In the 21st century, the focus of international conflict management is increasingly shifting from peacekeeping, which was about maintaining the status quo, to peacebuilding and stabilization, which has to do with managing transitions. Many UN peace operations since 1989 have, in effect, been peacebuilding operations in that their focus was on supporting the implementation of comprehensive peace processes. These included classic peacebuilding tasks such as disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR), justice sector reform, organising elections, training and restructuring new police forces and facilitating the transition from interim to transitional, and eventually to democratically elected governments. Many other UN and AU operations were stabilization operations that were tasked to defend a government and its peoples against an insurgency, or were tasked to protect civilians and maintain stability, in the absence of a peace agreement.

The development from peacekeeping to peacebuilding and stabilization has emerged as new, mostly civilian, dimensions were added to traditional military peacekeeping mandates. These new dimensions were aimed at assisting the host country to sustain the momentum of the peace process by: supporting transitional arrangements; establishing new or reforming existing national institutions such as the defence force, police service, and the judiciary; assisting with the organising of elections; supporting constitution drafting processes; and facilitating restorative justice initiatives. In stabilization and protection of civilian missions, the use of force is always a last resort and in addition to using the military component to demonstrate presence and to serve as a deterrent, many stabilization and protection of civilians tasks are performed by the civilian and police functions of the mission. Protection officers assess risks and work with communities and authorities to take steps to mitigate against the identified risks. This can include actions such as changing behavior that expose civilians to risk or proactive negotiations to pre-empt inter-communal conflict. Stabilization tasks can include the work of Civil Affairs officer to restore or extend the presence of the state in areas that have been newly secured, or the work with communities and traditional leadership structures to put basic local governance mechanisms in place.

In order to ensure that all the different dimensions (political, security, development, human rights, etc.) of these peacebuilding and stabilization operations work together as one coherent mission, the need developed to establish dedicated mechanisms and modalities that would facilitate coordination and cooperation. Several specialised coordination functions developed over the years. Within the military component, the civil-military coordination branch was developed to act as the focal point for coordination between the military and the various civilian components, agencies and communities with which the military peacekeeping force has to interact within the peace operations context.

Complex Peace Operations and CIMIC
‘While I was serving with the NATO force in former Yugoslavia, I quickly came to the conclusion that commanders in complex peace operations absolutely require a dedicated CIMIC capability.’

— Brigadier General Gunnar Lundberg, Commander of the NORDPOL Brigade in former Yugoslavia, December 1996 to June 1997

CIMIC Concepts and Terminology

Civil-Military Coordination has many different competing definitions and doctrines that describe essentially the same activity, that is, coordination between civilian and military actors in peace operations. Some of the most common concepts are: Civil-Military Coordination (CIMIC) as used by the AU and UN; Civil-Military Cooperation (CIMIC) as used by the EU and NATO; Civil Military Operations (CMO) and Civil Affairs as used by the United States of America (USA), and Humanitarian Civil-Military Coordination (CMCoord) as used by the UN humanitarian community.1

Civil-military coordination in AU and UN context requires a different approach from the EU, NATO and USA approaches to CIMIC and CMO.

In AU and UN peace operations the military component is deployed as part of a multifunctional and integrated civilian-military-police peace operation under overall civilian direction. For them civil-military coordination reflects the multidimensional nature of the mission. In addition, the mission also cooperates with civilian agencies outside the mission.

NATO, EU and coalition-type operations, in contrast, are typically deployed as a military force, and for them civil-military cooperation means cooperating with civilian agencies that are not part of their operation.

Humanitarian Civil-Military Coordination

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has facilitated the development of a series of humanitarian civil-military coordination policies and guidelines. These include the ‘Guidelines on the Use of Military and Civil Defence Assets in Disaster Relief’ known as the Oslo Guidelines which was updated in November 2007 from the earlier version of May 1994; the ‘Discussion Paper and Non-Binding Guidelines on the ‘Use of Military or Armed Escorts for Humanitarian Convoys’ of September 2001 which was updated in February 2013, and the ‘Guidelines on the Use of Military and Civil Defence Assets to Support United Nations Humanitarian Activities in Complex Emergencies,’ known as the MDCA guidelines of March 2004 which was updated in January 2006. In addition, in June 2004, the IASC adopted a reference paper on ‘Civil-Military Relations in Complex Emergencies’ that complements and expands the principles and guidelines previously developed on the use of military and civil defence assets and armed escorts, and provides guidance of a more general nature for civil-military coordination in humanitarian emergencies. This document was further updated in 2008 as is now entitled ‘Civil-Military Guidelines and References for Complex Emergencies’.

