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The peacebuilding dilemma: civil-military cooperation in stability operations.


The nature of complex humanitarian relief, peacebuilding, and reconstruction missions increasingly forces military and civilian actors to operate in the same space at the same time thereby challenging their ability to remain impartial, neutral and independent. The purpose of this article is to explore the cultural, organizational, operational, and normative differences between civilian and military relief and security providers in contemporary stability operations and to develop recommendations for improving civilmilitary cooperation (CIMIC) in order to aid the provision of more effective relief, stabilization, and transformation operations.

At 8:30 a.m. local time on October 27, 2003 an ambulance packed with explosives rammed into security barriers outside the Red Cross headquarters in Baghdad killing some 40 people, including two Iraqi International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) employees, and leaving more than 200 wounded. The ICRC announced immediately following the attacks withdrawal of its international staff from Baghdad, thereby reducing vital programs and services to the most vulnerable segments of the population. The October suicide bombing came two months after the August 19 attack on the United Nations (UN) headquarters in Baghdad that left 23 people dead, including Sergio Vieira de Mello, the Secretary General's Special Representative in Iraq. Expressing horror and consternation, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) head Mark Malloch Brown surmised on the day of the August attack: "We do this [humanitarian relief] out of vocation. We are apolitical. We were here to help the people of Iraq and help them return to self-government. Why us?" (quoted in Anderson, 2004, p. 52).

The outrage felt by some members of the non-governmental organization (NGO) community was not solely directed at the perpetrators, but also at the United States who was held indirectly responsible for the deaths of the humanitarian aid workers. Members of the UN and NGO communities felt they were endangered partly by the fact that the U.S. was fighting a war that had not been authorized by the Security Council and that had created a situation which had basically invited the attacks. Anderson (2004, p. 61) explains, "those who attacked the UN were not mistaken as to their targets or what they stood for. They understood both that the UN had stood aside from the US-led war but also that the UN and NGO groups collectively are not neutral or impartial about the nature of future peace."

The attacks illustrate a growing dilemma in stability operations: post-conflict reconstruction and humanitarian relief efforts force military and humanitarian actors to operate in the same space at the same time challenging the bedrock principles that characterized peacekeeping for more than half-a-century. Although the military has consistently emphasized the need for "complementarity," humanitarian organizations have expressed concern about the impact of civil-military cooperation on their ability to remain impartial, neutral, and independent in fulfilling their core tasks. As a result, the lines between neutral peacekeeping and relief efforts and non-neutral peacebuilding and reconstruction activities have become increasingly blurred, thereby raising dangers and risks especially for civilian actors.

This article explores the cultural, organizational, operational, and normative factors that shape the approaches of military and civilian nongovernmental (NGO) actors to civil-military cooperation (CIMIC) in peacebuilding and stability operations. The purpose of the analysis is to develop recommendations for improving civil-military cooperation in order to aid the provision of more effective relief, stabilization, and transformation operations. The first segment briefly recounts the evolution of peacebuilding and illustrates the central problems inherent in civil-military cooperation during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. Next, the article examines more closely the cultural, organizational, operational, and normative differences that hamper coordination between civilian and military actors in the field. The analysis concludes with a series of recommendations for how to improve civil-military cooperation and enhance the effectiveness of international peacebuilding and reconstruction efforts.

The Evolution of Peacebuilding

Traditional peacekeeping during the Cold War was authorized under Chapter VI of the UN Charter and most generally comprised the "imposition of neutral and lightly armed interposition forces following a cessation of armed hostilities, and with the permission of the state on whose territory these forces are deployed, in order to discourage a renewal of military conflict and promote an environment under which the underlying dispute can be resolved" (Diehl 1993, p. 13; see also Bellamy et al., 2004; Goulding, 2003). The rapid rise in civil wars and ethnic strife in the decade following the end of the Cold War and the desperate need for action to help the civilian populations who were the targets of ethnic cleansing demonstrated the need for the international community to go beyond peacekeeping and authorize peace enforcement operations under Chapter VII of the UN Charter in order to compel compliance with international resolutions and sanctions and to "maintain or restore peace and support diplomatic efforts to reach a long-term political settlement" (Department of the Army, 1994, p. 6).

In the early-to-mid 1990s it became apparent that humanitarian issues were intrinsically connected to problems of peace and security. Security Council Resolution 794 (Somalia), for instance, authorized for the first time military intervention under Chapter VII "i n order to establish a secure environment for humanitarian relief operations." With the number of complex emergencies rising, the United Nations developed a peacebuilding approach integrating military and humanitarian action into a series of sequential activities proceeding from observing the cease fire and assisting in humanitarian relief and refugee resettlement to contributing to economic reconstruction, social reconciliation and the restoration of essential government functions (Jeong, 2005; Studer, 2001; Boutros-Ghali, 1995). At the heart of this approach is the simultaneous control of violence at the interpersonal and intercommunal levels, the provision of the basic needs of the suffering population, and, as needed, the planning for and monitoring of reconciliation and reconstruction efforts. It is in meeting these immediate challenges that the effective interface between armed forces and civilian aid agencies becomes centrally important, but also that the main tensions between the civilian and military peacebuilding elements arise.

