Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Studies (CHRHS)

Civil-Military What?! Making Sense of Competing Civil-Military Relations Concepts

From United Nations Civil-Military Coordination (UN-CMCoord), to NATO Civil-Military Cooperation (NATO-CIMIC), and United States Army Civil Affairs, a wide array of national, regional, and international institutions have created their own concepts to guide interactions, coordination, and relations between military and civilian actors in a variety of conflict and peacetime settings. The end result of these efforts is a myriad of similar yet slightly differing concepts being created, each specifically tailored to its parent entity, but often different enough to cause significant misunderstandings and misconceptions when compared to each other. This research project aims at helping practitioners, decision-makers, analysts, and scholars better understand and navigate the varying conceptual frameworks for civil-military relations in use by different organizations and in different contexts.

To the authors’ knowledge, no common guide or common language has been developed for the myriad of civil-military concepts present in the world to date. Thus, this paper will fill this gap by providing civil-military practitioners, decision-makers, analysts, and academics a simplified, accessible, and easily replicable guide and tool to navigate different civil-military concepts found in this study. This tool uses an innovative analytical framework developed by the authors that uses four pre-identified parameters to categorize specific civil-military concepts into one of five archetypes. This then allows users to quickly and clearly identify broad similarities and differences between specific civil-military concepts, in effect, create a common language to decipher the variations between civil-military concepts in use today. The study will also create a large publicly available repository of different civil-military concepts that other civil-military researchers could use in future studies.

The project has four specific objectives: 

  1. Create an innovative analytical framework intended to organize, compare, and assess different civil-military concepts in a quick and accessible way.
  2. Catalogue existing civil-military concepts used by different organizations around the world to be used in the study.
  3. Apply the analytical framework to organize and classify different civil military concepts collected in the study. 
  4. Examine the findings provided by the analytical framework to provide a proof-of-concept of the utility of the analytical framework, for example, by highlighting the similarities and differences between concepts, as well as identifying existing conceptual gaps within and across organizations.