This lesson will lay the conceptual foundation for the rest of the online course. We start with the question of why we need civil-military coordination. The chapter introduces some of the most commonly used concepts. Lastly, the chapter explains civil-military coordination in the AU and UN peace operations and introduces the terminology used. At the end of this chapter you should understand what civil-military coordination is, and how civil-military coordination in the AU and UN peace operations context is different from, for instance, similar efforts in a US, NATO or EU context.

Key Concepts

Complex emergency: A humanitarian crisis in a country, region or society where there is a total or major breakdown of authority resulting from internal or external conflict, and which requires an international response that goes beyond the mandate or capacity of any single agency.

Conflict prevention: Diplomatic, military and development actions intended to prevent disputes from arising between parties, to prevent existing disputes from escalating into conflicts, and to limit the spread of the latter when they occur.

Development: long-term initiatives aimed at supporting national objectives such as achieving socio-economic goals, or reducing poverty.

Emergency relief: Action to provide immediate survival assistance and protection to the victims of crisis and violent conflict. The main purpose is to save lives by providing short-term assistance in the form of water, sanitation, food, medicines and shelter.

Peacebuilding: Action to identify and support measures and structures that will strengthen and solidify peace in order to avoid a relapse into conflict.

Peace enforcement: Action, mandated by the United Nations (UN) Security Council under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, authorising the use of force to protect non-combatants and humanitarian aid workers, and/or to enforce compliance with internationally sanctioned resolutions or agreements.

Peacekeeping: A field mission, usually involving military, police and civilian personnel, deployed with the consent of the belligerent parties, to monitor and facilitate the implementation of ceasefires, separation of forces or other peace agreements.

Peacemaking: The use of diplomatic means to persuade parties in conflict to cease hostilities and negotiate the peaceful settlement of their dispute.

Reconstruction: The long-term process of rebuilding the political, security, social and economic dimensions of a society emerging from conflict by addressing the root causes of the conflict.

Recovery: Action aimed at restoring the capacity of the internal actors to rebuild and recover from crisis and to prevent relapses by linking emergency relief programmes with development, thus ensuring that the former is an asset for the latter.

Rehabilitation: Action aimed at rehabilitating infrastructure that can save or support livelihoods. It overlaps with emergency relief and is typically targeted for achievement within the first two years after the conflict has ended.

Transition: The period following the signing of a peace agreement and the transition from an appointed interim government, and before democratic elections take place.


Peace operations do not take place in isolation and will always require some form of coordination between the peace operation itself and other internal and external stakeholders in the country in which the peace operation is deployed. Whereas in the past it was something carried out primarily as a liaison task, it has now developed into a dedicated and specialist function that is considered a critical factor in the success of contemporary complex peace operations.

During the Cold War most peace operations were cease- fire monitoring missions. Since 1989, starting with the UNTAG operation in Namibia, the scope and complexity of peace operations has considerably broadened. In most cases since 1989, peace operations have been mandated to support the implementation of comprehensive peace agreements. This has resulted in many new tasks aimed at assisting the host country to sustain the momentum of the peace agreement by supporting transitional arrangements; establishing new or reforming existing national institutions such as a new defence force, a new police force, and a new judiciary; assisting with the organisation of elections; supporting constitution drafting mechanisms; and, assisting with special restorative justice initiatives, and with reconstruction and recovery programmes. Most of these new tasks have been aimed at preventing the conflict from re-emerging by addressing the root causes of the conflict, and most new peace operations since the 1990s have been, in effect, peacebuilding operations.

These new tasks meant that peace operations were expanded to include new components and new specialists, mostly civilian, and they required the traditional peacekeepers – military observers and lightly armed forces – to undertake much larger, more dangerous and complex peacebuilding operations than before. In order to ensure that all these new different components work together as one coherent mission, dedicated mechanisms and structures to facilitate coordination and cooperation were developed.

It is clear, however, that despite a growing awareness in the 1990s that the security, socio-economic, political and reconciliation dimensions of post-conflict operations are inter-linked, the agencies that undertake these operations have been finding it extremely difficult to meaningfully integrate these different dimensions into coherent country strategies. The failure to effectively coordinate relief, development and security programmes has been identified as a major cause for concern by most of the major evaluation and best practice studies undertaken in recent years.

Why do we need Civil-Military Coordination?

There are many reasons why we need to coordinate, but the following three – interdependence, duplication and leverage – lie at the core of civil-military coordination.


