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. The direction and priorities of the CMWG are determined by consensus of the community. Current members include a wide range of actors from the U.S. government as well as the non-governmental organization (NGO) and international organization (IO) communities.

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 StabilizationMeasuring Progress in Conflict Environments (MPICE) and The Guide for Participants in Peace, Stability, and Relief Operations.

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 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

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The Fatemiyoun Army: Reintegration into Afghan Society

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

By: Ahmad Shuja Jamal

Since 2013, as many as 50,000 Afghans have fought in Syria as part of the Fatemiyoun, a pro-Assad force organized by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps. Based on field interviews with former fighters and their families, this Special Report examines the motivations of members of the Afghan Shia Hazara communities who joined the Fatemiyoun as well as the economic and political challenges of reintegrating them into Afghan society.

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Civilian-Military Relations; Fragility & Resilience

James Mattis: Yemen Needs a Truce Within 30 Days

James Mattis: Yemen Needs a Truce Within 30 Days

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

By: USIP Staff

Secretary of Defense James Mattis yesterday urged combatants in Yemen, including Saudi Arabia and Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi faction, to negotiate a cease-fire in that war within 30 days while speaking to diplomats, military officers and conflict-resolution specialists at the U.S. Institute of Peace. In a webcast conversation moderated by former national security advisor and USIP Chair Stephen J. Hadley, Mattis also discussed global security challenges facing the United States—from Russia and China, to North Korea—cybersecurity and the need for the developed world to help fragile states improve their governance and address the root causes of extremism.

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To Better Halt Wars, Does America Need a ‘Crisis Command’?

To Better Halt Wars, Does America Need a ‘Crisis Command’?

Friday, October 26, 2018

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A string of violent crises since the 1990s—from Somalia to Iraq to others—has underscored America’s need to coordinate better among military forces, relief and development organizations, diplomats and other responders, retired Marine Corps General Anthony Zinni said this week. The United States should consider creating a standing “interagency command” for such crises, Zinni told listeners at USIP.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

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Grading Counterterrorism Cooperation with the GCC States

Grading Counterterrorism Cooperation with the GCC States

Thursday, April 26, 2018

By: Leanne Erdberg Steadman

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?

Type: Congressional Testimony

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

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