Since complex emergencies frequently require a combination of traditional peacekeeping functions (e.g., the supervision and monitoring of cease-fires, disarmaments, and demobilization and the overseeing of elections) and combat-defined peace enforcement activities, peace-building or stability operations are oftentimes referred to as "third-generation" peace operations that "more closely resemble the original peace-keeping missions (in the sense that they enjoy the parties' overall consent), but also add something new in that they actively contribute to the rebuilding of state and social structures" (Studer, 2001, p. 373). While military forces undertook civilian tasks such as humanitarian relief and public administration by default and without a clear strategy or concrete objectives in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, or East Timor until civilian authorities were in a position to take over humanitarian and governing responsibilities, successful peace-building in the future will depend increasingly on the quality of collaboration among military forces, UN administration and civilian aid agencies (Jeong, 2005).

Civil-Military Cooperation

Cooperation between the civilian and military elements involves integrating traditional military capabilities into a collective response to human need. At the outset, civilian and military actors share the long-term goal of promoting human security and developing the conditions for societies marked by conflict to transition back to peaceful and stable structures. Initially, civil-military relationships were formed in the field, when troops stepped in to fill gaps in civilian capabilities. In response to the growing complexity of operational requirements, states are increasingly recognizing the intensifying working relationship between military and civilian actors and are now developing their own doctrines specifying the nature of civil-military cooperation (CIMIC).

In July 2003, for instance, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) published its own CIMIC Doctrine, which defines CIMIC as "the co-ordination and cooperation, in support of the mission, between the NATO commander and civil actors, including national population and local authorities, as well as international, national and non-governmental organizations and agencies" (NATO, 2003, p. 1-1). In essence, civil-military cooperation in stability operations includes three core functions: liaison between the military and all civilian actors in the area of operation, assistance to the civilian environment, and support to the force. For instance, during implementation of the General Framework Agreement for Peace (GFAP) in Bosnia and Herzegovina, CIMIC personnel coordinated with the Implementation Force (IFOR) for increased security presence when cargo of a strategic nature (e.g., electrical transformers and hydroelectric turbines) was transported through contested territory and worked closely with a number of civilian agencies to install temporary power lines, facilitate the repair and reconstruction of roads and bridges, and perform periodic joint environmental inspections of the local water supply (Landon, 1998).

Generally, CIMIC expands tasks that the U.S. military considers "Civil Affairs (CA) activities" which refer primarily to "support of the civilian environment." CA encompasses activities undertaken to establish and maintain relations between military forces and civil authorities as well as the general population. While CIMIC and CA activities oftentimes overlap on the ground, there is a clear doctrinal difference in scope. CIMIC focuses on humanitarian need and provides guidance for how to interact with civilian actors (civil authorities, local populations, international organizations, and nongovernmental organizations) in order to effectively complete the objectives of a humanitarian mission. CA, by contrast, focuses on military needs and provides suggestions for how to gain the support of civilians for the military mission (Mockaitis, 2004; Department of Defense, 2003). NATO identifies CIMIC as the interface intended to primarily improve coordination and reduce overlap and duplication of efforts between civilian organizations and authorities in order to meet humanitarian needs more effectively. By contrast, CA, as described in the U.S. Department of Defense Doctrine for Civil Affairs, seeks to influence the civilian environment in support of the armed forces (Department of Defense, 2003). Despite these noticeable distinctions between CA and CIMIC, the two approaches share sufficient common ground to be compatible.

Peacebuilding Actors

Civilian Actors

Civilians and humanitarian actors usually belong to either international organizations (IOs), including UN agencies, or international, regional, or local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). During peace operations and disaster relief, IOs interact primarily with official government institutions and less directly with the local population. In order to administer aid most effectively, collect and disseminate information, and recommend or take action on the ground, IOs benefit from partnering with NGOs that, in many cases, have established ties to society and oftentimes possess relatively dependable relationships with local groups and individuals. NGOs have unique advantages in engaging the local population through "their conscious efforts to establish relationships between adversarial communities, foster mutual confidence, and provide peaceful mechanisms for dispute resolution" (Jeong, 2005, p. 217). Because of their understanding of the realities on the ground, NGO representatives are able to "reach across their counterparts from other agencies into a web of indigenous officials and resources in order to build and maintain a sustainable infrastructure that has a better chance of ameliorating not just the manifestations, but also the causes, of conflict" (Aall, 1996, p. 439).

Operationally, many NGOs have moved beyond the traditional relief objectives of providing food, water, shelter, and emergency health measures to monitoring human rights, substituting for local government, and encouraging the creation or reconstruction of civil society by bringing together the conflicting parties. The substance and outcome of peacebuilding often hinges on exactly those conflict resolution skills honed through knowledge of and engagement with particular indigenous communities. This community-centered peacebuilding approach can effectively help assess need, employ skills and administer aid at the grassroots level. Maintaining good relationships with the local population and knowledge of local culture has become a prerequisite for successful peacebuilding and reconstruction. For instance, Fallows (2005) attributed many problems in the American effort to stabilize and rebuild Iraq to a severe shortage of Arabic-speakers and interpreters familiar with local customs. Therefore, enhancing the operational capabilities of local NGOs and ensuring their physical security are a precondition, but also an increasingly difficult challenge to effective peacebuilding.