The various components and their sub-units that make up a peace operation are interdependent when no single component or unit can achieve the mandate of the operation on its own. The success of each component is a factor of the contribution it makes to the achievement of the overall mission objective. It is only if the combined and sustained effort proves successful in the long term that the investment made in each individual component or unit can be said to have been worthwhile. In this context, coordination is the process that ensures that an individual unit is connected to the larger system of which it is a part, and without which it cannot succeed.

For instance, the electoral component cannot successfully support the organisation of an election if others, such as the police and the military component, do not help to create a safe and secure environment. If the administration does not provide logistical support, and if various other units such as Civil Affairs, Human Rights and Public Information do not focus their areas of expertise and resources on the common objective, the election may fail. In order to achieve effective civil-military coordination, the various components involved in the election need to share information, undertake joint planning, undertake joint operations and cooperate in confidence-building initiatives.


In the absence of meaningful coordination, overlap, duplication and an overall uneconomic and inefficient application of resources will be features of the mission. Different components will use time and resources to collect the same information, and many components will focus on the same high-profile cases while neglecting other often more inaccessible cases. The more meaningful the coordination, the more efficient the overall effort will be.

For instance, if the medical unit of a peacekeeping battalion, a local clinic and medical non-governmental organisations do not coordinate efforts, they may all end up covering the same area and may neglect others. If they coordinate their efforts they can spread out and cover a much wider area, with each providing a service according to their appropriate role, resources and capabilities.


By combining effort, through mutual support and by coordinating different initiatives to coincide over the same time period, one is achieving the power of leverage – that is, achieving more together than each component would have been able to achieve on its own. Leverage is achieved through the exchange of information, joint planning, mutual support and ongoing coordination and feedback.

For instance, through coordination the various components involved in a Demobilisation, Disarmament and Reintegration (DDR) campaign (the military component, military observers, police, UN agencies, international and local NGOs, local authorities, conflicting parties, local community, former combatants and their families) will mutually reinforce each others’ efforts and, in so doing, develop a positive momentum around the DDR campaign that will help each component overcome the obstacles it faces in its own area of specialisation.

CIMIC and Other Similar Concepts

Civil-military coordination is one of those areas within the peace operation field that suffers from a lack of common understanding and shared terminology. There are many different concepts that describe essentially the same activity, that is, coordination and cooperation between the civilian, military and police components in peace operations. Some of the most commonly used concepts you may come across are the following:

Civil Military Cooperation (CIMIC)

The most widely-used term, especially in the western military community, is Civil-Military Cooperation (CIMIC). According to the American, British, Canadian, and Australian Armies Standardisation Programme the definition of CIMIC is as follows:

CIMIC is the relationship of interaction, cooperation and coordination, mutual support, joint planning and constant exchange of information at all levels between military forces, civilian organisations, agencies and in-theatre civil influences, which are necessary to achieve an effective response in the full range of operations. (ABCA, 2001:1)


Cooperation means ‘working together for a common purpose’
(Oxford Dictionary)

The NATO definition of CIMIC is:

The coordination and cooperation, in support of the mission, between the NATO Commander and civil populations, including national and local authorities, as well as international, national and non-governmental organisations and agencies. (NATO, 2000:1)

The EU definition of CIMIC is:

The coordination and cooperation, in support of the mission, between military components of EU-led Crisis Management Operations and civil role-players (external to the EU), including national population and local authorities, as well as international, national and non-governmental organisations and agencies. (EU, 2002:9)

The United States military establishment uses the terms ‘Civil Military Operations’ and ‘Civil Affairs’.1

Civil-Military Operations (CMO) are the activities of a commander that establish, maintain, influence, or exploit relations between military forces, governmental and non-governmental civilian organisations and authorities, and the civilian populace in a friendly, neutral, or hostile operational area in order to facilitate military operations, to consolidate and achieve operational US objectives. Civil-military operations may include the performance by military forces of activities and functions normally the responsibility of the local, regional, or national government. These activities may occur prior to, during, or subsequent to other military actions. They may also occur, if directed, in the absence of other military operations. Civil-military operations may be performed by designated civil affairs, by other military forces, or by a combination of civil affairs and other forces. (USA, JP 3−57, FM 41−10 and JP 1−02).

