective capacities to provide security, their generally substantial planning resources) may always be constrained by their inherently political role. This has clear implications for the degree of partnership envisaged in definitions of CIMIC and the viability of the ‘integrated’ approach.

Organisational Issues

The ‘integrated approach’ also raises issues over the desirably and extent of ‘integration’ (that is interdepartmental co-ordination) both internally (within the armed services and between government departments) and externally (with other national militaries and international organisations).


The ‘internal’ challenge is seen most clearly in terms of the impact of developing ‘integration’ between the MoD and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) in terms of the exploitation of commercial reconstruction opportunities. [74] Is there a positive benefit to be obtained from greater collaboration with the DTI in such a way? Is it desirable to have a greater DTI input into CIMIC given that it potentially limits the recycling of post conflict reconstruction aid? Is it possible to reconcile national commercial imperatives with military, foreign policy and developmental objectives through the medium of CIMIC and what is the likely impact on the broader ‘integrated’ approach?

The theme of interdepartmental co-operation has also been raised by the increasing usage of Overseas Development Administration (or ODA, the predecessor of the Department for International development, or DfID) funding. The relationships between the MoD and other ministries, but particularly the DfID whilst increasing [75] have invariably been ad hoc in nature and there is an apparent need for greater and more effective cross departmental co-operation. This is not to say, however, that previous contact has been uniformly bad. It has provided considerable benefits. In the first six months after the signing the Dayton peace agreement DfID was able to complete more than 600 projects with an average lead time of five days and a completion time of under 30 with funding frequently channelled through British military imprest accounts. Whilst mostly projects were modest (accounting for under £20,000 worth of development assistance in each case) they compared favourably with lead times for UN or EU funded projects (arguably often much larger but averaging somewhere in the region of five months). More recently, within British military formations that were part of KFOR, DfID had some form of representation at both Divisional and Brigade level. Nevertheless, it is fair to say that the arrangements during the past decade have usually been ad hoc, particularly at the operational level, and specific to each operation. Consequently there is a case for suggesting that collaboration should not be dependent on temporary arrangements and that there is now a profound need for more formal, but still flexible, co-ordination structures.

The creation of more enduring interdepartmental relationships, particularly at the sub-ministry level, has been complicated by a variety of factors, not least of which is the rapid turnover of personnel. There is also a rather generalised feeling that none of the contemporary military operations in the Gulf and the Balkans have been able to provide an enduring model around which structures and procedures could be developed. Nevertheless, there are genuine difficulties in creating a more permanent link between DfID and the MoD’s operational elements. British military operations are managed by the Permanent Joint Headquarters at Northwood (PJHQ). PJHQ is not a government ministry and the MoD has resisted PJHQ’s development of permanent and direct links with either DfID or the DTI. [76] Rather, the co-ordinating mechanisms provided by the Cabinet Office, with the provision of ministerial oversight, are deemed to be more appropriate. In effect the understandable demands for democratic oversight have, at times, conflicted with operational efficiency and necessity.

Despite this, it is clear that both DfID and the MOD would benefit from a more effective and structured linkage which goes beyond the current arrangement of simply nominating points of contact in the respective departments or relying upon the Cabinet Office’s co-ordination structures. [77] The PJHQ has access to world wide surveillance capabilities that the DfID lacks. Controlled and measured access to these would enable it to be better prepared to respond to humanitarian emergencies in a more rapid and selective way. The relationship is, however, likely to be mutually beneficial. DfID has programmes in over 150 countries and these have generated a considerable breadth and depth of country expertise which could make more effective PJHQ contingency planning. Given the increasingly flexible development of mission objectives during the course of a mission [78] there is obviously an incentive to develop more effective co-ordination at lower levels in both departments. At the very least a more structured relationship would enhance the release of DfID (and other funding agencies) funding for CIMIC related projects. Furthermore, such linkages might also enable more creative relationships to develop between military formations and NGOs. Nevertheless, there is a danger that too much integration will lead to a degree of institutional paralysis. Compartmentalisation of the issues is, to some extent, essential in order to ensure decision-making takes place even if this is at the price of a degree of effectiveness.

Co-ordination is not only an issue with other ministries but also with other military staff branches within operational headquarters. A key issue is the relationship between CIMIC and other staff activities such as Media and Psychological Operations. There is a recognition within the British Army and NATO’s Military Committee that they are all engaged in similar activities; the provision of information and the development of perceptions. NATO’s Military Committee [79] argues that the approaches need to be co-ordinated “because it [CIMIC] instils trust, increases confidence and encourages mutual understanding. Wherever possible, transparency will therefore guide CIMIC interaction with civilian authorities and organisations; and with intelligence, psychological and special operations, and other military capabilities.” [80] Nevertheless, whilst this makes sense in practical terms (and also potentially saves financial resources) it potentially presents problems for two of the three staff branches. These problems arise from the extent to which Media Operations and CIMIC are perceived by the media and humanitarian communities as being manipulated by the Psychological Operations staff. There is a danger, but generally it is rather overstated. Psychological operations in Bosnia and the Gulf have appeared to be more akin to military marketing than the manipulation and deceit characteristic of their forebears during W.W.II. Nevertheless, there is a presentational issue which will be difficult to overcome in the context of a broad ‘integrated approach.’


The emphasis upon the integrated approach in the context of not having fully realised the implications of CIMIC’s diverse and frequently non-humanitarian nature clearly has obvious implications for the degree of partnership that is possible with the humanitarian community. It also has a direct bearing upon the institutional architecture through which that relationship is realised.

The creation of mechanisms for effective co-ordination between civilian and military agencies is also complicated by generic difficulties with UN co-ordinating mechanisms such as OCHA and the Lead Agency concept – neither of which are universally accepted and, consequently, fail to provide an obvious and uncontested focal point for liaison within the humanitarian community. [81] The net result of this is that ‘humanitarian’ representation in co-ordinating structures can tend to exhibit a schizophrenic and amorphous nature. [82] Co-ordination may also be complicated by humanitarian operating principles. For example, during the Kosovo crisis UNHCR faced a ‘structural’ dilemma: because of the scale of the crisis and its own lack of resources it lacked the capacity to respond without military assistance, but the provision of that assistance by NATO threatened perceptions of UNHCR’s impartiality. [83] Hence it rejected NATO’s standing offer of military assistance, made on the 2nd September 1998, until the first week after the bombing campaign began. This situation was compounded by UNHCR’s lack of proactive planning in the early stages of the crisis which put it in a weak position to match the speed and scale of NATO’s planning [84] or even that of individual NATO states operating outside of the NATO planning process. [85] This situation enabled the military to largely dictate the agenda [86] and began what was widely perceived to be a process of militarising the relief efforts. [87] It also stimulated NATO’s (and individual NATO states) development of bilateral relationships (over relief and other efforts) with the governments of Albania and Macedonia; thereby further bypassing the UNHCR and reducing its co-ordination role.

Whilst military encroachment obviously did occur the reasons are not simply those of a combination of military capacity and misplaced enthusiasm. Part of the explanation also lies in the diplomatic priorities of regional and NATO governments. During the Kosovo crisis, for example, NATO involvement in the humanitarian effort was viewed as a means of avoiding the appearance of the humanitarian disaster being precipitated by NATO air action, itself legitimised in terms of preventing an impending ‘humanitarian’ catastrophe. It may also have drawn attention away from the surprisingly controversial absence of a ground offensive.

