Working for Security, Development & Peace
in Afghanistan and Liberia

A Report on the March 30 & 31, 2007 Workshop “Coordinated Approaches to Security, Development and Peacemaking: Lessons Learned from Afghanistan and Liberia” held by the Centre for Military and Strategic Studies (CMSS), University of Calgary and the Institute of World Affairs (IWA), Washington, D.C.

By Hrach Gregorian and Lara Olson
Co-Directors, PDSP

© The Peacebuilding, Development and Security Program (PDSP), Centre for Military and Strategic Studies, University of Calgary, October 2007

Table of Contents

Executive Summary and Recommendations

I. Overview of the Workshop and Report Objectives

  1. The Coordination Challenge in International Peace Missions
  2. Levels of the Coordination Challenge
  3. Factors Contributing to the Coordination Problem
  4. Key Challenges
  5. Introduction to Workshop Results


  1. Overview of International Assistance
  2. Main Challenges for the Liberian Transition
  3. Views on the Links between Security and Development
  4. Coordination Models and Practices in Liberia
  5. What has worked? What hasn’t? Why?
  6. Conclusions and Analysis


  1. Overview of International Assistance in Afghanistan
  2. Main Challenges for Afghan Recovery
  3. Coordination Structures and Practices in Afghanistan
  4. Assessments of Coordination Effectiveness
  5. What has worked? What hasn’t? Why?
  6. Conclusions


  1. The Value of Common Models for Peacebuilding
  2. Agency Understandings of the Purpose of Coordination
  3. Diverging Principles Guiding Decision-Making
  4. Different Timeframes
  5. Insights into Effective Coordination


  1. Sources of Coordination Problems
  2. The Coordination Dynamics in Afghanistan and Liberia
  3. Insights into the Challenges Identified
  4. Spheres for Improvement in Coordination Processes


ANNEX A – Coordination Structures and Practices in Liberia

ANNEX B – Coordination Structures and Practices in Afghanistan

ANNEX C – Workshop Agenda

ANNEX D – Workshop Participant’s List

ANNEX E – Glossary of Terms

Executive Summary and Recommendations

These findings are the product of research on the field-level dynamics of interagency coordination and a two-day practitioner workshop, “Coordinated Approaches to Security, Development and Peacemaking: Lessons Learned from Afghanistan and Liberia”, held March 30 and 31 at the University of Calgary’s Centre for Military and Strategic Studies (CMSS) in conjunction with the Centre’s Washington, D.C. based program partner, the Institute of World Affairs (IWA). [1]


The level, range, and depth of today’s international interventions in states emerging from civil wars are unprecedented, resulting in a dizzying array of organizations and agendas.  In these situations of an incomplete or fragile peace, the interlinked nature of security and development is inescapable, with basic security enabling the delivery of humanitarian relief and longer-term development efforts that, in turn, give people a stake in the peace process.

In the cases of Afghanistan and Liberia, international organizations, NGOs, military interveners, donors and host governments strive to meet enormous basic humanitarian needs while moving ahead with development and statebuilding at a pace often driven by political imperatives and the limited staying power of international donors. Roles and mandates overlap as military forces work on reconstruction and governance support, donors work directly with provincial and local governments, and development actors participate in security sector reform. Whether the military, UN and donor country diplomats, and humanitarian and relief agencies choose to explicitly work together or not, the outcomes of their efforts are deeply intertwined.

Lessons from Afghanistan

In Afghanistan, military, humanitarian and development actors work side by side (though not necessarily together) with an ongoing insurgency in some regions and relative stability in others. The agendas of violence reduction, democratization, civil society building, and good governance are interdependent conceptually but can clash in practice. Tensions exist between military and development actors over a perceived militarization of aid through hearts and minds efforts by the military and the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) model.  Furthermore, many actors criticize a lack of clear, accepted leadership of the overall effort.

