Establishing enduring peace in fragile and conflict-affected states requires a coordinated approach, one in which civilian and military agencies consciously collaborate. However, many groups aren’t aware of other organizations’ initiatives, don’t understand their purposes, and fail to synchronize resources—resulting in duplicative, piecemeal efforts, inefficient use of limited resources, and other negative consequences.

USIP’s Work

The U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP) promotes lasting peace in areas of conflict by implementing a comprehensive approach across government agencies and nongovernmental and international organizations. Through education, convening of working groups, and training, including interactive exercises, USIP makes national and international actors more aware of each other’s efforts and encourages cooperation. Recent work includes:

Conducting Practical Exercises. The Interorganizational Tabletop Exercise (ITX) program employs a distinct framework that allows the civilian and military communities to work together on common issues and challenges.

USIP partners with the Departments of Defense and State, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and nongovernmental and international organizations to design and implement each ITX. These exercises:

  • Promote and develop relationships, mutual understanding, knowledge sharing, and cooperation
  • Seek to improve the measurable impact of civilian and military assistance
  • Address specific themes and geographic areas that participants identify as important
  • Facilitate dialogues to build on existing information sharing and coordination
  • Place civilian organizations in the lead role so that the exercises reflect their priorities—a rare feature among the many exercises available to these organizations
  • Collaboratively address hurdles to effective coordination
  • Incorporate presentations, small group work, and simulated scenarios

The strength of the ITX lies in the combined intellect and sincerity of the DoD, interagency, and nongovernmental civilian mission partners who together explore realistic solutions to complex problems. This coalition exemplifies workable, respectful, and productive civilian-military relationships.

Monica Shephard, Vice Director for Joint Force Development, J7 (Pentagon)

Convening with Purpose. USIP inhabits a unique role in conflict prevention and peacebuilding: As an independent, nonpartisan institute, USIP can engender trust on multiple sides of conflicts. Building on this role, the Institute brings together civilian and military practitioners and policymakers to troubleshoot issues identified in the field.

Since 2005, the Civilian-Military Working Group has served as an informal body that examines international humanitarian crises, relief, and recovery. The working group:

  • Convenes experts to build knowledge and share information
  • Advises the crisis response community on policies and procedures
  • Communicates best practices, lessons learned, and emerging issues to policymakers and practitioners
  • Promotes collaboration, serving as a forum for problem solving

Educating Practitioners. USIP has designed and developed a five-day course to increase the knowledge and skills of mid-level practitioners and enhance relations among personnel from different organizations.

The course, “Dealing Effectively with Uncertainty: Civilian Military Relations in Shared Spaces,” is organized around four themes: environment, actors, communication, and leadership. Two central questions guide the curriculum:

  • How can external actors improve efforts to strengthen fragile states and engage across the conflict spectrum (from prevention to recovery)?
  • How can civilian and military practitioners work most effectively in shared, complex environments?

USIP can customize the course to meet each organization’s needs, including conducting shortened forms of the curriculum.

In addition to the course, USIP experts regularly meet with officers from the Senior Service Colleges to discuss civilian-military issues. The Institute also provides pre-deployment education sessions to various branches of the armed services before they deploy to countries experiencing violent conflicts.

The 2016 ITX—Countering Violent Extremism

USIP collaborated with the Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Department of Defense, and nongovernmental and international organizations to direct an ITX focused on countering violent extremism in the Lake Chad basin.Participants identified successful initiatives, common challenges, and promising opportunities before briefing senior leaders, who asked for continued dialogue to spur concrete recommendations. Their request resulted in working groups focused on policy coordination, analytical frameworks, and knowledge sharing.

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