What level of information exchange should there be between humanitarians and the military?
The number of civilian humanitarian actors – both NGOs and state and multi-state bodies - has exploded. Increasingly, these organisations find themselves side by side with military forces in the field. This cohabitation is not always easy and various guidelines, references and doctrines have been drawn up to make relations less conflictual, such as the Oslo guidelines and the CIMIC doctrine, which attempt to clarify the different roles and mandates of humanitarian and military actors. The issue of information exchange between these two parties continues to be a subject of debate.
With the end of the Cold War, the advent of the Global War on Terror and the increase in the number of large-scale natural disasters, there has been an increase in the number and variety of external military interventions - peace enforcement, peacekeeping, security operations and operations following natural disasters.
For certain armies, the distinction between the two is clear – the military are not humanitarians. For them, civilian action is only ever carried out when it is in the interests of the troops deployed. For others, things are less clear-cut, both in the language used and in actions carried out. There are more and more Quick Impact Projects (QIPs), which have a very limited humanitarian impact, but blur the distinction between humanitarians and the military. The clearest example of this hijacking of civilian action by military forces is the PRTs in Afghanistan. These have been the subject of a series of damning reports, including some by British researchers and American universities.
The exchange of information involves a certain amount of risk. It does take place when there is a clear line between information exchange and military intelligence. A large number of platforms now exist for humanitarians and the military to meet and exchange views. These platforms have different objectives such as security, International Humanitarian Law or the needs of affected populations.