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National Societies in Civil-Military Cooperation, Questions, Challenges, Opportunities and Prospects


Workshop 3, 28th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, Geneva, 2 to 6 December 2003

 Note :  The present report doesn't necessarily reflect the views of the ICRC.  


 Composition of the Panel:   

Moderator -- Prof.. Horst Fischer, Institute for International Law of Peace and Armed Conflict

Lt. Col. Max Johnson, NATO

Major Gen. Per Ludvigsen, Danish Defence Command

Ms. Ingrid Norström-Ho, Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

Mr. Mark Payne, SHAPE HQ

Ms. Johanna van Sambeek, The Netherlands Red Cross

Dr. Susanne Wasum-Rainer, German Federal Foreign Office



Mr. Preben Soegaard Hansen, Danish Red Cross

Mr. Frank Jörres, German Federal Academy for Crisis Management


National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies generally cooperate with the armed forces in particular in the following four areas: dissemination, assistance / support, protection and tracing. The issues of assistance and support in the context of relief operations and the protection o f humanitarian missions and personnel raise new questions and potential problems for National Societies and the other components of the Movement.

The workshop discussed questions and challenges in two of the above-mentioned areas: assistance / support and protection for the victims of armed conflicts, internal violence and disasters.

 Documentation Provided:  


  • Relations between Components of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and Key Political and Military Bodies: Report and Guidelines for the Movement. (Information Document prepared by the ICRC in consultation with the International Federation and National Society's experts)

  • Extract of the report on the Technical seminar on CIMIC and CIVPOL Activities of National Societies (Danish Red Cross)

  • German Red Cross Policy Paper on Civil-Military Cooperation (German Red Cross)

 Summary of Presentations by the Panel:  

The workshop provided an overview of the current positions / issues debated by key players in the fields of peace support operations and humanitarian operations and the challenges they face, taking into consideration that the environment is becoming increasingly complex.

Examples were based on various contexts including Albania, Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan as seen from the eyes of the military and the Red Cross / Red Crescent. Civil - Military Cooperation varied depending on the situation, such as refugees seeking refuge in a non-conflict environment to international conflicts. The use of the military as a police force was also discusse d.

The concept of Civil-Military Cooperation was based on experiences and needs.

Red Cross / Red Crescent participants and the military panellists stressed the need for training and clarity concerning the respective roles and inter-relations and which should be addressed before deploying humanitarian workers and the military.

A military representative of the panel pointed out that soldiers were well aware of the importance of the ICRC's role as an independent, neutral and impartial organisation working in accordance with its mandate under International Humanitarian Law. A distinction was drawn, however, between the mandate of the ICRC and that of National Societies working internationally. The traditional auxiliary role of National Societies was identified as being under stress because of the changing role of military operations and the changing nature of National Societies'international operations.

The use of the emblems should be in strict accordance with the Geneva Conventions and Additional Protocols. 

 Points raised during the Plenary Discussion  

It is important that the Red Cross / Red Crescent Movement act and are recognized as one organisation. It was recommended that the Guidelines included in the paper " Relations between Components of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and Key Political and Military Bodies " be followed by the Movement.

The importance of training for both military and Red Cross / Red Crescent personnel in order to increase respect for and understanding of the respective roles and mandates was discussed. It was clear from the comments relating to perceived competition between the Red Cross /Red Crescent Societies and the military, that the respective roles were not well understood.  The ICRC was involved in many military training courses and exercises, it was suggested that they National Societies should be involved as well.

The need for open dialogue and information sharing was important to ensure transparency and to understand the players'roles, particularly in complex emergencies. 

Both military and humanitarian practitioners gave priority to the needs of the victims the victims and vulnerable people. For the military, doing so was a means of protecting the forces and helping commanders reach their objectives. However, if necessary and in the interest of victims, the armed forces will also conduct humanitarian operations. In contrast, humanitarian agencies considered that only the needs of the victims came first with no other consideration.