3. Applying the policy in practice

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.

The minimum criteria for interacting with the military that should be considered are:

  • Alternative civilian options have been explored first.
  • Sufficient information exists to assess how such interactions will affect CARE and other aid agencies’ acceptance among the local population and other belligerents, the security of our personnel, and the protection of local partners and beneficiary communities.

Cooperation with military forces does not lead to CARE operations being manipulated to support or associate with human rights violations.

The following basic operating principles should be adhered to:

  • Independence of decision-making: CARE functions as an independent humanitarian agency and does not serve the agenda of governments, political groups or military forces. CARE International will only work with a military force after concluding that we are able to retain independence of decision-making.
  • Impartiality of action: CARE will respond on the basis of humanitarian needs and will not allow its humanitarian assistance to be directed according to political or military objectives.
  • Transparency of communication: CARE will be honest with all parties about relations with military forces and will distinguish itself from those forces at all times.
  • Humanitarian operations should fall under civilian leadership.

Organisational objectives must abide by:

Consideration of the above will involve asking the following questions:

  • How will a certain level of cooperation with a military force enhance CARE’s ability to reach people in need of assistance?
  • Will it enhance or compromise staff security?
  • Are there potential negative consequences arising from the proposed involvement?
  • Will that level of cooperation allow CARE to work in a manner consistent with its operating principles?

Civil-military relations issues are best addressed at the CO level in the context of wider planning and management processes relating to CO strategy (for example, LRSP), emergency preparedness, conflict sensitivity, and staff safety and security. Given the role typically assumed by military forces in disaster response, civ-mil should figure in all CARE CO emergency preparedness plans (EPP), including in countries that are not currently conflict-affected. The scope for joint aid agency approaches to civil-military relations should also be explored in the course of preparing EPPs.

Managing civil-military relations should be considered at different levels of CARE, including:

  • CO field staff considers the risks and responsibilities of interacting with armed actors. Relevant training (for example, negotiation skills) and clear management guidance on CO strategy and policy should be conducted
  • Country Director and relevant geographic/programme managers should guide CO-level policy implementation
  • Relevant CO support staff (for example, Conflict or Security Officers) are involved in analysis and monitoring of policy implementations
  • CARE International Lead Members provide guidance and oversee CO management responsibilities
  • Information is shared and coordinated for advocacy purposes with other CARE International Members.

Interactions or strategies pursued by any single humanitarian agency regarding parties involved in a conflict can affect the wider humanitarian community. Behaviour in one conflict can set examples for future conflicts. For this reason, CARE strives to develop joint approaches with other aid agencies at country and international levels.

CARE supports the implementation of the core principles and guidelines of the following:

  • Code of Conduct for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and NGOs in Disaster Relief (Annex 39.2)
  • Inter-Agency Standing Committee 2008. Civil-military guidelines & reference for complex emergencies (generic template, which can be adapted into country-specific guidelines if required) (Annex 39.3)
  • Oslo Guidelines on: The Use of Military and Civil Defence Assets in Disaster Relief, 2006 (covering natural, technological and environmental emergencies) (Annex 39.5)
  • MCDA 2003. Guidelines on the use of military and civil defence assets (MCDA) to support United Nations humanitarian activities in complex emergencies (Annex 39.4)
  • UN guidelines on Use of military or armed escorts for humanitarian convoys, 2001 (Annex 39.6).

In line with CARE’s policy regarding humanitarian leadership, the coordination and decision-making on humanitarian action should lie with civilian institutions that have humanitarian expertise. UN OCHA’s role in promoting respect of the above guidelines, and representation and coordination of humanitarian agencies, is key in this regard. OCHA staff will often include Civil-Military Coordination (CMCoord) Officers who lead this work. The OCHA CMCoord Officer will typically convene regular meetings between the relevant UN or other military actors and humanitarian agencies at a neutral, third-party location. Where appropriate, CARE and other NGOs may consider requesting OCHA’s assistance in representing humanitarian agencies’ concerns to the military.

Donor governments use their aid budgets to pursue their wider national security or foreign policies. For this reason, CARE needs to exercise caution in relation to funding or other relief goods that are associated with military or security institutions or objectives. In general, CARE members and country offices should not accept funding from ministry of defence institutions or funding streams, or from military operations deployed at the field level, unless authorization to do so has been received by the appropriate lead member in consultation with the CI Secretariat. This policy encompasses defence agency budgets associated with civil-military relations and assistance-related tasks. It also applies to the budgets allocated to specific military forces for quick-impact projects and other forms of assistance. Military forces also occasionally offer military goods, including food and non-food items, to be used as part of a humanitarian response. In general, CARE needs to adopt a cautious approach; balancing the humanitarian needs of crisis-affected populations with the potential consequences of using such items. In such contexts, CARE should advocate for and seek funding from aid channelled through civilian institutions, such as bilateral or multilateral donor agencies. In all cases, CARE should emphasise the importance of civilian control over humanitarian, recovery or development aid funding.

When considering funding, the following criteria must be adhered to:

  • CARE is not being prevented from accessing, or otherwise being directed away from, vulnerable or affected populations.
  • CARE is able to respond on the basis of its own independent assessment of humanitarian need.
  • CARE would not be required to perform humanitarian tasks within or on behalf of a military command structure.
  • CARE would not be perceived to support the military or political objectives of any party: this should be interpreted to preclude acceptance of funding from civilian donor institutions in cases where security, geopolitical or other non-humanitarian interests are the primary desired outcome (for example, counter-terrorism operations).
  • CARE would not need to depend on the protection by military forces in a way that would negatively change others’ perception of CARE’s independence and impartiality.
  • CARE would not expose its staff on the ground to unacceptable risk or insecurity.