News | Jan. 1, 2016

Interorganizational Cooperation—Part II of III: The Humanitarian Perspective

By James C. McArthur, Andrew J. Carswell, Jason Cone, Faith M. Chamberlain, John Dyer, Dale Erickson, George E. Katsos, Michael Marx, James Ruf, Lisa Schirch, and Patrick O. Shea

Lieutenant Colonel James C. McArthur, USMC, is Chief of the Doctrine Division on the Joint Staff. Mr. Andrew J. Carswell is Senior Delegate to the U.S. Armed Forces for the International Committee of the Red Cross. Mr. Jason Cone is an Executive Director for Médecins Sans Frontières USA. Lieutenant Colonel Faith M. Chamberlain, USA, is a Civil-Military Affairs Officer at the Department of State. Mr. John Dyer is Senior Security Advisor at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. Mr. Dale Erickson is a Fellow in the Center for Complex Operations, Institute for National Strategic Studies, at the National Defense University. Colonel George E. Katsos, USAR, is a Doctrine Strategist on the Joint Staff. Mr. Michael Marx is a Senior Advisor for the United Nations (UN) Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Mr. James Ruf is a Senior Advisor at the U.S. Institute of Peace. Dr. Lisa Schirch is Director of Human Security at the Alliance for Peacebuilding. Mr. Patrick O. Shea is a Regional Executive for the American Red Cross. Significant contributions were also provided by Ms. Kelly Mader, Program Specialist at the U.S. Institute of Peace, and Mr. Andres Romero, Humanitarian Representative for Médecins Sans Frontières USA.

Recent observations from U.S. military involvement in major combat operations in Iraq, counterinsurgency in Afghanistan, and humanitarian assistance in the United States, Haiti, and West Africa provide critical lessons for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to consider for future joint force development.1 This article is the second in a three-part series on interorganizational cooperation and focuses on the humanitarian perspective. In it, we demonstrate how one particular challenge can adversely impact people, the commonality of purpose, and organizational processes, namely, the difficulty in achieving a reciprocal mutual understanding of other organizations when seeking cooperation.2 The following comments from a humanitarian organization executive, made primarily to a military audience at a conference organized by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), summarizes the challenge:

I’d like to read you a paragraph from Joint Publication [JP] 3-57 explaining civil-military operations: “The activities of a commander that establish, maintain, influence, or exploit relations between military forces, governmental and [civilian nongovernmental organizations (NGOs)] . . . and the neutral or hostile operational area in order to facilitate military operations, to consolidate and achieve U.S. objectives.” . . . Such words leave me nervous. They leave all of us . . . nervous. This mutual understanding is important to us. While . . . we may not believe in a unity of purpose, we think that the . . . unity of understanding would be closer to the reality.3

While this issue eventually was addressed in the 2013 revision of JP 3-57, Civil-Military Operations, the comments articulate the concerns that humanitarian organizations have with being exploited by military forces and losing the ability to operate safely, as well as the importance of having their equities correctly reflected in U.S. military joint doctrine.4

This article features external viewpoints of engagement with the U.S. military from international organizations (IO) with regional influence, such as the United Nations (UN) and NATO, state-aligned intergovernmental organizations (IGOs), NGOs with single or multiple mandates, and treaty-based organizations such as the components of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement,5 all hereafter referred to as “humanitarian organizations.” The first article identified interagency challenges in working with the U.S. military.6 Here, we argue that the inclusion of humanitarian perspectives in joint doctrine would inspire increased candor and cooperation by humanitarian organizations. The final installment of this series will examine existing joint doctrine solutions that could be used to mitigate issues raised by interagency and humanitarian perspectives. The following sections resume the use of the first article’s themes and integrate lessons learned to demonstrate the value that humanitarian organizations place on trustworthy relationships cultivated between “people” when building an effective “process” in pursuit of a shared and meaningful “purpose.”

