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I. Introductionselected for printing

1.1. NATO and a comprehensive approachselected for printing

Comprehensive approach

NATO recognises that the military cannot resolve crisis or conflict by itself. Modern crises and conflicts are often not related to the military and therefore require assistance from outside the military. The operating environment involves complex and interlinked areas such as ethnic, religious, ideological and technological issues. Crisis management requirements have expanded in terms of duration, tasks carried out, actors involved, complexity and multitude of factors (social, economic, environmental…).

Achieving acceptable and sustainable solutions requires capabilities that the military alone cannot provide. A comprehensive political, civilian, and military approach is necessary to effectively manage today’s complex crises. However, it requires a strong trust between all parties to make this approach possible. It is important for the military to recognize that sometimes non-military actors may not always support the military. A successful resolution to the conflict will depend on a mutual understanding of both the military’s and the non-military actors’ purpose, resolve, capabilities, and motivation.

At all levels, including the tactical one, NATO commanders must be empowered to conduct effective cooperation and coordination to execute operations. This should include working with international and indigenous local authorities and other non-military actors. Sometimes local actors can have more power than the formal leaders. There is the importance for shared understanding engendered through cooperative working, liaison, education and common language. The Alliance also stresses the value of collaborative working based upon mutual trust and a willingness to cooperate. In this sense institutional familiarity and information sharing are the key.

Comprehensive approach can be understood as a concept, philosophy or mind-set rather than a documented process or capability. Therefore it is also better to speak of “a” comprehensive approach instead of “the” comprehensive approach. Furthermore, this phrasing suggests flexibility in its characteristics instead of a standardized blueprint. Different operational circumstances will ultimately affect non-military actors’ procedures in working with the military1. NATO defines the comprehensive approach as follows "combining all political,military and civilian capabilities, in a concerted effort to attain the desired end state." Thus, comprehensive approach is a mind-set aiming for synergies by coordinating or at least de-conflicting political, humanitarian, development and security efforts.

NATOs contribution to a comprehensive approach

The focus of NATO is upon the collaborative role for better understanding, informing and working with partner nations2 and non-NATO-entities. In this context, there are three goals to NATO’s contribution to a comprehensive approach:

  1. Improve the coherent application of the Alliance’s own crisis management instruments, including its military and political planning procedures.
  2. Improve the Alliance’s practical cooperation at all levels with partners, the UN and other relevant international organizations, governmental and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), contractors, commercial partners and local actors when planning and conducting operations.
  3. Enhance the Alliance’s ability to support stabilization and reconstruction efforts in all phases of a conflict in concert with other actors.

NATO contributes to a comprehensive approach through four key areas: planning and execution of military operations; training, education, exercises and lessons learned ; interaction with non-military actors; and strategic communications. In the area of planning, the important requirement is to cooperate with other non-military actors to identify interdependencies of the respective objectives as this will be a factor for mission success. The role of the military force must be carefully considered since achieving military objectives alone will not necessarily lead to the end state.

Although implementing a comprehensive approach may vary between the levels of operation (strategic, operational and tactical), and from one crisis to another, a number of guiding principles apply:

  • Proactive engagement between all actors, both before and during a crisis.
  • The importance of shared understanding engendered through cooperative working, liaison, education and a common language.  
  • The value of collaboration, based upon mutual trust and a willingness to cooperate, promote institutional familiarity and information sharing.
  • Thinking focused on outcomes, ensuring that all actors work towards a common goal (or outcome) and ideally, mutually agreed objectives underpinned, in the absence of unity of effort, by harmonization of effort.  
  • Acknowledging the decision-making autonomy of partner organizations. 
  • 1

    Different principles of non-military actors, particularly humanitarian NGOs and IOs, limit their potential level of interaction with the military.

  • 2

    Partner nations as defined by the NAC and referenced in MC 0458/3 to include “Partnership for Peace (PfP), Mediterranean Dialogue (MD), and Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (ICI) countries as well as those partners across the globe with a partnership program with NATO,” and including troop contributing partners to NATO-led operations.