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Trends and challenges in humanitarian civil–military coordination


Written by Victoria Metcalfe-Hough


In crisis contexts, principled civil–military coordination is critical to protecting humanitarian principles and, therefore, ensuring an effective humanitarian response.

Despite the fact that humanitarian organisations and militaries increasingly operate in the same environments, there is limited analysis in existing literature of how their relationship functions in practice. In particular, there is little analysis of how the relationship has been affected, in operational terms, by the changing nature of conflicts and the development of more integrated approaches to international interventions.

This literature review is part of an HPG project entitled ‘Civil–Military Coordination: The Search for Common Ground’. This two-year research and public-affairs project explores how recent global developments have affected the relationship between military and humanitarian actors, with the aim of facilitating more effective and principled collaboration to support better humanitarian outcomes for crisis-affected populations.

This paper identifies key trends emerging from the literature on civil–military coordination in conflicts and natural disasters. It deals with the interaction between international humanitarian and international or foreign military actors operating in crisis contexts, and offers some reflections on the relationship between national military actors and the international humanitarian community.

Victoria Metcalfe, Simone Haysom and Stuart Gordon