Eye exam conducted as part of U.S. Southern Command–sponsored and U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet-conducted Continuing Promise 2015, August 4, 2015 (U.S. Navy/Kameren Guy Hodnett)

Eye exam conducted as part of U.S. Southern Command–sponsored and U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet-conducted Continuing Promise 2015, August 4, 2015 (U.S. Navy/Kameren Guy Hodnett)

People: Understanding Those Who Get Things Done

Mindful communication among people opens doors. In operational spaces, communication could be hampered if there is a lack of respect sensed by either humanitarian or military personnel during an engagement. When U.S. military personnel interact with civilian humanitarian volunteers, aid workers, and staff (hereafter referred to as “humanitarian workers”), an appreciation of the four humanitarian principles—humanity, neutrality, impartiality, and independence (table)—will help facilitate a respectful environment. 7 These principles were formally preserved in two UN General Assembly resolutions and adopted by humanitarian organizations.8 For reference, the U.S. military also follows its own set of time-tested principles of joint operations (table) captured in joint doctrine (objective, offensive, mass, maneuver, economy of force, unity of command, security, surprise, simplicity, restraint, perseverance, and legitimacy).9

Table. Comparison of Humanitarian and U.S. Joint Military Principles

These 12 principles were formed around the 9 traditional principles of war, with 3 additional U.S. military principles (restraint, perseverance, and legitimacy) relevant to how the U.S. military uses combat power across the conflict continuum, from peace to war.10 These two sets of principles arguably guide two vastly different purposes, with the former intended for impartial relief of human suffering and the latter intended to inform development of a military force for socially sanctioned violence. Understanding differences in each can help set realistic expectations when interaction between the two does occur.

Despite a fundamental incongruity of principles, humanitarian workers and military personnel do in fact have many characteristics in common: willingness to take risks to serve a higher purpose, a culture of doing, the desire to be part of a team, pride in accomplishment, and strong moral commitment. Regardless of these traits, however, the benefit for mutual understanding of the other’s approach is derived from a desire for positive outcomes on the affected population and the achievement of organizational goals. The success of communication between armed forces and humanitarian organizations, therefore, is dependent upon mutual respect, awareness of the perceptions created by interaction, an understanding of the parameters of information-sharing, and a reconciliation of terminology.

Mutual Respect. While introductions are important, the first step in cooperation is to call people what they call themselves. For U.S. military personnel, failure to accurately identify humanitarian organizations may create unnecessary barriers in shared operations spaces. Like the U.S. military, humanitarian organizations insist upon distinctions among themselves. For example, U.S. military personnel are taught to refer to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), and national Red Cross societies, such as the American Red Cross (ARC), as either NGOs or IGOs. Although captured in joint doctrine as such, these organizations do not fall under either of these titles. Rather, they are well-recognized, treaty-based organizations founded in international law; the ICRC originated more than 150 years ago, and the IFRC, supported by 189 national societies, including the ARC, was founded nearly 100 years ago.11

Perceptions. For humanitarian workers, access to populations in need—and the ability of those populations to obtain life-saving humanitarian assistance—is the highest priority. The unintended consequence of military involvement in civilian tasks or in working with the civilian population may be an erosion of the perceived distinction between humanitarian workers and military personnel. This in turn may result in threats to civilian beneficiaries and humanitarian workers, and may reduce local civilians’ trust in relief organizations. With the exception of the ICRC and other specified organizations mandated to work with armed forces and nonstate armed groups throughout an armed conflict, visible interaction between humanitarian organizations and the U.S. military ideally occurs only under exceptional circumstances of insecurity or inaccessibility.12 A former head of a humanitarian organization provided his experience in a speech about Afghanistan: “Our claim to act independently from our countries of origin, who are so politically and militarily-engaged, is naturally met with strong skepticism by local actors, especially by those hostile to the international intervention.”13

Humanitarian organizations in Afghanistan expressed concern that coalition forces were occasionally failing to distinguish themselves from the civilian population by driving white civilian vehicles that appeared similar to those used by humanitarian organizations, as well as by wearing civilian clothing. They were also alarmed by the fact that Provincial Reconstruction Teams sometimes placed themselves in civilian concentrations, despite the fact that they may consequently endanger the surrounding population.

