Chapter 15

Chapter 15

Civil–military coordination

15.1      In this chapter, the committee focuses on the notion of civil–military cooperation (CIMIC). It identifies where the military and civilian sectors are working well together; where there are impediments to effective coordination; and how they could be reduced or removed.

15.2      The committee has placed a greater emphasis on CIMIC rather than the broader government and non-government sector because most of the evidence before the committee discussed issues of coordination and cooperation through a CIMIC paradigm. The committee understands that, historically, the military has been the major contributor to peacekeeping and that many of the models that are used in a peacekeeping setting derive from military culture. The committee is mindful that examining issues of coordination and cooperation through the concept of CIMIC does not facilitate a discussion of alternative approaches. It does, however, allow the committee to analyse in detail an important aspect of the relationship between the government and non-government sectors in a peacekeeping operation.

15.3      The concepts of civil–military cooperation and coordination have received increased attention in recent years. At the international level, the UN's civil–military coordination (CMCoord) doctrine focuses on facilitating the humanitarian mission in a militarised environment and creating mutual understanding between the military and civilian components of an operation.[1] The concept of humanitarian civil–military coordination used by the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC)[2] is consistent with that used by the UN Civil–Military Coordination Section. It defines this concept as:

The essential dialogue and interaction between civilian and military actors in humanitarian emergencies that is necessary to protect and promote humanitarian principles, avoid competition, minimize inconsistency, and when appropriate pursue common goals. Basic strategies range from coexistence to cooperation. Coordination is a shared responsibility facilitated by liaison and common training.[3]

15.4      In contrast to the UN CMCoord, which emphasises 'shared responsibility', civil–military cooperation (CIMIC) tends to look at cooperation from a military perspective.


Importance of CIMIC

15.5      Although the military and civilian components of a peacekeeping operation have been working side by side for many years, the increasing levels of interaction between them have underlined the significance of civil–military coordination. The growing awareness of the importance of coordination has produced a body of thought, which is still evolving, on CIMIC. The central concern of CIMIC is with establishing and maintaining a constructive relationship between the military and civilian sectors.

15.6      CIMIC is often referred to as a 'force multiplier', but there are a number of significant difficulties in achieving effective coordination.[4] The UN civil–military officer field handbook notes that problems with coordination extend to, among other things, security, medical evacuation, logistics, transport, communications and information management. It states further:

The challenges include such issues as ensuring that humanitarians have the access they require, but at the same time do not become a target. Other challenges include minimizing the competition for scarce resources such as ports, supply routes, airfields and other logistic infrastructure.[5]

15.7      The failure to establish effective and appropriate civil–military relations not only creates inefficiencies but can also have more serious consequences for the mission.[6] Thus, in complex missions, militaries need to be able to do more than just generate combat power. To avoid duplication of efforts, prevent wasting energy and resources, and to promote the safety and wellbeing of all, both military and humanitarian workers need to ensure that their activities are complementary. The committee now examines the ADF's approach to CIMIC.


Defence CIMIC Doctrine

15.8      The Department of Defence recognised that the military 'seldom brings success in its own right'. It acknowledged the importance of coordinating activities with humanitarian aid agencies, including AusAID and NGOs:

Such planning can ensure military efforts do not cut across carefully planned NGO campaigns. Conversely uncoordinated NGOs' goals and actions can unwittingly contribute to a conflict or compromise the desired security of a mission.[7]

15.9      Defence has formulated its own Defence Civil–Military Cooperation Doctrine and procedures. These are designed to assist in planning and implementing ADF missions within the wider civilian context. Defence is of the view that the current procedures, which focus on role definition, planning and consultation, meet its objectives for peacekeeping operations. It acknowledged, however, that 'to the extent that these procedures can produce greater cooperation in mutually securing respective ADF and civilian goals, there may be some benefit in further alignment with UN procedures'.[8]

15.10         Major General Ford explained that the term 'civil–military cooperation' developed from a military background. He noted that it has been 'seen as the way the military gets other organisations to work with it' and how it makes sure that NGOs 'do not interfere' with military operations.[9] Even so, in his view, ADF CIMIC doctrine tended to be more encompassing in reality:

Certainly we still run CIMIC [cooperation] courses in the Australian Defence Force rather than civil–military coordination courses. Having said that...generally the discussion is much more integrated than the name and the background of that term ‘CIMIC’ suggests.[10]

15.11         Even so, according to Major General Smith, Austcare, there is a difference in approaches to CIMIC. For example, in the view of NGOs, ADF's approach to CIMIC tends to be: ‘How can we work with civilian agencies to achieve our military mission?’ He explained that the UN focus is on 'civil–military coordination rather than on cooperation'. He suggested that while there may only be a name difference, 'the definition is very different'.[11]

15.12         AusAID considered that, while reflecting different perspectives, both the UN and the ADF approaches to civil–military interaction were appropriate:

In essence, the UN doctrine approaches CIMIC from the civilian direction while the ADF approaches CIMIC from the military side. Both are complementary and allow for each group to establish operating arrangements (from coexistence to cooperation) appropriate to the entire range of hostile, potentially hostile, or stable environments encountered.[12]