UN and NATO use of the acronym ‘CIMIC’
In order to differentiate between the UN use of the acronym CIMIC when it refers to ‘Civil-Military Coordination’ and the NATO use of the acronym CIMIC when it refers to ‘Civil-Military Cooperation’, it is important to note that, in this online course, CIMIC refers to ‘Civil-Military Coordination’ as per the UN definition, unless otherwise specified.

The complex emergency guidelines and the reference paper also introduced a new concept into our vocabulary, namely UN Humanitarian Civil-Military Coordination (CMCoord):

The essential dialogue and interaction between civilian and military actors in humanitarian emergencies that is necessary to protect and promote humanitarian principles, avoid competition, minimise 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. (OCHA, 2003:5)

Taken together, these four humanitarian civil-military coordination guidelines represent the UN policy on humanitarian civil-military coordination and they will serve as the policy basis for the humanitarian-military relationship in this online course.2

The UN guidelines for humanitarian-military coordination can be summarised in the following six operating principles for the use of military assets in humanitarian operations:3

  1. Decisions to accept military assets must be made by humanitarian organisations, not political authorities, and based solely on humanitarian criteria.
  2. Military assets should be requested only where there is no comparable civilian alternative and only the use of military assets can meet a critical humanitarian need. The military asset must therefore be unique in nature or timeliness of deployment, and its use should be as a last resort.
  3. A humanitarian operation using military assets must retain its civilian nature and character. The operation must remain under the overall authority and control of the humanitarian organisation responsible for that operation, whatever the specific command arrangements for the military asset itself. To the extent possible, the military asset should operate unarmed and be civilian in appearance.
  4. Countries providing military personnel to support humanitarian operations should ensure that they respect the code of conduct and principles of the humanitarian organisation responsible for that deployment.
  5. The large-scale involvement of military personnel in the direct delivery of humanitarian assistance should be avoided.
  6. Any use of military assets should ensure that the humanitarian operation retains its international and multilateral character.

CIMIC in AU and UN Peace Operations

From a AU and UN peace operations perspective, it should be noted that the UN humanitarian policies and guidelines for civil-military coordination are exclusively focused on the ‘humanitarian dimension’ of civil-military coordination. Coordination between the military and humanitarian actors is one of the most prominent aspects of civil-military coordination during the humanitarian emergency phase of any operation but, in the peace operations context civil-military coordination, is not limited to ‘humanitarian’ civil-military coordination.

In AU and UN peace operations civil-military coordination takes place between the military component, the police component and all the civilian components of the AU and UN mission, other members of the UN System and all the other international and local actors in the mission area.

Thus, apart from the humanitarian actors, civil-military coordination in the AU and UN peace operations context will include coordination with the political affairs component, the civil affairs component, the public information component, the human rights component, the DDR coordination unit, the rule of law or judicial affairs component and the mission support component, to mention a few examples. It will also include a vast range of development and peacebuilding actors outside the UN mission, as well as the local authorities, local communities and local civil society actors. AU and UN civil-military coordination also extends throughout the life of the AU and UN peace operation, and therefore during all phases (stabilisation, transitional and consolidation) of a peace operation. The humanitarian emergency phase typically only coincides with the stabilisation phase of an AU or UN peace operation. Civil-military coordination in the AU and UN peace operation context thus extends beyond the coverage of the UN humanitarian civil-military coordination policies introduced earlier.

The UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) has developed a civil-military coordination policy specifically for UN peace operations (released in September 2002 and revised and updated in 2010). The DPKO definition of civil-military coordination is:

UN Civil-Military Coordination is the system of interaction, involving exchange of information, negotiation, de-confliction, mutual support, and planning at all levels, between military elements and humanitarian organisations, development organisations and the local civilian population to achieve UN objectives. (UN, 2002:2)

Because of the different meanings associated with the different acronyms that already existed in the civil-military coordination field, and because DPKO did not want to add to the confusion of introducing yet another acronym, the DPKO policy has refrained from using an acronym for civil-military coordination. In practice, however, DPKO has been using the abbreviation ‘CIMIC’ in most of the missions it has established since 2000.