Based on global information flow, humanitarian assistance in one part of the world may impact perceptions in another. For example, a humanitarian organization seen as working closely with U.S. forces in a natural disaster response in one country may impact perceptions of the humanitarian neutrality of that organization’s activity in a different country affected by armed conflict. U.S. military personnel who are not aware of these perception issues may unknowingly impede the mission of humanitarian organizations.

Information-Sharing. Information-sharing and real dialogue are the foundation of effective civil-military cooperation. Neutral humanitarian organizations are willing to share select information focused on achieving humanitarian goals such as protection of civilians, but not information that might provide a military advantage to any party to an armed conflict. In certain environments, humanitarian organizations share information to deconflict civil and military efforts and to address the security of the local population. However, they will never share sensitive information that endangers human lives or compromises their own impartiality and neutrality.

In many cases, humanitarian organizations will have been operational on the ground prior to the introduction of the U.S. military and can thus provide important information that is normally not available through military channels. This includes historical perspectives on the situation at hand, local cultural practices and political structures, the security situation as it pertains to the protection of civilians, and the role and capabilities of the host nation government. Nevertheless, it is important to respect the neutrality of humanitarian organizations and to avoid creating the perception that they are part of an intelligence-gathering mechanism.14

Reconciling Terminology. The use of certain sensitive terms may complicate discourse or cause unnecessary tension within professional relationships, resulting in discord. For example, U.S. military use of the terms partnership and force multiplier when categorizing humanitarian organizations may undermine neutrality. Where partnership is used to describe cooperation with humanitarian organizations, it implies collusion with a political instrument of the state. Humanitarian organizations also strongly object to being called a force multiplier by the military, as the term implies a loss of organizational identity, neutrality, and independence through incorporation into a greater military body.15 One comment by then–Secretary of State Colin Powell is illustrative of this problem and generated the following response from a humanitarian organization:16

In 2001, no less than Colin Powell proclaimed “NGOs are such a force multiplier for us, such an important part of our combat team.” Even more unhelpful, humanitarians have been labeled as sources of information. It should be obvious to you in the military that if we are part of your team, if we are on your side, if we are providing you with information, if we are advancing towards the same goals as you, then we fall directly into the crosshairs of the other side. It’s nothing personal, but we can’t afford this sort of unity.17

The term humanitarian assistance may also be problematic. The UN defines humanitarian assistance as material or logistical assistance provided for humanitarian purposes, typically in response to humanitarian crises, with the primary objective of saving lives, alleviating suffering, and maintaining human dignity.18 The U.S. Government recognizes humanitarian assistance in Federal law as assistance “meeting humanitarian needs.”19 Joint doctrine, however, separates that term into foreign humanitarian assistance20 to define a broad set of activities outside the United States and defense support of civil authorities for domestic activities.21 Reconciling terminology is therefore a key element of positive civil-military cooperation.

U.S. military personnel should expect to encounter communication challenges during their interactions with humanitarian workers. Adopting common terms of reference for outreach to humanitarian organizations is therefore essential. Joint military personnel and humanitarian worker participation in training and exercises is a proven method for heightening awareness, building trust, and increasing the effectiveness of coordination in actual emergencies. Through mutual promotion of better understanding of their respective mandates, roles, and responsibilities, both communities can appreciate each other’s strengths and communicate more effectively, thereby lessening the need for their respective leaders to direct collaboration.22

Purpose: Understanding Goals and Agendas

Humanitarian organizations and the U.S. military ultimately share one overarching goal—that of changing a current condition. When effective coordination takes place, the vital needs of affected populations can be addressed more swiftly and comprehensively. The most critical aspect of effective coordination between these two bodies is context. Relationships and coordination mechanisms vary depending on the type of crisis, ranging from natural disaster response to other needs created by armed conflict and situations of violence. While the U.S. military is deployed as an arm of American foreign policy and seeks a political outcome, most humanitarian organizations are devoted solely to ameliorating the conditions of vulnerable populations.23 The core of the humanitarian mandate is to save lives and reduce human suffering, without regard to external political, economic, or military objectives.

