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39. Civil Military Relations

1.1 What civil-military relations are

1.2 Civil-military relations and international humanitarian law

1.3 Civil-military relattions in the context of natural disasters

CARE’s new policy framework for relations with military forces was approved by the CI Board in June 2009. Download the full policy framework for complete details.

Key points stated in the policy framework include:

  • The humanitarian and military actors have fundamentally different institutional thinking and cultures, and the two groups have different mandates, competencies objectives and modus operandi, which should not be confused.
  • CARE’s decisions about how it interacts with the military should always be consistent with its principles and obligations. There are five organisational principles (described in more detail further below) that are central in defining CARE as a non-governmental organisation engaged in humanitarian action.
    • Distinction
    • Humanitarian imperative
    • Safety and security of staff
    • Impartiality
    • Consultation
  • Humanitarian principles constitute the core basis for CARE’s ability to work safely and effectively in conflict. While the threats confronting aid agencies are manifold, the safety and security of CARE’s staff, programmes and beneficiaries is contingent on CARE’s neutrality, impartiality and independence from military operations. Inappropriate interactions or the perception of blurred lines between humanitarian and military actors can undermine aid agencies’ acceptance among local populations and parties to the conflict as well as increase the level of insecurity. The unintended negative consequences of associations between aid programmes and military forces can outweigh any short-term benefits.
  • CARE also recognises that military forces have obligations related to humanitarian assistance and protection of civilian populations, as established by international humanitarian law and customary law. Under certain circumstances, the military may provide assistance or support relief operations. In such contexts, military involvement in relief operations should always respect the principle of distinction between military and humanitarian operations.
  • CARE will strive to develop joint approaches with other aid agencies to civil-military relations.

Based on best practice and core principles identified by the wider humanitarian sector, the implementation of CARE’s policy on civil-military relations should be structured around the following guidelines.

3.1 Minimum criteria

3.2 Operating principles

3.3 Organisational obligations

3.4 Preparedness

3.5 Coordination and joint approaches

3.6 Funding associated with military actors and military objectives

This section draws on the article by Johanna Grombach Wagner, ICRC, entitled An IHL/ICRC perspective on ‘humanitarian space', at:

African Civil-Military Coordination (ACMC) Programme, at the African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes.

Atkinson, P & Leader, N 2000. The ‘Joint policy of operation' and the ‘Principles and protocols of humanitarian action' in Liberia. Overseas Development Institute.

Bradbury, M, Leader, N & Mackintosh, K 2000. The ‘Agreement on ground rules' in South Sudan, Overseas Development Institute

Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue 2004. Humanitarian negotiation: A handbook for securing access, assistance and protection for civilians in armed conflict.

Glaser, MP 2005. Humanitarian engagement with non-state armed actors: The parameters of negotiated access. Overseas Development Institute.

Guidelines for relations between U.S. armed forces and non-governmental humanitarian organizations in hostile or potentially hostile environments. INTERACTION, US Institute of Peace and US Department of Defence.

OCHA Civil-Military Coordination Section (CMCS) is a specialised unit of OCHA that acts as a focal point in the humanitarian community for relations with the military, and mobilises military and civil defence assets to assist in the delivery of humanitarian assistance.

Wheeler, V & Harmer, A (eds) 2006. Resetting the rules of engagement: Trends and issues in military-humanitarian relations. Overseas Development Institute.