  1. Responsible for all CIMIC matters at Force Headquarters level.
  2. Advises the FHQ on all matters with regards to the civilian environment.
  3. Transforms the commanders guidance into CIMIC concept.
  4. Activates CIMIC centres when and where needed and maintains the CIMIC network as widely as possible.
  5. Participates in humanitarian planning on request, through the provision of advice, especially concerning security issues.
  6. All sector CIMIC Officers should report incidents to the SO1 CIMIC.
  7. Accompanies Force Commander or Deputy Force Commander on visits to sectors.
  8. Advises Force Headquarters on CIMIC matters.

AU and UN CIMIC should be understood within the context of the role of the military component in the overall mission mandate. The primary role of the military component of an AU or UN peace operation is to ensure a safe and secure environment within which the rest of the external and internal actors can operate. A secondary role of the military component is to make its resources available to external and internal actors in support of the overall mission objectives. For instance, in the context of a DDR programme, the military component, over and above its security function, may be in a position to provide transport, medical services, camp building, weapons storage and/or weapon destruction services to the civilian DDR unit within the mission, and the various agencies and actors that support the national DDR coordination mechanism.

AMIS S02 CIMIC Humanitarian Agency Tasks

  1. Reports to SO1 on humanitarian activities.
  2. Acts as a point of contact for humanitarian agencies and liaison officers from other organisations.
  3. Handles all requests regarding humanitarian matters.
  4. Participates in humanitarian planning through the provision of advice.

CIMIC as a Specialised Function

The primary mandate of the military component of an AU or UN peace operation will always remain ensuring a safe and secure environment. CIMIC is one of the secondary roles that are performed by a few specialists in support of the overall mandate. This is reflected in the human, financial and operational resources dedicated to the CIMIC function in comparison to that dedicated to the security function of the military component.

For example, in the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) in 2007, there were seven CIMIC staff officers at FHQ and one CIMIC staff officer at each of the four SHQ, that is, eleven CIMIC staff officers in total. The CIMIC compliment in UNMIL thus represent 0.001% of the 15,000 approved force strength, or 0.1% of the 160 FHQ and SHQ staff officers.

It is thus clear that CIMIC remains a highly specialised function that represent a very small percentage of the overall effort of the military component.

AMIS S02 CIMIC Local Affairs Tasks

  1. Reports to the SO1 on local affairs (that is, concerning local authorities and civilians).
  2. Acts as a point of contact for locals.
  3. Handles all requests with regards to local matters.
  4. Participates in local planning through the provision of advice.

CIMIC Structure and organisation

In all current AU and UN peace operations, the CIMIC function is undertaken by two different types of CIMIC Officers, namely staff officers and unit officers. In AU and UN missions the CIMIC branch consists of staff officers at the Force HQ and Sector HQ level. At unit level there are usually liaison officers of some kind, but these are not officially part of the ‘CIMIC branch’ in the mission. In practice, however, the Force HQ and Sector HQ CIMIC staff will work closely with the liaison officers at unit level, as that is where most of the CIMIC mission support and community support tasks are performed.

Force HQ: At Force Headquarters there will be a small CIMIC cell. The Force HQ CIMIC cell is usually either a sub-section of the operations branch or, in some cases, it may be a separate command function. The CIMIC HQ cell is usually organised around a CIMIC Chief at colonel or lieutenant colonel level, and a Deputy CIMIC Chief at lieutenant colonel or major level. The other CIMIC staff at Force HQ is usually either organised as liaison officers for the sectors as in UNMIL, or around thematic areas, e.g. those responsible for dealing with humanitarian agencies and those dealing with local authorities, as in AMIS. A CIMIC cell at Force HQ can range from three (AMIS and UNMIS) to seven (UNMIL) and will rarely be more than ten.

Sector HQ: At Sector Headquarters there is usually at least one CIMIC Officer at the rank of major or captain. In some missions there may be a team of two or more CIMIC Officers per sector organised around team sites or CIMIC houses (UNMEE). The CIMIC sector officer serves as the link between the units and the HQ, maintains sector level CIMIC information and serves as a coordination point between the military component and civilian partners at sector level.