Core Principles. As stated, humanitarian organizations are bound by the principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality, and independence. These principles are derived from international law and are the best defense against claims of favoritism by the parties to armed conflict and other situations of violence.

Humanity is the umbrella term for the imperative to prevent and alleviate suffering wherever it may be found.24 Neutrality means that humanitarian organizations must not take sides. They are more likely to call for and make use of military assets in nonconflict humanitarian environments because the operational implications of such cooperation are less acute. A strict notion of neutrality that fosters and maintains universal trust also requires humanitarian organizations such as the ICRC to interact in good faith with all parties to a conflict, including armed nonstate actors where relevant.25 Impartiality requires humanitarian organizations to protect and assist the victims of armed conflict and other situations of violence without discrimination as to nationality, race, religious beliefs, class, or political opinions. They must endeavor only to relieve suffering, giving priority to the most urgent cases of distress. Impartiality is also rooted in the practical need to engender the acceptance of all communities and warring parties, including criminal gangs, rebel militias, and so-called terrorist groups. As stated by a humanitarian organization executive:

It may surprise you . . . that we have no principled objection to military units delivering aid as part of the war effort. We don’t have any principled objection to aid being part of hearts and minds campaigns . . . [but] such aid should not be attached to the term humanitarian.26

In addition, humanitarian workers and their actions should be operationally independent from political and military personnel and actions. By virtue of its specific mandate, the ICRC maintains independence in decisionmaking and action while at the same time consulting bilaterally and confidentially with all parties to an armed conflict regarding their obligations under the Law of Armed Conflict and other relevant international laws.27 One of the many painful lessons from the conflict in Iraq was that violent fringe elements of a local population do not necessarily make such a distinction. This led to the targeting by insurgent groups of foreign nationals working for humanitarian organizations.28

Humanitarian Mandates and National Interests. During armed conflict, humanitarian organizations and the military often struggle to coordinate with each other due to different mandates and goals. In Iraq, many humanitarian organizations refused to collaborate with U.S. or coalition forces. They passionately debated the moral and ethical dilemmas of following U.S. troops into a war zone when the conflicts were considered “wars of choice” based on national interests. Some were willing to deploy based on objective humanitarian interests; others were deterred by the political overtones of the conflict.

Tsunami relief in late 2004 around the Indian Ocean rim was largely a positive story. The U.S. military responded to requests from humanitarian organizations for transportation and did not seek to take charge of activities on the ground. Humanitarian workers appreciated that the U.S. military provided such valuable support while permitting them to take the lead in the relief operation.

Time Horizons. Balancing relations in shared operational spaces with or without a shared purpose requires additional effort when different time horizons are involved. Humanitarian organizations provide a range of assistance, from short-term humanitarian aid to longer term development assistance to establish food security, education, health care, and agriculture systems. Single-mandate humanitarian organizations may undertake only short-term emergency humanitarian missions. In contrast, multimandate humanitarian organizations may respond to emergency humanitarian crises as well as to longer term issues of poverty, human development and social justice (also known as development assistance).29 In contrast to long-term development activities, U.S. military deployment is understood to be short term, goal oriented, and task identified, and will transition based on an exit strategy informed by political objectives. Humanitarian organizations are generally of the view that the U.S. military should not take part in the business of long-term development. When short-term military goals are paired with frequent military staff turnover, cooperation with humanitarian organizations becomes even more challenging.

