Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
Humanitarian Innovation Initiative (HI2)

Civilian-Military Coordination in Humanitarian Response: Expanding the Evidence Base

This collaborative project between Brown University’s Humanitarian Innovation Initiative (HI²) and the U.S. Naval War College’s Humanitarian Response Program (HRP), supported by a two-year grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, seeks to expand the evidence-base for effective civilian-military coordination in humanitarian response while developing new avenues for information sharing between humanitarian, military, and academic communities. Most importantly, it will leverage these new networks and expanded knowledge-base to inform the development of new military doctrine and UN guidelines around civil-military coordination in the humanitarian space.

This project builds off of a substantive amount of preliminary work that has occurred over the past three years. In October 2016, the U.S. Naval War College’s HRP hosted the first civilian-military humanitarian response workshop, bringing together over 70 academic, military, UN and humanitarian NGO staff from around the world. This inaugural workshop laid the groundwork for effective communication between civilian and military disaster response communities through a series of working groups and panels focused on key challenges in coordination during humanitarian response. In August 2017 and 2018, follow-up workshops hosted at Brown University by HRP and HI² brought together over 100 selected participants to continue highlighting key opportunities for professional education, rseearch, and trainings as well as identifying best practices associated with overcoming cultural, policy, technical, and legal challenges for coordination and information exchange.

Stemming from identified research priorities during the workshops, this Carnegie grant funded research will explore four core research projects designed to advance civilian-military coordination, where appropriate, in humanitarian response.

1) Surmounting Challenges to Civil-Military Coordination in Humanitarian Response

2) Qualitative study on community perceptions of military involvement in a pandemic response through the lens of the Nigerian military's involvement in polio response in Northeast Nigeria.

3) What is the responsibility of countries indirectly involved in a conflict (i.e. providing material support to a warring party) to provide medical care for affected civilians and combatants in conflict settings under the Geneva Conventions? What national responsibility does a state undertake by working in a coalition with other actors?

4) What are the risks posed to civilians by information / data sharing in civilian-military coordination during humanitarian activities?

The results of these research studies will be presented at a research symposium for review and contextualization, and then disseminated through academic and policy channels, with the eventual goal of impacting US and foreign military guidance on civilian-military coordination in humanitarian response, as well as United Nations and international NGO guidelines.