Examples of effective coordination cited were the health sector and the government’s National Solidarity Program where participatory, inclusive processes involving the government, donors and implementing NGOs resulted in significant “buy-in” from key stakeholders. The record of coordination in many security-related areas, however, is reportedly poor, where civil-military actors lack a history of constructive engagement, a common strategic vision, and have few inclusive and participatory planning processes. In many cases, field coordination efforts are resisted as an attempt by powerful actors to exert control and impose their models and strategies over other assistance actors.

Lessons from Liberia

In Liberia, basic security has been consolidated but long-term stability rests on meeting daunting humanitarian and development needs, and building legitimate, effective government institutions, especially the army, police, and justice system. The 15,000 strong UNMIL peacekeeping force remains key to security with domestic institutions still very weak, while relief and development efforts are heavily dependent on UN agencies and NGOs.

Examples of effective coordination noted were in health and education, where there is a history of engagement and UN-led humanitarian coordination mechanisms that promote joint analysis and strategy making amongst civilian assistance actors.  In contrast, security sector issues lacked broadly inclusive and transparent consultative processes, and coordination was deemed weak.  Coordination problems identified overall were: lack of a common strategic vision; power asymmetries between UN agencies, governments and NGOs that inhibit the creation of a truly joint vision; fundamental differences in how problems and solutions are defined between key actors, and a tendency for external actors and funding to dominate in defining frameworks and strategies. Current coordination processes were also criticized for advancing the UN mission’s political goals over humanitarian and development goals, and for coordination gaps with key U.S. policies.

Barriers and Supports to Greater Coordination in Both Cases

Both cases showed that the international military forces, political and diplomatic actors, and relief and development agencies operating in international peace missions have very different mandates, accountability chains, motivations, and deeply held models of how to promote change. These incompatibilities make even effective communication difficult, let alone coordination and collaboration.   The fundamental blocks in evidence were:

  1. Dearth of Accepted Models

There is no commonly accepted model for effective peacebuilding, and few solid, independent evaluations of past experience to substantiate any one approach. Without hard evidence that certain approaches “work”, diverse assistance actors have few incentives to abandon models based on their own worldviews and preferred tools.

  1. Lack of Common Purpose

Assistance actors often do not agree on the basic purpose of coordination efforts.  Even amongst humanitarian actors, some emphasize minimalist goals of information exchange and mutual awareness, while others aspire to joint analysis and strategy making, and a functional division of labour.  Regarding civil-military coordination in particular, military actors expressed frustration with field coordination exercises as “just information sharing”, while many development actors saw the purpose as rightly limited to information sharing, so that the NGOs and beneficiaries “do not get shot at” and the “military understands our approach”. They expressed more concern about the quality and reliability of the information shared.

  1. Varied Sensitivities to Power

Agencies have very different sensitivities to the power asymmetries inherent in coordination efforts, with NGOs and host government representatives emphasizing power differentials and international political and military actors discussing coordination largely as a technical exercise that is power-neutral.  Not dealing directly with the power issues (the “elephant in the room”) undermines the trust of weaker players in the process.

  1. Different Guiding Principles

Assistance actors operate on the basis of fundamentally different principles for decision making, with little agreement about the “greater good,” given different values, orientations, constituencies, mandates, and timeframes. The principles of “neutrality” and “humanitarian need” of development actors clash at times with the principle of “UN endorsed partiality” guiding the statebuilding activities of diplomatic, political and military actors in their support for the established government. Furthermore, military and diplomatic actors’ ultimate objectives are to protect national security and the national interests of home governments, with their performance assessed on these criteria. For relief and development actors, especially NGOs, criteria for success relate to improvements in beneficiary welfare, rather than home government interests.  Furthermore, the principle of local ownership is difficult in practice when the expressed priorities of national, provincial, local governments and grassroots communities conflict, with international agencies working at different levels hearing different “local voices”.

Given these fundamental differences, centralized control is resisted because it would sanction one (unproven) model of peacebuilding, and undermine the positive benefits of diverse approaches.  Without centralization, agencies can still improve the way their efforts link up and support broader peacebuilding goals, while working side by side in such settings and preserving their autonomous mandates and roles.