Such politicisation may also have more direct effects on military – humanitarian relationships and co-ordination structures. In particular, both Albania and Macedonia dealt bilaterally with NATO rather than using the co-ordination structures established by UNHCR. In the case of Albania this extended to creating a co-ordination structure, the Emergency Management Group, with the implicit aim of marginalising UNHCR. [88] This reflected their own sense of vulnerability but also their broader foreign policy priorities in terms of strengthening their relationships with NATO. [89] Bilateral relationships also developed between Albania and both Italy and Greece. Both states had deployed troops previously as part of military assistance programmes and simply switched their efforts to humanitarian ones in support of containing Albanian population movements. These were followed by the deployment of French and US troops who engaged in camp construction under largely bilateral arrangements with the Albanian government. As a consequence there was a marked tendency to bypass NATO co-ordination structures as well as the arrangements established between NATO and UNHCR on 3 April. [90] This ‘nationalisation’ of the relief effort was also reflected in the management of the refugee camps which were increasingly run by national contingents. It could be argued that this was partly a reflection of the lack of standing institutional capacity for CIMIC embedded within NATO (as opposed to national military structures) for the management of such activities combining with strong national preferences to ‘show the flag’. [91] The capabilities for ‘military encroachment’ – funding agencies, national NGO implementing partners, civil affairs troops – largely lay within member states military capabilities rather than NATO’s. Nationalisation was therefore also a product of NATO’s own ‘incapacity’ [92] enabling the intrusion of other national agenda. [93]

‘Militarisation’ and ‘nationalisation’ of relief efforts also reflected the blurring of humanitarian and political priorities. For example, German participation in the construction of camps in Macedonia arose partly out of efforts to overcome Macedonian government resistance to their extension and formed part of a broader set of diplomatic and economic packages (including an EU stabilisation package in mid April) designed to both stabilise Macedonia and shore up its support for NATO in the face of mounting domestic opposition. Nevertheless, the result was a range of camps that varied markedly in quality and adherence to standards of ‘best practice’. [94] This reflected a number of factors: the rapid onset of the crisis and the deployment of national military contingents prior to the creation of effective NATO command and control structures; the limited co-ordinating and standard setting role played by UNHCR (reflecting both a lack of resources and, in Albania, its deliberate marginalisation); a general failure to effectively co-ordinate with the humanitarian community and, finally, the absence of common ‘professional standards’ across the NATO contingents.

The problem of ‘nationalisation’ was not restricted to Germany. British and French military ‘humanitarianism’ in Macedonia resulted from a request from the Macedonian government on 1 April, itself prompted by the offer of financial assistance. For the British and French such action contributed to resolving a range of problems: the contentious Blace crossing point issue as well as reducing ‘the probability that the Macedonian government would renege on its support for NATO’s military campaign, and serving as a compelling demonstration of NATO’s ‘humanitarian face.’ [95]

Consequently, it may be possible to conclude that in the context of large scale emergencies engaging western national interests and military responses the future ‘militarisation’ of humanitarian efforts and co-ordination structures may well be largely unavoidable. Nevertheless, such processes may be mitigated through the creation of greater planning capacities within UNHCR and, perhaps rather strangely, the creation of a permanent and rapidly deployable NATO, rather than simply national, civil affairs capabilities. [96]

Joint Planning

Joint planning between the military and the humanitarian community is also complicated by military operational secrecy. The sensitivity of the British MOD to PJHQ establishing direct co-ordination with other government ministries and non government humanitarian agencies has been replicated internationally in terms of NATO’s Supreme Headquarters (SHAPE) demonstrating similar sensitivities over when subordinate formations can establish an interface with international organisations and NGOs; thus limiting early and effective liaison and co-operative forms of contingency planning. This problem is often paralleled in differing degrees by humanitarian agency sensitivities. [97] The solution to such problems will no doubt remain ad hoc but more thought needs to be given to developing means of creating effective liaison and, perhaps more importantly, mutual influence in terms of priority setting particularly prior to deployments.

The setting and reconciliation of priorities is also problematical once operations have begun. Whilst the US military’s use of Civil Military Operations Centres (CMOC) offers a potentially effective means of bringing a ‘humanitarian agenda’ into a headquarters it does not provide the degree of influence at the political strategy setting level that would clearly be useful. [98] An additional problem with the CMOC concept is the way in which some states have adapted it and reduced its effectiveness as a multiagency priority setting apparatus. The Australian led Intervention Force in East Timor (INTERFET), for example, relegated their CMOC to a location outside of the main military headquarters; thereby reducing access to senior commanders with the ability to decide rather than influence priorities. [99] Clearly this would have contributed to the dominance of the ‘security’ agenda and what some viewed as the neglect of the humanitarian in the early stages of the operation. [100]

An additional difficulty is that not all nations use CMOCs even if their military doctrine accepts the concept. The UK, for example, tend to stress the use of a ‘CIMIC Centre’ [101] – a useful but quite low level vehicle for sharing information on the security situation in theatre and developing a picture of the range of humanitarian organisations and their activities but of little practical use as a mechanism for establishing joint humanitarian-military priorities at the theatre level. [102]

The Mandate

Whilst such organisational issues are important, arguably one of the biggest obstacles in the way of cordial civil-military relationships has been the inability of soldiers, in the face of reluctance from their political authorities, to extend their mandates to provide for the active protection of the civil population. This was most clearly seen in Bosnia during UNPROFOR’s existence. Nevertheless, this is part of a much broader phenomenon. UNPROFOR’s inability to provide this protection was partly a reflection of troop contributing governments and Security Council members casualty intolerance. This led directly to the deployment of insufficient numbers of troops, weak rules of engagement and generally limited mandates. [103] The lack of protection afforded to civilians in Bosnia also mirrors the weakness of the protection regime for internally displaced persons (IDPs) generally. Not only is IDP protection less well defined legally than refugee protection but this issue also tends to fall between the gaps in co-ordination mechanisms and between agencies.

Such difficulties cannot be resolved by in theatre co-ordination structures but require a much broader approach to the management of peacekeeping missions and the IDP regime. The first part of this problem may be addressed by several of the proposals contained in the Brahimi report [104] – especially those which emphasise the importance of deploying larger and more robust military formations capable of deterring and preventing gross abuses of human rights. It also stresses the need to develop a range of ‘rule of law’ capabilities which would be rather similar to those possessed by the US and British armies Civil Affairs organisations in the course of W.W.II. Several of the Brahimi panel’s proposals have already been diluted in the UN General Assembly’s Fifth Committee and there are likely to be continuing budgetary and practical problems in developing the UN’s capacity to deploy with ‘rule of law’ specialists. Consequently, a short term expedient may therefore be for member states to develop these capacities as components of their emerging civil affairs capabilities; perhaps through utilising reserve civilian policemen and lawyers and gradually developing a basic ‘international’ legal code. [105] Whilst contributing to overcoming what could be seen as a general military ‘capability gap’ such measures might also lead militaries into a greater awareness that humanitarian assistance in wars of identity does not simply mean the provision of food but also that of physical protection. Nevertheless, resistance to such proposals is likely to be felt both from politicians and from the military themselves. Politicians will generally be suspicious that such a capability will lead to far riskier operations and, inevitably, both greater casualties and mission creep. [106] Soldiers, whilst comfortable providing ‘framework’ security frequently resist providing ‘rule of law’ security, seeing this as an executive policing function for which they are ill suited. Developing a capacity for civil affairs officers in such an area is therefore likely to be seen at best as a diversion of effort and at worst as mission creep. Nevertheless, such ‘compartmentalisation’ of military and policing functions whilst appropriate during the Cold War may no longer be appropriate in the context of a complex emergency. The dangers of mission creep and greater numbers of casualties may also be mitigated, to a large extent, if the other elements of Brahimi (in particular the deployment of a robust force with strong rules of engagement) are implemented by the Security Council when framing mandates.

Nevertheless, this will not resolve all of the difficulties at the humanitarian-military interface. IDP and refugee return policy remains heavily politicised and CIMIC officers may still be drawn into representing national agendas. Consequently, there needs to be a degree of realism as to the expectations invested in ‘CIMIC’ by the humanitarian community and the degree to which there may can be a clear separation of political, military and humanitarian agendas.

The Need for a CIMIC Profession?

The final challenges is that posed by the need to create a greater degree of expertise and institutional memory than currently exists within the British military. Despite the increasing range of CIMIC capabilities and the expansion in numbers of posts dedicated to managing the civil-military interface, with the exception of the US it is fair to say that no NATO state has created a CIMIC ‘profession’ either in terms of ‘organisation’ or ‘career development.’ [107] As a consequence the institutional memory and the overall degree of expertise across the regular British Army remains surprisingly limited. This is compounded by the fact that the CIMIC ‘organisation’ within the British Army demonstrates a uniquely ad hoc feel. Given that CIMIC has become an enduring feature of contemporary military operations developing a broader body of professional principles, guidelines and a recognised CIMIC career path and organisation may prove beneficial.

