Liaison and Information Management
Liaison and information management lies at the core of all operational CIMIC activities. Liaison forms the basis on which mission support and community support operations are undertaken, and is the main function of CIMIC Officers. It is thus critical for every CIMIC Officer to understand what liaison and information management means and how to go about operationalising the CIMIC liaison role in complex peace operations.
This chapter will introduce liaison and information management in the context of CIMIC activities in peace operations. It covers liaison from several perspectives, with an emphasis on how to achieve effective liaison, and it deals with information management from both the perspective of the military and civilian information spheres.
What Is Liaison?
Liaison occurs when a channel of communication is established between two or more elements with the purpose of exchanging information amongst them. In the peace operation context, the aim is to coordinate the respective initiatives, campaigns and programmes of various mission components, as well as those between the mission and other agencies and organisations.
Management and Coordination
There should be a clear distinction between management or control and coordination. For coordination to be palatable to defensive institutional cultures, it has to be non-threatening. And for it to be non-threatening it has to be voluntary, and free of any decision-making power over the participating agency.
One of the crucial prerequisites for a coherent peace operation is a clearly articulated overall strategy against which individual units, offices and programmes can benchmark their own plans and progress.
In the CIMIC context, liaison refers to the activities undertaken by CIMIC staff officers at all levels to facilitate the exchange of information between the military command level they serve (Force HQ, Sector HQ or unit level command) and their civilian counterparts.
Who is Responsible for Liaison?
Every programme, office, or unit is responsible for liaison. All programmes, offices or units must ensure that their plans and activities are coordinated with others operating in the same environment, with the objective of enhancing the overall strategic direction of the mission. Liaison and coordination is thus a shared responsibility.
In some cases, a specialised unit or office will facilitate coordination. In the peace operations context, it is now the norm that a peacekeeping force or military component will be deployed with a dedicated civil-military coordination (CIMIC) capacity. Most AU and UN peace operations deploy with CIMIC Officers at Force and Sector HQ. It is not yet common among Troop Contributing Countries (TCCs) to deploy Battalions and other specialised units with a dedicated CIMIC capacity. Once deployed, however, such units usually quickly discover the need to appoint a CIMIC or liaison officer.
Coordination is a Shared Responsibility
In the AU and UN context, mission coordination is a shared responsibility. No single multidimensional mission component (political, security, human rights, etc.) should be the central point around which the others are coordinated.
Each component should take responsibility for coordination around its own area of responsibility. Mission-wide strategic coordination and planning is the responsibility of the Office of the Special Representative.
Coordinating With vs. Coordinating Others
People have different perceptions about what coordination means. For instance, there is a difference between coordination with others and coordinating others. In the latter case there is an assumption of control where one party is exerting some kind of management function on the others, whereas in the former the power relationship is neutral.
Liaison, as it is used in this chapter, refers to coordination with others in a power-neutral fashion where all the players are regarded as equal and where none has the right to control or instruct the others. Coordination, in this context, is a voluntary activity based on mutual respect and the recognition of mutual interdependence.
The CIMIC Officers at HQ and Sector level, and the officers performing the CIMIC function at unit level, represent the military component’s dedicated effort to ensure that there is a meaningful exchange of information between the military component, at all levels, and its external (international agencies and NGOs) and internal (local communities and authorities) civilian counterparts.
How is Liaison Achieved?
Liaison occurs when information is exchanged. It is most effective between components that are directly interdependent on each other and therefore most coordination takes place within functional sectors – for example, all those working in the water and sanitation area, or all those involved in organising or supporting an election.
Liaison can be achieved through verbal communication or the exchange of written information. Verbal communication occurs through face-to-face meetings or some form of telephone or radio communication. Face-to-face meetings can be informal or formal, and can occur on a one-to-one or group (meeting) basis. If circumstances require it, CIMIC Officers can establish some form of meeting place, often referred to as a CIMIC Centre.
Communication: A key requirement for any CIMIC Officer is that they must be good communicators. This implies that they should be fluent in the mission language. If they are going to be working with the local community, a good working knowledge of the local language(s) will be a tremendous asset. It also implies that they should be good at cross-cultural communication and negotiation, and that they are experienced in participating in, and chairing meetings, constructively and efficiently. CIMIC Officers are likely to host coordination meetings that share security information, and they may attend meetings hosted by OCHA or other agencies that coordinate or exchange information on humanitarian and other matters.
CIMIC Liaison Functions
Advise: Advise commanders and other staff officers (J3 Operations; J2 Intelligence/Information; Public Information, etc.) on all aspects of the civil-military interface.
Assist: Act as the point of contact with the military for civilian agencies, and facilitate the exchange of information between civilian actors and the peacekeeping force.