 Supporting Factors

The following factors reportedly support effective cross-agency coordination in the field. 

  • Informality and “face to face” time
  • Getting “straight information” from someone you trust, not agency “propaganda”
  • Transparency and horizontal relationships amongst agencies/people
  • Inclusiveness – getting all key stakeholders involved early in the process
  • Sincere motives to improve program impacts (vs. funding, competition, credit)
  • Good negotiation skills, ability to articulate arguments and win over others
  • Common knowledge of the issues amongst participants
  • An ability to accept criticism from others
  • When internal consensus on key issues exists within agencies and networks
  • When higher decision makers allow for flexibility and negotiation in the field
  • Time – improving coordination takes time and is a learning process

Recommendations For improved communication & Coordination

Feedback reflected frustration that despite the goodwill and time invested, field level coordination efforts often amount to either “just information sharing” or a ”false coherence”, a superficial agreement on strategies that is more forced than sincere, and doesn’t reflect a true common approach.  Effective communication and coordination requires greater effort both between and within assistance communities, with changes in the areas of principles, processes, people and structures.  Investments of time, resources and political will in these areas can promote more effective and reliable communication amongst assistance actors in the field, creating a solid foundation for greater coordination, where it is an agreed goal.


  • At the country level, clarify broad, basic principles amongst the major international assistance communities working side by side in the field.  Common baseline principles would build mutual understanding, trust, and accountability between diverse assistance actors and, importantly, between international actors and national actors and publics. This effort could take the form of a consultative process or a code of conduct for the international assistance effort.
  • The development assistance community should clarify what basic principles guide their actions when robust international military missions coexist, and sometimes overlap, with development efforts. What key principles guide development efforts, as opposed to humanitarian relief, in statebuilding contexts that involve ongoing insurgencies?  What guides the work of multi-mandate agencies working on relief and development in these contexts?
  • Equally, international military forces should clarify the principles that guide their involvement in these contexts.  What principles should guide the military’s non-military operations to ensure they contribute positively to the broader stabilization effort?  How does the interdependence of security and development in these settings change the way such operations need to be planned and decisions made?


  • Conveners of particular coordination efforts should clarify assumptions and goals upfront, allowing groups to be clear on what to expect, and thus, whether and how to participate. For some agencies, coordination represents centralized management and control, for others it represents information sharing leading to self-coordination, while for others still, it implies explicit consensus-building.
  • Coordination efforts should explicitly acknowledge the power asymmetries in the room that block frank communication, and aim to construct horizontal relationships. False or forced agreement at the planning level (because of power or funding relationships) simply pushes resistance to the implementation level.
  • Separate power from leadership of the coordination effort. Agencies need to know if a given coordination process will involve a two-way relationship and mutual influence, or whether it is simply an effort to establish control over other actors. The coordination function should not be led by an agency with the preponderance of power, but by one respected as an honest broker.
  • Involve national governments in oversight and consultative roles at the implementation level of major international projects. Formal agreements on broad recovery frameworks can represent a misleading false coherence, and don’t eliminate the need for consultation, consensus building, and clear communication tools between international and national actors at the project level.
  • Broaden consultative processes on politically sensitive security reforms to involve national and international NGOs along with donors and national governments. Lack of such broader consultation undermines the goals of recreating new security institutions that the public can trust, especially after years of experience with predatory military and police forces.
  • Support in-country intra-NGO coordination processes with resources to help NGOs strengthen internal networks and dialogue so that common NGO positions can be represented in country-level strategies for peacebuilding.


