A ''comprehensive approach'' to crises

  • Last updated: 01 Sep. 2015 15:14

NATO's 2010 Strategic Concept underlines that lessons learned from NATO operations show that effective crisis management calls for a comprehensive approach involving political, civilian and military instruments. Military means, although essential, are not enough on their own to meet the many complex challenges to Euro-Atlantic and international security. Allied leaders agreed at the Lisbon Summit in November 2010 to enhance NATO's contribution to a comprehensive approach to crisis management as part of the international community's effort and to improve NATO's ability to contribute to stabilisation and reconstruction. At the Chicago Summit (May 2012), Allies agreed to establish “an appropriate but modest” civilian crisis-management capability at NATO Headquarters and within Allied Command Operations (SHAPE).

The effective implementation of a comprehensive approach requires all actors to contribute in a concerted effort, based on a shared sense of responsibility, openness and determination, taking into account their respective strengths, mandates and roles, as well as their decision-making autonomy.

NATO is improving its own crisis-management instruments and has reached out to strengthen its ability to work with partner countries, international organisations, non-governmental organisations and local authorities. In particular, NATO is building closer partnerships with actors that have experience and skills in areas such as institution building, development, governance, the judiciary and the police. These actors include the United Nations (UN), the European Union (EU), the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the African Union (AU), the World Bank and some non-governmental organisations.

In March 2011, NATO agreed on an updated list of tasks to update its Comprehensive Approach Action Plan. These tasks are being implemented by a dedicated civilian-military task force that involves all relevant NATO bodies and commands. Building on experiences from the Western Balkans, Afghanistan and Libya, NATO’s working methods (both internal and those used to work with external partners) are being adapted across all NATO activities to meet the requirements of a comprehensive approach to crisis situations.

  • Four key areas of work

    The implementation of NATO’s contribution to a comprehensive approach is a permanent feature of the Alliance’s work. NATO is working to make improvements in several key areas of work including the planning and conduct of operations; lessons learned, training, education and exercises; cooperation with external actors; and public messaging.

    Planning and conduct of operations

    NATO takes full account of all military and non-military aspects of crisis management, and is working to improve practical cooperation at all levels with all relevant organisations and actors in the planning and conduct of operations. The Alliance promotes the clear definition of strategies and objectives among all relevant actors before launching an operation, as well as enhanced cooperative planning.

    The Allies agree that, as a general rule, elements of stabilisation and reconstruction are best undertaken by those actors and organisations that have the relevant expertise, mandate and competence. However, there can be circumstances which may hamper other actors from undertaking these tasks, or undertaking them without support from NATO.

    To improve NATO’s contribution to a comprehensive approach and its ability to contribute, when required, to stabilisation and reconstruction, Allies agreed to form an appropriate but modest civilian capability to interact more effectively with other actors and conduct appropriate planning in crisis management. Moreover, a Comprehensive Approach Specialist Support (COMPASS) programme was set up in 2009 to build up a database of national civil experts in three main fields – political, stabilisation and reconstruction, and media – to be drawn upon for advice at the strategic, operational and theatre levels.

    Lessons learned, training, education and exercises

    Applying a comprehensive approach means a change of mindset. The Alliance is therefore emphasising joint training of civilian and military personnel. This promotes the sharing of lessons learned and also helps build trust and confidence between NATO, its partners and other international and local actors, which in turn encourages better coordination. In some cases, lessons learned are being developed at staff level with the UN, for example, related to Libya and Kosovo.

    NATO also regularly invites international organisations to participate in NATO exercises to share knowledge about Alliance procedures for crisis response as well as share views and perspectives.

    Enhancing cooperation with external actors

    NATO is actively building closer links with other organisations and actors on a regular basis while respecting the autonomy of decision making of each organisation.

    Cooperation has become well established with the UN, UN agencies, the EU and the OSCE, in particular, as well as with the World Bank, the ICRC, the International Organization for Migration, the AU, INTERPOL and the League of Arab States. This takes the form of staff talks, staff-to-staff contacts at various levels, high-level exchanges, ‘NATO education days’ and workshops. At the Wales Summit in September 2014 for instance, NATO Foreign Ministers held for the first time a meeting with the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the OSCE Chairman-in-Office and the Secretary General of the Council of Europe to discuss closer cooperation and issues of common concern.

    Public messaging

    To be effective, a comprehensive approach to crisis management must be complemented by sustained and coherent public messages. NATO’s information campaigns are substantiated by systematic and updated information, documenting progress in relevant areas. Efforts are also being made to share communication strategies with international actors and to coordinate communications in theatre.