There have been similar calls for greater professionalisation from academics such as Larry Minear. In his review of the use of military assets in Rwanda he concluded that ‘whether the actors are military or humanitarian, successful efforts are generally carried out by dedicated and energetic professionals who are well-informed about the complexities of a given situation and well-trained in their respective specialities, pragmatic rather than ideological in approach, and able to draw on institutional experience to adapt strategies and resources to circumstances.’ [108] Professionalisation may also serve as a means of ensuring consistency across multinational, particularly NATO, missions. It may also help with the avoidance of soldiers simply substituting national political agendas for professional humanitarian standards in some circumstances.

Professionalisation would also parallel efforts within the NGO community to establish technical standards for programming and human resource management. [109] Notwithstanding the publication of the Sphere standards there have been enormous difficulties [110] in establishing agreement upon the standards or even implementing them effectively [111] and actual performance has lagged far behind aspirations. Nevertheless, it does raise the issue of whether it would be beneficial for the military to parallel this development.

Nevertheless, the creation of a CIMIC profession is widely resisted for a variety of cultural and practical reasons. Culturally the British Army is orientated towards the demands of high intensity mechanised warfare and civil issues are seen as somewhat peripheral or at least not generally within the sphere of professional interest for senior commanders unless directed by specific operational necessities. There is also a powerful belief that other Government departments and international organisations are mandated to (even if in practical terms they are not entirely capable of) deal with the range of civil issues. The belief that ‘civil’ issues are ‘non-military’ or at best peripheral is frequently reinforced by trenchant and sustained criticism from external (often humanitarian) agencies. In such a context, the British Army’s habits of supporting civil institutions rather than replacing them, developed from Malaya to Northern Ireland, serve to limit pressures to create a CIMIC sub-profession. This is reinforced by the Army’s understandable emphasis on the adaptability of its officers; such a belief in the ‘generalist’ tending to work against the idea of a dedicated ‘profession’.

Furthermore, without a suitably senior commander within the MoD or UK Land Command with specific and sole responsibilities for CIMIC development or operations, ‘CIMIC’ lacks the necessary degree of institutional support to overcome such resistance.

Finally there is the perennial problem of resources. The UK provides a CIMIC capability both by using specially appointed officers within its battalions but also by using ‘generalist’ CIMIC officers and NCOs drawn from a small pool of regular officers and Non Commissioned Officers and a much larger Territorial Army reserve unit. [112] Both the British and the US have found it extremely difficult to sustain operations from the reserve elements. For the British this problem has been compounded by the unwillingness of politicians and Chiefs of Staff to utilise the compulsory call-up powers contained in the Reserve Forces Act (1996). This raises the question of whether the resources should be increasingly switched to sustaining a larger pool of regular CIMIC forces geared to short notice operational deployments with the role of the reserves limited to occasional operational augmentation but more routinely to supporting the training of regular units prior to their operational deployment. Nevertheless, this raises the danger that without the creation of a more effective profession of CIMIC there is a real danger that what expertise there is will be lost as regular troops are posted with a possible consequence that CIMIC, at least for the British Army, will return to something resembling its Cold War form.

There are also some practical reasons which have served to prevent the creation of a CIMIC profession. John Mackinlay warns that relegating the diverse array of ‘civil’ issues to one staff branch within a headquarters raises the risk of leading to their isolation and further subordination to a narrowly defined set of military priorities; in effect, creating a form of ghetto for a diverse range of ‘civil’ issues best separated and responded to by a variety of staff branches within a headquarters. He argues, with reference to IFOR’s civil affairs capability, that:

it could be maintained that in both cases these organs (the US and UK civil affairs) organisations are used as conduits to limit civil-military participation to the confines of a single statement that wields little influence in the overall command structure [113]

This is a problem with a long pedigree. Civil affairs officers have a long history of being isolated from and lacking credibility with the wider army. [114] It is clear that this would represent a continuing, although not insurmountable challenge in the event of a CIMIC profession being created. [115] However, the professionalisation of CIMIC, if handled effectively, could help secure the status necessary to help civil affairs officers secure resources and contribute to defining operational policies and priorities (such as air targeting decisions, determining priorities on road routes and air corridors, establishing appropriate co-ordination mechanisms, limiting inappropriate or inadvertent military encroachment onto humanitarian issues, guaranteeing ‘best practice’ in CIMIC programmes, etc). Accordingly, with a more clearly defined professional status CIMIC officers may represent more effectively elements of an agenda which may otherwise be missing, lost or subordinated within military headquarters. It may also contribute to regularising the provision of CIMIC services. Aaronson, [116] for example, suggests that a defining characteristic of military civil-military operations is its lack of predictability. He points to IFOR troops being ‘keen to lend a hand’ when they had excess capacity and “UNOMIL’s ‘on again’ ‘off again’ interventions in agriculture.” Both examples raised genuine concerns about the sustainability, quality, timing and appropriateness of military assistance to the humanitarian community – problems which all partly relate to the lack of a clear organisational focus for CIMIC within most military formations.

Nevertheless, professionalisation does pose dangers. Pugh for example, rightly warns that the growing organisational and resource advantages of particularly NATO militaries over the humanitarian community provide them with a potentially hegemonic position in the determination of civil-military relations. [117] Whilst this potential was certainly realised in the response to the Kosovo refugee crisis and obviously remains a significant concern, the professionalisation of military involvement in this area may in fact reduce the hegemonic potential as professionalisation forces the development of greater transparency, accountability and potentially even self-limitation in military humanitarian activities. In other words a greater degree of CIMIC ‘proffesionalisation’ may serve to foster the more rapid and effective development of a theatre specific modus vivendi between military formations and the variety of civil agencies in circumstances where the national priorities of troop contributing governments allow.

This leads to the obvious question, what should the pillars of this new profession be?

Arguably there are two sets of issues where the creation of a CIMIC profession can exercise a positive influence: developing greater understanding of the ‘context’ of military deployments and enhancing mechanisms for ensuring ‘transparency and accountability.’ [118]

Context Awareness

Whilst one of the major activities for British and US civil affairs officers is developing an understanding of the ‘culture’ and ‘society’ into which military formations are deployed and conveying this to senior commanders, this has not been translated into effectively developing mechanisms for understanding and monitoring the social, economic and political effects of military interventions and their continued presence -particularly if these serve to prolong conflict. [119] The negative impact of military deployments can be subtle. Sessions, [120] for example, points to the effect of military deployments in distorting labour markets with intervening forces frequently offering enhanced wages, thereby attracting people with essential skills (such as doctors) and, consequently, depriving the society/economy. He also identifies the negative impact of soldiers widespread use of local prostitutes and other services provided by the black economy, arguing that this deprives, what he describes as, the ‘formal’ sector of capital, the government of revenue and reinforces patronage-based power structures. [121] Militaries tend to recognise the ‘political’ rather than economic effects of their deployments, treating the latter as inevitable or inconsequential. This is both a source of tension with the humanitarian community and can undermine the pursuit of sustainable solutions. Developing capacities for understanding the social and economic impact of military deployments and managing the social and economic effects of withdrawal would also contribute to the creation of more effective exit strategies. The former may even contribute to an improved search for alternatives to military intervention before and during the intervention itself – potentially helping to avoid the danger that the search for alternatives to military intervention (when conducted in the course of the intervention) will be confused with the end-state itself. [122]

There has also been very little effort by civil affairs officers aimed at developing an understanding of the wider social, political and economic dynamics of a complex emergency [123] in particular being able to identify the beneficiaries, victims and power structures that emerge. Rather than being the key to unlocking strategies for a sustainable peace these are routinely viewed as the remit of other staff branches (such as the intelligence branch) or external relief agencies. [124]

Sessions identifies an additional ‘context’ difficulty. In particular the failure of western militaries to effectively develop and consistently apply a participatory approach in all stages of CIMIC project management. In simple terms the military are frequently criticised for doing things ‘for’ rather than ‘with’ people, [125] thereby creating dependency. Thus, for example, using military engineers to carry out civil engineering projects prevents the creation of demand for local services. It is this demand which could encourage both employment and the recapitalisation of local business – both essential in creating a viable primary economy. [126] The result, suggests Sessions, is that CIMIC programming fails to develop indigenous capacity, and can actively undermine survival strategies or induce dependence. [127] In contrast International NGOs are rapidly adopting mechanisms for ensuring participatory appraisal even during the emergency phases of operations and such techniques influence needs assessment programmes, the design of projects and programmes, there implementation and management and finally their evaluation.