15.13         Nonetheless, while recognising the importance of the ADF aligning its activity with its military mission, AusAID also noted that the ADF should remain cognisant of the broader picture in order to provide NGOs with 'the space and independence they need to operate'.[13] It stated further that, 'More gains could be made in terms of joint conceptualisation, joint planning and joint preparations, including work on joint doctrine or policy'.[14] In the context of 'continuous improvement', it was of the view that there was room for improvement in 'closer doctrine and policy settings and in recognising the separate but overlapping contributions' by both sectors.[15]

15.14         World Vision Australia observed that ADF's processes in developing its approach to CIMIC had been inclusive: the ADF were developing their policy for civil–military engagement, engagement with NGOs over the development of that policy seemed crucial to them and it seemed crucial to us as well, because it gave us both a better understanding of the space in which we work and how we can operate more effectively in the field.[16]

15.15         ACFID also reported a good relationship with the ADF in relation to CIMIC functions.[17]

15.16         In contrast, Austcare expressed concern about the appropriateness of the ADF's approach to CIMIC. It argued that the Defence CIMIC doctrine is focussed on the ADF's role and ensuring that civil–military relations facilitate the ADF missions.[18] In its view, the ADF needs to go further:

...and be prepared to share and adjust its doctrine to accommodate the views of key civilian agencies, or risk criticism of being unable to reflect civilian requirements. The adoption of CMCoord doctrine would obviate this dilemma.[19]

15.17         It recommended that the ADF and the AFP align their CIMIC doctrine and procedures with those of the UN, 'thereby ensuring a uniform standard based on UN experience'.[20]

Committee view

15.18         The committee recognises that the failure to establish effective and appropriate civil–military relations not only creates inefficiencies but can have more serious consequences for missions.[21] The ADF has developed a CIMIC doctrine to assist it to plan and implement ADF missions in the wider civilian context. A number of NGOs reported that the ADF's approach to CIMIC was appropriate. AusAID agreed but was of the view that 'in the context of continuous improvement', there was scope for improvement. Defence indicated that there may be some benefit in further aligning their doctrine with UN procedures to achieve greater cooperation between ADF and NGOs in meeting their respective objectives. Austcare went further to suggest that the ADF should adjust its CIMIC doctrine to accommodate civilian requirements. In light of the evolving nature of CIMIC and the suggestion that ADF's doctrine could be improved, the committee believes that an ADF review of its CIMIC doctrine would be timely.

Recommendation 15

15.19         The committee recommends that, in consultation with AusAID and ACFID, Defence review its civil–military cooperation doctrine, giving consideration to identifying measures to improve coordination between the ADF and the NGO sector when engaged in peacekeeping activities.

15.20         The committee recommends further that Defence include a discussion on its CIMIC doctrine in the upcoming Defence White Paper as well as provide an account of the progress made in developing the doctrine and its CIMIC capability in its annual report.

15.21         It should be noted that the AFP now forms an important part of the security contingent in complex peacekeeping operations, and its relations with NGOs are important. Professor Raymond Apthorpe and Mr Jacob Townsend commented that it 'might be worth attempting to lead a progressive conceptual shift from CIMIC (civil–military cooperation) to CIMPIC (civil–military–police cooperation)'.[22] Both the AFP and AusAID saw merits in this proposal, though they were concerned that recognition must be given to the different roles of these groups and any such doctrine should not compromise their core functions.[23] The committee also sees value in this proposal to consider the police component in developing CIMIC doctrine.

Recommendation 16

15.22         As part of this review process, the committee recommends that, in consultation with AusAID and other relevant government agencies and ACFID, Defence and the AFP consider the merits of a civil–military–police cooperation doctrine. The consideration given to this doctrine would be reflected in the committee's proposed white paper on peacekeeping.

15.23         A most important factor when considering CIMIC doctrine is how well it works in practice. In developing and implementing its CIMIC doctrine, the ADF and government as a whole should start by looking at the early stages of a peacekeeping operation.


Planning at pre-deployment level

15.24         As noted previously, NGOs remain largely outside the formal structure for conceiving and planning peacekeeping operations. There is no standing or formal whole-of-government mechanism for government agencies and NGOs to consult at the strategic planning phase. The UN CMCoord states quite clearly that 'to ensure all issues are given adequate attention and to facilitate timely direction, coordination should take place at the highest possible level'.[24] Some witnesses were critical of the lack of planning between government and NGOs at this strategic level.