Unit level: Most units, which are typically infantry or mechanised infantry battalions but which can also be specialised units such as engineering battalions, transport units, medical hospitals and air wings, do not deploy into a peace operation with a pre-identified CIMIC Officer. Soon after deployment, however, they realise the need to have some kind of liaison officer who can serve as a focal point for contact with civilian partners. We will refer to this person as a unit-level CIMIC Officer for the purposes of this online course.

This online course is specifically aimed at informing and preparing the CIMIC staff officers that will be employed within these three levels (HQ, sector and unit level).

AMIS Sector CIMIC Officers Tasks

  1. Advises sector commander on all matters with regards to civilians in the sectors.
  2. Informs and advises the sector commander and MILOBs on the evolving civilian environment.
  3. Transforms the sector commander’s guidance into CIMIC concept.
  4. Activates a CIMIC centre in the sector.
  5. Liaises closely with AU police with regards to matters of law and order.
  6. Participates in civilian planning through the provision of advice.
  7. Acts as focal point for all humanitarian agencies and NGOs.
  8. Liaises between AMIS and civilians.
  9. Attends meetings with NGOs and local authorities.
  10. Collects information on humanitarian assistance.
  11. Shares information with humanitarian actors concerning security issues.
  12. Facilitates military support for humanitarian activities.
  13. Advises the command on CIMIC matters.
  14. Enhances social interaction between AMIS and civilian population, e.g. organising sport, women’s groups, etc.
  15. Identifies and coordinates QIPs in collaboration with humanitarian agencies.

CIMIC Functions

This online course distinguishes between three different civil-military coordination functions, namely liaison and information management, mission support and community support.

Liaison and information management lies at the core of co-ordination and refers to a wide range of activities involving the exchange and management of information. Depending on where one finds oneself on the coexistence-cooperation spectrum, these activities can include, for example, joint assessments, joint planning, and attending or hosting coordination meetings. Liaison and information management takes place at all levels, that is, Force HQ, Sector HQ and at unit level.

CIMIC Response Matrix: Guidelines for Appropriate CIMIC Action

Battalion CIMIC Officer Tasks

  1. Function mainly as a liaison officer between the battalion and the various civilian entities in the battalion’s Area of Responsibility (AoR).
  2. Coordinate between the battalion and the CIMIC cell in the Sector HQ.
  3. Coordinate any joint actions undertaken by the battalion and a civilian agency – for example, providing an armed escort for a humanitarian convoy.
  4. Undertake CIMIC projects, that is, community development projects, such a rebuilding a school, to improve the condition of the local community, to strengthen the relationship between the battalion and the host community and to build confidence in the peace process.

Mission support refers to those actions a military component undertakes in support of a civilian partner, for instance, providing transport, providing specialised equipment or expertise, or providing a security escort for a humanitarian convoy.

Community support refers to those actions military units undertake to support local communities and to build confidence in the peace process. Such actions can include rehabilitating infrastructure such as roads and bridges, supporting social services such as schools and clinics, and supporting national reconciliation and nation-building initiatives, such as national and cultural celebrations and sports initiatives.

All CIMIC activities or operations fall under one of these three functions and the online course will deal with each in detail. These three CIMIC functions form the operational core of civil-military coordination. CIMIC policies are aimed at defining and directing these three CIMIC functions. CIMIC structure and organisation provide the command, staff and organisational structures to execute these functions and to integrate them with the larger military organisation and structures. CIMIC planning is aimed at the overall CIMIC campaign plan and the specific operations that flow from each of these three functions. The various individual CIMIC skills included in this CIMIC course and manual are all aimed at enabling the CIMIC Officer to carry out one or more of these CIMIC functions to the best of his or her ability.

It is important to note that the work of the CIMIC Officers will focus primarily on liaison and information management. The mission support and community support CIMIC activities will typically be carried out by the appropriate tactical unit that has the requisite resources and expertise. CIMIC Officers will thus channel the requests for mission and community support, advise on the appropriateness of the support, and coordinate among the various stakeholders involved, while the actual tactical execution of the mission and community support tasks will typically not be the responsibility of the CIMIC Officers.

An armoured personnel carrier manned by Uruguayan UN peacekeepers drives through Bunia, in the DRC. The UN Security Council had authorised a peacekeeping force to take control of Bunia in order to stop the ethnic killings between two rival tribes. The violence had engulfed the area in recent months and claimed 55,000 lives.