To some extent Sessions has exaggerated the absence of participatory approaches to programming. This aspect of civil affairs professionalism is partly addressed through the funding mechanism for programmes. Most British CIMIC activities in Bosnia, for example, have been funded through DfID (and its predecessor the ODA) and implemented directly by military formations or through subsequent subcontracting arrangements with NGOs. The requests for funding are forced to conform with standards established by the principal donor agency and, where subcontracting occurs, by the operating principles of the subcontracted NGO. Nevertheless, the small scale of most military CIMIC projects (usually under £20,000) and the fact that they tend to take place in the emergency phase of a crisis does reduce the degree of oversight from funding agencies and makes such a mechanism less satisfactory.

The British Service’s Joint Doctrine Centre’s intention to promulgate the Sphere standards as a means of developing professional standards is also a positive development. However, its status will remain effectively ‘voluntary’ and there is little comment on how projects will be evaluated or commanders held accountable. Consequently, developing the professional competence and capacities of civil affairs officers may serve as a means of ensuring best practice throughout a force and may also stimulate greater creativity in facilitating programmes. However, the negative effect may also be to stimulate a greater degree of participation by the military in projects best left to humanitarian organisations. Nevertheless, given profound military resource shortages and the dictates of mission primacy it is possible to argue that the more likely result would be for professionalisation to reduce ineffective military encroachment.

Greater professionalisation could also potentially reduce programming and project mistakes; a potential made greater by the composition of most military forces. Western Military formations in particular are largely dominated by white, middle-aged males. Without developing formal mechanisms and professional knowledge for ensuring gender and generation issues are adequately dealt with, complex issues such as rape and child soldiery are not likely to be dealt with effectively in circumstances where the military, for whatever reasons, are leading the initial international response.

The solution to this problem may be to increase the numbers of women represented in the civil affairs structures, but even this contains difficulties. A failure to reflect the gender balance of the army as a whole is likely to ghettoise the civil affairs profession (in the way identified by Mackinlay) and could, potentially, complicate the relationship with other military formations. Consequently, the solution is to either change the gender balance in the Army as a whole or, to develop a corpus of professional knowledge that effectively accommodates issues such as gender and generation.

Consequently, a key component of CIMIC professionalism needs to be an effective set of mechanisms for ensuring that military civic action reinforces capacities rather than increasing vulnerabilities. [128] This knowledge base is not an invitation for militaries to become quasi-humanitarian organisations but may in fact serve to limit military intrusion onto activities best run by humanitarian agencies. It may also create programmes which more effectively develop local capacity and facilitate the transition to self-sustaining local civilian control.

Transparency and Accountability

Sessions also argues that the military should invest more effort in developing means for effectively evaluating projects and overcoming problems caused by a lack of transparency and accountability to recipients. [129] Nevertheless, there is an implicit dependence upon the standards of accountability applied by donor agencies and the non-governmental organisations subcontracted within programmes. To some extent the creation of such a culture of accountability is resisted by the military given the obvious necessity to contain the flow of information and maintain ‘unity of command.’ Military formations are also generally unaccustomed to the idea of accountability to, particularly, those below rather than those above. Nevertheless, the development of such forms of accountability and enhanced mechanisms for evaluating the success of programmes would have benefits in terms of developing trust, understanding and acceptance by the local community. It may also contribute to ensuring that issues such as generation and gender are more effectively managed. As such these offer practical militarily advantages in terms of ‘consent building’ but would also contribute further to the building of local capacities as well as to targeting and making more efficient CIMIC programmes. Nevertheless, such mechanisms will always remain limited by accountability to the senior commander and the mandate but they do not necessarily have to be viewed as alternatives to it.

Nevertheless, it should be recognised that the creation of accountability mechanisms could prove difficult. It is clear that in both Kosovo and, particularly Bosnia, the various KFOR and SFOR militaries (amongst the largest implementers of reconstruction and relief programmes) have imposed conditional terms in order to manipulate the domestic political environment. Nevertheless, such actions, in pursuit of a stable political end state, represent more of a challenge to concepts of ‘universality’ and ‘impartiality’ than they do to ‘accountability’ to the population and efforts to generate local capacity.


Whilst the ‘professionalisation’ of CIMIC will facilitate greater understanding with the humanitarian community it is unlikely to dramatically improve the relationship, particularly in terms of issues relating to the division of labour. Furthermore, CIMIC’s inherently ‘political’ purpose as well as its contribution to the more narrowly defined military mission may ensure that military encroachment onto humanitarian ‘turf’ is likely to remain a fixture of many military interventions.

Nevertheless, there needs to be a ‘profession’ of civil affairs with more active consideration of a number of issues: the nature of the ‘integration’ model, mechanisms for developing context awareness, promoting transparency and accountability to the recipients, the development of ‘appropriate’ co-ordination mechanisms, and a greater engagement with the process of reinvigorating ‘rule of law’ institutions – historically a civil affairs function. These developments are likely to contribute towards the development of ‘professional’ rather than ‘competent amateur’ status within military headquarters. [130] It may also create a body of interlocutors between the military and humanitarian community that may contribute to greater military transparency and help to create, where possible, a sharper distinction between military and humanitarian efforts and, [131] again where possible, facilitate civilian control of relief efforts.

In other words the solution to the problem lies not in excluding the military from these activities but in professionalising their approaches and developing the power base of those within the military able to achieve such an agenda. Nevertheless, there also needs to be a more effective communication of the purpose of CIMIC in order to scale down expectations, particularly in the humanitarian community, as to its purpose. Simply put, CIMIC is not designed to be ‘humanitarian’ unless the military mandate is ‘humanitarian’. It has a much broader range of purposes than turning the military into a quasi-humanitarian organisation.

In conclusion, CIMIC is obviously vitally important in contemporary operations for a variety of practical and political reasons. However, perhaps its real purpose, to paraphrase Christopher Coker, is to provide a post-modern army with the range of capabilities that ensure, if it is destined not to fight, then it is not condemned to standing around street corners simply looking ironic.

Whilst the author retains sole responsibility for the views expressed in this paper particular thanks are due to the following individuals:Mark Bowden, David Couzens, Allan Edwards, Alistair Mack, Colin Nobbs, Ferd Irizzary, Graham Ollie, John Owen-Davies, John Mackinlay, Major General John Reith, Stuart Sessions, Nick Stockton, Dennis Westaway, John White and Andrew Wilson. Thanks are also due to all those who provided of their time in the course of invaluable background interviews.