15.25         Major General Smith, Austcare, was of the view that 'it is too late to commit to an operation and then expect NGOs to magically fit into whatever template' might have been decided. He argued that 'The earlier that representatives of NGOs can be brought into this planning process, the better it will be'. For example, based on his own experience as an ADF peacekeeper in East Timor, he considered that INTERFET would have benefited from better coordinated planning:

The mistake that I made—and it was a total lack of training and understanding—was in relation to the humanitarian dimension of that operation. There was a clause in the mandate that said that INTERFET would conduct humanitarian operations within force capabilities. Had I been educated about the way the UN works, I would have immediately organised with the incoming humanitarian coordinator being deployed to East Timor to arrive in Australia for discussions with General Peter Cosgrove to ensure that the humanitarian plan had been sorted out in advance. As it was, it took 10 days on the ground before the humanitarian coordinator and the INTERFET commander actually got their humanitarian plans in sync. They were actually very, very divergent. That is an example of the sort of cooperation that I think needs to go on in planning and preparation.[25]

15.26         He advised the committee that he was unaware of any current mechanism, 'where the NGO community, AusAID and Defence come together in any type of planning way for any of these crises.' In his view, the situation should be addressed.[26] Overall, Austcare noted that more needed to be done to improve Australia's 'whole-of-nation' effectiveness. It stated that post-mission reports have 'repeatedly indicated a failure of adequate civil–military preparation and planning'.[27] Austcare suggested that AusAID take a greater role in facilitating a common understanding of such doctrine and procedures among Australian NGOs.[28]

15.27         ACFID, the peak organisation for Australian humanitarian NGOs, stated that its engagement with the ADF is limited compared to that with other federal departments:

Looking out to the next decade the one area that strikes us as being a bit weak, given how effective the dialogue is with AusAID and how it is emerging with the AFP as well, is having an informal dialogue with the ADF in the way we do on a variety of other issues with other agencies.[29]

15.28         According to ACFID, there were advantages to be gained through better dialogue between the military and civilian sectors and from NGOs having a better understanding of the way the ADF plans and prepares for operations. In particular, Mr Paul O'Callaghan, ACFID, saw benefits in further discussion on 'issues to do with protection, humanitarian space and capacity building', and in preparing for the transitions from short-term, security-focussed phases of operations to longer-term reconstruction tasks.[30]

15.29         AusAID also commented on the importance of collaborative strategic planning. In its view, 'Defence planners and task force commanders and their staff need to be aware of the overall peacemaking and peacebuilding agenda and how best to interact with them'. It proposed that by working closely with Defence at the headquarters level, they could develop 'an effective plan for engaging with the broad humanitarian and development community to achieve the Australian Government's objective in undertaking peace operations'.[31]

Committee view

15.30         The committee believes that the aim of CIMIC should be to manage the interaction between the military and civilian participants in a peacekeeping operation so that their activities coordinate. But today's military operations take place in complex environments where the military engage in a range of activities not all of which are strictly military in nature. Clearly, consultation and planning between the ADF and NGOs, from the earliest stages of a peacekeeping operation, establishes the foundation for a good working relationship in the field. The committee notes the call by NGOs for better dialogue at a more strategic level between the ADF and NGOs.


CIMIC at operational level

15.31         At an operational level, the importance for military–NGO cooperation and coordination is apparent. There are a range of coordination tasks confronting both the military and NGOs. AusAID noted that coordination is required in the areas of 'security, medical evacuation, logistics, transport, communications and information management'. It agreed with the statement made in the UN Civil–Military Coordination Officer Field Handbook, quoted earlier, that coordination challenges also arise 'in providing humanitarian actors with access to affected populations, while ensuring they do not become a target...minimising the competition for scarce resources such as ports, supply routes, airfields and other logistics infrastructure'.[32]

15.32         The committee first considers the extent to which the ADF has developed a CIMIC capability.

Developing CIMIC capability

15.33         Some NGOs expressed concerns about ADF's CIMIC capability. For example, referring to INTERFET, the Australian Institute of International Affairs was of the view that CIMIC relationships were generally ad hoc and there was a lack of CIMIC experience.[33] It stated that a general lack of resources available for civilian tasks led to the conclusion that the ADF 'lacked specialist civil–military capability, and that in any future coalition operations such capability was a major requirement'.[34]

15.34         Austcare suggested that the ADF had been slow to develop and implement this capability.[35] It pointed to more recent events in Timor-Leste in 2006 where, in its view, 'civil-military assets were not applied with optimal effect, causing dissatisfaction with the local community as well as among humanitarian agencies and NGOs'.[36]

15.35         World Vision Australia reported inadequacies also based on the recent experiences in Timor-Leste. It noted incidents where certain parts of the ADF were engaged with civil society but 'when asked if and how they related to CIMIC, they did not seem to know of its function regarding their operations'.[37]

15.36         The importance of developing an effective CIMIC capability takes on a greater significance in peacekeeping operations where Australia is taking a lead role. AusAID submitted that there is currently a gap in this area:

Necessity has prompted the OCHA [UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs] to develop an effective humanitarian-focused civil-military coordination capability for use in situations involving both significant military and humanitarian operations. Australia needs to develop a similar capability to be used in those few situations where Australia leads a peace operation and there is no OCHA presence.[38]

15.37         The committee notes that the current government, in its pre-election policy document on Defence, recognised that the recent deployment of ADF to Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste demonstrated the need to improve ADF's CIMIC capability. It indicated that it would expand the ADF’s CIMIC capability consistent with the UN’s emphasis on civil–military cooperation.[39] In conjunction with the committee's proposal that the ADF review its CIMIC doctrine, the committee is of the view that the ADF should also examine ways to strengthen its CIMIC capability.