Civil Affairs (CA) are designated active and reserve component forces and units organised, trained, and equipped specifically to conduct civil affairs activities and to support civil-military operations. (USA, JP 3−57, FM 41−10 and JP 1−02)

Civil Affairs activities are performed or supported by civil affairs to: (a) enhance the relationship between military forces and civil authorities in areas where military forces are present and (b) involve application of civil affairs functional speciality skills, in areas normally the responsibility of civil government, to enhance conduct of civil-military operations. (USA, JP 3−57, FM 41−10 and JP 1−02)

It is important to differentiate the US military’s use of Civil Affairs (CA) from the Civil Affairs function of the civilian component in AU and UN peace operations. AU and UN Civil Affairs Officers (CAOs) perform tasks such as liaison, monitoring and facilitation at the local level; confidence building, conflict management and reconciliation; and support to the restoration and extension of state authority.


Coherence implies an overall state of mutual consistency among the different policies and actions of various agencies.
(Oxford Dictionary)

In the peace operations context, ‘coherence’ can be understood as the effort to ensure that the peace, security and development dimensions of an intervention in a particular crisis are directed towards a common objective.
(de Coning, 2004:46)

Civil-Military Relations (CMR)

There is another concept and field of studies – Civil-Military Relations (CMR) – that falls outside the peace operations realm. The study of CMR focuses on the role of the military and other security forces in a democracy. It typically deals with the relationship between the military and civil society in countries in transition, where it informs Security Sector Reform (SSR). CMR is particularly relevant for societies that are undergoing transformation from military rule to civilian rule, or where the military played a particular prominent domestic role. CIMIC Officers may deal with CMR issues as the peace operations force and police are often involved in the training of new security forces. However, it is important to make a clear conceptual distinction between CIMIC and CMR.

Civil-Military Coordination in the AU and UN Peace Operations Context

What most of these approaches to civil-military coordination have in common is that they see civil- military cooperation as a command tool, that is, it is something done in the service of the commander and military mission. It is there to assist and serve the military commanders in the execution of their military task and the achievement of their military objectives. The essential difference between these approaches and similar activities undertaken in the AU and UN context is that AU and UN peace operations have an integrated military, civilian and police mandate and mission structure. In UN operations, the civil-military relationships between components of the peace operation, and between the peace operation and the rest of the UN System, will already be pre-determined, to a large degree, by the organisational structure of the specific UN peace operation.


Coordination means ‘making things, people and parts function together efficiently and in an organised way’.
(Oxford Dictionary)

Coordination is ‘the organisation of the activities of two or more groups in such a way that each may work more efficiently and be aware of what the other group(s) are doing.’
(Collins Dictionary)

Whereas CIMIC in NATO and EU doctrine is thus motivated by the need to establish cooperation between the military force as a separate entity and external (external to NATO or EU) civilian role-players in the same area of operations, AU and UN peace operations are motivated by the need to maximise coordination among its own multidimensional components, and to establish cooperation between the peace operation and other actors in the same mission area.

UN Humanitarian Civil-Military Coordination (UN-CMCoord)

The focal point for UN humanitarian coordination policy and training in the United Nations System is the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). OCHA has, under the authority of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC), facilitated the development of the ‘Guidelines on the use of Military and Civil Defence Assets to Support United Nations Humanitarian Activities in Complex Emergencies’ (MCDA) (OCHA, 2003). This set of guidelines also introduced a new term into our vocabulary, namely UN Humanitarian Civil-Military Coordination (CMCoord).

The MCDA guidelines have been developed to address the use of military and civil defence assets to support humanitarian assistance in all complex emergencies, including in the UN peace operations context. The guidelines thus serve as a crucial reference point for all persons involved in civil-military coordination.

The guidelines have been developed to address all civil-military coordination scenarios in complex emergencies and have been influenced, to a large degree, by the recent experiences of humanitarian agencies working alongside NATO and US-led multinational coalitions in Afghanistan and Iraq. In these situations the distance between the humanitarian community and the military forces is typically much greater than that experienced in UN peace operations where the military force is part of the UN mission, and under the overall control of the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General.

From an AU and UN peace operations perspective, it should also be noted that the MCDA guidelines are limited to the humanitarian dimension of civil-military coordination. Humanitarian coordination is one of the most important aspects of civil-military coordination in AU and UN peace operations during the early phase of a new operation, but it is not the only area of civil-military coordination. Coordination should take place among all components, at all levels and during the whole life of an AU and UN peace operation, that is, from the earliest assessments and planning stages, through the deployment and stabilisation phase, through the peacebuilding phase and until the peace operation has been withdrawn.

