Civil Crisis Management: Filling the Gaps Between the Aims and on the Ground Effectiveness of a Mission

Outside interventions to inner conflicts are part of daily news stream today. Where, when and how to intervene are the core of discussions. However from my point of view more weight should put to day after planning. In Balkans there is still frozen conflicts; Iraq, Afghanistan and many conflicts in Africa are most recent or still ongoing theatres, Syria and many more are coming soon on the table.

Recent trend in international politics seems to be different separatist movements around the globe. Kosovo’s unilateral proclamation of independence from Serbia February 2008 played a key role in these developments, which already has been seen in Bolivia, South Ossetia and Abkhazia and probably many more waiting to spark. This trend has big potential to expand, because it is estimated that there is about five thousand ethnic groups on globe. The situation puts pressure to develop the effectiveness of future – if not even existing – civil crisis management operations.

Transformation ongoing

International crisis management has undergone a significant transformation in recent years. Its expansion in terms of tasks and timelines and the increasing number of actors involved have made effective coordination of activities an urgent priority. As a result the idea of a Comprehensive Approach has been adopted by many states and international organizations. However, recent efforts to implement it have shown mixed results. There is need to shift focus from tactical level – dashing from skirmish to skirmish trying to control a crisis – to strategic level with a more comprehensive and systemic approach to resolving the mess.

If traditional peacekeeping focused on containment and reduction of military escalation, contemporary crisis management aims at a social, reach a comprehensive conflict resolution. This increasing set of tasks coincides with expanding time-lines of crisis management. In conceptual and practical terms crisis management spans today from the initial phase of conflict prevention, the actual crisis management encompassing humanitarian intervention, peace building and peacekeeping to post-conflict management.

Definition of the Problem

Whilst there is no commonly accepted definition for ‘Comprehensive Approach’, there is broad agreement that it implies pursuing an approach aimed at integrating the political, security, development, rule of law, human rights and humanitarian dimensions of international missions. It can be linked to different degrees of coherence for inter-agency relationships, namely Coherence, Cooperation, Collaboration & Coordination and Coexistence, where various actors may operate in a more or less comprehensive fashion, depending on their motivations, identities and organizational independence (Source:Comprehensive Approach-Challenges and opportunities in complex crisismanagement. Karsten Friis & Pia Jarmyr(eds); NUPI, 2008.).

It can be linked also to the Whole-of-Government Approach where there is an emphasis on objectives shared across organisational boundaries, as opposed to working solely within a ministry. WGA has been developed particularly in the context of the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee and its Fragile States Group (Source: Whole of Government Approaches to Fragile States, DAC Guidelines and referenceseries, ADAC referencedocument, OECD, 2006.)

From my point of view I would rule out some military strategies from the context of this kind of crisis management problem. For example COIN strategey implemented in Afghanistan by U.S. is clear application of military strategy. It has some civil crisis management components which however act more like decoration and not as an essential element.

Strategic aim

The approach of needed study could be described as “bottom up” perspective, where the problem is defined from the point of view of field level experiences. It is important to note, that civil crisis management issue is not – or shouldn’t be – an extension of military peace-forcing operation; it is an integral part of international development aid programs in overall and in particular with peace-building activities.

Earlier some donors gave money to build school in some Kosovo village. School was ready, nice photograph for donors’ media was taken, report confirmed that building was made ok, also tendering procedures were made with some standards, audit did not find anything special. So perfect project to satisfy donor? No one pointed attention to a small detail that there was no pupils for the brand new school. Similar examples are bridges, roads and swimming pools middle of no where, housing for returns (empty because people are not returning or going away immediately).(Source: Donors & field: Will Kosovo rise with 2 bn bucks?)

Perfect report does not mean that something positive development has happened on the field. The lesson learned from “bottom up” –approach could be the shift of focus from the issues made in right way to right issues, where vision, objective, strategy, implementation, feed back and especially commitment of beneficiary groups and project management have more important role in evaluation of operations than before.

The main components

For developing a more effective approach to issue of civilian crisis management different aspects – such as organizational questions, reporting practice, or evaluation process – can be more or less highlighted. It is possible also to have focus on improvement of situation analysis, developing field experience feedback during missions or applying “project cycle management” practice in operation/mission planning procedure.

One possible component could be applying Logical Framework Approach through the process. LogFrame is used in most EU projects, but individual donors have their preferences. LogFrame describes objectives, action lines, how individual projects are implementing the objective and how the success can be measured. There is also some flexibility according feed back during implementation. Special need at individual project and local level is also use there Participatory Planning methods so that all stakeholders can commit to actions. Applying these two practices can make new approach more vigorous.

Resources and method

Comprehensive Approach is quite modern trend in international studies of peacekeeping operations or civil crisis management. Few seminar reports and researches are however available and they can help while connecting this study to wider theoretical context. Different mission reports can describe the viewpoint which the top officials are giving to the top policy makers. The most valuable source is field reports such as OSCE municipal profiles and analyses, CIMIC reports etc. because they are describing situation on the ground. The best source and research method would be participatory observation and interviews of fieldworkers.

As a follow-up it is possible to link and compare the study with other core concepts and instruments at strategic-political level in different countries or organizations, such as

  • UN: Capstonedoctrine (2008), Integrated missions (2006)
  • EU: CMCO (2003), Crisis Management Procedures CMP (2003), Crisis Management Concept (individual mission)
  • Nato: Comprehensive Approach Actionplan (2008), Effects Based Approach to Operations – EBAO (2006)
  • Germany: White Paper on German Security Policy and the Future of the Bundeswehr (2006), Action Plan “Civilian Crisis Prevention, Conflict Resolution, and Peace Consolidation” (2004)
  • Britain: Conflict Prevention Pool – CPP (2004/8), Comprehensive Approach (2004)

(More about this context in CSS Analyses,Vol.3 • No.42 • October 2008, Center for Security Studies (CSS), ETH Zurich)

It is also possible to link study to concepts and instruments at mission level or to development of a comprehensive crisis management is a cyclical activity.

Bottom line

Today there is a lot of information and feedback from different crisis management missions around the world; there is also experiece which methods are working on the ground and especially which are not. In my opinion there is urgent need to develop civilian crisis management by studying lessons learned to find best – and worst – practices from different missions. In Balkans there is still frozen conflicts; Iraq, Afghanistan and many conflicts in Africa are most recent or still ongoing theatres, Syria and many more are coming soon on the table. LogFrame approach by using participatory planning methods could show way towards quality peace.

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More e.g. in my related articles:

Interventions in general: R2P vs Facades of Interventions, Multifaceted Intervention Practices , Is Peace more than absence of the War? , Could EU lead the 3rd Way out from Confrontation? , Quality Peace? and Peacemaking – How about solving Conflicts too?

About U.S. strategy in Afghanistan: Will COIN work in Afghanistan? andAfghanistan – to be or not?

U.S. practising intervention first in the Bosnian War 1992-95 and selecting terrorist/OC-groups to U.S. allies (More e.g. Srebrenica again – Hoax or Massacre? and Krajina – Victory with Ethnic Cleansing and the outcome Bosnia on the road to the EU, sorry to Dissolution )

Racak fabrication and “humanitarian intervention” aka since WWII first ever full scale bombing operation in center of Europe 1999 ( High pressure to fabricate Racak reports and 10th anniversary of Nato’s attack on Serbia)

Other related articles: Libya Intervention is creating problems instead of solving them and Some framework to Syrian crisis

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