The Military

Of course, the military is the logical partner for security provision. However, military functions are steadily increasing in complexity and oftentimes overlap with those of civilian aid providers. For instance, military officers have successfully participated in negotiating cease-fires and peace settlements in Mozambique, Angola and Bosnia (Guttieri, 2004). In addition, armed forces have monitored cease-fires and elections, enforced no-fly zones and demobilization efforts, secured relief convoys and supported civilian actors by providing logistics support, establishing camps for displaced persons, and lending engineering expertise to reconstruction projects (Heinemann-Gruder and Pietz, 2004; Rana, 2004; VENRO, 2003; Gordon, 2001; Minear et al., 2000). Civil-military cooperation can effectively bridge the gap between the intervention force and the relief organizations and civil institutions, and can become an effective force multiplier (Mockaitis, 2004). The effects, challenges, and problems of this approach can be illustrated by briefly recounting the CIMIC experience during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.

CIMIC in Practice: Afghanistan

Although the distance that the military had traditionally maintained to civilian aid agencies was beginning to shrink considerably during the Balkan missions, some observers now believe that the relationship established in Afghanistan is creating a precedent for the future of civil-military cooperation (Klingebiel and Roehder, 2004; Sedra, 2004). It was clear from the initial planning stages of the Afghanistan operation that CIMIC would play a central role in the coalition's efforts to "win the hearts and minds" of the local population. To illustrate the importance of CIMIC to the perceived success of the mission, a number of humanitarian agencies were invited to participate in the Coalition Governing Council based at the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) in Tampa, Florida. Shortly after the fall of the Taliban regime, the coalition established a Joint Civil-Military Operations Task Force (CJCMOTF) to oversee CIMIC on the ground.

Under the auspices of the CJCMOTF, the coalition deployed a number of Coalition Humanitarian Cells (CHLCs) in key urban centers across the country whose main functions included: "to 'win the hearts and minds' among the Afghan population; to secure the support of local communities by showing 'the benign face of the Coalition;' to jumpstart reconstruction efforts; and to gain positive publicity for the war effort in the United States" (Sedra, 2004, p. 5). Initial "quick impact" projects included drilling wells, constructing schools and health clinics, and repairing roads and bridges. "Indeed," Fields (2002, p. 2) recalls her experience on the ground, "it appeared as if the CJCMOTF was a 'military NGO.'" From the outset, NGOs objected to military involvement in many of these projects as they saw a duplication of their own efforts and a threat to NGO staff by blurring the lines between military and civilian actors. Fields (2002, pp. 2-3) explains, "The relief community saw these projects as outside the purview of the military, particularly a military that was still fighting in certain parts of the country. They took exception to the projects themselves, as well as to the oversight of these projects by soldiers in civilian clothes." Demonstrating their concern, NGOs rejected invitations to attend weekly CJCMOTF coordination meetings (Sedra, 2004).

By early 2003, the Coalition established Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) based on the experiences of U.S. civil affairs teams in an effort to expand the influence of the then still transitional Karzai government outside of Kabul and to help accelerate the process of national reconstruction (Klingebiel and Roehder, 2004). Perceived as integrated civil-military units, the PRTs operational assignments went far beyond any ad hoc protection force charged with the provision of a secure environment in which civil reconstruction projects can be completed. The PRTs were supposed to "extend the influence of the central government outside the capital; provide a security umbrella for [non-governmental humanitarian agencies] to operate; facilitate information sharing; and carry out small-scale reconstruction projects based on concise needs assessments and local consultations" (Sedra, 2004, p. 5). Teams operating under military command structures ranged from 50-100 personnel and comprised of civil affairs soldiers, special forces, and regular army units as well as representatives from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Departments of State and Agriculture. Initially, American PRTs conducted various projects (e.g., school construction) on their own and some soldiers even started out working in civilian dress (Klingebiel and Roehder, 2004; Fields, 2002). Throughout 2003, the PRT concept was gradually internationalized with Great Britain, New Zealand and Germany establishing PRTs in different areas and NATO assuming command of International Security Assistance Force in August 2003.

From the outset, the PRT concept was criticized by members of the relief community for its lack of military strength to confront insecurity, inadequate predeployment consultation with NGOs and local stakeholders, ambiguous mandate and legal framework, lack of institutional memory due to frequent personnel rotation schedules, and potential for compromising the role of humanitarian agencies through the implementation of aid projects (Sedra, 2004). More specifically, many NGOs felt that PRTs constituted a security risk for aid workers by making them a "soft target" for insurgents (Klingebiel and Roehder, 2004). Following the shooting death of five of its employees by anti-government militants, Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF) suspended its operations in Afghanistan in the summer of 2004 after having worked in the country for over 24 years. MSF attributed its decision to the proliferation of Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) which it claimed had blurred the lines between civilian and military spheres and placed its staff at undo risk. According to MSF, "PRT actions had effectively curtailed 'humanitarian space' within which MSF and other humanitarian organizations could operate" (Sedra, 2004, p. 1).