The United Nations

UN Civil-Military Coordination

The UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) has participated in the IASC MCDA process, but it has also, in parallel, been busy developing a civil-military coordination policy specifically for UN peace operations. Although civil-military coordination has been part of UN peace operations, in one or other form, since its inception, there was no specific UN doctrine or policy that governed ‘civil-military coordination’ until September 2002, when the DPKO released its first ‘Civil-Military Coordination Policy’. This policy was updated and revised in 2010.

Humanitarian Coordination

Coordination is the systematic use of policy instruments to deliver humanitarian assistance in a cohesive and effective manner. Such instruments include:

1. strategic planning;
2. gathering data and managing information;
3. mobilising resources and ensuring accountability;
4. orchestrating a functional division of labour;
5. negotiating and maintaining a serviceable framework with host political authorities; and
6. providing leadership.

Sensibly and sensitively employed, such instruments inject an element of discipline without unduly constraining action.
(Minear and Chellia, 1992:3)

UN Civil-Military Coordination Definitions

The definition for UN Humanitarian Civil-Military Coordination (CMCoord) is:

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)

The UN definition for 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)

As there are different meanings associated with the different concepts, and as it did not want to add to the confusion of introducing yet another acronym, DPKO has refrained from using an acronym for civil-military coordination. However, in practice, DPKO has been using the abbreviation ‘CIMIC’ in most of the missions it has established since 2000. The AU does not have a CIMIC definition or policy of its own, but it has a general position that it will use UN concepts in those areas where it has not developed its own. This online course will follow this practice and ‘CIMIC’ in this online course thus refers to ‘Civil-Military Coordination’ as defined in the 2002 DPKO policy, unless otherwise specified, e.g. ‘NATO CIMIC’.

There are therefore not only different NATO, EU, US and UN definitions for civil-military coordination, but also different definitions within the UN System (although it should be noted that there are no major inconsistencies between the OCHA and DPKO definitions). The difficulty with coming up with one system-wide definition that will satisfy all the role-players in the UN, let alone one definition that the international community can agree on, is indicative of how complex coordination in the peace operations context is.

Coordination, Cooperation and Coexistence

One of the most obvious differences between ‘civil-military cooperation’, as it used in NATO CIMIC, and ‘civil-military coordination’, as it is used in the UN context, is the use of two different words, ‘cooperation’ and ‘coordination’.

In the UN context, ‘cooperation’ is viewed as the strongest relationship that can exist between civilian, military and police components. It is seen as a relationship where the component partners agree to synchronise their policies and behaviour so that they can undertake joint action. Most often, however, the institutional effort necessary to achieve full ‘cooperation’ can only be achieved and maintained under special conditions, for a limited time and for a specific purpose, for instance during an election. Under normal circumstances a less intense relationship is preferred, and this state, especially in the humanitarian context, is referred to in its basic form as ‘coexistence’. This normally implies that the parties to this relationship exchange information, come together for coordination meetings and that they may, from time to time, undertake some form of joint activity, for instance a humanitarian convoy with a military escort. Regardless of whether there is open ‘cooperation’ or only tenuous ‘coexistence’, a minimum level of ‘coordination’ is required. ‘Coordination’ in the UN context can thus range on a scale from ‘cooperation’ in its maximum state to ‘coexistence’ in its minimum state.

Gender & CIMIC

The term gender refers to the social attributes roles, responsibilities, norms and differences associated with being male and female, the relationships between women and men and girls and boys, and the relations between women and between men. These attributes and relationships are socially constructed, learned through socialization and are context-/time-specific and changeable. Gender influences access to resources, rights, responsibilities, authority and life options. Gender also determines the aptitudes, characteristics and behaviors of women and men in a given context.

In the context of AU and UN peace operations, gender is a cross- cutting issue demanding the attention of all mission components. Gender plays a significant role in civil-military coordination. A gendered perspective in peace operations can help identify various vulnerabilities, needs, interests of men and women, boys and girls; can help mainstream gender into planning and decision making processes; and maximise contribution to the stabilisation process.

Conflicts often intensify a society’s gender inequality beyond that which already existed. Conflict negatively affects women and men and results in gender-specific disadvantages and insecurities.

Therefore, there is need for integration of gender into the policies, programmes, processes and activities of a peace mission.