One major role expected of the U.S. military is to enable more permissive environments for humanitarian organization activities through the restoration of order and security. Among the many potential humanitarian tasks, U.S. military personnel can best contribute through infrastructure support and indirect assistance. Infrastructure support focuses on reestablishing critical humanitarian infrastructure, such as restoring or building bridges, clearing roads, and rehabilitating air and sea ports. Indirect assistance focuses on facilitating the delivery of relief supplies, including logistics, transportation, and the purification and provision of water. However, direct assistance, such as the handing out of food or nonfood items, is best provided by humanitarian organizations, preferably those that have established relationships within local communities.

When a natural disaster occurs within a lethal or uncertain environment (that is, when a military force can be deployed), understanding the context of the emergency is key to establishing and working within humanitarian coordination mechanisms. In 2014, for example, the NGO Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières) publicly called on UN member states that possessed biological threat response capacity to assist in the response to Ebola-affected countries in West Africa.30 This was an unusual public request from a humanitarian organization that deliberately keeps a distance from military and security agendas to protect its independence in nonpermissive environments. In this case, however, meeting urgent medical needs outweighed the requirements to maintain distance from military personnel.

Process: Understanding Mechanisms and Bureaucracies

Even in the absence of shared objectives between the U.S. military and humanitarian organizations, there is a need on both sides to navigate organizational cultures and bureaucracies to identify commonalities to meet their own internal organizational goals. Adequate logistics support and tactical airlift requirements, such as helicopters and short-takeoff and -landing aircraft, are two areas that challenge humanitarian organizations. Some larger organizations such as the UN and ICRC do maintain an independent logistical capacity both to maintain their self-sufficiency and to preserve the public perception of their independence. The IFRC accepted an offer to use national military assets such as helicopters to evacuate the victims of a major earthquake in Pakistan, as well as an offer to use military ground escorts in West Africa to support the emergency medical evacuation of a suspected Ebola-infected staff member. However, these activities were conducted as a last resort, when no other means were available.31 Reconciling the bureaucratic systems of military and humanitarian organizations requires an understanding of institutional funding, decisionmaking, and work methodologies.

Funding. The U.S. military is funded by the U.S. Government with taxpayer money. Preplanned budgets or emergency contingency funds with congressional limitations are dictated by the overall objectives of the U.S. Government. Fiscal constraints in times of sequestration or ramp-downs can be addressed through interorganizational cooperation on various levels of planning and execution. In contrast, humanitarian organizations have four basic funding sources: private donors, foundations, corporations, and governments, including that of the United States. Some of these organizations have more reliable revenue streams than others and can predict their funding levels further into the future.

Large well-established organizations that regularly receive money from foundations, corporations, or governments tend to have more reliable revenue streams than smaller ones. In particular, the latter group is more susceptible to economic downturns and donor fatigue.32 Additionally, organizations that focus on providing humanitarian assistance as part of crisis response may have uneven funding streams because they receive most of their funding only when disaster strikes.33 Regardless of donations received, humanitarian organizations will often be subject to donor pressures to comply with special requirements such as staff hiring and geographic location.34 Because banking has transformed from a centralized institution-to-institution process to a decentralized and individually managed system, the ability to gain donations or transfer funds directly to projects around the world has increased exponentially.35 Nevertheless, the increase of government funding channeled bilaterally, instead of through a multilateral coordination mechanism such as the UN, brings donors closer to operational decisionmaking and to coordination and negotiation with implementing organizations.36

Decisionmaking. The organizational structures of the U.S. military and humanitarian organizations such as NGOs are typically polar opposites. Command structures in the military are centralized and vertical, with clear and well-defined lines of authority flowing hierarchically from top to bottom. The chain of command is structured so that it can respond quickly and promote fast and efficient decisionmaking. In comparison, most NGO organizational structures are horizontal, fluid, and reliant upon a consensus-based approach, leaving considerable decision authority to field staff to adjust to sudden changes in humanitarian needs.37