Collect: Collect, process and share information on the mission support environment (who does what, where) and community support environment (needs analysis; project database; local leaders, organisations and contractors database); to ease the sharing of information, CIMIC Officers must strive to ensure information is not unnecessarily classified.
Coordinate: Attend, and where appropriate, host coordination meetings between relevant civilian agencies and military units.
Evaluate: Monitor and evaluate CIMIC functions to determine and enhance effectiveness (measure results against objectives) and efficiency (measure results against resources expended).
Manage: Establish and maintain a CIMIC Centre, where necessary.
Plan: Prepare CIMIC plans that contribute to the operational plan and transform the commander’s intent into operational CIMIC actions: liaison and information management, mission support and community support.
Prepare: CIMIC assessments/estimates (as per the system established for each mission).
Process: Receive, process (analyse and prioritise), submit, track and provide feedback on requests for assistance received from civilian agencies.
Report: On all CIMIC activities to higher HQ (as per the system established for the mission: daily, weekly, monthly, etc.).
(Adapted from the Canadian Army Lessons Learned Centre, 1999)
Relationships: CIMIC Officers need to proactively reach out to their civilian counterparts and develop constructive relationships so that they can exchange information in an atmosphere of mutual trust and respect. This implies that the CIMIC Officers should study the mandate and role of each of its civilian counterparts so that they develop an understanding of their place in, and contribution to, the overall system.
Operation centres: CIMIC Officers should also be readily accessible to their civilian counterparts. This is where the CIMIC Centres become useful in that they provide a forum in which civilian agencies can request assistance or obtain information. In cases where the military is regularly approached to provide security escorts or military assets to support civilian partners, the CIMIC Centre can serve as a useful place to gather regularly to exchange information, process requests, and provide feedback on such requests.
CIMIC equipment: CIMIC Officers should also have the equipment necessary to ensure that they are able to undertake their liaison task. They should have their own transport so that they can drive to meeting locations, and to where their civilian counterparts are based. They should have the technology and communication equipment necessary to communicate with their military and civilian colleagues, and the computer equipment to write reports.
Support Provided by the UN Joint Logistics Centre in Kabui, Afghanistan
‘The United Nations Joint Logistics Centre (UNJLC) was a tremendous help to us as we organised an emergency Loya Jirga. The UN agencies on the ground could not meet all of our requirements and the UNJLC was instrumental in filling that ‘capacity gap’, in creative and cost-effective ways. Specific strengths of the UNJLC included facilitation of different processes:
• There were numerous instances when we had problems or situations that could not be adequately addressed by a single agency. The UNJLC staff had, over time, generated personal relationships with the operational staff of all these agencies and organisations and were able to quickly pull together coalitions to accomplish tasks.
• In a situation where agencies often compete and don’t coordinate their efforts, the UNJLC was a tremendous help in addressing problems that were too broad for just one agency to address. Their attitudes, expertise and resources made them what I consider the most effective UN service In Afghanistan.’
Processing requests for military support: When a request is made for military support, the CIMIC Officer receives the request, processes it, and submits it to the relevant operational command level for approval. Once approved, the CIMIC Officer will provide feedback to the agency that made the request, facilitate the planning of the task, and place the relevant tactical operators in direct contact with each other for the execution of the task. The CIMIC Officer will monitor the execution of the task, facilitate an After Action Review (AAR), where appropriate, and report on the outcome of the support rendered within the CIMIC reporting structures.
Entry Points for Coordination in AU and UN Peace Operations
Mission HQ level
• Senior Management Team
• Security Management Team
• QIPs: Project Approval Committee
• Joint Operations Centre (JOC)
• Joint Mission Analysis Cell (JMAC)
Peace Operations Force
• CIMIC Centre
• CIMIC Liaison Officers
• NCDDR, JIU, Training Centre, JOC
• Humanitarian Operation Centre (UNHOC)
• Humanitarian Information Centre (UNHIC)
• UN Joint Logistics Operations Centre (UNJLOC)
• CMCoord Officers
• Military Liaison Officer (MLO)
The success of civil-military coordination is directly linked to the quality and quantity of information shared. CIMIC Officers at all levels need to understand: what information may be required from them and, what information they need to obtain from a military perspective.
From the military perspective, the information that will be most useful is:
- an understanding of the civilian environment within which the military operates –
- a ‘who does what, where’ list of civilian agencies operating in the military unit or HQ’s Area of Operation (AO);
- the existence and location of local authorities and key social infrastructure (hospitals; clinics; schools, etc.);
- an assessment of the most pressing socio-economic needs of the communities within the AO; and
- an assessment of the likely scope and nature of requests for military support that can be anticipated.
The civilian environment: In order to develop an understanding of the civilian environment, the CIMIC Officer will have to develop and maintain, on a regular basis, information relating to (i) to (iii), above. Some of this information can be obtained directly by the CIMIC Officer, but the rest could be obtained by making use of other military resources such military observers, or regular patrols at unit level. The CIMIC Officer may develop a questionnaire or assessment form, and ask military observers and units to provide the information identified on the questionnaire on a regular basis, for example, monthly.