* All of the views contained in this paper are those of the author alone and do not necessarily represent the views of the UK Ministry of Defence, the Royal Military Academy, the Joint Doctrine Centre or of NATO military staffs.
[1] Perhaps surprisingly, Britain’s imperial past had not adequately prepared its soldiers or military institutions for managing the civil-military interface. Few experiences survived their translation from the colonial context. Even those of W.W.I provided few suitable examples; reflecting both the maintenance of German and French sovereignty and the simple fact that an armistice rather than a surrender brought the war to an end.
[2] FSV Donnison, , Civil Affairs and Military Government: Central Organisation and Planning, The History of World War II, UK Military Series (London: HMSO, 1966).
[3] Particularly the national Red Cross movements. Anxious to be involved on the active battlefield and powerful domestically, such organisations could both influence military and political priorities and, particularly for US commanders during the invasion of North Africa. Consequently, they , absorbed a tremendous amount of senior commanders’ time.
[4] The term “civil affairs” arose out of necessity. The administration of enemy territories generally came to be referred to as “military government” but the prospect of liberating occupied countries meant that a more acceptable designation was required, hence “civil affairs”. This also reflected the terminology used by American forces. By 1943 the War Office Department charged with responsibility for civil affairs, MO11, had been expanded to the status of “the Directorate of Civil Affairs”.
[5] Civil-Military Operations (or CMO) includes all civil-military liaison, efforts to restore the civilian infrastructure (essential utilities etc) and resource management, humanitarian assistance and civilian movement control..
[6] Arguably it also reflected the fact that conventional warfare under NATO’s policy of ‘Flexible Response’ essentially became a means of buying time for NATO leaders to take the decision to use nuclear weapons. Hence, conventional warfare was a means for ensuring the nuclear deterrent worked rather than an activity in itself.
[7] For example, within the US 5th Corps ‘Host Nation Support (HNS) is an extremely varied task. One function is to act as the executive agent for all US forces for the co-ordination and use of training areas in Germany. In addition it serves as the 5th Corps agent for developing and maintaining host nation relations in Germany. Host nation relationships may include everything for ensuring access to training facilities to providing recommendations to commanders relating to social events and broadly supporting German-American community relations.
[8] P Williams, ‘From Counter Insurgency to Internal Security: Northern Ireland 1969-1992,’ Small Wars and Insurgencies, Vol.6, No.1 (Spring 1995), Frank Cass, London. Furthermore, during the Cold War themilitary involvement in civil issues was regulated (legally and normatively) through the concept of ‘Military Aid to the Civil Authorities (MACA) – which tightly circumscribed the military role largely to the provision of labour and resources whilst vigorously maintaining civilian supremacy.
[9] The US experience of civil affairs was very different. In 1943 the U.S. Army created a separate Civil Affairs Division from the Provost Marshal Corps. It undertook operations in both the Pacific and European theatres and played a key role in the administration of occupied Germany prior to the establishment of the Control Commission. At the point when the British capabilities had largely decayed, the US civil affairs capability played an important role in the management of displaced civilians during the Korean conflict and the restoration of civil administration in recaptured territory. It also played an important role during the Vietnamese war, developing its current linkage to special operations. More latterly it was also deployed early and in force in both the invasion of Grenada and Panama. Even in the relatively ‘civilian free’ context of the Gulf War, civil affairs units performed a wide variety of tasks including liaison duties with the host nation government, humanitarian relief activities, planning for non combatant evacuation operations and educating US units about Saudi Arabian culture. Several civil affairs soldiers accompanied French infantry as they attacked the small town of As Salman in order to deal with civilians caught up in the fighting and enemy prisoners of war. Subsequently, they administered the town; something that had not been done since the Korean War. (Major Douglas E. Nash, Civil Affairs in the Gulf War: Administration of an occupied town, Special Warfare, October 1994 pp.18-27). The administration was conducted in order to ‘reduce civilian interference with military operations, identify and acquire local resources, fulfil legal obligations and moral considerations in accordance with international law agreements, and terminate hostilities with conditions favourable to the long-term national interest of the allied coalition.’ (Nash, Op.Cit page 20).
[10] The defining features of the new ‘humanitarianism’ are a redefinition of the nature of threats to international peace and stability and the, albeit unpredictable, use of various forms of military intervention for ostensibly humanitarian objectives.
[11] D C Jett, Why Peacekeeping Fails (London: Macmillan, 2000) pp. 21-35. See also H Slim, ‘Military Humanitarianism and the New Peacekeeping: An Agenda for Peace’, Journal for Humanitarian Assistance athttp://www.jha.ac/articles/a003.htm posted on 3 June 2000, pp 1-2..
[12] See Supplement to An Agenda for Peace, UN Document A/50/60-S/1995/1.
[13] See M Pugh, ‘Peacebuilding as Developmentalism: Concepts from Disaster Research’, in Contemporary Security Policy, Vol.16.,No.3, 1995. See also An Agenda for Peace, UN Document S/24111 (1992).
[14] Slim describes the period after the publication of An Agenda for Peace as a period of ‘humanitarian experimentation.’ See H Slim, ‘Military Humanitarianism’ Op.Cit.,p.3.
[15] Whilst the capacities and expertise of several major NGOs (such as Oxfam, Save the Children Fund, MSF, etc.) have increased dramatically, the bulk of NGOs make only modest contributions. Several NGOs have also been criticised for incompetence and political dependence (for examples, see J Macrae, ‘The Death of Humanitarianism, An Anatomy of the Attack’, in Disasters, Vol.22, No.4, December 1998, pp.309-317.) Consequently governments have been unable to rely upon NGOs to be the major providers of humanitarian relief. Similarly whilst UN specialised agencies have also increased in competence their performance has frequently been hampered by interagency rivalry, the overlap of mandates, a frequent lack of support from donor governments as well as problematical administration and procurement procedures.
[16] At the end the Gulf War there were 450,000 Kurdish refugees on the Turkish border and 1,200,000 on the Iranian border. Within 18 months, 1,500,000 Bosnians were trapped in Central Bosnia. Emergencies in Rwanda and Zaire were also of a similar scale.
[17] For a discussion of this see L Minear and TG Weiss, Humanitarian Politics (New York: Foreign Policy Association, 1995) p.40 and pp.36-42; and L Minear, ‘Humanitarian Action and Peacekeeping Operations’ in the Journal of Humanitarian Assistance at http://www.jha.ac/articles/a018.html posted on 11 June 2000, page 3. See also International Federation of Red Cross/Crescent Societies, World Disasters Report (Oxford: OUP, 1997), pp23-24. Kosovo can also be seen as an example of ‘substitution’ in the sense of substituting a large scale ground based humanitarian effort for a ground offensive.
[18] L Minear et al, Humanitarian Action in the Former Yugoslavia: The UN’s Role 1991-93, Occasional Paper No.18, T J Watson Junior Institute for International Studies and refugee Policy Group, 1994.
[19] Report of the Secretary-General Pursuant to General Assembly Resolution 53/35 (1998) ‘Srebrenica Report’ Advance Copy for delegations Version.
[20] Following on from the Croat-Moslem cease-fire.
[21] Defence Planning Assumptions 1996 (D/Def Pol/ 8/7/6) dated 19 February 1997.
[22] France used their military as pathfinders for reconstruction contracts in Sarajevo from 1992 whilst part of UNPROFOR. The US had also appeared to use their presence during the latter stages of the Gulf war to gain lucrative commercial reconstruction contracts. A number of American companies including Turner’s and Brown & Root were also awarded camp maintenance contracts for US military camps in the Balkans allowing them to be well-placed to exploit other regional economic opportunities. Italy was also perceived as facilitating domestic contractors through its peacekeeping forces.
[23] See S Gordon, British Internationalism and the Ethical Foreign Policy: the Road to Sierra Leone? (London: Kings’ College, Centre for Defence Studies, forthcoming);. See also ‘Speech by the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, To the Economic Club of Chicago, Hilton Hotel, Chicago, USA’ dated Thursday 22 April 1999. Web document http://www.fco.gov.uk/text_only/news/speechtext.
