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UNMIL CIMIC: A Collaborative Tool. Colonel Christopher Holshek Chief CIMIC UNDP “3C” Conference 19-20 March 2009. General Observations.

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UNMIL CIMIC:A Collaborative Tool


Christopher Holshek


UNDP “3C” Conference

19-20 March 2009

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General Observations

  • Restoring, creating, and maintaining peace requires the full engagement of all stakeholders, because of the overlapping causes and effects of “human security” and increasing resource constraints

  • Approaches, therefore, must be joint and collaborative

  • No matter what it is called, “CIMIC” is the military’s tool to manage civil-military interaction and transition from military to civilian lead

  • Key to that interaction is understanding the military as “enabler” and civilians as “change agents”

  • The goal of every military organization in peace operations should be to work yourself out of a job

  • While the ways and means between the military and civilians may differ, the ultimate overall goal is the same: self-sustained peace and civil society

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“Human Security” and the Need for Collaboration

“Given that the concept of security has expanded human dimensions, peace and security were no longer solely military concepts. Poverty alleviation, human development, protection of the environment, promotion of human rights and women and men were now included in these concepts. Today’s challenges of peacekeeping were not only to end hostilities and rebuild communities, but also to deal with the problems that led to the conflict. It is clear that lack of this broader view of peacekeeping and peace-building provides a breeding ground for the continuation of conflict and instability.”

- Challenges of Peace Operations Concluding Report, 2002

  • Coordination in complex peace operations is therefore needed among:

    • Components of the UN peace operation

    • UN Mission and other international, bilateral and NGO components

    • UN Mission, local government/administration and, as appropriate, parties to the conflict

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Multidimensional UN PKO:Phases and Tasks

Source: United Nations Peacekeeping Operations Principles and Guidelines, 2008

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“Peacekeeping must… be accompanied by political processes to resolve conflicts, and development must be prioritized to secure peace.”

UNSG Ban Ki-moon

My Priorities as UN Secretary General

September 2007

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UN Civil-Military Coordination is the system of interaction, involving the exchange of information, negotiation, de-confliction, mutual support, and planning at all levels, between military elements

and humanitarian organizations, development organizations and the local civilian population

to achieve respective objectives ”

DPKO Civil-Military Coordination Policy, September 2002

UN Civil-Military Coordination

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Common Sense “CIMIC”

  • No matter what the definition or doctrine, “CIMIC” is basically about managing…

    • Civil-military interaction

    • Transition (from conflict to peace and military to civilian lead)

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Civil-Military Interaction:Comparative Advantages

  • Military…

  • The military normally focuses on reaching clearly defined and measurable objectives through linear operational (planning and execution) progressions with given timelines under a unified command and control structure...

  • Security

  • Decision-making and staff coordination

  • Project management, planning and coordination

  • Consequence, crisis and transition management, as well as other forms of problem-solving

  • Logistics and transport management

  • Information operations

  • Institutional training and education


Civilian organizations are concerned with a process of fulfilling changeable political interests through a fluctuating sequence of dialogue, bargaining, risk-taking, and consensus-building…

  • Legitimacy and credibility of the intervention

  • Cultural and political awareness

  • Humanitarian assistance

  • Advocacy

  • Rule of law development and policing

  • Developmental public administration capacity development

  • Economic and business development

  • Negotiation and bargaining

  • Consensus and relationship building

The military are “enablers” in the security-development transition process…

…while civilian organizations, both international and local, are largely “change agents”.

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“CIMIC” as One of Many “Joint”Collaborative Decision-Making Tools

  • MLT – Mission Leadership Team

  • UNCT – UN Country Team

  • JOC – Joint Operations Centre

  • JMAC – Joint Mission Analysis Centre

  • JLOC – Joint Logistics Operations Centre

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“My main concern continues to be over-reliance of the GoL on the assets of the Force, be they air, ground, and sea transport; and/or infrastructure repair and maintenance. At the moment, my Force is spending a disproportionate amount of time delivering outputs that are normally the preserve of government ministries within sovereign states. Whilst accepting that the state currently lacks capacity, there still appears to be little significant movement in the GoL to build these capacities for itself. The Liberian state must begin to develop these capacities as the UNMIL Force draws down.”