The CIMIC Centre
• The CIMIC Centre is a user-friendly centre where civilian agencies can comfortably meet with CIMIC Officers.
• In some missions it is also known as a CIMIC House.
• The CIMIC Centre can be located at Force HQ, sector HQ or battalion level.
• It is typically an office from where CIMIC Officers operate as well as a meeting place where civilian agencies, local leaders and CIMIC staff interact.
• It is usually ‘outside the wire’, meaning it is not located inside a military compound. This makes the CIMIC Centre more accessible to civilian agencies.
• It will typically have a static information display including: ‘who does what, where’ information; points of contact; sector coordination information; geographic information-rich maps; and project database for the area of operations.
• In some situations, where it is more effective for CIMIC Officers to visit civilian agencies where they work than to offer a static information and liaison service, CIMIC patrols can be undertaken. In most cases a combination of a static and mobile liaison service is ideal.
• The CIMIC Centre is typically manned during office hours, but in some cases the CIMIC Centre is located at the same place as where the officers stay, and this allows for more flexible access, including more informal after hours contact. During emergencies, and provided there are sufficient staff, a CIMIC Centre may be operational on a 24/7 basis.
(Adapted from the Canadian Army Lessons Learned Centre, 1999)
A patrol aimed at obtaining such information is known as a CIMIC patrol. Other information can be obtained through liaison with civilian counterparts that may already have the same information. For instance, a sector level CIMIC Officer will find that his or her OCHA or humanitarian affairs colleague would also maintain a ‘who does what, where’ database of humanitarian organisations.
Intelligence: The CIMIC Officer needs to be sensitive to the difference between operational intelligence and CIMIC information, and ensure that these two types of information are gathered, processed, and disseminated separately. This will ensure that the CIMIC effort is not undermined by suspicion or fears on the side of the humanitarian partners that the information they exchange with the CIMIC Officer may impact negatively on their impartiality and neutrality. It is therefore not advisable to ask one person to double as both CIMIC and intelligence officer at any command level.
Advice to the Commander
One of the principal reasons why a CIMIC Officer is gathering information about the CIMIC environment through liaison, is because he or she is responsible for advising their commander on all civil-military related matters. It is not possible to train all soldiers as CIMIC specialists, but by training a few we are creating a capacity for advice and liaison within the system. CIMIC Officers are strategically placed at all command centres to act as an interface between the military component and their civilian counterparts, and to advise commanders on the appropriate actions to take when it comes to liaising with various civilian agencies in any given mission area.
Reporting: Some information will be requested from Force HQ and will thus form part of the regular monthly or weekly reporting system.
Community support projects: In cases where the Sector or unit-level CIMIC Officer is involved in facilitating QIPs or other unit-level community support projects, such a database should include:
- a record of all proposals submitted;
- information on whether the proposal has been approved, or denied, or is pending; and
- information on the status of implementation of those projects that have been approved.
It can also include related information, such a list of potential contractors, or places where goods regularly needed can be procured, etc.
Liaison Officers (LO)
A LO is a military officer stationed with a specific civilian agency to establish a communication channel between the peacekeeping force and the agency. An LO should:
• understand the mandate, structure and operating principles of the peacekeeping force and the civilian agency where they are placed;
• be knowledgeable of the relevant policies, principles and guidelines that will govern the civil-military relationship between the force and the civilian agency;
• create and maintain a professional and transparent relationship with the civilian agency;
• participate in the planning processes of both the civilian agency and the peacekeeping force;
• advise the head of the civilian agency of the support the peacekeeping force can provide, including the limitations and implications linked to such support; and
• advise the commander on the needs of the civilian agency and the appropriateness (on the basis of the relevant guidelines) of the support requested by the civilian agency.
(Canadian Army Lessons Learned Centre, 1999)
From the civilian side, the information that civilian mission components, UN agencies, NGOs and the local community and authorities would be most interested in is:
- information relating to the security situation; and
- information relating to assistance the military can offer.
Security information: In terms of security, civilian agencies will be interested in any information that will enable them to have a better picture of the threats and risks they may face. They will be interested in: any security-related incidents (political or criminal); mine threats and incidents; road conditions; weather reports; and, any military action that may result in increased tension in a specific area. CIMIC Officers thus have to obtain this kind of security-related information from within the military establishment by attending briefings, and through individual meetings with relevant staff. In the case of classified information, CIMIC Officers will have to, in consultation with the relevant functional specialists, decide what information can be shared with civilian partners. CIMIC Officers will have to sensitise their colleagues to the need to share information with civilian partners and to therefore refrain from unnecessarily classifying information that may be of use beyond the military.
