Humanitarian Civil-Military Coordination (UN-CMCoord)

When an emergency or natural disaster creates humanitarian needs, many countries will deploy their militaries or paramilitary organizations to respond. Bilateral support to disaster-affected States can also be provided through international deployment of foreign military actors and assets. When local and international humanitarian organizations are also involved in that response, it is essential that they can operate in the same space without detriment to the civilian character of humanitarian assistance.

It is for this reason that United Nations Humanitarian Civil-Military Coordination (UN-CMCoord) facilitates dialogue and interaction between civilian and military actors, essential to protect and promote humanitarian principles, avoid competition, minimize inconsistency and, when appropriate, pursue common goals.

UN-CMCoord is a framework that enhances a broad understanding of humanitarian action and guides political and military actors on how best to support that action. It helps to develop context-specific policy based on internationally agreed guidelines, and it establishes humanitarian civil-military coordination structures, ensuring staff members are trained to make that coordination work. UN-CMCoord is particularly essential in complex emergencies / high-risk environments in order to facilitate humanitarian access, the protection of civilians, and the security of humanitarian aid workers.

OCHA’s Role

Humanitarian civil-military coordination supports OCHA's overall efforts in humanitarian operations with a military presence, where OCHA leads the establishment and management of interaction with military actors. This relationship will change depending on the type of emergency and the roles and responsibilities of the military. OCHA supports humanitarian and military actors through training and advocacy on the guidelines that govern the use of foreign military and civil defence assets and humanitarian civil-military interaction. OCHA also seeks to establish a predictable approach to the use of these assets by considering their use during preparedness and contingency-planning activities.

OCHA’s Geneva-based Civil-Military Coordination Section (CMCS) has been designated the focal point in the UN system for humanitarian civil-military coordination. It supports relevant field and headquarter-level activities through the development of institutional strategies to enhance the capacity and preparedness of national and international partners through the creation of non-binding guidelines on the use of military assets, training, workshops, conferences and simulation exercises to prepare operational partners to better respond to humanitarian crises. As custodian of UN-CMCoord related guidelines, CMCS also helps humanitarian actors develop context-specific guidelines tailored to a particular situation. The training programme aims to equip humanitarian and military actors with the skills and knowledge necessary to communicate and, where appropriate, effectively interact with each other. CMCS also prepares and deploys personnel to act as dedicated UN-CMCoord experts to the field.

When necessary, CMCS advises the international community on needs related to mobilizing foreign military assets in support of relief operations or humanitarian assistance. This takes place through an advocacy strategy that complements and supports USG-level dialogue, coupled with the publication of operational guidance.

Should you need further information, please contact Civil-Military Coordination Section Secretariat at

Tel: (+41) 22 917 34 84
Email: cmcs@un.org

Resources
OCHA on Message: Civil-Military Coordination (November 2013)
CMCS Organigramme