[24] FM Sir Peter Inge, “The Roles and Challenges of the British Armed Forces” Royal United Services Institute Journal, Vol. 141, February 1996, p.1.
[25] Clearly in 1996 he had in mind operations in Bosnia.
[26] T Schelling, Arms and Influence, (Yale: Yale University, 1966, first edition) p.2.
[27] Others have also argued that the nature of applying military force has changed. For example, Harlan Ullman, (in ‘A New Defence Construct: a Rapid Dominance’, RUSI Journal, Vol. 141, No 5, October 1996, pp. 8-12.) argued that the focal point of an attack becomes much wider than the purely military He argues that the intention is frequently to destabilise (rather than to destroy) the enemy through concentrating on affecting and understanding their perceptions. He describes this as ‘rapid dominance’.
[28] See ‘Wider Peacekeeping’ or Slim’s analysis of this in H Slim, ‘Military Humanitarianism…’ Op.Cit., p.7.
[29] Interviews with senior British UNPROFOR commanders, 1993-1995. See also PG Williams, ‘Tactical Command in Bosnia Operation GRAPPLE 3 November 1993-May 1994,’ paper submitted to the British Army Review.
[30] Supported by the US civil affairs capability within NATO.
[31] There was also a need, highlighted by NATO’s involvement in post-Dayton Bosnia, to manage and institutionalise relations between the military force and large numbers of ‘increasingly sophisticated international and non-governmental civilian organisations.’ See ACE Directive Number 86-2 dated 13 January 1998, paras.1-4 This is also described in Colonel William R. Phillips, ‘Civil-Military Co-operation: Vital to Peace Implementation in Bosnia’, NATO Review, No.1.,Spring 1998,pp.22-25. See also E Flint, ‘Soldiers Building Bridges’ in D S Gordon and F H Toase (Eds) Aspects of Peacekeeping (London: Frank Cass, 2001)
[32] ACE Directive Number 86-2 dated 13 January 1998, paras.1-4. This is also reflected in NATO MC 411 para.3. The former (paras.1-3 )argues that ‘recent operations’ particularly those in the former Yugoslavia have identified “that the limited mechanisms and narrow definitions of Cold War civil-military co-operation are no longer able to cope with the demands of modern conflict.”
[33] Ibid., para.4.
[34] Ibid.loc.cit. and MC 411, para.5.
[35] ACE Directive Number 86-2 dated 13 January 1998, paras.1-2. See also MC 411, para.5.
[36] Background briefings from senior NATO CIMIC officers but also reflected in Exercise Burning Harmony. NATO increasingly recognised the requirement for CIMIC in Article V and PSOs. Its precise role in high intensity operations will obviously depend upon the location of operations and extent to which fighting degrades national authorities. Its principal task is to monitor civil factors affecting military operations, but it also offers a means for facilitating the withdrawal of military units in the context of a self-sustaining peace. The range of CIMIC tasks are detailed in chapter 3 of NATO’s Allied Joint Publication 9 (NATO Civil-Military Co-operation (CIMIC) Doctrine)..
[37] ACE Directive Number 86-2 dated 13 January 1998., paras. 1-5. In the case of NATO this has been translated into efforts by its Military Committee to create dedicated CIMIC capabilities throughout the membership and the multinational commands (see MC411 dated 18 August 1997: NATO CIMIC policy.). This has been described as “CIMIC 2000.” (ACE Directive Number 86-2 dated 13 January 1998., paras.1-7). Capabilities included: developing planning procedures, doctrine, interoperability standards and force development targets (See also MC 411, paragraph 12.).NATO’s retention of an Article V collective defence role also caused CIMIC staffs to consider the relevance of planning for civil contingencies throughout the spectrum of war.
[38] By Mike Aaronson DG of SCF. NGOs and the Military in Complex Emergencies: The New realities – the NGO Perspective.
[39] In part this is a product of experience in implementing the Dayton Accords.
[40] Mukesh Kapilla, DfID, suggests that this has been brought about both by a desire for greater political visibility and a lack of capacity and co-ordination within the NGO community.
[41] The ‘integrated approach’ is outlined as a normative objective in the draft ‘UK Defence Policy for Civil-Military Co-operation’ dated 17 November 2000. Author’s copy.
[42] The increasing salience of the ‘integrationist’ approach within western militaries also reflects European experiences within the Civil-Military Task Force and the joint civil-military ‘Sectoral Teams’ established within SFOR which were viewed as an effective way of creating a strategic framework in the context of a multidimensional response.
[43] Ibid.,p.3.
[44] Aaronson does not reject the Brahimi panels report. He is positive about the enhanced ‘coherence’ and capabilities that it may bring, rather he is uncomfortable with the philosophical premise that requires humanitarian action based on impartiality and neutrality to be subordinated to essentially political objectives.
[45] Aaronson, p.3. He also refers to SCF’s Position Paper: the United Nations and Humanitarian Assistance , Save the Children, March 1994, p.2.
[46] Even in circumstances where military ‘civic’ action is in accord with ‘humanitarian’ principles they have a reputation for actions that are generally perceived as not being in accord with such principles. In other words their problem is less their inability to act in a humanitarian way, rather it is the set of perceived obstacles to claiming to act in humanitarian way.
[47] A strategic framework may crowd out humanitarian assistance and protection at a point when the NGO community deems it to be most essential. For example, Aaronson (Ibid.,p.5) points to the case of Afghanistan where a UN Strategic Framework attaches ‘certain conditions and ground rules to the continuation or resumption of humanitarian activity, covering, for example, progress towards peace. When conditions are not met, humanitarian aid reduces to a trickle; the humanitarian agencies are in effect prevented from carrying out their mandate because political objectives remain out of reach.’ See also unpublished paper by Meinrad Studer, ‘The ICRC and Civil-Military Relations in Armed Conflict’ p.7.
[48] In its minimalist guise ‘Integrationism’ simply represents a ‘common understanding’ of the environment. However, it also tends to elide into the idea that all agencies are equally committed to pursuing the goal of a sustainable peace and, consequently, that ‘management’ structures can (relatively!) easily accommodate shared priorities. It is worth drawing distinctions between minimalist and maximalist interpretations. For example, British doctrine writers at the Joint Doctrine and Concepts Centre interpret it as meaning a common understanding of environment. However, individuals across an organisation may hold variations tending towards the more maximalist definition. Army’s are particularly prone to the latter given a cultural propensity for order.
[49] Meinrad Studer, ICRC.
[50] The Foreign and Commonwealth office tend to view humanitarian operations as separate but parallel – interview with Mark Bowden, FCO.
[51] For example, Aaronson, (Ibid.,p.6) quotes the Brahimi report as saying that ‘Impartiality for United Nations Operations must therefore means adherence to the principles of the Charter: where one party to a peace agreement clearly and incontrovertibly is violating its terms, continued equal treatment of all parties by the United Nations can in the best case result in ineffectiveness and in the worst may amount to complicity with evil.’
[52] These principles are contained in ‘The Principles of Conduct for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and NGOs in Disaster Response Programmes. Also the Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards arising from the Sphere Project and the People in Aid Code (see WWW.peopleinaid.org)
[53] For an analysis of ‘humanitarian action’ see L Minear and T G Weiss, Mercy Under Fire: War and the Global Humanitarian Community (Boulder: Westview Press, 1995).
[54] The dividing line between political and humanitarian activities can be extremely thin. For example, in the course of implementing the Lomé agreement in Sierra Leone, UNAMSIL endeavoured to persuade NGOs to support a medical screening programme in support of the DDR process. Several organisations declined because the results were to be used as part of the process of determining who would enter the Sierra Leonean Armed Forces (Simon Diggins).
[55] Even to the point of humanitarian agencies refusing to be involved. This reflects a point made by Larry Minear who suggested that there were occasions when even UN agencies should step aside in order to protect what he describes as theirbona fides. See L Minear, ‘Humanitarian Action and Peacekeeping Operations’ in the Journal of Humanitarian Assistance at http://www.jha.ac/articles/a018.html posted on 11 June 2000, p.12.
[56] Perhaps reflected most clearly in An Agenda for Peace’s obvious close association of peacekeeping and humanitarian action. For an excellent elaboration of the integration, insulation and separation approaches see L Minear, ‘The Evolving Humanitarian Enterprise’ in T G Weiss, The United Nations and Civil Wars (Boulder CO: Lynne Reinner, 1993) pp.89-106.
