Humanitarian Spaces: Understanding Military-NGO interaction in conflict and disaster

Abstract This paper is a precursor to an in-depth study being carried out with the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and RMIT University, outlining the need for improved understanding of the challenges and opportunities of Military-NGO interaction in complex post-conflict spaces. It is well known that military and NGO operations occupy overlapping spaces in conflict environments, with distinct and divergent cultures and mandates for those operations. However, their understanding of and attitudes towards each other and their missions are equally significant in defining their capacity and willingness to work constructively in tandem. Indeed, the minimum requirement of civilian and military organisations is to work in the same location, if not necessarily cooperatively or collaboratively. Harris highlights that as a result of geo-political and combat developments globally, key actors now regularly find themselves outside of their traditional zones of operation – militaries as peacekeepers, transitional police; NGOs operating in increasingly violent environments, while attempting to maintain independence. Humanitarian Spaces outlines important differences in the meaning of common terminology, such as “humanitarian” and “CIMIC/CMCoord”, the combination of significant security needs and human needs necessitating distinct multi-sector responses to conflict, and the difficulties of perceptions of conflict response operations by those affected, as key…

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