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Photo: Haiti earthquake response

Evaluating the effectiveness of CIVMIL guidance

One of the biggest challenges in the area of civil-military (CIVMIL) engagement is how to create an authentic, mutual understanding between the various stakeholders. Without a silver bullet on offer, the international community has nonetheless established guidelines and related training to enable a better understanding, and also experiments in different theatres with ad hoc innovations and context-specific practices.  


In 2010, the Australian Government recognised that there was little substantive analysis of the uptake and impact of such field-based CIVMIL guidance, particularly regarding their effectiveness in facilitating better humanitarian outcomes.  We set out to fill this gap in understanding by comparatively assessing several country-specific CIVMIL guidelines in depth.  


Over a nine-month period, we asked more than 200 field personnel working in four countries covered by the Guidelines – Afghanistan, DRC, Haiti and Sudan (with a focus on South Sudan) – about their perceptions regarding the purpose, update, and ultimate utility of the current set of guidelines. Peacekeepers, regional and host nation troops, OCHA staff, Red Cross delegates, NGO operational staff, and local people were interviewed in the field, while workshops and HQ consultations took place in Canberra, New York, Washington DC, London and Geneva.


Many of the same issues we identified in 2010 remain just as pertinent in 2015 – as do our original recommendations. While the intent and principles of the Guidelines remain welcome, various inherent limitations and obstacles still need to be overcome before they can influence practice. Some of these issues are particularly difficult to address, such as those rooted in politics, government doctrine and talent retention; others, however, present opportunities for potential improvement that are possible to tackle in the next five years.


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