  • Promote and train for skills in consensus building if field-based leaders are to foster coordination across major organizational divides.
  • Promote a two-way flow of personnel between the field and HQ to ensure personnel understand the broader dynamics at play and can interpret the intent of decision makers at both levels of their agencies.
  • Increase resources dedicated to interagency communication and coordination to allow agencies to allocate the staff time and attention needed for coordination, and to recruit for, and reward, the specific professional skills required.
  • Create concrete incentives within agencies for leaders to be accountable for broader project impacts related to the peacebuilding process, rather than purely narrowly focused outputs (i.e. roads and schools built, contracts won), promoting a focus on the “big job” rather than narrow organizational goals or personal egos.


  • Maintain a separation of security and development roles in practice.  Militaries and civilian aid agencies should be seen as working side by side, not together, in the field, while recognizing that security and development are tied goals. Humanitarian, development actors and military personnel in the field have serious, practical concerns about blurring these roles.
  • Policy makers should clearly articulate the value of distinct security, relief and development roles and specialists to the publics of both donor countries and recipient nations. Policy makers should resist the temptation to promote critical and life-saving security assistance by foreign military forces in humanitarian or development terms, emphasizing instead the strong value populations place on security first and foremost.
  • Where possible, avoid direct civil-military coordination in the field and strengthen civilian-civilian coordination models.  The case-specific need for civil-military coordination should be handled through authorized civilian bodies, removing much of the distracting friction from civil-military relationships.
  • Forums for civil-military contact and communication, however, should be encouraged, but should not be viewed as coordination meetings, and should be renamed in more neutral terms, such as “contact group”, to avoid false expectations, mistrust, and public misperceptions. The term coordination implies a common purpose, and should be used when it reflects the real, and agreed, aspirations of the agencies involved.
  • Develop financial mechanisms to allow NGOs to respond more quickly to urgent needs in areas where there is an international military presence, avoiding the need for military forces to fill assistance gaps with separate aid programming.
  • Implementing agencies should develop evaluation methodologies that explicitly assess the broader impacts of their programs on development prospects and security. This would compel agencies to articulate just what broader goals their projects are fostering and how it is possible to tell if they are reached.  A first step could be to convene relevant field-based agencies to assemble a first cut of such assessment criteria for further testing.
  • Policy makers at HQ should avoid micro planning of interventions, or dialogue, consensus building, and alliance building in the field is rendered “pointless”. People reported defecting from coordination forums when they saw little ability to affect policies that “come down from above”.

I.  Overview of the Workshop and Report Objectives

Do current attempts to forge more coordinated approaches between multifaceted assistance agencies really translate into more effective assistance to protect civilians from violence, avert humanitarian catastrophes and rebuild economies and livelihoods? Do they result in bringing security, development and peace to war-weary populations more quickly, or in a more sustainable way?

On March 30 and 31, 2007 the Centre for Military and Strategic Studies (CMSS) and its Washington, D.C. based partner, the Institute of World Affairs (IWA), hosted 35 practitioners and academics for an expert workshop, “Coordinated Approaches to Security, Development and Peacemaking: Lessons Learned from Afghanistan and Liberia,” at the University of Calgary. The workshop focused on Afghanistan and Liberia as case studies to understand if current coordination efforts amongst assistance actors effectively address the interlinked challenges of providing security, enabling effective relief and development, and solidifying a lasting and sustainable peace. Lara Olson, Associate at CMSS, and Dr. Hrach Gregorian, President of the Institute of World Affairs, organized and facilitated the event, assisted by a team of CMSS graduate students.[2]

The workshop aimed to better understand the widely acknowledged gap between the policy level consensus promoting greater aid coordination and coherence in recent years and the actual practice in the field[3], asking two basic questions:

  1. How are the aid coordination and coherence policies of international assistance actors being turned into practice in Afghanistan and Liberia?
  2. Are these efforts leading to more effective work?

The idea was not to promote an agenda of greater or less coordination amongst assistance actors but rather to step back to examine the record of what works and what doesn’t.   As the following report shows, there are important tensions and tradeoffs between promoting security, development and peace that only become evident in practice and raise fundamental questions. Is greater explicit coordination amongst agencies involved in security, development and peacemaking advisable?  If so, why, when and where?  Are there specific issues on which it is clearly possible?  How do we do it well?  Conversely, are there cases where coordination is best avoided? What are the costs and benefits to greater coordination and who bears these?

