Guidance on Humanitarian Organizations' Participation in Military Events, v1.0


Humanitarian and military actors often share the same operating environment during emergencies. Coordination — whether with military, civil defence, police or private security actors – is essential to ensure the protection of civilians and create optimal conditions for the delivery of assistance to people in need in accordance with humanitarian principles.

Humanitarian civil-military coordination varies depending on the context. It ranges from on-site coordination of foreign military assets in disaster relief, to access negotiations during complex emergencies. Relationships between humanitarian and military actors range from full cooperation, to coordination through interlocutors, to coexistence with indirect contact through third-party conduits. As such, it is imperative that humanitarian and military actors understand and apply the guidelines and criteria that determine their level and type of interaction and the principles underlying their engagement. It is also essential that each side understand their respective mandates, principles, structures and working methods.

One way of enhancing such awareness and understanding is through humanitarian participation in military events. This presents both potential benefits as well as challenges that must be carefully considered before a decision on participation is made. This guidance note aims to assist humanitarian actors in determining in which military events to participate. It sets out the type of events humanitarian actors are often invited to, the potential benefits and challenges of participation, and suggests criteria for assessing when and under what conditions to attend.


The following are examples of military events to which humanitarian organizations are often invited:

  • Conferences, workshops and speaking engagements, including those to outline or update doctrine or policy guidance.
  • Military Civil-Military Cooperation (CIMIC) courses that include civilian and military participants.
  • Scenario exercises, including support to planning conferences, scenario writing and scripting, preexercise ‘academic’ sessions for key leaders, the exercise itself, and post exercise feedback. This may include multi-day simulation exercises.
  • Pre-deployment training for headquarters, commanders and staff.
  • Contingency planning at headquarters or in the field to ensure humanitarian aspects are taken into account.
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