15.38         The UN CMCoord policy has set down guidelines for the training of civil–military coordination staff. The committee is of the view that the ADF should consider these guidelines in reviewing their CIMIC capability.

Recommendation 17

15.39         The committee recommends that in conjunction with its review of CIMIC doctrine, ADF consider ways to strengthen its CIMIC capability.

15.40         Developing CIMIC capability, however, must take account of a number of difficulties.


Challenges for CIMIC

15.41         A major challenge for CIMIC stems from the different expectations and priorities of NGOs and the ADF. Mr March, AusAID, described the different roles in the following way: the 'military seek to neutralise and separate actors; civil response seeks to empower and reconcile actors'.[40] Lt Gen Gillespie observed that the complexity of the security environment complicates military–NGO relations in peacekeeping operations:

It is okay if you are in a very clinical humanitarian situation, but if you add to it a security dimension...that is where we get the operating space that creates those sorts of frictions.[41]

15.42         He referred to potential clashes in the early stages of a peacekeeping operation between the humanitarian assistance and security phases:

If it is a particularly bad incident that you are dealing with, then you will have traumatised people with no food and no means of income. That is when NGO communities and defence need to have a far better understanding of each other’s requirements and do it and coordinate their efforts in a better way.[42]

15.43         Major General Ford acknowledged that issues surrounding the concept of 'humanitarian space' are particularly challenging. He agreed with the view that the more robustly the military are required to act to maintain security, the more difficult it is to achieve coordination and cooperation between the activities of humanitarian organisations and the military. He added, 'There is a lot of work going on now about determining how best you approach that'.[43] AusAID also noted that the different priorities can create tensions:

Military deployments are undertaken to conduct specific missions...and civilian actors operating in the same geographic area may be engaged in a range of activities in support of possibly different mandates.[44]

15.44         The fundamental differences in the roles and functions of the military and civilian peacekeepers are not going to change. Defence's primary goal will be to create a secure environment while NGOs' objective will be to deliver assistance to affected populations. Developing an effective CIMIC means accepting, understanding and working with these differences.

Mutual misunderstanding

15.45         Evidence presented to the committee suggested that, to work cooperatively and to coordinate their activities, organisations need to have a better understanding of each other's roles and mandates. For example, Mr Shepherd, WVA, explained that 'We cannot operate in that space without understanding the context of the other players within that space'.[45]

15.46         Despite this acknowledgement, Major General Smith commented that there 'is a huge misunderstanding among many NGOs about the nature of the ADF'.[46] In this regard, Lt Gen Gillespie acknowledged that Defence could improve:

I do think sometimes that we do not explain ourselves well enough. As an organisation, we are perhaps not as well understood by NGOs as we should be. I think, and certainly from where I sit directing it, we reach out regularly to try and do a better job.[47]

15.47         The different views about the appropriate role of the military in conducting humanitarian tasks pose another challenge for the civil–military relationship, especially where the military's humanitarian activities may create political complications for NGOs.[48]

NGOs—independence and impartiality

15.48         Humanitarian agencies generally work on the basis of common humanitarian principles: neutrality, impartiality and independence. Some NGOs expressed concern about the military delivering humanitarian assistance and the effect that may have on the perception of NGOs' neutrality. Representatives from Oxfam Australia explained that NGOs could be put in a dangerous position if any perception arose that they were aligned to a political or military entity. As an example, the Australian Institute of International Affairs noted that in East Timor some NGOs were reluctant to use the designated civil–military operations centre because of its proximity to the INTERFET headquarters.[49]

15.49         Oxfam argued that ADF involvement in humanitarian assistance can create an impression that NGOs are in some way linked to military operations.[50] It drew attention to the UN's Inter-Agency Standing Committee on Humanitarian Affairs' guidelines that state, 'it is important to maintain a clear separation between the roles of the military and humanitarian actors, by distinguishing their respective spheres of competence and responsibility'.[51]  In this regard, Oxfam argued that the military are not humanitarian workers and should not conduct humanitarian activities themselves, or be perceived to do so.[52] It further asserted that the ADF should avoid 'humanitarian rhetoric' or language in describing its operational capabilities because of the likely consequences for humanitarian agencies.[53] Oxfam argued that the role of the military in peacekeeping operations is intrinsically political:

We do not have any problem with the Australian military distributing food or carrying out humanitarian operations in natural disasters for instance. They are not complex emergencies; they are not politically derived conflicts...It only becomes an issue where there is a conflict and there are political agendas.[54]

15.50         Defence had a different perspective:

...there are some NGO groups who, through upbringing and all the rest of it, look upon the military with great suspicion: we are ‘warmongers’. We actually see ourselves as humanitarians.[55]

15.51         Dr Breen observed the humanitarian interest among ADF personnel and commented that Australian peacekeepers have been disappointed when they have not been able to be part of a team 'fixing up the circumstances of local people who have had a tough time'. He said Australian peacekeepers 'wanted to respond in a human way rather than just having their guns cocked ready to shoot'.[56]

15.52         Despite different views on the appropriate role of the ADF in a 'humanitarian space', it is clear that the ADF has resources that are useful in a humanitarian effort. Within Australia, the ADF is a unique organisation in terms of its ability to access conflict areas with sufficient equipment and personnel to provide an immediate humanitarian response. AusAID noted:

...the primary military role in peace operations is to establish and maintain a secure environment in which development can take place. On those occasions when the environment is too hostile for civilians to conduct development activities it may be appropriate for military forces to undertake focused reconstruction tasks in line with the national development strategy...[57]

ADF providing humanitarian assistance

Image of Australian Medical Support Force in Rwanda
Australian Medical Support Force in Rwanda (courtesy Australian War Memorial, negative number MSU/94/0048/28).

