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, engagement, and interactive exercises and training, 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, coordination, 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.
  • Incorporate presentations, small group work, and simulated scenarios.

The ITX is a truly valuable interorganizational exercise that includes organizations from across the community of interest and practice both from inside and outside the government which focuses on some of the world’s most conflict affected regions. During the exercise leaders in a safe space can discuss holistically the challenges and propose solutions that will have the greatest impact on reducing violence and violent extremism and build sustainable peace.

Elizabeth Hume, Alliance for Peacebuilding


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. Some of our work includes:

  • Civilian-Military Working Group. 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 while promoting collaboration and serving as a forum for problem solving.
    • Advises the crisis response community on policies and procedures.
    • Communicates best practices, lessons learned, and emerging issues to policymakers and practitioners.
  • Senior Service Colleges: USIP hosts students and fellows from the U.S. Army War College and the National Defense University to inform about USIP’s role in conflict prevention and peacebuilding and as a resource to the interorganizational community.

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, “Civilian-Military Relations in Complex Operational Environments: Improving Effectiveness in Shared Spaces,” is organized around three themes: environment, actors, and transitions. Leadership and communication are integrated throughout. 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?

A second example of our education work is the Service Academy Education and Development Initiative. In collaboration with the U.S. Military Service Academies, USIP hosts future military officers for a summer internship to introduce and broaden their understanding of conflict prevention and peacebuilding.

The 2018 ITX—Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism in the Southern Philippines

USIP collaborated with the Departments of State and Defense, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and nongovernmental and international organizations to direct an ITX focused on preventing and countering violent extremism in the Philippines. The siege of Marawi by ISIS-affiliated extremists in 2017 highlighted the long-standing tensions between the Muslim population and the Philippine government. The reconstruction of Marawi and implementation of the Bangsamoro Organic Law will inform prospects for peacebuilding.

Outcomes included:

  • Increased understanding of all stakeholder priorities, roles, policies, programs, and planning efforts related to CVE in the southern Philippines.
  • Greater clarity on opportunities and limitations for coordination among the range of CVE actors.
  • Recommendations to inform CVE related policies and organizational planning efforts for the interorganizational community.

USINDOPACOM found the CVE ITX very useful, and the findings important to their planning. They have incorporated the findings and recommendations into their planning efforts for this region.

Shehzi Khan Chief, Strategic Partnerships/Global Engagements Pacific Command

Related Publications

Grading Counterterrorism Cooperation with the GCC States

Grading Counterterrorism Cooperation with the GCC States

Thursday, April 26, 2018

By: Leanne Erdberg

This testimony covers the following questions: (1) How have GCC countries addressed violent extremism and terrorism within their own national borders; (2) How have GCC countries addressed violent extremism and terrorism regionally and internationally; and, (3) What recommendations can enable future GCC efforts to go beyond eliminating today’s terrorists and prevent terrorism from emerging in the first place?

Conflict Analysis & Prevention; Civilian-Military Relations; Violent Extremism

Osama Gharizi on U.S. Objectives in Syria

Osama Gharizi on U.S. Objectives in Syria

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

By: Osama Gharizi

From Lebanon, Osama Gharizi shares his analysis about the clarity of U.S. objectives after retaliatory missile strikes targeting the Assad regime’s suspected chemical weapons facilities. Gharizi says these strikes sent a signal to Assad and his allies that there are limits to U.S. and coalition intervention in Syria. In turn, these limits strengthen Russia, Turkey, and Iran’s roles as the diplomatic arbiters to negotiate a peace deal. Separately, Gharizi addresses the risks associated with the suggestion of setting up an Arab force in Syria that could create further obscurity in terms of U.S. intent and objectives versus those of Arab countries forming such a force.

Conflict Analysis & Prevention; Civilian-Military Relations

Ambassador Bill Taylor on the Alleged Russian Use of Chemical Weapons

Ambassador Bill Taylor on the Alleged Russian Use of Chemical Weapons

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

By: William B. Taylor

The alleged Russian use of a chemical weapon against a former Russian spy turned double agent in the United Kingdom led to scores of Russian diplomats being sent packing from the United States and Western Europe. Ambassador Taylor discusses the strong showing of unity among Western nations, and its effect on Russian intelligence gathering efforts and additional U.S. and international economic sanctions.

Civilian-Military Relations

Conflict Management Training for Peacekeepers

Conflict Management Training for Peacekeepers

Friday, March 9, 2018

As peacekeeping missions continue to evolve to meet the demands of complex conflict environments, skills such as communication, negotiation, and mediation will continue to be critical in meeting the operational demands of modern peacekeeping missions, including protection of civilians (PoC) mandates, which have proliferated in the last decade.

Civilian-Military Relations

View All Publications