The Dilemmas

Recognizing the potential of CIMIC for undermining the neutrality and independence of humanitarian organizations and NGOs, the ICRC began already in the early 1990s to advocate the concept of "humanitarian space" which describes the ability of humanitarian agencies to "work independently and impartially without fear of attack in pursuit of the humanitarian imperative. This means they are free to assist populations in need, and are not constrained by political or physical barriers to their work" (Sida, 2005, p. 5; see also Studer, 2001; Roggo, 2000). In theory at least, the military becomes involved in humanitarian operations only in extremis, "where people are dying, or at risk of dying, and only the military can safe them" (Sida, 2005, p. 5). In practice, however, NGOs are especially concerned with military forces undertaking assistance work as part of their strategy to "win the hearts and minds" of the local population. The military objectives behind this strategy include enhanced force protection and information gathering as a result of gaining the people's trust. The military's "hearts and minds" approach can easily result in a confusion of the role of humanitarian agencies and military forces on the ground. The problem, as Sedra (2004, p. 2) observes, is that "[w]hile the military has emphasized the need for 'complementarity' in this new situation, humanitarian groups have been wary of its impact on their ability to remain impartial, neutral, and independent."

Military encroachment on humanitarian space is viewed critically not only by civilian relief providers. Peacebuilding as a core operational responsibility is also contentious within the military establishment. While peace operations have traditionally been perceived as less honorable and prestigious (Miller, 1997; Miller and Moskos, 1995; Janowitz, 1960) or as career stoppers (Dobbins et al., 2005) and military professionals had been significantly less committed to participating in Operations Other Than War (OOTW) than in combat (Franke and Heineken, 2001; Franke, 1999), both the nature of the missions and the perceptions of what it means to be a soldier are changing. Unlike most Cold War missions, which were either combat or non-combat in nature, peacebuilding or stability operations cannot be classified easily. They typically require military forces to simultaneously fulfill combat and non-combat functions and coordinate their efforts with partner militaries and a host of civilian relief organizations.

As peacebuilding gains operational importance, a growing number of military leaders seem to accept the military's emerging dual responsibility: to act as a fighting force and to contribute to humanitarian relief efforts, especially as the "Cold War" generation of officers is being replaced by a generation of officers who spent their formative years deployed in the complex emergencies of the Balkans, Somalia, Sierra Leone, or Afghanistan (Rana, 2004). Confirming this trend, Tomforde (2005, p. 583) found in a recent study that "younger soldiers define their role more in light of peacekeeping missions and therefore share the view that 'a real soldier' needs to have been deployed at least once." Despite growing acceptance of widening operational needs, problems persist in the coordination of efforts between military forces and civilian relief agencies and a number of factors continuously hinder effective operational coordination.

Cultural and Perceptional Differences

Conducting interviews with more than 200 military and humanitarian aid officials with experience on the ground in the Kosovo theatre, Minear and colleagues (2000) found major differences in institutional cultures. Generally, they argued, Western militaries are paid, trained and equipped to "use organized and regulated violence to accomplish objectives set by democratic governments" (Minear et al., 2000, p. 57; see also Huntington, 1957). The military places high value on command-and control, clear lines of authority, discipline, and accountability and prioritizes logistics, i.e., "guaranteed functioning under the most adverse circumstances, with the necessary 'force protection' to carry out tasks" (Minear et al., 2000, p. 57). The military's institutional culture is characterized by considerable investments in human resources management, including extensive training at all levels, redundancy of staff, lessons-learned exercises, and, where possible, well rehearsed responses in the field. By contrast, humanitarian organizations tend to be less hierarchical, place higher priority on process, i.e. how objectives are accomplished, and generally view redundancy as needless duplication of efforts. Moreover, relief workers tend see themselves as nonviolent people who have dedicated part of their lives to assist the less fortunate whose most formidable task oftentimes consists in building consensus among conflicting parties without favoring one side or the other (Beauregard, 1998).

These cultural differences contribute not only to discrepant mutual expectations, but, at times, also to negative perceptions of members of the other group. Minear et al. (2000) report that military officials were surprised by the small number of relief workers assigned to complete particular humanitarian tasks, while aid workers wanted to utilize what they considered the "idle capacity" of military contingents deployed as a necessary reserve for unexpected emergencies. Minear and colleagues (2000, pp. 59-60) also criticize a lack of understanding between institutions at the operational level: "Humanitarians insist on distinctions between and among themselves. They are critical of the military for failing to understand that OCHA [Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN)] is not an operational agency, that the World Food Programme is not an NGO, the GTZ [Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Technische Zusammenarbeit (German Society for Technical Cooperation)] is a bilateral aid agency, and that the ICRC is none of the above. Yet distinctions that are equally important for the military--for example, between ARRC [Allied Command Europe Rapid Reaction Corps] and AFOR [Albanian Force (NATO)]--are often lost on humanitarians." Earlier, Aall (1996) had already observed that NGOs felt uneasy working with military forces, especially if those forces served non-democratic governments with "unsavory human rights records." Moreover, Weiss' (1999) research and recent events in Iraq confirm that the more closely civilian agencies are associated with an unpopular military force, the less room for maneuver the agency has and the more problematic and contentious CIMIC on the ground becomes. Soldiers, on the other hand, oftentimes regarded NGOs as "undisciplined and their operations as uncoordinated and disjointed" (Aall, 1996, p. 440).