Image of a 3 Combat Engineer Regiment engineer
An engineer from the 3 Combat Engineer Regiment, as part of Timor-Leste Battle Group 3, helps build a playground for the children of the Hope Orphanage in Gleno (image courtesy Department of Defence)

15.53         Rear Admiral Ken Doolan, from the RSL, suggested that the ADF is a legitimate resource for the government to use:

...if there were a humanitarian need, it would be churlish of the nation not to use its Defence Force to assist to the extent that it could and would wish to do so. Terminology really is not the important thing if you are looking at the needs of the person on the ground.[58]

15.54         While some witnesses considered there were distinct roles for humanitarian and military agencies in peacekeeping operations, others provided a more nuanced perspective. The Australian Red Cross was of the view that there is a need for recognition and respect for each other's different roles and principles. Mr David Brown, Asia Manager, Australian Red Cross, said:

I think we would be disingenuous if we said that the military does not, in many circumstances, have a role to play as humanitarian agents. Conversely, there have been many examples of the military saving lives through its humanitarian intervention. Where the military has not been deployed, in some cases, it has also cost lives. So we do not want to say that we are talking about the humanitarian workers over here and the military over there... But we do have some very strong principles about neutrality and about impartiality.[59]

15.55         There are immense practical considerations in facilitating a humanitarian response to conflict. Dr Breen noted that in hostile environments, where the need is immediate and delivering aid and sustenance to people is difficult, the military is inevitably the conduit.[60] He was of the view that it is not an aim of the military to subsume the role of NGOs. In his experience, the ADF always steps aside to allow NGOs to do the job 'if they are up to it and they are prepared to deploy their people under the same austere conditions under which the military work'.[61]

15.56         Defence did not resile from the political basis of its operations. Both Defence and RSL witnesses noted that the ADF does not undertake humanitarian work voluntarily; its activities are a matter of government policy.[62] Even so, the committee notes the guidance offered in CMCoord which states that:

All non-security related tasks must be coordinated fully within the mission, with the UN Country Team and with the larger humanitarian/development community, depending on the context.[63]

15.57         Again, the emphasis is on achieving an integrated mission where the humanitarian activities of the military and civilian components are complementary.

15.58         Mr Shepherd, WVA, observed that the extent to which the military should engage in humanitarian work is of long-standing debate, upon which there is little agreement even within NGO circles. He acknowledged that tension is created between the military and humanitarian workers: 'it will always remain for us—how do we actually operate within that same space when we have quite different mandates'.[64]

Committee view

15.59         Clearly the complex foreign policy space in which peacekeeping operations occur brings different pressures on the relationship between humanitarian and security agencies. The committee recognises the critical role of the ADF in creating a secure environment and the important work of humanitarian agencies in providing assistance in contemporary peacekeeping operations. Together the military and civilian agencies create the conditions necessary for rebuilding a state.

15.60         In some instances, due to the level of security risk or the lack of existing infrastructure, the military may be the only, or the most able, organisation to provide humanitarian relief. The committee considers it appropriate that the government use available resources, including the military's material and logistical resources and the skills of its members where required, to meet such need.

15.61         Nonetheless, it is clear that when engaged in humanitarian work, the ADF needs to appreciate and respect the concerns of NGOs, especially the importance they attach to neutrality and impartiality. On the other hand, NGOs need to understand the reasons the military becomes involved in delivering humanitarian aid. Mutual understanding and close liaison based on regular consultation, joint planning and training would help the ADF and NGOs to resolve tensions. On a practical level, these would also encourage a more economical, efficient and better-targeted use of resources.

Information sharing

15.62         The different agencies that are involved in a peacekeeping operation obtain their information about local conditions from various sources. For example, NGOs can be well known in local communities and have a good understanding of the local environment, social context and issues underpinning conflict. Defence has formal intelligence-gathering infrastructure and relationships as well as the networks it builds in local communities.

15.63         The information and insights that different organisations gather can be mutually useful for all in achieving their aims, but information exchange is not necessarily straightforward or appropriate. There are a number of constraints in disseminating information.

15.64         A common theme in evidence from NGOs concerned the sensitivities associated with information sharing. They explained that an organisation that shares security-related information risks perceptions of partiality. Such perceptions can be both inhibiting and dangerous for humanitarian agencies that rely on their neutrality and independence.