Issues including a lack of transparency and an inability to access the U.S. military’s decisionmaking and information-sharing processes can create tension between the U.S. military and humanitarian organizations. The broad mission set and needs of the U.S. military make it difficult for humanitarian organizations to identify key points of contact that can speak with authority. Some organizations, such as the ICRC, employ former military officers to bridge the communication gap. In situations where the U.S. military is a supporting organization, it must manage expectations on processes, procedures, and structures. Commanders cannot assume that humanitarian organizational decision cycles will coincide with their own, but they must understand a humanitarian organization’s requirements well enough to anticipate when and how to best engage. Along with coordination centers, steering groups, and old-fashioned social interaction, the use and inclusion of qualified liaisons are important to facilitate interorganizational cooperation.38

Methods of Work. In the future, U.S. military participation in humanitarian activities is likely to involve support to humanitarian workers who are already in place. Upon deployment, there is a propensity by the U.S. military to design a separate system or structure to address an issue rather than identify what already exists and use that forum. As the U.S. military is generally eager to set up coordination mechanisms quickly, the functions of these structures are often duplicative, and their actual usefulness is questionable. Although there is recognition of the need for a more unified approach to crisis management, it appears that the various entities involved may hold different—indeed, opposing—viewpoints as to what form coordination should take.39

Humanitarian organizations such as local, regional, national, and international NGOs are loosely categorized into three different areas or mandates of purpose: humanitarian (providing food and medicine), development (building social and economic institutions), and peacebuilding (stability activities rebuilding governmental infrastructure). Some are characterized by a mix of these mandates and do not consider humanitarian aid and development assistance as incompatible.40 However, when humanitarian relief is delivered by the U.S. military as the first responder on the ground, it may not be perceived as productive, as captured in a 2010 report on the Haiti earthquake:

During the initial days of the response, the U.S. military provided humanitarian aid directly to communities in the absence of NGOs and the UN because of the overwhelming needs. . . . While this flexibility was important at that time, direction and required action need to be more specific as a response evolves. This type of humanitarian assistance is not a usual role for the military and requires specific humanitarian expertise such as registration systems, needs-based allocation of aid to avoid social and economic disruptions, and proper targeting of relief to at-risk populations. This led to missions such as food airdrops in urban settings, which can cause rioting, and the establishment of [internally displaced person] camps without clear support of the local authorities and other partners.41

While some humanitarian organizations raised concerns about the prioritization of flights allowed to land at the Port-au-Prince airport soon after the earthquake, most accepted U.S. military activities as critical to the overall response.

Understanding organizational structures, proactively coordinating, and looking for opportunities to share in the decisionmaking process are the cornerstones of successful interaction. In a natural disaster, the most efficient coordination may be realized through collocating military personnel and humanitarian workers in the same operational facility. This allows for real-time interaction and communication, effective task division based on identified needs and available assets, and joint planning that responds to both emergent needs and the transition of military assets away from the operational area. In an armed conflict or a complex emergency, where military personnel may be a party to the conflict or be perceived as siding with combatants, humanitarian workers may not want to be closely associated with the military and may prefer to have as little visible interaction as possible. While joint operations between humanitarian workers and military personnel will not normally be acceptable, some degree of information-sharing is required to ensure that military operations do not negatively impact access to populations in need and the effectiveness of humanitarian action.

The U.S. Government has also proposed coordination solutions in recent years. The Humanitarian Policy Working Group was initiated to build upon strong existing humanitarian assistance capabilities. Part of this initiative is the Good Humanitarian Donorship, an informal donor forum and network that every 2 years agrees on an agenda that will inform policy discussions. Additionally, the U.S. Civil-Military Working Group facilitated by the U.S. Institute of Peace brings together U.S. government civilian and military departments and international humanitarian organizations to coordinate and inform each other of relevant issues. Similarly, the United Kingdom’s NGO-Military Contact Group is a platform for humanitarian organizations, the military, and the government to discuss issues and enhance mutual understanding.

