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

Civilian-Military Humanitarian Coordination

Working Groups

A key component of the Civilian-Military Humanitarian Response Workshops has been the sustained creation of thematic working groups. Each working group has approached their area of focus from different perspectives, cultivating rich discussion and valuable interdisciplinary collaborations. The working groups are designed to encourage dialogue and thinking, inspire an ongoing exchange of ideas, and ultimately help drive research, education, simulation, and other innovative efforts that can improve humanitarian civil-military coordination and engagement in the future. 

Aid Worker Security

This working group explores the range of challenges facing humanitarian aid workers and medical responders in conflict settings and complex emergencies - including attacks by militaries, non-state armed groups, law enforcement, and criminal actors - within a broader context of threats to health, inclusivity, and the erosion of humanitarian norms. This group tackles issues ranging from the future of aid worker security at the operational level, proactively addressing challenges to inclusivity in aid worker security, the role of technology in aid worker security, and the impact of changing humanitarian contexts on aid worker security, such as COVID-19 and the weakening of humanitarian notification systems.

Climate Change & Resilience

This working group explores climate change challenges to humanitarian response and resilience, particularly in disaster response contexts and also in application to military installations. Previous group meetings have highlighted that climate change will have broad impacts, including on long term planning on military bases, deployment of mitigation resources, escalation of global conflicts, and its complications on military and humanitarian disaster response.

Humanitarian Access

This working group explores the range of challenges to full and unimpeded humanitarian access which is a fundamental prerequisite to effective humanitarian action. This group aims to focus on improving humanitarian access in complex emergencies. Discussions will focus on the two-pronged UN concept, comprising:

  • Humanitarian actors’ ability to reach populations in need
  • Affected populations’ access to assistance and services


This working group aims to to conceptualize and explore humanitarian civil-military coordination challenges in preparing for and responding to pandemics, epidemics, and other global public health emergencies. This working group has created the Civil-Military Pandemic Response Network (CM-PRN), which is an informal online network formed of key experts from across humanitarian, military, and research communities, which seeks to facilitate dialogue for improving humanitarian civil-military coordination in responding to pandemics and other emerging global catastrophic biological threats

Protection of Civilians

This working group explores the range of challenges that prevent parties in armed conflict from more effectively recognizing the dignity and rights of civilians, including through preventing civilian harm, protecting civilians caught in conflict, and responding to harm when it occurs. This group aims to help armed actors and civilians in conflict develop and implement solutions to prevent, mitigate, and better respond to civilian harm.


This working group aims to improve the coordination between civilian and military actors given specific challenges and opportunities presented by the urban environment in conflict and natural disaster settings. Urbanization is forcing a shift in traditional humanitarian practice towards more locally-driven, long-term planning and development operations, and away from short-term, in-kind aid to market interventions.