15.65         Although recognising limitations, the Australian Red Cross submitted that information exchange between humanitarian agencies and security forces can be appropriate: ensure their neutrality (and their protection) one must distinguish between information about the humanitarian situation on the ground, and information about military/security issues in their area of operation. To provide the former can assist in the provision of humanitarian assistance and decrease tension, whereas to provide or be perceived as providing military/security information may increase tensions and hamper access and security for humanitarian agencies.[65]

15.66         It noted that such a distinction between types of information is not always categorical and its personnel need to err on the side of neutrality and impartiality. They should only share information that is 'useful to the humanitarian situation—that is, the victims on the ground'.[66]

15.67         For security and mission-specific reasons, Defence is also constrained in the information it shares. Nonetheless, there remains much scope for the ADF and NGOs to keep each other informed about matters relevant to the operation. AusAID took the view that there will always be tensions with regard to information sharing. It stated:

It is appropriate for NGOs to provide details on their capabilities, infrastructure if any, plans, concerns, etc, and for the military to provide information, as appropriate and consistent with their own force protection, on their military goals and policies (including rules of engagement), as well as information on military hazards to NGOs (e.g. known minefields, unexploded ordinance), and information on civilian access to military support (e.g. medical facilities).[67]

15.68         Thus, for practical and safety reasons, there is a need for information exchange. Oxfam, however, expressed concern about being able to obtain necessary information from the military:

...timely information and clarity on mandates, rules of engagement, division of roles and responsibilities and mission parameters have in various cases been difficult to obtain. This information is necessary for humanitarian organisations to assess programme viability and security protocols.[68]

15.69         It was of the view that RAMSI had exposed the problems of lack of timely and accurate information on the mission's mandate and operations.[69]

15.70         The committee accepts that the exchange of information between the military and other organisations at an operational level will inevitably be constrained by factors such as mission requirements and each organisation's principles and needs. However, there are clear benefits to, and in some cases compelling reasons for, having well-established and effective communication networks between the military and civilian sectors.

15.71         Having said that, the committee is of the view that NGOs need to appreciate the critical work of military peacekeepers, who at times place themselves in harm's way to secure a safe environment that then enables NGOs to carry out their work. The committee understands the importance of neutrality and impartiality to NGOs, but it also believes that they have a responsibility that extends beyond looking after their own safety and those under their care to include those who are protecting them. This responsibility should be a major consideration when deciding whether or not to disclose information to the military.

Command structures

15.72         AusAID noted that 'NGOs are structured relatively informally and value diversity of commitment and input, while a military has the onerous responsibility of the management of and (as required) application of lethal force'.[70] Thus, unlike the military, the NGO community does not have a unified, hierarchical command chain for passing on information. It is not a homogenous body with common ideologies or perspectives. Dr Brett Parris, Senior Economic Advisor, WVA, observed:

NGOs are constituted differently...There are also a range of views among the NGO community on engagement with the military and police and that just complicates some aspects in getting a single coherent NGO view on those sorts of sensitive issues.[71]

15.73         It was of the view that the flatter and fluid structure of humanitarian organisations reflects their aim of including local people and communities in the decisions that affect them. This structure means that decision making can take longer.[72]

15.74         From Defence's perspective, the differences between NGOs, including in their attitudes to the military, can make coordination challenging.[73] Lt Gen Gillespie observed that tensions on the ground usually relate to the decision-making process within the NGO community. He noted that the ADF has a unified command structure, giving it a clear path through to the appropriate military commander to resolve issues during operations suggesting:

If the NGO organisations were to have a similar coordinating mechanism then in my humble opinion a lot of that friction would go away.[74]

15.75         Lt Gen Gillespie informed the committee that he 'would be delighted to see an NGO coordinating body that we could work with in the places that we go to'.[75]

15.76         WVA acknowledged that the ADF's hierarchical structure, with clear command and control lines, enables it to make decisions quickly. At the same time, the military organisation can be difficult to relate to if there are no clear access points. WVA noted the usefulness of having, within the military, appropriate points of contact that understand both cultures and are 'better able to facilitate dialogue'.[76] ACFID, the peak body for Australian NGOs, related a relevant experience from East Timor:

...We were advised directly by the CEOs of several agencies that there was a real possibility of significant bloodshed. We were asked if we could pass on this information. Regrettably, because we have not really been able to establish a useful lower level connection to operations command to pass information on, we ended up going through more political channels and passing it up to the Parliamentary Secretary for Defence. That was probably not the best way to do it, frankly...there could well be value in simply having a point of connection where, if we do have what seems to be credible information from serious people...we can contribute that...But, at the moment, we do not have that capacity.[77]

15.77         Evidence to the committee suggested that NGO consultation with the ADF is occurring on an ad hoc basis. The dialogue between the military and NGOs in general stands to improve if both sectors could provide a central point of contact through which this engagement can occur. The ADF should appreciate that those outside the organisation do not have a clear understanding of how they can gain access to relevant ADF personnel and should review its mechanisms for information exchange. This observation also relates back to ADF CIMIC capability and the need for it to have adequate numbers of appropriately trained staff deployed with their peacekeeping contingents.  