At the global level, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) determines strategies for humanitarian response and serves as the secretariat for the Consultative Group for Humanitarian Civil-Military Coordination, which focuses on bringing together humanitarian organizations and militaries under the framework of the Asia-Pacific Conferences on Military Assistance to Disaster Relief Operations. Other such working groups and voluntary organizations exist across the IGO humanitarian landscape as well. The UN Inter-Agency Standing Committee, for example, is a unique strategic interagency forum for coordination, policy development, and decisionmaking.42 Lastly, the UN cluster system provides operational and tactical coordination and decisionmaking structures to enhance humanitarian response capacity, predictability, accountability, and partnership.43

MH-60S Seahawk from “Golden Falcons” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 12 delivers relief supplies in support of Operation Damayan in response to aftermath of Super Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda, Republic of the Philippines, November 17, 2013 (U.S. Navy/Peter Burghart)

MH-60S Seahawk from “Golden Falcons” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 12 delivers relief supplies in support of Operation Damayan in response to aftermath of Super Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda, Republic of the Philippines, November 17, 2013 (U.S. Navy/Peter Burghart)


As U.S. military personnel engage in diverse humanitarian aid or relief operations, their efforts are more effective when coordination is grounded in trust-based relationships. When required, the U.S. military should operate only in support of humanitarian efforts. Additionally, it should serve in a lead role only as a last resort and in extremis. U.S. forces can best be used in logistical support when no humanitarian capability exists and where infrastructure is damaged or destroyed. Commonly required military assets may be identified by various planning tools such as the gap-fit analysis matrix developed by the Consultative Group for Humanitarian Civil-Military Coordination. When the U.S. military does participate in humanitarian activities, its leadership should enhance existing coordination mechanisms by assigning qualified liaisons to all relevant organizations, including Humanitarian Military Operations Coordination Centers in natural disaster responses coordinated by UNOCHA.

Both humanitarian workers and military personnel benefit from enhanced understanding of the respective roles and missions of each. Joint training, participation in exercises, and input into the doctrine and guidance of each assist in establishing mutual understanding, trust, and rapport. Although some situations may involve unavoidable friction with the military, humanitarian organizations can ultimately derive benefit to their own goals by becoming more involved in the development of U.S. military joint doctrine. As a matter of routine, deconfliction of roles and mutually efficient operations can be improved only when all parties have a clear institutional understanding of the mandates, objectives, and methods used by others who operate in the same space. It may be time to bridge humanitarian and U.S. military joint operations principles through a new principle reflected in policy and joint doctrine: unity of understanding.

The third and final installment of the Interorganizational Cooperation series will extract issues identified from previous articles. It will then review existing joint doctrine that can be used to address those issues as well as suggest new potential doctrinal solutions. JFQ


1 Elizabeth Young, “Decade of War: Enduring Lessons from a Decade of Operations,” PRISM 4, no. 2 (March 2013), 122.

2 Decade of War, Volume 1: Enduring Lessons from the Past Decade of Operations (Suffolk, VA: Joint and Coalition Operational Analysis, 2012).

3 Speech by Christophe Fournier, “Our Purpose Is to Limit the Devastations of War,” Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders, December 8, 2009, available at <>.

4 Joint Publication (JP) 3-57, Civil-Military Operations (Washington, DC: The Joint Staff, September 11, 2013), GL-6.

5 Humanitarian Civil-Military Coordination: A Guide for the Military (Geneva: United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs [UNOCHA], July 2014), 12.

6 James C. McArthur et al., “Interorganizational Cooperation I of III: The Interagency Perspective,” Joint Force Quarterly 79 (4th Quarter 2015).

7 UNOCHA, “OCHA on Message: Humanitarian Principles,” available at <>.

8 UN General Assembly resolutions 46/182 and 58/114, “Strengthening of the Coordination of Humanitarian Emergency Assistance of the United Nations,” available at <> and <>.

