Kristian Fischer and Jan Top Christensen describe how Denmark seeks to optimise civil-military cooperation in peace operations and how this experience might be useful to other Allies and NATO.

Pulling together: Denmark's CPA initiative seeks to ensure concentrated civilian reconstruction efforts in areas where Danish forces are deployed (© Danish Army Operational Command)

Pulling together: Denmark's CPA initiative seeks to ensure concentrated civilian reconstruction efforts in areas where Danish forces are deployed (© Danish Army Operational Command)

In March 2004, Denmark launched a national initiative aimed at getting all Danish actors operating in crisis areas to work towards the goal of stabilising and normalising living conditions in a coordinated manner. As a result of this initiative, which is based on experiences from Afghanistan, the Balkans, Eritrea and Iraq, planning and preparing for international peace operations, where Danish military units are deployed, should now ensure a concentrated Danish civilian effort in the area of the troops' responsibility.

The Danish initiative is known as the Concerted Planning and Action of Civil and Military Activities in International Operations, or CPA. As such, it is one of several undertaken by both international institutions and individual Allies to improve civil-military cooperation, and lessons learned should be useful both to other countries and more broadly to NATO and the wider international community to help develop a multilateral approach.

Clearly, the precise nature of the security situation determines the extent to which civilian actors - non-governmental organisations, international institutions and agencies - are able to participate from the start of a peace operation. There might be situations where neither international organisations nor local government institutions are present in a conflict area. In situations like these, the military might have to facilitate minor, very specific short-term assistance. However, this is not within the core competencies of the military and, from a Danish point of view, should not become so. In developing the CPA initiative, Denmark has sought to avoid compromising international humanitarian principles in any way.

To facilitate centralised national coordination of the CPA effort, a permanent group of civil servants has been established to plan and coordinate military and civilian humanitarian efforts. The group includes representatives of the Ministry of Defence, Defence Command, Defence Intelligence Service, Emergency Management Agency and National Police Force. The Danish Foreign Ministry chairs the group and secures coordination with the appropriate humanitarian organisations, including non-governmental organisations and possibly private sector companies.

A civilian steering unit should also be deployed with or close to Danish troops in Danish mission areas. This unit will contribute to local coordination and provide guidance to new projects. As part of the CPA initiative, Denmark is also seeking to widen the scope of common training of civilian and military actors and will, on an ongoing basis, review and evaluate collaboration to maximise the impact of the Danish contributions to international peace operations.

Efforts are also being made to ensure that the Danish engagement is planned within a coordinated, international framework. Indeed, the Danish initiative is itself based on guidelines drawn up in 2003 by the United Nations on the use of military and civil defence assets to support UN humanitarian activities in complex emergencies.

A comprehensive approach to civil-military cooperation is in everybody's interest

As a result of the experience of a wide range of peace operations, more and more actors - both governmental and non-governmental - have recognised the need to integrate all available instruments in recent years. In this way, new coordinating bodies have been created in many capitals and innovative cooperative procedures adopted on the ground to embrace the cross-governmental and multidisciplinary nature of the challenge. Moreover, the issue of improved CPA has been rising on the international agenda and, for example, featured in the recommendations contained in UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's recent report In Larger Freedom: towards security, development and human rights for all.

While it is not possible to replicate national structures and concepts in multinational organisations like NATO, there is a need to address similar issues and develop solutions at a multilateral level. To date, however, the Alliance has primarily approached CPA on an ad-hoc basis. Useful procedures have, nevertheless, been developed in a pragmatic and incremental manner. Indeed, at the tactical level, there are several examples where peacekeeping forces operating in a specific geographic sector have been coordinating and planning with humanitarian, reconstruction and development agencies, often of the same nationality as the peacekeeping forces, to achieve local synergy. The nationally led Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) operating in Afghanistan are good current cases in point.

Moreover, the establishment of a PRT Steering Committee, which brings together representatives from the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, the Afghan government, international organisations and non-governmental organisations, represents an ongoing attempt to adopt a CPA approach to civil-military activities at the operational level. At the strategic level, a series of promising initiatives in NATO have also been proposed. Allied Command Transformation is seeking a "holistic approach" to operational planning. Allied Command Operations has put forward the idea of integrating NATO's military response into a wider overall "collective strategy" including non-military elements. And NATO's Senior Civil Emergency Planning Committee is considering how to develop a basic concept of operations to manage coordinated civil support to crisis-response operations.

The Alliance is also currently increasing the extent and frequency of its contact with other international institutions and non-governmental organisations. NATO staffers regularly meet with representatives of the relevant UN bodies, especially staff from the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, to exchange views on current and future activities. And contacts have been established with key non-governmental organisations.

Nevertheless, both NATO and other key international actors would clearly benefit from a more systematic CPA approach, and for this reason Denmark is hosting a seminar entitled Concerted Planning and Action of Civil and Military Activities in International Operations in Copenhagen on 20 and 21 June. The aim is to improve understanding of the many ideas and activities already underway at the national level, within the UN system and at NATO. In this way, Denmark has invited participants from other Allies, the European Union, NATO and the United Nations, as well as non-governmental organisations, to discuss national practices, lessons learned from ongoing operations, and how other international organisations approach civil-military cooperation. Speakers will also address the issue of NATO's role in this emerging field and consider the merits of the CPA initiative as a management, planning and implementation tool.

A comprehensive approach to civil-military cooperation that takes the tactical, operational and strategic levels into account as well as NATO's own procedures and practices is in everybody's interest. The seminar should help move this issue higher up the Alliance agenda and provide a basis from which to take it forward both within the Alliance and in NATO's interaction with other organisations.