15.78         Despite difficulties in establishing clear communication networks, the ADF and NGOs do converse during an operation. Both Defence and some NGOs observed that coordination occurs at a practical level on the ground. Lt Gen Gillespie was positive about the ability of the ADF and NGOs to resolve issues in operational areas, stating 'I cannot think of any occasion in the last decade where we have undertaken major security operations in a humanitarian environment where we have arrived at an intractable problem between the NGO community and ourselves'.[78] Oxfam representatives commented that NGOs and the military are always negotiating and coordinating: the military and humanitarian coordinators meet weekly or more often 'so that we can negotiate this space so that they can protect us and civilians at the same time'.[79]

Summary of impediments

15.79         The committee has identified a number of impediments to effective coordination and cooperation between the military and civilian sector. They include:

15.80         Dr Breen was of the view that the approach of the security sector to coordinating with other agencies is 'changing in a positive way', and observed a 'very different mindset from some years ago'.[80] Consistent with this view, Lt Gen Gillespie commented that a 'huge amount of work' has been done in the last three years by military and NGOs to improve cooperation.[81]

15.81         OCHA believes that training is a primary means for sharing lessons learned about civil–military relations and building informal networks. The committee now looks at the current measures taken by the ADF and NGOs to meet the challenges to coordination and cooperation.

Pre-deployment training

15.82         The ADF engages NGOs to deliver particular components of its pre-deployment training, mainly relating to cultural awareness or human rights and humanitarian law. For example, the Australian Red Cross noted that it both participates in, and presents at, the ADF's International Peace Operations Seminar (IPOS), CIMIC courses and the UN military observers course run by the ADF Peacekeeping Centre (ADFPKC).[82] The Australian Red Cross also runs an ADF instructors course for interested ADF members involved in training in the laws of armed conflict.[83]

15.83         In 2006, AusAID appointed a Civilian–Military Liaison Officer within its Humanitarian and Emergency Section to assess AusAID's involvement in ADF training activities and to advise on further areas of engagement.[84] AusAID also held a Humanitarian Forum in 2006 with a particular focus on civil–military relations, including how the shape of the initial crisis response and the choice of instruments and approaches affect future state-building endeavours.[85]

15.84         The Asia Pacific Centre for Military Law (APCML), an initiative of the ADF's Legal Branch and the University of Melbourne Law School, runs a week-long CIMIC course. Its objective is to inform participants from both government and non-government agencies on the planning factors that are crucial to the ADF's conduct of CIMIC activities.[86] The course comprises topics such as the law of peace operations, military operations law and civil–military cooperation in military operations.[87]

Joint training exercises

15.85         Several government agencies and NGOs, including AusAID and WVA, attended the Australian Command and Staff College Exercise Excalibur in 2006. Another joint exercise, Exercise Talisman Sabre, was conducted in 2007.[88] The exercises focused on joint operational planning for a complex stability operation, involving military planners, representatives of other government agencies and NGOs working together.[89] WVA reported that Exercise Excalibur was 'a valuable experience, with numerous lessons for our civil–military engagements'. It considered, however, that such exercises could be made even more realistic if NGOs were engaged in the initial planning process.[90] WVA observed that taking these forums further into the future would depend on dialogue with the ADF and other players.[91]

Suggestions for strengthening CIMIC

15.86         A number of witnesses made suggestions for improving liaison between the ADF and NGOs, including at the pre-deployment planning level. For example, Mr O'Callaghan saw great benefit in the NGO sector being able to engage with the ADF in a structured but informal setting such as a bi-annual roundtable. He preferred an informal approach because 'it is more likely to be a productive exchange of views if it is done in a way which enables the ideas to be tested out'.[92] This proposal had been put to Defence but Mr O'Callaghan indicated that Defence considered it appropriate for AusAID to handle all policy dialogue with NGOs.[93]

15.87         Austcare recommended that the Australian Government establish an independent national institute as a 'centre of excellence' to undertake necessary training and research on peacekeeping. According to Austcare, the centre would give 'particular focus to strengthening civil–military relations'.[94] The committee notes a similar proposal by the Centre for International Governance & Justice (CIGJ) for a centre of excellence for civilian peacekeeping in Australia. CIGJ saw this centre as an opportunity for Australian government agencies to provide more strategic support to NGOs by offering 'specialised civilian peacekeeping training'.[95] Clearly such a centre would be an ideal vehicle for promoting the development and strengthening of CIMIC.

15.88         Major General Smith referred to a proposal Austcare had put to ADF for NGOs, ADF, AFP and AusAID to review jointly four case studies where the ADF and NGOs have been in the same place at the same time: Afghanistan (a high threat environment); Solomon Islands and East Timor (two not-so-high threat but conflict related environments); and Aceh after the tsunami (a non-conflict emergency). Major General Smith said no response had yet been given.[96]

15.89         According to WVA, NGOs should also be actively seeking ways to improve engagement with the ADF. It acknowledged that development and understanding of CIMIC doctrine was not a one-way process, with the onus also on humanitarian agencies to improve their understanding of CIMIC. In that regard, WVA had employed a person to focus on civil–military relationships, including engaging with peacekeepers, the AFP and international partners. It considered that 'there is no way that World Vision can have an understanding of civil–military relations without that direct kind of engagement'.[97]

15.90         Based on the evidence, the committee sees potential to improve CIMIC. For example, it mentioned in Chapter 13 the informal Peace Operations Working Group, chaired by DFAT, with members from Defence, AFP, AusAID and A-G's. The group's focus is not on specific operational issues, but more thematic issues around Australia's involvement in peacekeeping operations. This existing forum could be gainfully used to improve dialogue across the government and NGO sectors, including between the ADF and NGOs.