While we did not expect to understand all these issues through a single workshop, we did hope to gain some practical insights that would be helpful to the wide variety of organizations and agencies engaged in efforts to promote security, development and peace in war-affected countries.

The workshop sought to analyse the range of coordination relationships, and therefore deliberately used the broad term “coordinated approaches”. This term is meant to encompass a spectrum of relationships between aid actors from complete independence, to information sharing, to cooperation on specific programs or issue areas, to strategic coordination and joint planning, to integration of key activities under a single chain of command.

Afghanistan and Liberia were chosen as cases to ground the discussions in the concrete experiences of two different models of coordination. In Afghanistan, a context of an ongoing insurgency, the joined – up approach is used by most major donor countries and is institutionalized in the NATO-ISAF Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs), yet there is no unitary chain of command amongst the diverse civilian and military actors involved such as the UN, NATO, the EU, World Bank, and the many donor countries that contribute to the overall international mission.  Liberia, which has enjoyed relative security and stability over the last three years provided by UNMIL peacekeeping forces, represents the most integrated UN peace operation to date, bringing the military, political, and humanitarian arms of the UN under a unified chain of command.

Workshop Participants

Participants were a highly experienced group of senior field personnel and policy makers from military organizations, humanitarian and development agencies and NGOs, foreign ministries, along with academic experts in peacebuilding, and government representatives and civil society actors from Afghanistan and Liberia.

Workshop participants were drawn from the following organizations: the Canadian Forces, NATO, the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the EU mission in Afghanistan and the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), the Department of National Defence (DND), CARE Canada, Care Afghanistan, Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan, the Ottawa-based Peace Operations Working Group, the international development consulting firm DAI., former MSF personnel, and academic experts on post-war reconstruction and peacebuilding from the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre, the Wilson Center for International Scholars in Washington, D.C., the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy in Boston, the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI) and the African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD) in South Africa.  Additionally, representatives from both the Afghan and Liberian government ministries dealing with international aid, and the national NGOs, Afghan Health and Development Services, and Action Aid Liberia, were key participants.  The group also included experienced development practitioners from the University of Calgary and the director and assistant director of CMSS.   For a variety of reasons, neither personnel from the UN mission in Afghanistan nor the Department of Foreign Affairs in Canada were able to take part, leaving gaps in these perspectives.

A direct dialogue amongst practitioners from these diverse organizational backgrounds was a key goal of the workshop. The workshop format succeeded in creating a space to discuss participants’ diverse experiences in an informal, off-the-record manner, removed from the power dynamics and organizational politics that normally impact on such discussions.

Generous financial support for this workshop was provided by the Centre for Military and Strategic Studies, the Canadian International Development Agency’s (CIDA) Conference Secretariat, the Department of National Defence’s Security and Defence Forum, NATO’s Public Diplomacy Division, and several departments of the University of Calgary – the Faculty of Social Sciences, the International Centre, and the Political Science Department.  Equally generous in-kind support was extended by the Institute of World Affairs, and many participating agencies covered the time and costs of their personnel.

This report represents the core product of the workshop.  The discussions over the two days generated rich insights into the dynamics and relationships between assistance actors working on security and development initiatives that we have attempted to capture here for a wider audience. While rooted in the specific experiences of Afghanistan and Liberia, the findings here also suggest more general insights relevant to international efforts to support war to peace transitions.  Though credit for many of the insights reflected here must be shared with participants, only the authors bear any responsibility for the analysis and conclusions presented.