In Somalia (UNOSOM II), for example, the military expected civilian agencies to support its objective of enforcing order, while the civilian agencies wanted the military to supplement their efforts of delivering aid (Jeong, 2005). Given its concern with "mission creep," the military tends to favor conditions where it can go in, provide technical assistance or logistics support, and then get out quickly. This can be problematic as this approach rarely considers the long-term management implications of military infrastructure projects for the civilian population. For instance, in Somalia, the U.S. military deployed its own engineers and support troops to rebuild roads and other infrastructure at a time when Somalis desperately needed jobs. But, the military was not interested in hiring Somalis because it wanted to complete the mission quickly and feared that involving "untrained" locals would unnecessarily prolong the reconstruction efforts (Aall, 1996). Similarly, Mockaitis (2004, p. 17) recalls an incident in Kosovo where an American officer forced a solution over what color to paint a youth center, "leaving the NGO to spend the next month sorting out the mess." He (Mockaitis, 2004, p. 17) concludes that the strong desire on the side of military actors to solve problems often creates more problems and that "the line between 'can do' and 'bull in a China shop' is small indeed." These examples confirm the conclusion that the military's approach is focused on short-term, non-participatory, and decisive action and primarily informed by security rather than by the long-term development considerations that shape the operational activities of many civilian activities (Gourlay, 2000).

Military units, by their very nature, are trained to respond to and operate in a "low context culture" relying on directives, specific orders, and standard operating procedures that are communicated clearly down the hierarchy. This stands in stark contrast to the "high context" cultural and operational requirements of complex emergencies where nonverbal signals, family or tribal status, age, gender, or ethnic differences, or social roles and expectations carry a lot of meaning. The concepts of low and high cultures were first articulated by anthropologist Edward Hall (1976) in his theory of cultural differences which assumes a strong linkage between culture and communication. Interactions and communication in a given culture are determined by the social context in that culture, i.e., the network of social expectations that shape a person's behavior.

Effective peacebuilding requires a thorough intercultural understanding and an enduring commitment that ranges from a stabilization of the post-conflict situation and the normalization of relations between adversaries through confidence building measures to the creation of a stable political order and sustainable democratic relations (Jeong, 2005). International organizations and NGOs whose mandate includes conflict resolution, reconciliation, reconstruction, and nation building typically take a "high-context" long-term approach to peacebuilding in order to establish "structures which will tend to strengthen and solidify peace in order to avoid relapse into conflict" (Bouthros-Ghali, 1995, p. 32).

Organizational Structures and Operational Differences

The organizational structures of peacekeeping forces and NGOs are typically polar opposites. Command structures in the military are centralized and vertical with clear and well-defined lines of authority flowing hierarchically from top to bottom. The chain of command is typically structured so that it can respond quickly and promote fast and efficient decision-making. Decisions typically include finite deadlines and mission specific rules of engagement that guide the entire operational structure from senior decision-makers to the behavior of soldiers on the ground (Rubinstein, 2003; Beauregard, 1998). By contrast, the organizational structure of most NGOs is horizontal and fluid based on a consensus-approach and allowing for considerable decision authority left to field operatives. Relief and development agencies commonly promote participatory and collaborative working relationships that presuppose informal management and the ability to quickly adjust objectives and activities to sudden changes in civilian needs. Overall, Jeong (2005, p. 217) finds, "the efficiency of small NGOs depends on a minimum administrative overhead without the necessity of a formal management structure. In the areas of development and civil society building, hierarchical structures with links to central headquarters are less effective at developing appropriate local strategies."

Humanitarian agencies, especially smaller ones, in part because of constraints of size and resources, do not usually strive for "unity of command" but rather for what Rubinstein (2003) has termed "camaraderie of command." Instead of the common modus operandi of highly bureaucratized organizations that assign well-defined tasks and responsibilities to individuals, the more fluid structures of many NGOs require all to "contribute their efforts and expertise whenever and wherever these are needed, regardless of the structural definition of their position" (Rubinstein, 2003, p. 39).

In addition, observers point to organizational differences in terms of resource availability and usage and accountability and transparency. The military's ability to mobilize massive resources and deploy significant numbers of personnel to anywhere virtually overnight has become the envy of many humanitarian organizations that often experience difficulty finding the necessary number of qualified staff to deploy. In their work, humanitarians are widely accountable to donors, private constituents, and their beneficiaries and, therefore, tend to favor transparency even in relation to belligerents. For the military, transparency is obviously limited by national security interests and accountability is more limited to their respective defense ministries and parliaments. Minear et al. (2000), for instance, recount an incident during the Kosovo operation, where Saudi Arabian peacekeepers had opened a hospital for treatment of civilians but had, on grounds of military secrecy, refused to share epidemiological data with health care professionals from civilian aid agencies.