15.91         The committee also recognises that joint training and education can help establish common understandings and trust and provide opportunities for the military and civilian sector to work through coordination problems. In this way, CIMIC becomes not only a force multiplier but also an 'aid multiplier' by improving the delivery of aid.[98]

15.92         These proposals are worthy of serious consideration and illustrate the need and the potential for the Australian Government, ADF, AusAID and NGOs to strengthen CIMIC.

Committee view

15.93         During the inquiry, some witnesses referred to what they believed were deficiencies in the ADF's CIMIC capability. A number of NGOs also called for improved dialogue with the military, better understanding between the organisations and closer involvement in the planning of peacekeeping operations. They have made suggestions that would require Defence to strengthen its engagement with NGOs, including through roundtables and case studies. Communications and command structures could be improved, which would facilitate better coordination. The committee also notes that NGOs could facilitate this process through better organisation and liaison amongst themselves. The committee notes ACFID's role as the peak body for humanitarian NGOs and sees capacity for ACFID to form a better conduit between Defence and the NGO community.

15.94         The committee has recommended that Defence review its CIMIC doctrine and consider ways to strengthen its CIMIC capability. It now builds on these proposals.

Recommendation 18

15.95         The committee recommends that AusAID, ACFID and Defence jointly review the current pre-deployment education programs, exercises, courses and other means used to prepare military and civilian personnel to work together in a peacekeeping operation. The committee recommends further that based on their findings, they collectively commit to a pre-deployment program that would strengthen cooperation between them and assist in better planning and coordinating their activities.

15.96         The committee sees merit in Austcare's proposal for four collaborative case studies to identify ways to improve coordination between the security and humanitarian elements of peacekeeping operations.

Recommendation 19

15.97         The committee recommends that Defence, AFP, AusAID and DFAT commission a series of case studies of recent complex peacekeeping operations, as proposed by Austcare, with the focus on the effectiveness of civil–military cooperation and coordination. Their findings would be made public and discussed at the Peace Operations Working Group mentioned in Recommendation 14.

15.98         To this stage of the report, the committee has mentioned a joint training facility as a means of improving the effectiveness of Australian peacekeepers and Australia's overall contribution to peacekeeping. Evidence in this chapter adds weight to this case. Through training programs, seminars and workshops, such a facility could draw together teachers, students, researchers and former, current and future peacekeepers from government and non-government sectors. The facility would enhance CIMIC and develop future forms of civil–military–police coordination. It would also provide a site for empirical, evidence-based research and the evaluation of past and current practice. It would operate at the policy and operational levels, ensuring that Australia keeps abreast of new ideas and approaches to peacekeeping. It would also be involved at the practical level by assisting individual agencies prepare their personnel for deployment and foster a whole-of-nation approach to peacekeeping. The proposal for a centre of excellence is examined in greater detail in Chapter 25.



15.99         Today, the ADF shares peacekeeping space with many government and non-government actors. For this reason, the committee feels that Australia requires a more holistic approach to coordinating its peacekeeping efforts. It has made a number of recommendations but they are by no means exhaustive. The potential for improving CIMIC and, indeed, extending the CIMIC framework to include all government agencies is great.

Part IV

Partnerships—host and participating countries

To this stage of the report, the committee has been concerned with the effectiveness of Australian peacekeepers from the individual agency, whole-of-government and whole-of-nation perspective.

The committee now considers Australia's role as a participant with other countries in a peacekeeping operation. It first explores some of the challenges Australian peacekeepers face in establishing and maintaining a constructive partnership with the host country. It is particularly concerned with peacekeeping operations where Australia is taking an active or lead role and bears a heavy responsibility for achieving a well-coordinated, cohesive mission. According to United Nations Peacekeeping Operations: Principles and Guidelines, an integrated mission is one where there is:

A shared vision among all United Nations actors as to the strategic objectives of the United Nations presence at the country-level. This strategy should reflect a shared understanding of the operating environment and agreement on how to maximise the effectiveness, efficiency, and impact of the United Nations overall response.[99]

In subsequent chapters, the committee examines Australia's relationship with its peacekeeping partners and the difficulties encountered in achieving an 'integrated operation'.

The committee identifies the main factors that contribute to effective coordination and cooperation between the partners in a peacekeeping coalition and whether Australia could do more to enhance this relationship. In this context, it considers the implications for the way Australia prepares its peacekeepers for deployment. The committee also looks at how effectively Australia engages with the peacekeeping aspects of the UN as the international body charged with maintaining international peace and security and with regional associations.

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