Members Login

Civil-Military Interaction

 U.S. servicemembers, a Civil Affairs team, Salvadoran military and villagers from El Sauce help unload a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter, assigned to Joint Task Force-Bravo, Nov. 17 near El Sauce, El Salvador (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Chad Thompson)



'Civil-Military interaction’ refer to the complex dynamic between civil society and military actors during humanitarian and development efforts. The relationship is often one of necessity as many civil society actors work in hostile environments and rely on protection from local or external military organisations and units to ensure they can continue their work. Often military forces perceive the provision of aid and economic development as the ultimate objective of state-building through stabilisation, while aid agencies view military efforts as short-term and lacking a true developmental perspective and understanding of humanitarian principles. Furthermore, while there are numerous benefits to these two groups working together during humanitarian efforts, problems may arise and aid agencies can lose their perceived neutrality and become targeted by hostile groups if this relationship is not managed properly. The field of civil-military interaction seeks to understand and improve on collaborative efforts between these two organisations, and this section of NDRF provides a wealth of information and new initiatives that have been set up to this end.

Frameworks and Guidelines

General Resources

 Frameworks and Guidelines:

UN Humanitarian Civil Military Coordination (UN CMCoord)

The UN Humanitarian Civil Military Coordination (UN CMCoord) is a framework that enhances a broad understanding of humanitarian action, and guides political and military actors on how best to support that action. It underscores the importance of coordination of operations as a shared responsibility. Its main publication is the ‘civil-military guidelines and reference for complex emergencies’, which guides professionals through international law, and standards and principles, to assist both actors to interact with their respective operations. The publication is essential for high-risk environments in order to protect civilians, coordinate humanitarian actions and ensure the security of aid workers. The role of UN-CMCoord is invaluable in avoiding competition, minimising inconsistency, and when appropriate, pursuing common goals between these actors.

Civil-Military Guidelines and Reference for Complex Emergencies

The Sphere Project: Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Humanitarian Response

The Sphere Project is an internationally recognised initiative which aims to define and uphold standards and principles for humanitarian response. Sphere intends to unite humanitarian agencies on issues of accountability and improve the quality of assistance to affected populations. In its handbook, the Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Humanitarian Response, it dedicates ‘core standard two’ to coordination and collaboration of civilian-military relations. Sphere places importance on guidelines which give precedence to humanitarian agencies leading the main response operations, with military institutions being in the service of these agencies - this is to minimise security risks and keep humanitarian aims separate from military or political agendas. Sphere notes that information-sharing is a key part to developing humanitarian good practice and partnerships should be for the benefit of humanitarian aims.

Sphere Handbook

Guidelines on the use of Foreign Military and Civil Defence Assets in Disaster Relief

The Oslo guidelines aim to establish teh basic framework for formalising and improveing the effectiveness and efficiency of the use of foreign military and civil defence assets in international disaster relief operations. Types of foreign military support include air, land and sea survey and assessment, reconnaissance of the disaster zone, search and resue, evacuation, provision of relief services, engineering, communications, logistical and medical support. The guidelines set out the concepts of complementarity and last resort.

Oslo guidelines

 General Resources:

Asia-Pacific Regional Guidelines for the Use of Foreign Military Assets in Natural Disaster Response Operations

January 2014

These Guidelines have been developed between regional Member States and organizations who have gained invaluable experience and lessons learned in deploying and receiving military assistance when answering to international disaster response requests. There is recognition among these parties that military capacities in Asia-Pacific countries are often the first capabilities offered and make a valuable contribution in responding to regional natural disaster emergencies. There is also growing recognition among regional countries of the importance in fostering stronger civil-military and military-military collaboration in responding efficiently and effectively to these disasters.

These Guidelines are a reference guide for Member States who plan and execute foreign military support for international disaster response, as well as humanitarian entities, in order to establish the basic framework for the effective and efficient use of foreign military assets in international disaster response operations in the Asia-Pacific region. These Guidelines should be read in complement and conjunction with the Guidelines on the Use of Foreign Military and Civil Defence Assets in Disaster Relief (better known as the “Oslo Guidelines”). 

Asia Padific Regional Guidelines for the use of foreign military assets in natural disaster response operations

United Nations Civil-Military Coordination Officer Field Handbook

This Field Handbook is designed to assist the Humanitarian UN-CMCoord Officer in the performance of the key tasks identified in the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) endorsed UN Humanitarian CMCoord Concept. It assumes a solid working knowledge of the United Nations structure and the roles of the various funds, agencies and programmes in humanitarian response. It focuses on the essential dialogue and interaction between civilian and military actors in humanitarian emergencies that is necessary to protect and promote humanitarian principles, avoid competition, minimize inconsistency, and when appropriate pursue common goals. Basic strategies range from coexistence to cooperation. Coordination is a shared responsibility facilitated by liaison and common training.

United Nations Civil-Military Coordination Officer Field Handbook