- FC Reports, June 2006-June 2008

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  • Overview: UNMIL has achieved most of mandate under UNSCR 1509 in creating a relatively secure and stable environment; however, key objectives regarding assistance to Government of Liberia (GoL) incomplete

  • Facts – UNMIL Force

  • Implementing Overwatch and drawdown through 2008

    • Force drawdown

    • Sector realignment

    • Shift from static to mobile security

  • Quick-Impact Project funding may end; will be limited

  • Mission focus shifting from security and stability to “support to civil authority”; greater collaboration – “one UN”

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FACTS – Civil Situation

  • Weak public administration capacity – county levels and RoL, especially in the Southeast

  • UNMIL/UN Agencies placing greater emphasis on:

    • Support to sustainable GoL capacity development

    • Joint management and information strategies

  • UN Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) 2008-12 aligned with GoL Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS) “pillars”:

    • Security

    • Economic Revitalization

    • Governance and the Rule of Law

    • Infrastructure and Basic Social Services

  • Key coordinating concepts are UN Country Team at HQ level and especially County Support Team (CST)

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  • Cultural issues (entitlement/dependency, survival mentality, secret societies,and corruption) will largely persist – only the Liberians can change this

  • Dependency culture coupled with economic pressures and fragile public confidence could mean potential instability due to drawdown and slow pace of governance and development

  • Spillover effects from instability in contiguous states

  • Ex-combatants and large numbers of idle, unemployed youths

  • Potential loss of some NGOs due to shift from humanitarian aid to development assistance and “donor fatigue”

  • Likely acceleration of drawdown following Stage III in March 2009

  • Timeframe leading up to 2011 general election is increasingly critical for GoL

  • Failure to exploit existing capabilities and opportunities may leave UNMIL/GoL in a backslide as drawdown takes effect…

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  • Relative security/stability and international presence present “window of opportunity” to consolidate gains and help reach end state of self-development

  • People of Liberia will remain positive towards UNMIL, UNMIL Force, and international presence during this time

  • Improving Liberian financial and economic structure

  • UNMIL civil-military and interagency cooperation will remain sound and continue to improve

  • UNMIL public information remains most trusted of sources among Liberians for information

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Throughout implementation of Overwatch and drawdown, UNMIL Forces conduct Civil-Military Coordination (CIMIC) in successive support of the UNMIL civil component, UN agencies and NGOs, and Government of Liberia – in order to:

  • consolidate gains in security and stability;

  • mitigate/reduce associated risks of drawdown/realignment;

  • help build civil authority, and

  • further shape conditions for achievement of the UNMIL mandate

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  • Reduce dependency on the Force and manage current and potential gaps that drawdown/realignment may create

  • Align CIMIC efforts with GoL and Mission strategies; help create common operational picture on civil situation

  • Civil success is Force success: conduct of CIMIC activities shifting to enabling/supporting (vs. leading) role and in joint, collaborative settings; enhance civil-military liaison and information-sharing

  • Re-direct CIMIC initiatives towards capacity-building; exploit UNMIL/Force capabilities to build civil authority and public confidence

  • Focus operational CIMIC at Country Team, tactical CIMIC at CST’s; G5 is “reach back” for resources for tactical CIMIC

  • End state for this phase is successful execution of Force drawdown/Overwatch with no debilitating civil-military impacts, 100% civilian lead in all civil-military initiatives, and CDW benchmarks met

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UNMIL CIMIC Concept:Creating a Virtuous Cycle

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CIMIC Desired Effects

  • Does it reduce especially long-term dependency on UNMIL?

  • Is it done through joint, collaborative structures, puts the force in a supporting role, and puts the GoL out in front?

