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2.1. NATO CIMICselected for printing


Definition. Civil-military cooperation (CIMIC) is a military joint function that integrates the understanding of the civil factors of the operating environment and that enables, facilitates and conducts civil-military interaction to support the accomplishment of missions and military strategic objectives in peacetime, crises and conflict.

The aim of CIMIC is to support the mission objectives by establishing and maintaining cooperation with non-military actors within the area of operations. Ideally all actors will work to a common goal. Where this is not possible, interaction will ensure that activities are harmonized as far as possible to avoid negative impacts on own operations as well as on non-military operations and the civil environment. This will minimize interference or unintended conflict between different actors.

Application. CIMIC is applicable to all types of NATO operations. Commanders are required to assess and analyse the civil environment and apply the cross-cutting topics perspectives in all scenarios when planning and conducting military operations. These considerations include the appreciation that large numbers of non-military actors will be present in the area of operations. The application and profile of CIMIC depends on the type of operation, the civil environment, and the relationship with non-military actors.

Principles. CIMIC principles are fundamentals that guide commanders, staff and forces in the planning and conduct of operations. These principles contribute to a successful implementation of a comprehensive approach with CIMIC as the facilitator of civil-military interaction (CMI).

  1. Understand the civil environment
    Understanding the civil environment is crucial for mission success and conflict resolution. The commander requires a comprehensive picture of the civil environment for mission planning and execution because, for example even an unintended violation of the (local) traditions and customs can lead to a loss of support of the population and the trust of non-military actors. In turn, this can lead to the military forces losing their legitimacy, which would seriously undermine the mission.
  2. Understand the aims and objectives of all non-military actors
    Commanders and staff must fully understand the mandate, aims and objectives, role, structure, methods and principles of non-military actors. Establishing and maintaining strong relationships prior to and during operations ensures mutual understanding. Non-military actors can also use these relationships to develop an understanding of how liaison with the military can benefit their objectives.
  3. Respect civilian primacy
    Governments, and in some cases non-military actors, are and should remain responsible for the provision of basic needs and services. The military’s first priority is to accomplish its mission. The military should only give additional support to non-military actors if it is required to accomplish the mission. Any support to non-military actors should be given as quickly and efficiently as possible in order to not detract from the military’s focus.
  4. Act with integrity
    When interacting with non-military actors it is crucial to demonstrate openness, competence, capability and resolve to gain respect, trust and confidence between all actors and so engender successful relationships. A high degree of transparency, balanced by the needs of operational security, avoids misunderstanding and mitigates the risk of the military force losing legitimacy. The military should manage expectations and communicate in advance what realistically can be achieved.
  5. Integrate planning with non-military actors
    By engaging non-military actors, commanders are able to encourage collaborative analysis, integrated planning and interaction in the joint operations area, thereby supporting unity of purpose and effort. CIMIC will enhance integrated civil-military planning and the development of a process and structure for effective coordination and cooperation with non-military actors.
  6. Establish effective relationships and communication with non-military actors
    Commanders and their staffs should develop personal relationships with non- military actors, using civil-military liaison, and make mindful decisions on the degree of reliance on those actors for critical tasks. Establishing relationships must be planned, quickly built and continually reinforced. The relationship can be used to ensure that all communication is conducted in line with the communication strategy.

When sharing information (see Figure below) it is important not to compromise the position or impartiality of specific non-military actors and to avoid the perception that their organizations are part of an intelligence gathering mechanism. Communication and information systems should be as interoperable as possible. This requires an interface to enable the transfer of information between the military and civilian networks.

Effective information sharing with non-military actors

CIMIC core functions

CIMIC has the following core-functions:

  • civil-military liaison;
  • support to the force; and
  • support to non-military actors and the civil environment.

Each require the Alliance and its members to have capabilities of sufficient quality and quantity to be able to conduct CIMIC.

Civil-military liaison

Under the concept of comprehensive approach, NATO has instituted broader coordination with non-military actors. NATO liaison therefore includes military-military as well as civil-military interactions, with CIMIC focusing on the latter. The aim of civil-military liaison is to establish and maintain liaison with non-military actors at appropriate levels. It is facilitating interaction, harmonization, information sharing and supporting concerted or integrated planning and conduct of operations. Early liaison will be a fundamental part of the planning and development process of both of the other core CIMIC functions.

Civil-military liaison includes but is not limited to:

  • timely identification of relevant non-military actors;
  • developing a liaison structure including a notification mechanism; and
  • internal and external CIMIC information management.

Support to the force

Commanders will require non-military support from within their joint operations area as well as coordination of efforts to minimize disruption to military operations. The force may be partially dependent on civilian resources and information from civilian sources. For that reason, CIMIC plays a proactive role by contributing to planning and conduct of operations. This includes, in cooperation with other military functions actions to:

  • gather, assess and report information regarding the civil environment;
  • identify and assess key civil indicators and sensitive factors having a critical impact on the planning and conduct of operations;
  • identify and assess the impact of the military operation on the civil environment;
  • recommend how to mitigate the negative consequences or exploit the opportunities of military operations in respect to cross-cutting topics and legal obligations;
  • identify and assess the impact of non-military activities influencing own operations;
  • promote force acceptance and transparency;
  • contribute to informing the civil society in the mission area in line with the communication effort led by strategic communications; and
  • facilitate access to non-military resources, when needed.

Support to non-military actors and the civil environment

Within a comprehensive approach, military support to non-military actors and the civil environment will generally only be conducted if it is required to create conditions that support the accomplishment of the military mission. It may include a wide spectrum of resources such as information, personnel, material, communications facilities, specialist expertise or training. Facilitating this military support towards non-military actors is a task of CIMIC. The support itself can be provided by all elements of the military. A staggered approach should:

  • support by means of capacity and information sharing;
  • enable support by means of capacity building; and
  • support by military means (only as a last resort).