Operating Principles and Normative Foundations

The normative foundations underlying stability operations are reflected above all in the laws of war, especially the 1949 Geneva Convention and its Two Additional Protocols of 1977, representing the international community's attempts to humanize war. The International Red Cross (ICRC) specifies that: "Measures are humanitarian if they meet the principles of neutrality, impartiality and independence. Aid measures that do not do this are not humanitarian, regardless of any well-meaning intentions and their effectiveness" (quoted in VENRO, 2003, p. 3). In theory, humanitarian aid is supposed to reach all victims of crises and disasters and is aimed at saving lives and mitigating human suffering. As such, it is to be administered impartially and unconditionally without discrimination on the grounds of race, religion, sex, age, nationality or political affiliation. It is also to be administered neutrally without any political agenda. Impartiality and neutrality are indispensable for ensuring access by aid organizations to the "victims" on all sides of the conflict (Gourlay, 2000; Weiss, 1999). Given this very general understanding of these principles, the scope and nature of legitimate action remains open-ended and at times ill defined, thereby complicating peacebuilding efforts, especially in situations where relief workers operate without permission of local or national authorities.

Traditionally, the military has been designed for pursuit of national political interests, to accomplish governmental objectives through the use of force. As such, military action is always political in nature. Military missions are legitimized through the political process, but ideally also by reference to international law and broad-based international support. As a result, legitimacy is much more confined. For instance, peace operations authorized by the United Nations Security Council clearly specify the scope of the mandate and the nature of legitimate action (e.g., the supply of food, medicines, shelter, and health care for disaster victims). The rules of engagement provided to forces on the ground operationalize the mandate further and very specifically instruct soldiers on appropriate and inappropriate courses of action (see Rubinstein, 2003).

Impartiality is also a fundamental organizing principle for the military in providing humanitarian assistance. For peacekeepers, the Handbook on United Nations Peacekeeping Operations (2003, p. 167) specifies, "impartiality may mean that all parties to a conflict are treated in the same way based on international law and Security Council resolutions and that sanctions may be imposed or enforcement action taken against spoilers. For humanitarian staff, however, impartiality means that emergency life-saving assistance and protection be provided to the needy civilian population, regardless of politics." Tactically, the Handbook (UN, 2003, p. 167) explains further, "peacekeepers may, on occasion, need to keep a particular faction at arm's length or under sanction (for example, for violation of a Security Council resolution). At the same time, it may be tactically important for humanitarian staff to maintain close dialogue with the same faction to ensure access to civilians under their control. Strategically, in places of active conflict or where access is contested, it is critical for humanitarian workers to be able to reach beneficiaries regardless of how the peace process evolves" (UN, 2003, p. 167).

This brief description of the cultural, organizational, and operational differences elucidates the dilemma inherent in stability operations: Effective peacebuilding and post-conflict reconstruction aimed at building a stable and lasting peace requires the cooperation between civilian and military actors. Yet, the effectiveness of humanitarian efforts hinge largely on the ability of the civilian element to remain impartial, neutral, and independent, while the military component is politicized, relying on the consent of the parties involved. Gourlay (2000, p. 35) conjectures that "when levels of consent among the local population run low or the military is perceived as a party to a conflict, civil-military relationships become strained and civilian humanitarians distance themselves from the military." During NATO's military action in Kosovo, for instance, virtually the entire humanitarian community left the battlefield as the air campaign began, and some attempted to actively distance themselves from the political context of the NATO operation. Medicins Sans Frontiers, for instance, decided not to accept funding from NATO states (Gourlay, 2000; Minear et al., 2000).

Effective peacebuilding requires a unity of effort and a coherent response from civilian and military actors alike. Nevertheless, irrespective of how long a conflict endures the civilian population must be provided basic protection including humanitarian aid. Clearly, stability operations in response to complex emergencies present significant challenges and humanitarian and peacebuilding efforts may at times be at odds. Effective peacebuilding becomes a management challenge on the ground that requires civilian and military, as well as local and international actors to work together, anticipate differences that may arise, attempt to avoid conflicting approaches, communicate clearly, share information and undertake common analysis, and, in a best-case scenario, agree on a strategy. How can this be accomplished?


In general, most relief and stability operations are characterized by an ad hoc and oftentimes improvised response to an immediate humanitarian need. There is typically little time for organized advanced planning and coordination, especially in terms of bringing together civilian and military actors, so the need arises for improved a priori coordination and preparation. Despite the fundamental differences in structure and approach to peacebuilding between civilian and military actors, there is also clear evidence that training, institutional socialization, and shared experiences through collaboration on the ground can help to bring these actors together and facilitate effective and meaningful cooperation (Mockaitis, 2004; Gourlay, 2000; Minear et al., 2000).

One strategic approach to civil-military cooperation in stability operations is to carefully create a division of labor based on the comparative advantages of civilian and military elements. For the military, these include the ability to provide security, lift and other logistic capacity, a strong sense of discipline, and the ability to get things done. The comparative advantage of humanitarian organizations are in their technical expertise, experience in working together with other civilian actors, knowledge of the region and established relationships with the local community, and a longer-term commitment to the people and their institutions.