9 JP 3-0, Joint Operations (Washington, DC: The Joint Staff, August 11, 2011), I-2.

10 Ibid., A-1–A-5.

11 The difference within the Red Cross movement is that the International Committee of the Red Cross provides humanitarian protection and assistance in primarily armed conflicts and other situations of violence, whereas the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies coordinates the efforts of national societies to provide humanitarian assistance primarily in disaster relief and public health. National Red Cross/Red Crescent Societies such as the American Red Cross generally operate as auxiliaries to their national governments.

12 Alison Lawlor, Amanda Kraus, and Hayden Kwast, Navy-NGO Coordination for Health-Related HCA Missions: A Suggested Planning Framework (Alexandria, VA: CNA, November 2008), 70.

13 Lynn Lawry, Guide to Nongovernmental Organizations for the Military (Washington, DC: Department of Defense, 2009), 374.

14 Joint Publication 3-08, Interorganizational Coordination (Washington, DC: The Joint Staff, 2014), 52.

15 Lawlor, Kraus, and Kwast, 73.

16 Colin L. Powell, “Remarks to the National Foreign Policy Conference for Leaders of Nongovernmental Organizations,” in September 11, 2001: Attack on America—A Collection of Documents, part of the Avalon Project: Documents in Law, History and Diplomacy, Yale University Law Library, available at <>.

17 Fournier.

18 Jean-Marie Guéhenno, United Nations Peacekeeping Operations Principles and Guidelines (New York: UN, 2008), annex 2, 95.

19 Public Law 113-76, Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, 113th Cong., 2nd sess., September 4, 1961, as Amended Through Public Law 113-76 § 499 (January 17, 2014), 160.

20 JP 3-29, Foreign Humanitarian Assistance (Washington, DC: The Joint Staff, July 31, 2013), ix.

21 JP 3-28, Defense Support of Civil Authorities (Washington, DC: The Joint Staff, July 31, 2013).

22 Young, 136.

23 Lawry, 201.

24 Thorsten Volberg, “The Politicization of Humanitarian Aid and its Effect on the Principles of Humanity, Impartiality and Neutrality” (Master’s thesis, Institute of International Law Studies), 52, available at < politicizationofaid.pdf>.

25 JP 3-08, 228–229.

26 Fournier.

27 JP 3-08, 228–229.

28 Ellen B. Laipson, “Can the USG and NGOs Do More? Information-Sharing in Conflict Zones,” Study in Intelligence 49, no. 4 (2005), available at <>.

29 Hugo Slim and Miriam Bradley, Principled Humanitarian Action and Ethical Tensions in Multi-Mandate Organizations: Observations from a Rapid Literature Review (Monrovia, CA: World Vision, March 2013), 4.

30 Statement of Joanne Liu, “MSF International President United Nations Special Briefing on Ebola,” Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders, September 2, 2014, available at <>.

31 UNOCHA, Guidelines on the Use of Foreign Military and Civil Defence Assets in Disaster Relief—Oslo Guidelines, Rev. 1.1, November 2007, available at < Oslo%20Guidelines.pdf>.

32 Lawlor, Kraus, and Kwast, 68.

33 Ibid.

34 Lawry, 44.

35 Ibid., 85.

36 Volberg.

37 Volker Franke, “The Peacebuilding Dilemma: Civil-Military Cooperation in Stability Operations,” International Journal of Peace Studies 11, no. 2 (Autumn/Winter 2006), 15, 38.

38 Interorganizational Coordination: Insights and Best Practices Focus Paper (Suffolk, VA: Joint and Coalition Operational Analysis, July 2013), 1, 11, 17–18.

39 Meinrad Studer, “The ICRC and Civil-Military Relations in Armed Conflict,” International Review of the Red Cross 83, no. 842 (June 2001), 122.

40 Slim and Bradley, 16.

41 Debarati Guha-Sapir et al., Independent Review of the U.S. Government Response to the Haiti Earthquake (Final Report) (Washington, DC: U.S. Agency for International Development, March 28, 2011), 71.

42 JP 3-08, B-D-1.

43 Ibid., IV-27.