  • Does it help to build GoL capacity to provide these public services in future?

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Civil-Military Echelons of Assistance




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The Civil-Military Transition Process: One Model

Local Resources

Civilian Resources

Military Resources

Crisis Prevention

Crisis Response

Self-Sustained Peace



General Security; Law and Order; Transfer of Authority to Transitional Administration or Local Government

Tipping Point



  • Spoilers

  • Insurgents and Terrorists

  • Criminal Elements

  • Informal power structures

Tipping Point

Main Efforts: Synchronized


Legal and Operational Sovereignty to Legitimate Indigenous Government



Monopoly on Effective Security and Public Services; Popular Support; Non-Dependency

• Civilian, military and local resources are employed in all phases

• Transitions between phases change lead and support roles

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CIMIC Lines of Coordination

  • CIMIC projects are at the request of the GoL through the Mission civil component, and will feature a GoL “storefront”

  • Projects will be joint and collaborative

  • Projects will facilitate capacity development and confidence-building

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CIMIC Coordination Scheme





























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Major Initiatives – Pillar I

  • AFL and LNP participation on UNMIL CIMIC courses

  • Assistance to development of “Center for Civil-Military Relations”

  • Encouragement of AFL in CIMIC projects

  • Greater LNP/ERU involvement in security missions – joint patrols

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Major Initiatives – Pillar II

  • Vocational training, with greater linkage to small business and micro financing opportunities

  • Agricultural training farms

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Major Initiatives – Pillar III

  • Information-sharing

  • QIP projects to build RoL structures (police stations, courthouses, corrections facilities)

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Major Initiatives – Pillar IV

  • Joint medical outreaches in the SE; greater capacity-building through “on-the-job” training of Liberian medical staff

  • RRR-led road rehabilitation and engineer/construction training

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  • Shift from direct action to indirect action

  • Integration of CIMIC initiatives with those led by UN agencies under UNDAF

  • Channeling of CIMIC services through GoL entities

  • Greater concentration on youth

  • Military becomes more of a “minority stakeholder”

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UNMIL CIMIC Organization

Force Commander

Chief of Staff

Chief G5-CIMIC


Deputy G5-CIMIC


Operations Officer


Plans Officer


Force HQ Unit

CIMIC Officers

CIMIC Sgt/Driver


CIMIC Officer

Sector A Nigeria

CIMIC Officer

Sector B Bangladesh


CIMIC Officer


CIMIC Officer

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Tips for Military Practitioners of “CIMIC”…

  • CIMIC is an essential element of success in all operations within the full spectrum between peace and conflict

  • Military CIMIC is a command responsibility, planned and performed by all as integral to operations – CIMIC is not just for the CIMIC staff

  • CIMIC should always strive to enable civilian organizations and especially the host nation government to provide emergency or essential public services to the population

  • CIMIC, “intelligence”, and information operations need synchronization but also discretion

  • Essential CIMIC skills include: cultural awareness; staff coordination and command decision-making support; flexibility and problem-solving; negotiation and mediation; and information management

  • While these skills may be enhanced through training and education, it is equally important to select personnel for CIMIC with the right kind of intellectual, interpersonal and character attributes - quality over quantity

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Thinking Globally, Acting Locally;

Thinking in Time, Acting in the Present

  • It’s not about us; it’s about them

  • If you don’t understand the culture, you don’t understand the problem

  • Your customer’s success is your success – that is your ticket home

  • Focus on unity of purpose (common end state) and shared risks

  • Knowledge is your multiplier; information is your currency of exchange

  • Ask not where they want to go today – ask where they want to be tomorrow

  • And, as always, manage expectations – yours and theirs

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“Do not try to do too much with your own hands. Better the Arabs do it tolerably than that you do it perfectly. It is their war, and you are to help them, not win it for them.”

- T.E. Lawrence


Managing Expectations

“Liberia cannot be

restored; it can only

be reinvented.”

- Dr. Stephen Ellis