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

Civil-Military Pandemic Response Network (CM-PRN)

The Civil-Military Pandemic Response Network (CM-PRN) 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.


Pandemics and other potential global catastrophic biological threats represent both humanitarian and security threats at a transnational scale. As the drivers of emerging infectious diseases rapidly evolve in type, scope, and complexity, humanitarian, military and government actors within this same system face the same urgent need to develop innovative, cross-sector, and futures-oriented solutions for anticipating and responding to tomorrow’s global public health catastrophes today. In this context, pandemics represent a timely lens to engage with, and align, a range of issues relevant to the wider development of humanitarian civil-military coordination practice.

At present, however, the state of coordination mechanisms – and indeed, foundational dialogue – between these different communities remains nascent. Key existing humanitarian civ-mil guidance – including the Oslo[1] and MCDA[2] guidelines - do not currently address pandemics/public health emergencies adequately.

Likewise, the academic and policy literature dealing with humanitarian civil-military coordination remains under-developed across many critical areas of work, including major gaps in evidence-based research and guidance development. There is, in particular, a notable lack of clarity around common research priorities, areas of potential alignment, and mechanisms for dialogue between different research and learning actors working in this space.

In recognition of this gap, an emerging dialogue between a range of civilian and military public health and civil-military coordination experts has recently begun to build a common platform for sustained collaborative dialogue around pandemic civil-military issues.

  • Key milestones include the Working Group on Pandemic Civil-Military Coordination, convened over the last two years as part of the Humanitarian Civil-Military Workshop series, held in October 2016 at the US Naval War College and in August 2017 at Brown University. Both sessions brought together a diverse group of leading experts from military, government, international humanitarian, and research communities, who generated a draft set of research priorities, policy recommendations, and inaugural network from this group.
  • Outputs from these exercises were further developed in a complimentary Oxford University-Royal United Services Institute Civil-Military Coordination Workshop, held October 2017 in London.

During the 2016 Civil-Military Humanitarian Response Workshop held at the US Naval War College, the Pandemic Civil-military Working Group proposed the formation of an informal online network with the purpose of maintaining dialogue between participants, and further develop potentially collaborative research opportunities around civil-military coordination issues relating to pandemics/public health emergencies. Participants agreed to remain in touch via a list-serve to further develop the scope and terms of reference for this network.Over 2016, the network was convened once to discuss its initial scope and priority activities.

The second Pandemic Civil-Military Working Group, convened in 2017 at Brown University, expressed a strong interest in re-activating the network, and suggested the title ‘Civil Military Pandemic Response Network’ (CM-PRN). Participants proposed as immediate next steps to reengage those experts who have expressed interest in joining during the 2016 iteration of the network, and inviting new members to join in advance of the Working Groups’ third session (to be held in the fall of 2018).


CM-PRN seeks to build on the existing momentum developed over the last two years of dialogue by building an informal network of practice for continued coordination and refinement of civil-military coordination issues related to pandemics and other potential global biological catastrophic risks.

Within this scope, the CM-PRN network has the following primary objectives:

  • To convene and facilitate collaborative dialogue, and where appropriate, identify shared priorities relevant for immediate, medium, and long-term planning and partnership-strengthening in the context of humanitarian civil-military coordination around pandemic response. This conversation will be particularly focused on ways in which future pandemic drivers, including both natural and man-made, demonstrate convergence between humanitarian and security dimensions. 
  • To provide a forum for sharing information on – and where of interest to individual participants, aligning – complementary research, guidance, and learning development agendas between international researchers and practitioners, who have to date lacked a common forum for collaborative agenda-setting and sharing of research agendas.
  • To support informal networking between professionals working across different civilian and military communities, and to further relationship and partnership-building in advance of major emergency response operations.
  • To support broader civil-military coordination guidance and policy development efforts by providing technical advice and guidance around issues of pandemics and global health security issues.


The CM-PRN will initially be chaired by Adam Levine (Brown University), Kaveh Khoshnood (Yale University), and Josiah Kaplan (Oxford University). It envisioned 3-4 group calls before the fall 2018 Workshop, with the chairs providing support to any bilateral discussion of interest that may emerge.

In consultation with participants, suggested next steps include:

  • Refinement of CM-PRN concept, scope and structure
  • Network expansion
  • Stakeholder analysis to determine how best to present the CM-PRN concept to correct audiences in DoD, IHC, academia, and ministries of health.
  • Action and research prioritisation, drawing from the most recent 2017 Pandemic Working Group action plan.
  • Development of webinar content (and website content) covering some of the major themes discussed over the last two pandemic working groups.

For further information, please contact Dr. Josiah Kaplan at Josiah.Kaplan@gmail.com

[2] UNOCHA (2006) ‘Guidelines on the Use of Military and Civil Defense Assets to Support UN Humanitarian Activities in Complex Emergencies.’