[57] This term is used in order to differentiate these activities from more universalist ‘humanitarian’ action.
[58] For example, ICRC’s greater emphasis upon the institutional separation of military and humanitarian activity.
[59] Nicholas Stockton, ‘The Role of the Military in Humanitarian Emergencies: Reflections’ in Refugee Participation Network, Issue 23, January-April 1997, pp.13-18. Also interviews with MSF staff.
[60] Nicholas Morris, UNHCR.
[61] The more extreme ‘integrationists’ within donor agencies tend to stress pragmatic and practical responses and decry things like impartiality as esoteric.
[62] Nicholas Stockton, Oxfam.
[63] This is not to say that armed escorts will not be used. For example, ICRC has used armed escorts in the north Caucasus region in order to protect their own personnel engaged in prisoner of war visits. However, they do not used armed escorts to ensure the passage of humanitarian relief aid. Meinrhad Strudder.
[64] Catherine plus Littlechild. INTERFET was even accused by some humanitarian staff of effectively holding prisoner UN resources.
[65] For example the 1994 air drops to Goma camp by the United States Air Force.
[66] Mukesh Kapilla, DfID. Nevertheless, this is not applicable to all NGOs. MSF and SCF for example set clear limits on the degree of bilateral funding whilst ICRC (not an NGO) tends to receive funding tied to geographical regions rather than projects.
[67] ICRC’s response to the military is likely to be enormously predictable-others lack predictability and their responses
[68] NATO Allied Joint Publication 9 (Draft).
[69] Joint Doctrine and development Centre, UK Defence Policy for Civil-Military Co-operation’ dated 17 November 2000.
[70] For example the provision of food and protection of cultural important antiquities during W.W.II. During UNPROFOR’s existence this has extended to resolving property disputes and dealing with compensation for road traffic accidents.
[71] The Operations Plan for NATO’s Albanian Force (AFOR) specifically required that all ‘activities undertaken by AFOR should contribute to the enhancement of NATO’s public image and the undermining of critics of the NATO air campaign.’ See Annex W to NATO AFOR Operations Plan 001, p.5. Quoted in ‘The Interaction of NATO-Related Military Forces with Humanitarian Actors in the Kosovo Crisis’ a discussion note prepared by the Humanitarianism and War Project and the Humanitarian Law consultancy for a Conference at The Hague, November 15-16, 1999.
[72] Such as the credibility of the organisation and its capacity to manage regional crises in the case of NATO.
[73] L Minear, ‘Humanitarian Action and Peacekeeping Operations’ in the Journal of Humanitarian Assistance at http://www.jha.ac/articles/a018.html posted on 11 June 2000, p.9.
[74] ‘Joined Up Government’ has been a major policy theme of Labour first term of office.
[75] The development of new interdepartmental crisis management and conflict prevention machinery following the controversial response to the Mozambique flooding is also a potentially positive development. This machinery engages diplomatic, military, and humanitarian advice and is able to call upon a new shared MoD, FCO and DfID budget.
[76] Nevertheless, there are now formally designated liaison officers in both the DfID and PJHQ.
[77] For an excellent coverage of this relationship see ‘The DfID/MOD the initiative: military involvement in emergency humanitarian aid and post conflict recovery’ by Gilbert Greenall, December 1997, private paper, authors copy.
[78] Whilst the military talk in terms of ‘missions’ and ‘end states’ there is a greater recognition that these will develop. This is increasingly termed ‘mission development’ rather than the more pejorative ‘mission creep.’The author would like to thank Major General John Reith for this point.
[79] MC 411., para.14.
[80] Ibid.loc.cit.
[81] M Pugh, ‘The UNHCR as lead Agency in the Former Yugoslavia,’ in The Journal of Humanitarian Assistance at: http;//www – jha.sps.cam.ac.uk/a/a007.htm posted on 1 April 1996.
[82] This is part of a much broader problem relating to the enfeeblement of UN co-ordination structures. As part of the 1997 reform package OCHA’s role was deliberately limited to that of ‘facilitation’ of co-ordination rather than its more positive or active forms. Its capacity has been further reduced by its limited size and what Pugh argues to be the ‘persistence of the lead agency concept.’ (Pugh.,Op.Cit., p.233) Pugh also argues that the bilateral agencies are themselves heavily politicised through both their funding and constitutional arrangements. See also M Pugh, ‘The Withering of Humanitarian Reform: A Rejoinder’, in Security Dialogue, Vol.29, No.2, June 1998, pp159-161. See also P Erikson in ‘Civil-Military Co-ordination in Peace Support Operations: An Impossible Necessity’ in the Journal of Humanitarian Assistance at http://www/jha.ac/articles/a061html posted on 16 September 2000, p.11.OCHA’s Lack of authority is paralleled in the Office of the High Representative’s (OHR’s) role in implementing the Dayton agreement. In particular the requirement to respect the autonomy of the agencies has ensured that the OHR’s role has been limited to the provision of ‘general guidance’ (see Dayton Peace Agreement Annex 10 Article 2, para. C).
[83] It would also have undermined its ability to co-ordinate NGOs reluctant to associate with an increasingly ‘politicised’ UNHCR (See ‘The Kosovo Refugee Crisis: An Independent Evaluation of UNHCR’s Emergency Preparedness and Response’, February 2000. Http://www.unhcr.ch/evaluate/kosovo/toc.html.para.554).
[84] This was necessary both to legitimise the military operation to domestic audiences but also due to NATO’s legal obligations resulting from the Hague and Geneva conventions.
[85] See ‘The Kosovo Refugee Crisis: An Independent Evaluation of UNHCR’s Emergency Preparedness and Response’, February 2000. Http://www.unhcr.ch/evaluate/kosovo/toc.html, para.525.
[86] Ibid., para.551 describes the lack of effective consultation between NATO and UNHCR as arising from UNHCR’s lack of preparedness for the crisis leaving the agency with little choice but to accept the relationship on NATO’s terms.see also (Ibid., para 554).
[87] There were significant efforts by UNHCR to avoid the militarisation of assistance through endeavouring to limit NATO’s role to that of supporting camp administration, the management of logistics depots and airlifts. See Preparedness and Response, February 2000. Http://www.unhcr.ch/evaluate/kosovo/toc.html.the UNHCR, The Kosovo Refugee Crisis: An Independent Evaluation of UNHCR’s Emergency, para 552.
[88] Several senior UNHCR officers viewed this as a deliberate attempt to circumvent the UNHCR’s co-ordination role both through a rejection of UNHCR’s competence and in order to play a more prominent role in the humanitarian programmes in order to legitimise NATO’s ‘humanitarian war’ and their own involvement.
[89] See Preparedness and Response, February 2000. Http://www.unhcr.ch/evaluate/kosovo/toc.html.the UNHCR, The Kosovo Refugee Crisis: An Independent Evaluation of UNHCR’s Emergency. Paras. 533-536. Attachment of requests for humanitarian assistance by NATO to request for discussion to discuss impending air strikes (para 533).
[90] See Preparedness and Response, February 2000. Http://www.unhcr.ch/evaluate/kosovo/toc.html.the UNHCR, The Kosovo Refugee Crisis: An Independent Evaluation of UNHCR’s Emergency, para 539.
[91] See Ibid., para 548. This was also reflected in Germany’s insistence on World Food Programmes use of German donated food within the German military area of responsibility within Kosovo.
[92] ‘Nationalisation’ also reflected the weakness of NATO’s own command and control capabilities. ‘The Interaction of NATO-Related Military Forces with Humanitarian Actors in the Kosovo Crisis’ (a discussion note prepared by the Humanitarianism and War Project and the Humanitarian Law consultancy for a Conference at The Hague, November 15-16, 1999.) describes NATO’s command and control (para.87) in the early stages of the bombing campaign as ‘freewheeling’ and ‘exercised only after national military presence’s had been established and even then not extended to all military contingents.’
[93] The extension of NATO into this area should not be seen as inevitable. For example, there are voices within NATO that resist most extensions of its role. France for example has traditionally held what could be described as a ‘minimalist’ view of the Alliance’s role and, more recently, its functions.
[94] For example, there was marked variation in the quality of camps constructed by the Germans, the Turks and troops from the UAE.
[95] Again an explanation for military encroachment can be found in terms of UNHCR’s lack of capacity. The request for assistance was passed to UNHCR who turned it down as a consequence of their lack of ability to respond sufficiently quickly.
