Small Wars Journal

Country Civil-Military Guidelines: REHASH, REFOCUS, or SHRED?

Sun, 11/30/2014 - 12:04pm

Country Civil-Military Guidelines: REHASH, REFOCUS, or SHRED?

Dr Edwina Thompson

Executive Summary

What is the purpose of civil-military guidelines?  Who are the authors and their intended audience?  What is the extent of their readership?  How can they help practitioners improve humanitarian outcomes?  These were the kind of questions asked of more than 200 field personnel over a nine-month period for this investigation into the utility of the current set of multi-agency, country-specific civil-military guidelines (‘the Guidelines’).

At least seven sets of specific guidance have been developed to facilitate civil-military cooperation in complex environments (Afghanistan, DRC, Haiti, Iraq, Liberia, Sudan; Pakistan in process).  Based in large part on a number of agreed, non-binding international guidelines and subsequent revisions, practitioners and policy-makers within United Nations (UN) missions and humanitarian aid organisations instigated the development of more specific country guidance from 2006 to 2010.  Today, however, the utility of the existing Guidelines is yet to be fully demonstrated and the degree to which they have made a difference ‘in practice’ is still unclear.

The study relied predominantly on the inputs of those who currently operate in the countries covered by the Guidelines.  The interview sample included peacekeepers from different Troop Contributing Countries (TCCs), regional and host nation troops, officials from the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) Best Practice Section and Office of Military Affairs, Red Cross delegates, NGO operational staff, local people, and practitioners within the UN’s Civil-Military Coordination (CMCoord) section.  Towards the end of the research, two workshops were conducted in Australia, where key civilian, police and military practitioners (including members of the Civil-Military Task Force – CMTF) considered the interim findings.

Certain assumptions were made about people’s exposure to the Guidelines and their content.  It was anticipated that while awareness was likely to be low, people would find the substance relevant if they could see how it might apply to their day-to-day work.  Therefore, where an interviewee did not possess specific knowledge of the Guidelines, the researchers weaved applicable portions of the content into discussions, and helped relate their experience to it. 

The research was divided into a desk-based study and intensive interviews conducted both in the field and at various HQ locations.  Chapter 1 lays out the results from the comparative textual review of the background, purpose and scope of the current Guidelines, while Chapter 2 outlines the key findings from the interviews.  Various best practices are identified, followed by a consideration of the inherent limitations to the Guidelines, and an investigation into the reasons behind the low level of uptake and awareness among the various stakeholders – military (regional, UNPKO-led, US and host nation), UN (OCHA and UN humanitarian agencies), NGOs (international and local) and the local community – in complex environments.  Chapter 3 provides a brief conclusion followed by some more detailed recommendations to help guide the future direction of written guidance in the civil-military space.

Continue on for the full study.(pdf)

About the Author(s)

Dr Edwina Thompson has spent 15 years working as a humanitarian practitioner or applied academic in complex environments - from South Central Somalia, Sudan, the DRC and Sri Lanka to Papua New Guinea, Pakistan, Haiti and Afghanistan - and has supported teams remotely in their difficult negotiations at the CIV-MIL interface.  Edwina was one of a three-member international team that revised the international Steering Committee for Humanitarian Response’s Guidelines on Humanitarian-Military Relations. In her role as Director of Beechwood International she has worked on peacebuilding, security sector reform and humanitarian projects with non-Western governments such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea and Lebanon (in relation to Syria) and with Western governments on defining what ‘smart power’ looks like in relation to fragile states.  Earlier in Edwina’s career, she worked for Amnesty International and the Red Cross in refugee case management, and in 1998, she joined the British Royal Navy as a Reserve Officer.