Utilizing a comparative advantage approach, the purpose of military action during stability operations is to complement rather than compete with the work of humanitarian relief organizations. More specifically and in order of priority, Gourlay (2000) suggests the military should first and foremost foster a climate of security for the civilian population and humanitarian organizations. This would include controlling violence generated by military opposition or between organized military formations--but not controlling riots and civilian disturbances for which peacekeepers are not well suited--and providing protection for the relief effort. Second, military contingents should support the work of civilian humanitarian agencies by providing technical or logistical support, assistance on the reconstruction of basic infrastructure (water, power, roads), and security-related support tasks such as demobilization and demining. Finally, and only in rare circumstances should the military provide direct assistance to those in need. As the analysis has demonstrated, this is the most contested area as it runs the risk of politicizing and militarizing humanitarianism. However, it can also be a very effective measure to improve the popularity of the military and garner support of the local population, thereby aiding the achievement of the mission objectives.

Regardless, in order to avoid jeopardizing the humanitarian mission objectives, attempts should be made to minimize politicization of the humanitarian effort. This could be accomplished in some missions by a national division between providers of relief and humanitarian services and those engaged in the use of force (Minear et al., 2000). Of course, the more complex the emergency and the more extensive the relief support from the international community, the less viable this suggestion becomes. Alternatively, the deployment of a standing rapid reaction or peacebuilding force that does not rely on emergency--or crisis-specific contributions from states and that operates under international command--such as the UN Stand-by Forces High Readiness Brigade (SHIRBIRG)--could also de-politicize CIMIC in complex emergencies (Minear et al., 2000; Gourlay, 2000).

In 1996, Aall (1996) concluded her analysis of civil-military interaction in peacebuilding with the recommendation that humanitarian operations should form a key part of training of the armed forces. In November 2005, recognizing the growing importance of peacebuilding missions, the U.S. Department of Defense issued Directive 3000.05 elevating stability operations to "core U.S. military missions" and giving it "priority comparable to combat operations." Calling for the incorporation of stability operations into "military training, exercises, and planning, including intelligence campaign plans and intelligence support plans" (Department of Defense, 2005, p. 9), the directive specifies the need to identify stability operations capabilities and assess their development; develop stability operations joint doctrine in consultation with relevant U.S. departments and agencies, foreign governments and security forces, international organizations, NGOs, and members of the private sector; provide annual training guidance specific to stability operations capabilities; and develop curricula at joint military education and individual training venues for the conduct and support of stability operations.

As stability operations increase in number and complexity, it is important for militaries and humanitarians alike to develop a joint understanding of their roles and functions and to improve interagency and inter-force cooperation before and during operational deployments. A first step in achieving this at the military level would be for NATO members to adopt NATO's CIMIC doctrine and to foster a common understanding about capabilities, limitations, roles, and missions of CIMIC units and personnel during the operational phase of peacebuilding and reconstruction missions. Effective peacebuilding requires sharing strategic and operational responsibility among participating forces. Closer examination of the KFOR mission which divided Kosovo into five multinational brigade (MNB) areas, each under command of a different lead nation, may provide lessons for best practices in multinational stability operations with respect to the internal operations of the armed forces, interaction with local populations and among international organizations, NGOs, and other militaries and in terms of prioritizing among relevant peacebuilding activities (see Heinemann-Gruder and Pietz, 2004; Mockaitis, 2004; Minear et al., 2000).

Socialization and training would not only help civilian and military actors alike to prepare for their respective responsibility, but would also sensitize members of each community to each other and build the skills for effective and quick improvisation on the ground, thereby simultaneously building mutual respect for and more effective utilization of "humanitarian" and "military space" (Gourlay, 2000). Improved cooperation and coordination among the actors can help to also overcome mission-impeding negative perceptions of the other side. Specifically, cooperation should include cultural sensitivity training intended to foster greater understanding for the differing organizational structures and cultures. This could be achieved, for instance, through internship programs and staff exchanges and the creation of common training and guidepost manuals describing the roles and functions, the values and capabilities, and the organizational structure and chain of command of multinational or UN forces, including details on military culture, fundamental principles of peacekeeping operations, mission responsibilities, rules on the use of force, and applicability of international law to UN troops. The manuals should contain similar descriptions for NGOs including details on varying operational and organizational structures, chain of command, decision-making procedures, culture and ideology, specializations, fundamental principles, operational responsibilities (see Beauregard, 1998).

Apart from recommendations pertaining to the planning and pre-operation phases, it is also important to improve coordination mechanisms in the field. Core operational CIMIC tasks include communication, interagency coordination, information exchange, and outcomes assessment (see Gourlay, 2000). Implied in these core functions is, of course, a focus on empowering local and international humanitarian support agencies so they can facilitate a complete transition of responsibility to civilian authorities and organizations.

Preparation for a successful transition is perhaps the most crucial objective of effective peacebuilding. Aiding this process necessitates civil affairs training at all levels encouraging a broad based understanding of the CIMIC purpose and of mission-specific requirements. Improving operational decision-making involves decentralizing command and control and granting officers in charge on the ground more authority and responsibility to make ad hoc decisions. Effective peacebuilding, the experiences in the former Yugoslavia and in Afghanistan and Iraq demonstrate, demands a "high context" approach from civilian and military actors alike. This, in turn, requires extensive knowledge and understanding of the emergency or conflict context and continuity of effort. Depending on the mandate and structure of a stability operation, different mechanism may ensure optimal coordination on the ground, but a joint operations center or civil-military coordination cell could provide valuable logistics and coordination support for developing contingency plans and procedures for distribution of aid, separation of the conflicting parties, return of refugees and other pressing decisions.