[96] As a pro tem measure the extension of NATO’s Euro-Atlantic Disaster Relief Co-operation Centre (EADRCC) into broader humanitarian issues could, potentially, be a positive development. This was pushed by the US and Italy (See ‘The Kosovo Refugee Crisis: An Independent Evaluation of UNHCR’s Emergency Preparedness and Response’, February 2000. Http://www.unhcr.ch/evaluate/kosovo/toc.html, paras.530-531).
[97] For example General Mike Jackson wanted UNHCR officers present with the first British troops entering Kosovo. This proposal was turned down by UNHCR over the implications for its impartiality. Pugh also identifies UNHCR’s rejection of a NATO standing offer of military assistance for the humanitarian effort dating from 2 September 1998. As a result of UNHCR sensitivities over dependence on NATO it was not until 3 April that UNHCR accepted this offer. See ‘The Kosovo Refugee Crisis: An Independent Evaluation of UNHCR’s Emergency Preparedness and Response’, February 2000. Http://www.unhcr.ch/evaluate/kosovo/toc.html.paras.526-531.
[98] A CMOC is a theatre level multiagency body attached to the principal military headquarters. It enables the key civil agencies to influence military priorities and vice versa.
[99] The Australian CMOC was located outside the main military headquarters but within the wire. It was therefore located outside the main military decision making structure but was also hardly used by the NGOs/civil community. In part this explains OCHA’s attempts to create a Humanitarian Co-ordination Centre.
[100] Unattributable background interviews with UN and NGO staff.
[101] A CIMIC centre is a small building generally giving the civilian population and NGOs relatively open access to civil affairs officers and information resources such as the location of minefields or other dangers.
[102] Other suggestions include the idea of an ‘Institution for Co-ordination in Complex Emergencies’ (ICCE) proposed by Par Erikson in ‘Civil-Military Co-ordination in Peace Support Operations: An Impossible Necessity’ in the Journal of Humanitarian Assistance at http://www/jha.ac/articles/a061html posted on 16 September 2000.
[103] See S Gordon, ‘How to Make Safe Areas Unsafe’ in D S Gordon and F H Toase (Eds) Aspects of Peacekeeping (London: Frank Cass, 2001), pp. ……
[104] UN Document UN A/55/305 and S/2000/809.
[105] Again this parallels US and UK experience in W.W.II; even to the extent of developing a ‘framework’ legal code for application in occupied Italy.
[106] Dennis MacNamara has also complained about the failure to gain access to Mitrovica as a consequence of casualty sensitivity by the several nations. In effect sensitivity to the casualties that may arise if the military assume a greater role in IDP protection has led policy makers generally to fail to recognise that humanitarian assistance does not simply mean food but protection issues also.
[107] For the British Army CIMIC training remains a rather minor adjunct of general staff training and professional development. It is also something of a career backwater with a still rather limited number of regular soldiers and officers generally being posted into ‘CIMIC’ appointments for only one 2 year appointment in the course of a career.
[108] L Minear, ‘Humanitarian Action and Peacekeeping Operations’ in the Journal of Humanitarian Assistance at http://www.jha.ac/articles/a018.html posted on 11 June 2000, p.12.
[109] The author would like to thank Nicholas Stockton, Oxfam, for this point. The Sphere Standards and the humanitarian accountability project represent examples of this process.
[110] Several NGOs have not committed to the Sphere project out of an identification with what Nicholas Stockton described as Henri Dunant’s spirit of compassion, independence and freedom of expression. Others do not commit to Sphere because of their endorsement by governments. However, the majority of NGOs that have committed to them have done so out of a belief that they represent simply the codification of minimum professional standards of competence.
[111] The DEC report on the humanitarian response to the Kosovo crisis was very critical of the NGO community’s implementation of the Sphere standards. This is particularly disappointing given the uniquely high level of financial resources applied.
[112] It could also be argued that at and below the level of the Permanent Joint Force Headquarters (and particularly at Brigade headquarters level) there are simply not enough CIMIC dedicated posts to deal with the range of civil-military issues. This is part of a broader problem of the British Army being configured largely for warfighting and high intensity expeditionary operations rather than the lower intensity Peace Support Operations.
[113] J Mackinlay ‘Peace Support Operations Doctrine’ in British Army Review, No.113, August 1996, p.11. This could of course be contrasted with the words of Major General Kiszely, a senior IFOR commander, who argues that ‘The major assets for this phase…are my Division’s media, psyops and civilian affairs units, at this time these three groups are as powerful ass the big guns.’ Quoted in Jane’s Defence Weekly, 18 December 1996.
[114] A senior serving soldier made exactly this point in the British Army Review; arguing that ‘The Civil Affairs Officer began as something of a joke and his first task was to live down his reputation.’ See Lt Col A B Brown (MBE) ‘Letters’, in British Army Review No.16 August 1997, p.97.
[115] It should be stressed that this paper is not arguing for any particular solution (such as the creation of a ‘civil affairs’ cap badge) to the issue of professionalisation. What is being argued is that the existing structures do not provide a sufficient degree of expertise in this area and a mechanism needs to be created that more adequately captures knowledge and experience as well as provides an organisation through which the ‘civil’ agenda can be more influential within a military headquarters. This needs to be balanced against the continuing requirement for CIMIC to be both an activity conducted by individuals (located within headquarters) with a greater degree of specialist knowledge and all parts of a military force in support of the military mission.
[116] Aaronson, Op.Cit.,p.4.
[117] M Pugh, ‘Civil-Military Relations in Kosovo’, in Security Dialogue, Vol.31, No.2, June 2000, p.238..
[118] My ideas are developed from a range of sources but particular thanks are due to Hugo Slim and Stuart Sessions. Several of the suggestions are derived from Stuart Sessions (“Civic Action”: towards best practice in humanitarian interventions. British Army review, No 119, August 1998, pp.56-58).
[119] It is clear that some military interventions, UNPROFOR for example, have potentially prolonged the conflict through ameliorating its impact over the short term To some extent this might be inevitable even if monitoring systems did exist. For example the creation of roads in Bosnia from 1992 inadvertently facilitated Moslem troop movements thereby contributing to prolonging the war. However, the roads were constructed both to facilitate the passage of aid and to allow for the withdrawal of UNPROFOR in the event of the mission’s collapse. Hence regardless of their wider impact the roads would have been constructed anyway.
[120] S Sessions, “Civic Action”: towards best practice in humanitarian interventions. British Army review, No 119, August 1998, pp.56-58.
[121] Ibid.loc.cit.
[122] Thanks to Mark Bowden for this point.
[123] Yet these did represent some of the tasks conducted by civil affairs officers in the course of the Italian campaign during W.W.II.
[124] In this context the British Joint Doctrine and Concepts Development Centre’s efforts to encourage research into understanding the dynamics of complex emergencies is an interesting, albeit limited, first step.
[125] See TG Wiess and C Collins, Humanitarian Challenges and Intervention (Oxford: Westview Press, 1996).pp154-162.
[126] In addition, the selection of labour intensive rather methods of construction on such projects would create employment. See S Sessions, “Civic Action…’, Op.Cit.,,p.57.
[127] For an example of this see OECD ‘DAC Guidelines on Conflict, Peace and development Co-operation.’, C/MIN (97) 20, OECD, p.21. This provides two examples of farmers failing to save parts of their harvest for seed as a result of recognising that the seed will be provided by INGOs.
[128] This is not a radical proposal. American CIMIC planners argue that notions of “self dependency” are already built into programming decisions as means avoiding parasitic relationships and for subsequently facilitating military disengagement
[129] Establishing measures of effectiveness has been an issue which has confronted Corps and Army group level formations within NATO. Background interviews with US civil affairs officers.
[130] Most Armies have specialist ‘Education and Training’, Signals, Administration, etc., branches. Given the complexity of tasks associated with CIMIC it appears somewhat anachronistic that Civil Affairs does not have a similar status in the Regular Armies within NATO.
[131] See Preparedness and Response, February 2000. See ‘The Kosovo Refugee Crisis: An Independent Evaluation of UNHCR’s Emergency Preparedness and Response’, February 2000, para. 554.

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