We hope this report will stimulate reflection in policy and practitioner circles on the need for new approaches to this critical issue. This report does not just tinker around the edges of the existing definitions of the problem nor does it recommend throwing the baby out with the bathwater, and shunting aside valuable progress made on coordination in recent years. Rather, it suggests the need for all actors to step back and reflect on the consultation and coordination approaches they are using to try to make an impact on security, development and peace. It also suggests the need for some alternative processes and orientations to the coordination challenge. The prevailing approach now views coordination as a technical exercise – who does what and when – while downplaying the lack of agreement on basic strategies and the lack of effective processes to forge agreement on strategies between actors with unequal power and influence.  However, this route does not seem to be producing the desired results.

What part of the pie is coordination in terms of the impact of international support in war to peace transitions? One participant pointed out that donors often specify that about 5% of the overall budget of a project should go to coordination, so by this measure, the coordination part of any effort counts for only 5%.  However, as the same participant noted, if this 5% is not done well, it undermines the other 95%.

Like most major donor countries, effective coordination amongst Canadian ministries and with international partners is key to Canadian efforts to more effectively assist failed and fragile states.  We hope these findings will contribute to those efforts in Canada, in other donor countries, and more widely among the range of governmental and non-governmental organizations engaged in international peace missions.

Any workshop represents a mere snapshot of a fast moving and complex issue.  The findings presented here represent a survey of the complex challenges of coordination in peace operations and lay down some markers for ongoing research under the auspices of the new Peacebuilding, Development and Security Program, a partnership of the Centre for Military and Strategic Studies at the University of Calgary and the Institute of World Affairs in Washington, D.C.

1. The Coordination Challenge in International Peace Missions

The end of the Cold War brought a dramatic increase in conflicts within states, and a corresponding rise in “international peace operations”, as complex multi-actor interventions to end civil wars and build peace have become known. While in 1998 the UN deployed 14,000 peacekeepers worldwide, by 2006 this number had risen dramatically to over 90,000 military and civilians deployed in 16 UN missions.[4] New international coalitions of the willing led by regional organizations like NATO in Kosovo emerged in place of UN involvement in some contexts. More fundamentally, the nature of UN involvement expanded dramatically from classical peacekeeping characterized by the monitoring of ceasefires.  New expanded UN missions involved solidifying fragile truces, building the capacity and legitimacy of states emerging from conflict, holding elections, demobilizing and reintegrating combatants, and sometimes direct international administration of a territory.  As Michael Lund has pointed out, the changes encompassed a broadening of the goals and sectors that were involved, a deepening of the engagement with the internal workings of societies, and a lengthening in terms of the stages of conflict when such missions would be deployed, with preventive and post-conflict state-building missions a major new focus.[5]  A parallel development was a dramatic increase in involvement by non-governmental organizations in these internal conflicts, particularly humanitarian, relief and development NGOs, to address civilian needs, but also human rights organizations and conflict resolution groups conducting Track 2 negotiation efforts and civil society dialogues across conflict lines.   These changes occurred alongside the new ability of the international media to bring the plight of civilians caught in war to the world stage, and mobilize populations in donor countries to act.

As a result of these shifts, recent international efforts to secure peace in conflict zones such as Kosovo, East Timor, DRC, Haiti, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Afghanistan, Burundi and Sudan involved a dizzying array of actors:  foreign diplomats and UN personnel, international military forces, international humanitarian and development agencies and NGOs, and myriad national NGOs and civil society groups. A wide range of efforts to promote security, relief, development, peacemaking among leaders, support to civil society, gender equity, mine clearance, and community-level peacebuilding were undertaken by these varied actors, in the attempt to end violence and build sustainable peace.  This spectrum of activities is often termed peacebuilding, widely (and loosely) defined as all efforts and programs conducted by international and national actors in all sectors and at all levels, to solidify peace.[6]

In recent years, numerous research efforts attempted to more clearly define and categorize the activities that comprise the peacebuilding agenda, most using the metaphor of a toolkit of approaches, ranging from international military intervention, to elections, to economic development programs, to mine action, to dialogues across conflict lines, to trainings in negotiation skills for leaders, to peace education for schoolchildren.  In general, these toolkit approaches produced long lists of activities without prioritization amongst them. Furthermore, it was generally assumed that the many independent and parallel efforts by various intervening agencies automatically “add up” to positive overall contributions to peace.