A number of observers have suggested that the presence of units of civilians or reservists with civilian skills made collaboration easier, as it helped bridge the cultural gaps between the military and civilian relief providers and also to the local population (Mockaitis, 2004; Minear et al., 2000). Due to their transferable civilian skills, reservists may indeed be better prepared for undertaking CIMIC duties than combat-trained fulltime professional soldiers. In addition, to address the issue of lack of institutional memory as a result of frequent personnel rotation schedules, it may be beneficial to extend military deployments to more than the typical 6-12 months duration and to limit rotations to ensure consistency and continuity and build trust with NGOs and locals. In a recent analysis of U.S. stability efforts in Iraq, Fallows (2005, p. 70) concluded
 The career patterns of the U.S. military were a problem. For family
 reasons, and to keep moving in rank, American soldiers rotate out
 of Iraq at the end of a year. They may be sent back to Iraq, but
 probably on a different assignment in a different part of the
 country. The advisor who has been building contacts in a village or
 with a police unit is gone, and a fresh, non-Arabic-speaking face
 shows up.

Counterinsurgency manuals usually emphasize the need for long-term personal relations. Obviously, it is impractical to advocate that entire units remain in place for extended periods of time--especially if they are composed largely of reservists who may resist longer-term assignments--but it might be possible to specifically train civilians alongside the military to function as CIMIC liaisons and ask them to remain in place for extended periods to provide continuity and operational consistency. This could also create an important stability interface in the relationship between the peacekeepers and the local population and between military and civilian aid providers.

More specific recommendations pertain to the use of civil-military reconstruction teams (CMRTs), especially as this might help enhance the security of relief workers and improve the effectiveness of CIMIC in post-conflict reconstruction. The experiences in Kosovo and Afghanistan have demonstrated the importance and effectiveness of Provincial Reconstruction Teams, but the discussion has also revealed the shortcomings of this concept. To avoid a blurring of the lines, CMRTs should implement humanitarian assistance only in emergency situations. Should CMRTs, however, be required to engage in non-security activities, their focus should be on rehabilitation of government infrastructure, capacity-building at the local level, and security sector reform rather than on initiatives that infringe on or duplicate traditional humanitarian work such as the provision of health care or education. Military forces ought to recognize the need to clearly demarcate themselves from civilian actors. As such, military personnel should at all times wear uniforms and travel in clearly marked vehicles. All CMRT personnel should receive extensive CIMIC training prior to deployment (including clearly articulated mandates and objectives) that sensitizes them to area and culture specific mission objectives and, more generally, to the dangers confronted by civilian aid workers when the lines between civilian and military spheres become blurred.

Effective CIMIC must be based upon regular and frequent consultations among government stakeholders, military officials, local communities, intergovernmental institutions, and IGOs and NGOs. Some observers have even argued that reconstruction teams should be "owned" by local communities and the central government so the local population will have decisive influence over the design and direction of the operation (Sedra, 2004). Effective CIMIC should be civilian-lead--most PRTs in Afghanistan are currently military-lead--in order to provide greater operational and policy coherence by establishing a single focal point for coordination and reinforce the democratic principle of civilian control over military forces.

Finally, effective CIMIC should include plans for developing a viable exit strategy. The greatest difficulty of CIMIC operations, Gourlay (2000, p. 43) acknowledged, "relates to the implementation of these exit strategies in the absence of the construction of alternative civilian structures." The ultimate goal of post-conflict reconstruction is the transfer of political authority to indigenous authorities. Effective CIMIC in stability operations must take into account the political context of the mission and aim at creating acceptable, legitimate, representative, just, and stable institutions that bring about and can sustain a peaceful political transition.

Contemporary peacebuilding is inherently political, often rendering a clear demarcation between humanitarian and political activities neither possible nor fruitful. While separating military and civilian elements in stability operations may be impossible, careful training sensitizing civilian and military relief providers to the cultural, organizational, operational, and normative differences will be an important step in enhancing interagency coordination to achieve the shared mission objectives that inform peacebuilding and post-conflict reconstruction.


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Table 1: Factors Affecting Civil-Military Cooperation

 NGO Military

Cultural --non-violent --management of violence
 --long-term --short-term, quick-impact
 --high-culture --low-culture
 --transparent --limited transparency

Organizational --decentralized --centralized
 --fluid --hierarchical
 --horizontal --vertical
 --wide accountability --narrow accountability

Operational --"camaraderie of --unity of command
 command" --directive and coercive
 --participatory --clearly defined rules of
 --often vague scope of engagement
Normative --neutral --politically legitimated
 --impartial --partial
 --independent --mandate-dependent
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Author:Franke, Volker
Publication:International Journal of Peace Studies
Date:Sep 22, 2006
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