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Since 2005, the Civilian Military Working Group (CMWG) has served as an informal body that meets periodically to discuss policy and operational issues relevant to civilian and military personnel involved primarily in international humanitarian crises, relief and recovery.  The group also shares information about education and engagement opportunities.

group around a table

The CMWG exists to make civilian and military organizations more effective when operating in shared spaces.   

It achieves this goal this through its role in:
Convening:  The CMWG is the recognized venue for experts to build knowledge, share information, and advance the dialogue among the humanitarian NGO community and government civilian and military agencies.

Consultation: The CMWG serves as a consultative mechanism for the crisis response community to exchange expert input on doctrine, policy guidance, operational procedures, etc., which affect the operational environment during humanitarian crises, relief and recovery.

Communication: This group shares good practices and lessons learned, identifies emerging issues and specific concerns, and communicates to policy makers, the training /education community and implementers.

Collaboration: The group also serves as forum for collaborative problem solving and prepares our respective communities to engage effectively in complex conflict prevention, response, and humanitarian assistance and disaster response operations.


The CMWG is open to any civilian or military organization that is involved across the spectrum of conflict affected and fragile states.  Current membership and direction is oriented toward a humanitarian lens.

The direction and priorities of the CMWG as well as specific meeting topics are determined by a steering committee, composed of a wide range of actors from the U.S. government and the non-governmental organization (NGO) and international organization (IO) communities.

Current members of the Steering Committee include: 

  • InterAction
  • Alliance for Peacebuilding
  • Mercy Corps
  • World Vision
  • United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
  • U.S. Department of State – Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration
  • U.S. Agency for International Development – Office of Civilian-Military Coordination
  • Department of Defense
    • Office of the Secretary of Defense – Policy – Stability and Humanitarian Affairs
    • Joint Staff J5 (Doctrine)
  • U.S. Institute of Peace

Thought Leadership

The CMWG was created in response to the need identified by humanitarian NGOs to make a distinction between civilian and military actors and activities when both are present and operating in the same environment. As a result, in 2007, InterAction and the Department of Defense signed the Guidelines for Relations between U.S. Armed Forces and Non-Governmental Humanitarian Organizations in Hostile and Potentially Hostile Environments. In addition to being incorporated in U.S. military doctrine, these guidelines have also become a model for similar region-specific guidelines around the world. 

Additionally, the CMWG played a key role in the development of other publications – The Guiding Principles for Reconstruction and Stabilization, Measuring Progress in Conflict Environments (MPICE) and The Guide for Participants in Peace, Stability, and Relief Operations. Recently USIP has received anecdotal evidence from key partners that the time may be right to publish revised versions of the three books. Accordingly, we have developed a short survey (time required, no more than 30 minutes) to more accurately assess demand and help determine the right publishing options. The deadline for completion of the survey is March 31, 2017.

Recent Meeting Topics

CMWG topics arise from participant identified community-wide problems and challenges. The style of the meeting is driven by the topic and objectives. Meetings may be primarily informational, discussion-oriented, or focused on developing a concrete product. The CMWG operates under Chatham House rules.
Examples of recent topics include:

  • Civilian and Military feedback to the update of the Lucens Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict
  • Brief on the development of the Humanitarian Military Operations Coordination Center (HUMOCC), a new coordination structure within the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs to be utilized in humanitarian and disaster responses
  • The formulation of the Institute for Military Support to Governance
  • Civilian and military coordination within the Ebola response

Introducing the Civ-Mil Calendar of Events

Coming soon we will begin to share the various civ-mil related events / opportunities that organizations provide to us.  Our goal is to update the calendar every two weeks beginning on April 1st of this year.  If you have an upcoming civ-mil related event that you would like to be publicized for the community, then provide the date, location, event title, and point of contact to

Related Publications

U.S. Afghanistan Veterans Recall the Costs of War

U.S. Afghanistan Veterans Recall the Costs of War

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

By: USIP Staff

When we estimate the costs of wars, our guesses can render figures too vast and numbing to really grasp. Brown University’s Costs of War project estimates that wars since 2001 involving U.S. forces have cost $4.8 trillion, 370,000 people killed in direct violence and nearly 1.2 million dead when indirect causes are counted. At the U.S. Institute of Peace on Feb. 22, a prominent journalist and U.S. combat veterans focused on a tiny but dramatic subset of costs—the price paid by these former soldiers when they were sent a decade ago to a perilous corner of Afghanistan.

Civilian-Military Relations

Violent Conflict and Vital Interests: Keeping Focus

Violent Conflict and Vital Interests: Keeping Focus

Thursday, February 16, 2017

By: Fred Strasser

Over the next decade, the United States can expect to face complex foreign challenges from terrorism, insurgencies and internal conflicts fanned by external sponsorship, but the threat of conventional state-on-state wars, including direct assaults on the American homeland, have significantly diminished, according to retired Lt. General Douglas Lute, the former ambassador to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Global Policy; Conflict Analysis & Prevention; Civilian-Military Relations

Nigerian Governors Set to Discuss Paths to Progress

Nigerian Governors Set to Discuss Paths to Progress

Thursday, October 13, 2016

By: Fred Strasser

The urgent challenges for Nigeria’s powerful northern state governors range from addressing a humanitarian crisis sparked by Boko Haram’s insurgency to boosting economic growth with alternatives such as agriculture to make up for declining oil revenue, Johnnie Carson, a senior advisor at the U.S. Institute of Peace, said ahead of a governors’ symposium to be held at the Institute next week. 

Violent Extremism; Economics & Environment; Civilian-Military Relations

Countering Militancy and Terrorism in Pakistan: The Civil-Military Nexus

Countering Militancy and Terrorism in Pakistan: The Civil-Military Nexus

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

By: Shuja Nawaz

Based on interviews with civil and military officials and politicians, this report details the poor governance and imbalance of power in Pakistan and offers key recommendations for the military, civilian institutions, parliament, and civil society to achieve the goals and objectives outlined in Pakistan’s National Action Plan (NAP). The need for an assessment of the National Internal Security Policy and subsequent NAP became evident as the heightened military action under Operation Zarb-e-Azb...

Violent Extremism; Justice, Security & Rule of Law; Civilian-Military Relations

View All Publications