Several broadly based studies have made clear, however, that these multifaceted efforts are not just “adding up” on their own.[7] With the added complexity of recent international peace missions and the expanded number of international actors and approaches involved, the question of coordination has become a key focus for donors, the UN and other multilateral agencies and NGOs.  In numerous reviews of the crises of the 1990s in Mozambique, Angola, Guatemala, Bosnia, and Sierra Leone, problems of coordination amongst the multiplicity of actors were constantly raised. While the critiques were leveled at the UN, World Bank, other intergovernmental organizations and donor governments, NGOs were often also singled out, given their sheer numbers, diversity and culture of independence.

The trend since Kosovo is towards greater integration of international efforts and the necessity for collaboration between relief, development and security organizations. By the late 1990s, from key donor countries, to UN agencies, to NGO networks, a common understanding emerged that efforts for peace must become more strategic and coordinated if they are to have the ambitious impacts they intend. This consensus has led to efforts in recent years to promote explicit communication, coordination and even formal integration among interveners to achieve more impact.

Conceptually, an array of new overarching strategic frameworks for war to peace transitions has been proposed in recent years.  Such frameworks have moved the debate from the identification of an endless array of tools and approaches, to a set of manageable categories with key priorities defined often as “the pillars” of a peacebuilding process, usually encompassing the security, political and economic spheres.

An example, from the influential 2004 Utstein study of peacebuilding efforts by four major European donor governments (Germany, Norway, Netherlands and the U.K), lays out the four key elements of what is termed “the peacebuilding palette”.[8]

Humanitarian mine action
Disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of combatants
Disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of child combatants
Security sector reform
Small arms and light weapons
Socio-economic Foundations
Physical reconstruction
Economic infrastructure
Infrastructure of health and education
Repatriation and return of refugees and IDPs
Food security
Reconciliation and Justice
Dialogue between leaders of antagonistic groups
Grass roots dialogue
Other bridge-building activities
Truth and Reconciliation Commissions
Trauma therapy and healing
Political Framework
Democratization (parties, media, NGOs, democratic culture)
Good governance (accountability, rule of law, justice system)
Institution building
Human rights (monitoring law, justice system)

The metaphor of the palette implies that these instruments can be mixed, and overlap, as the need dictates.  This is just one of many similar frameworks that aim to harness the efforts of numerous and varied actors and organizations into a coherent strategy.

Accordingly, since the late 1990s, this push for more unified efforts directly led to such innovations as UN Integrated Missions, which combined the political, peacekeeping, and humanitarian arms of the UN system under a unified command. Indeed, many donor countries have now synchronized the foreign assistance arms of government in what has been variously called the “joined up approach,” the “whole of government approach,” or, the “3 Ds” approach – referring to defense, development and diplomacy. The goal has been to use military, political and humanitarian/development instruments in a more synchronized and, presumably, more effective manner.

While supporting efforts to improve impacts in the field, international humanitarian, development, and peace NGOs have strong reservations about greater integration of their efforts with the more politically-driven agendas of donors and the UN.  Closer coordination involves tradeoffs. Humanitarian NGOs have voiced serious concerns regarding threats to humanitarian space from the way military, humanitarian and development efforts are merged in Afghanistan, and elsewhere.   Furthermore, in many contexts the tension between promoting peace to end violence — through the inclusion of armed groups in the political process or granting amnesty for war crimes — and securing justice for victims of violence has become clear.  Another key issue is whether greater coordination between agencies of donor countries and amongst international actors undermines or supports consultation processes and local ownership of development and reconstruction by government and civil society actors in affected countries.

Ultimately, coordination efforts to date have had a mechanistic focus, as if the optimal mix of efforts to achieve peace is clear and various agencies and programs must simply be better aligned.  This approach masks the fact that the “recipe” for peacebuilding remains unclear, and recent international experience leaves many questions unanswered about the optimal mix of contributions that will truly promote sustainable peace.