Gender mainstreaming entails bringing the perception, experience, knowledge and interests of women and men to bear on policy-making, planning and decision making in order to assure that the concerns and experiences of women and men are taken into account in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies and programmes in all political, economic and societal spheres. Integrating gender into civil-military coordination is a joint responsibility for both the civilian and military dimensions to ensure that the different needs and priorities of women and men, as well as girls and boys are reflected in their work. Gender awareness is essential to any CIMIC mission and will have positive effects on its outcome. Gender awareness can result in better access to and communication with the local population, all components of the peace operations, other agencies and programmes and Non- Governmental Organisations (NGO).

Focal Areas where Gender and CIMIC Interact

• health
• education
• infrastructure
• economy & employment
• humanitarian relief
• security

The complementary skills of both male and female personnel are essential for the operational effectiveness of peace operations, especially in light of the increasing complexity of civil-military interaction. On 31 October 2000, the United Nations Security Council adopted Security Council Resolution 1325 (UNSCR 1325), “Women, Peace and Security.” UNSCR 1325 recognizes the distinct impact that war and conflict have on men, women, boys and girls and brings to the forefront the fact that women have been historically omitted in peace processes and nation stabilization. UNSCR 1325 calls for full and equal participation of women at all levels in issues ranging from early conflict prevention to post-conflict reconstruction, peace and security.

For CIMIC officers to perform their duties effectively, there is need to recognize and address the different needs of women, men, girls and boys in the countries of deployment. Men, boys, women and girls experience many of the same phenomena during armed conflict, including loss of livelihoods and assets, displacement, physical and mental injury, torture, the death and injury, sexual assault and enforced disappearance. Yet how they experience these phenomena during and after conflict is influenced by different aspects of gender relations and their gender roles. Taking these factors into account, it is apparent that conflict affects men, boys, women and girls in different ways. Gender, age and culture may influence the type of risk someone is vulnerable to, as well as their role in conflict situations. These factors may also affect their coping mechanisms, their specific needs during post-conflict recovery and their roles in building peace. Peace operations thus have a better chance of being effective if they are sensitive to gender issues. The ultimate goal of all peace efforts is a lasting, sustainable peace, and the use of a gender perspective in peace missions represents a means to this end.


In this chapter we introduced and explained different concepts such as CIMIC and CMCoord, and the different uses of ‘coordination’ and ‘cooperation’. In the field it is not important which words we use as long as all the multidimensional components in the mission, and all the other actors, have the same approximate basic understanding of what we mean with ‘coordination’ and the principles its usage implies.

As can be deduced from the existence of so many concepts and definitions, this is not something that will happen automatically. It would be a mistake to assume that the various people and organisations that participate in any given coordination initiative have the same understanding of ‘coordination’. In fact, many of the disputes that develop between components within missions can be traced back to differences in understanding of their respective roles in the mission and the ground rules that should govern that relationship. Thus, one of the most important things to do at the outset of any coordination initiative, and one that should be repeated from time to time as people and participating organisations change, is to agree on a working understanding of ‘coordination’ and to agree on some broad guidelines that will help all the partners in the coordination process to have a common understanding of the fundamental principles on which their relationship is based.

Further reading:

  • Civil-Military Coordination in UN Integrated Peacekeeping Missions (UN-CIMIC),Department of Peacekeeping Operations/Department of Field Services, United Nations, 14 October 2010
  • UNCMCoord Field Handbook, v. 1, and UNCMCoord Guide for the Military, v. 1, UN OCHA CMCS (2015), both available from:
  • UN-CIMIC Special Training Material and Scenario-Based Exercises, First Edition (2012), Department of Peacekeeping Operations/Department of Field Services Integrated Training Services (DPKO/DFS-ITS); available through
  • Civil-Military Coordination in UN Peace Operations, Peace Operations Training Institute,
  • Principles and Guidelines for UN Peacekeeping Operations, Peace Operations Training Institute,
  • Ethics in Peacekeeping, Peace Operations Training Institute,
  • NATO CIMIC Centre of Excellence courses are available through:

UN Charter, 1945

We, the peoples of the United Nations, are determined:

  • to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and
  • to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and
  • to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and
  • to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom, and
  • to practise tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours, and
  • to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security, and
  • to ensure, by the acceptance of principles and the institution of methods, that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest, and
  • to employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples.
French troops stand guard as a United Nations helicopter takes off in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in June 2003.