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Civil-Military Coordination Section

The Civil-Military Coordination Section (CMCS), a project formerly called the Military and Civil Defence Unit (MCDU), facilitates and coordinates access to and use of international Military and Civil Defence Assets (MCDA) in countries affected by humanitarian emergencies. The project is responsible for the timely mobilisation of MCDA and for liaison with governments, international organisations and the military and civil defence establishments deploying these assets.

CMCS conducts UN Civil-Military Coordination (UN-CMCoord) training courses for the international community and draws on graduates to act as UN-CMCoord Officers in major humanitarian emergencies. It conducts pre-deployment training for international military forces and assists in the planning and coordination of UN Agency participation in major military exercises with significant humanitarian assistance scenarios. The section acts as custodian for UN-CMCoord related guidelines and manages the UN Central Register of disaster management capacities, including the directory of international MCDA.

Key objectives

  • Improve planning, monitoring and accountability of the civil-military coordination interface, to include the application of MCDA and deployment of UN-CMCoord Officers in emergencies
  • Strengthen the UN-CMCoord model for building disaster response management capabilities at national and international levels
  • Enhance clarity in the relationship between humanitarian and military actors


CMCS promoted the use of the principles of the Oslo and MCDA Guidelines (use of MCDA in natural disaster relief and in complex emergencies respectively) through presentations at conferences, seminars, workshops and meetings, as well as their practical application in humanitarian emergency operations.

Significant MCDA support was provided to the Indian Ocean tsunami response. CMCS managed a total of 14 international MCDA requests, nine in support of WFP and UNHCR in response to the South Asia earthquake, with requests ranging from strategic airlift of essential non-food items to the provision of transport helicopters, air traffic control facilities, and water treatment and purification units, most of which were met by NATO forces deployed to the affected region. International MCDA support was explored for the provision of transport helicopters following severe flooding in Guatemala, and for transportation of relief supplies and equipment to Niger during its drought and food crisis at the request of WFP and UNICEF.

The section maintained a UN-CMCoord officer system for rapid response to humanitarian field operations to facilitate communication and coordinate activities between humanitarian and military actors.

In March 2005, the IASC endorsed the UN Humanitarian CMCoord Concept, aimed at standardizing the deployment of UN-CMCoord Officers.Work continued on the establishment of national stand-by teams for a rapid and coherent response mechanism in support of humanitarian field operations.

CMCS participated in the planning and conduct of 11 large-scale military-led exercises comprising military, humanitarian and regional actors. Exercises involved the coordination of MCDA in humanitarian relief scenarios, along with practising, strengthening and developing coordination tools, techniques and instruments.

CMCS continued to participate in the operational NATO pre-deployment training for the Afghanistan ISAF mission. This training was extended to the new NATO Response Forces and the Military Staff Colleges of NATO member and partner states.

With ECHO sponsorship, CMCS led a series of technical workshops to facilitate the development of the UN-CMCoord Field Handbook, a reference guide for humanitarian and military actors. The handbook will be practically tested in the field before final issue.

CMCS conducted 13 UN-CMCoord training courses and three UN-CMCoord staff level courses. With strong support and participation from Member States and regional organisations, regional coordination and capacity building mechanisms were enhanced through a mixed training audience from the humanitarian community and military/civil defence organisations. The UN-CMCoord training programme was expanded to support two in-mission training sessions in Liberia and one in Afghanistan. Training courses were also held in Switzerland, Indonesia, Kenya, the Dominican Republic, Slovenia, Finland and Ghana.

CMCS piloted an in-house lessons-learned database, capturing issues from past UN-CMCoord operations.

Performance evaluation

The objectives of the Civil-Military Coordination Section were met in 2005, despite staffing levels at some 60 percent of the authorised establishment. CMCS researched, prepared, released and tracked all MCDA requests to Member States within three hours of receipt. Member States met 80 percent of all requests.

Strengthening the UN-CMCoord model was achieved through developing a broader support base, with CMCS delivering 13 UN-CMCoord training courses and three staff level courses to do so. The number of personnel trained in 2005 on the UNCMCoord training programme rose to a total of 437, with zero growth in staff resources.

Pre-deployment training activities for international military forces were strengthened by their expansion to include the new NATO Response Forces, briefings to military staff colleges and training of the new NATO Expeditionary Forces Course. The critical need for early UN-CMCoord deployment was recognised in a lessons-learned review of the tsunami response. This resulted in more timely deployment of UN-CMCoord Officers following the South Asia earthquake.




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