Military support: In terms of the support the military can provide to their civilian counterparts we can distinguish between mission support – that is, the support provided to external actors such as mission civilian components, UN agencies and international NGOs – and community support – that is, support provided to local communities, local authorities, local NGOs, etc. Mission support can be either in the form of security or assets.
Security support: Security support typically occurs in the form of a military escort for a civilian convoy or mission. The CIMIC Officers thus need to familiarise themselves with:
- the baseline UN policy in this regard, that is, the ‘Use of military or armed escorts for humanitarian convoys’ of September 2001;
- any mission specific policies and SOPs that may exist regarding armed escorts; as well as,
- the capability, experience and willingness of the military units within the CIMIC Officer’s AO – so that this information can be shared with civilian partners.
The CIMIC Officer also needs to be familiar with the scope of the need for military escorts, such as: How many agencies may require escorts on a regular basis? What are the sizes of the civilian convoys and what kind of cargo do they transport? Which routes do they regularly use? This kind of information should be shared with the military planners so that they can decide how best to meet such a need, if appropriate, with the means at their disposal. One element of the information-management database that a CIMIC Officer needs to maintain for his or her AO, relates to the potential provision of security support to civilian partners.
Use of military assets: When it comes to the potential use of military assets to support the activities of the civilian partners in the CIMIC Officer’s AO, he or she would need to be familiar with:
- the baseline UN policy in this regard, that is, the ‘Guidelines on the use of military or civil defence assets to support UN humanitarian activities in complex emergencies’;
- any mission specific policies and SOPs that may exist with respect to the use of military assets in support of civilian partners; as well as, the resources, capability, experience and willingness of the military units within the CIMIC Officer’s AO to render such support – so that this information can be shared with the civilian partners.
At the same time, the CIMIC Officer needs to develop an understanding of the potential for requests of this nature in his or her AO. The CIMIC Officer needs to be able to provide planning and operation colleagues with a rough estimate of the frequency with which they can anticipate such requests, the nature and scope of such requests (what kind of support can the military anticipate being regularly asked to provide), and the areas/ locations where such support may be required to be provided. The CIMIC Officer thus needs to develop and maintain a database of both the potential resources that the military force may have to offer, as well as a database of the potential need for such services. Such a database will enable the CIMIC Officer to effectively and timeously respond to any requests for assistance, especially in emergency situations.
Institutional memory: With most military units being rotated every six months, and with CIMIC staff officers at Force and Sector HQ being rotated every year, institutional memory is a major problem for the military component in any peace operation. The maintenance of these CIMIC databases is thus crucial in ensuring that institutional memory is transferred between units and between Force and Sector-level staff officers. QIPs often take more than six months (the typical deployment period for a formed unit) to progress from proposal to finalisation, and a project that was identified by one unit may ultimately be implemented by another. Many food security and health problems are seasonal. This implies that the institutional memory regarding the previous response has to be transferred over a twelve-month period to the third unit in the rotation cycle. Well-maintained, low-tech and easily transferable databases are critically important if we are to avoid re-inventing the wheel with every new rotation.
Example of regular meetings a CIMIC officer may have to participate in
Liaison and information management lies at the core of all CIMIC activity. The CIMIC Officer will spend most of his or her time obtaining and exchanging information through liaison, managing the information in some kind of database, and making the information in the database available, as needed, to military colleagues and civilian partners. The CIMIC Officer thus has two main roles to perform: there is a need to provide the military component with information on the civilian environment and needs; and, a need to keep civilian partners informed about information the support the military component can offer, or share information, for instance on security and risks, that the military component may have at its disposal.
When requests are made for military support (mission support or community support) the CIMIC Officer receives the request, processes it, and submits it to the relevant operational command level for approval. Once approved, the CIMIC Officer will facilitate the planning of the task, and place the relevant tactical operators in direct contact with each other for execution of the task. The CIMIC Officer will monitor the action and facilitate an ‘after-action review’, where appropriate, and report on the outcome of the support rendered within the CIMIC reporting structures. Effective liaison and meaningful information management are critical success factors in peace operations in general, and CIMIC operations in particular.
Operating Principles for the Use of Military Assets in Humanitarian Operations
In 1995, the Inter-Agency Standing Committee Working Group adopted the ‘Report of the Task Force on the Use of Military and Civil Defence Assets in Support of Humanitarian Operations’.1 The report established six general ‘operating principles’ with respect to the use of military assets in support of humanitarian operations. These stated that:
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 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.2
1 United Nations Department of Humanitarian Affairs, ‘Inter-Agency Standing Committee Working Group, XIXth Meeting, Summary Record’, 27 September 1995, Geneva.
2 United Nations Department of Humanitarian Affairs, ‘The Use of Military and Civil Defence Assets in Support of Humanitarian Operations: Report of the Task Force’, 27 September 1995.