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

Civilian-Military Interaction in Conflicts: Best Practices and Perceptions

This research effort which is led by the Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Studies at Brown University in collaboration with the U.S. Naval War College, is fully funded by the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration. Through research conducted in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Philippines, and Jordan, this study aims to significantly expand and deepen the understanding of civilian-military coordination across different types of humanitarian crises and aid in the development of updated evidence-based guidance for humanitarian and military actors working in close proximity in a diverse range of contexts worldwide. The study will also aim to further develop new tools for evaluating community perceptions of military humanitarian assistance, which in turn would allow for practitioners, academics, and policy makers to effectively assess community perceptions of civilian and military humanitarian assistance in a variety of locations globally.

Scant evidence-based research has been conducted into the ways that militaries and traditional humanitarian actors coordinate during the many different types of emergencies worldwide, from sudden onset disasters and epidemics to large-scale population displacement. Even less studied and understood are the perceptions held by affected populations regarding both military and humanitarian assistance during emergencies. While the roles of the military in humanitarian relief have been defined in a few operating manuals, the process of coordinating operations with NGOs, local governments, and local communities is complex and requires further development, especially as humanitarian assistance takes place in increasingly more hostile and protracted conflict settings. There is a need for stronger empirical evidence to guide military doctrine and humanitarian guidelines on civilian-military coordination in conflict settings, as well as better dissemination and adoption of best practices to overcome coordination challenges.

Research questions

  1. What best practices and solutions have been implemented to overcome the coordination barriers between civilian and military actors during humanitarian operations?
  2. What are the relative perceptions held by affected populations interacting with and/or receiving assistance from militaries, security forces, and humanitarian agencies?