2. Levels of the Coordination Challenge

The following is a review of the parameters of the coordination issue in international peace missions and the relevant issues at these levels.  Coordination is not a single system, but rather is the sum of the wide range of interactions amongst different actors in different sectors on different issues, which can be grouped as four distinct levels: intergovernmental coordination of policies between the UN and other multilateral institutions and donors; internal coordination within the agencies of national donor governments or within a given agency; operational/field level coordination among multiple actors at various levels in the field; and coordination between international and national actors.

A) Intergovernmental Coordination

The United Nations

As early as 1997, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan announced the development of UN integrated missions as a policy priority for the UN.  The guiding concept was that “[a] ll UN resources are harnessed under common direction towards consolidating peace and supporting the establishment of stable and legitimate central government with viable institutions.”[9]  In integrated missions, the humanitarian, military and political chief officers of the mission operate under a single, unified chain of command.  Kosovo was the first integrated mission.  So far the integrated missions concept has been at work in 10 UN missions: East Timor, DRC, Haiti, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Afghanistan, Burundi, Sudan and Iraq.  Proponents of the approach cite the increased effectiveness of UN efforts in country, while critics claim that this approach often ends up subordinating humanitarian concerns to political and military aims.  The case of Afghanistan in 2002 offers a telling example of this tension. Despite assurances from senior mission management that integration would not affect the humanitarian profile, the missions’ political component rapidly outpaced the consolidation of its assistance arm. This political impetus was reinforced by the appointment of a Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General (DSRSG) for political affairs two months before a DSRSG for assistance was announced. Tension of a similar nature was witnessed in the Liberian UN mission where the SRSG – contrary to the advice of UN humanitarian organizations and NGOs – “encouraged IDPs and refugees to return to ill-prepared home areas so they could vote in mission-supported elections.”[10]

The 2000 Brahimi Report on United Nations Peace Operations reinforced the need for practical planning for integrated missions, with recommendations for Integrated Mission Task Forces involving all parts of the UN system.[11]  The report also recognized the sea change that had occurred in the 1990s, in that UN forces were no longer deploying in post-conflict situations, but actually in order to “create peace”. It recommended strengthening deployment speed and capacity, and giving UN forces the ability to defend themselves, to protect civilians and protect the mission’s mandate.[12] The approach combined greater integration amongst humanitarian, political and military actors with more robust peace enforcement capacity.

The 2005 report of the UN High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change addressed the coordination issue in a fundamental way, calling for the creation of a Peacebuilding Commission within the UN, to improve the coordination of all relevant actors both within and outside the UN system. Following the landmark United Nations World Summit, the Peacebuilding Commission was formally established on December 20, 2005.  UN General Assembly Resolution A/60/180 emphasized “the need for a coordinated, coherent, and integrated approach to post-conflict peacebuilding and reconciliation with a view to achieved sustainable peace.”[13] It includes members of the UN Security Council, General Assembly and Economic and Social Council, along with countries that are top troop contributors and providers of funding to UN budgets, funds, programs and agencies.  The Commission is mandated to discuss particular countries, and involve representatives of those countries in a central role, as well as key regional states.  For a while the role of civil society and non-governmental organizations in the Commission’s activities was left unclear, but in June 2007, provisional guidelines were adopted on civil society participation that provide opportunities for NGOs to participate in the formal and informal meetings of the Commission in substantive but limited ways, without granting them a negotiating role in this primarily interstate body.[14]

The Peacebuilding Commission’s main purposes include:

  1. to bring together all relevant actors to marshal resources and to advise on and propose integrated strategies for post-conflict peacebuilding and recovery;
  2. to focus attention on the reconstruction and institution-building efforts necessary for recover from conflict and to support the development of integrated strategies in order to lay the foundation for sustainable development;
  3. and, to provide recommendations and information to improve the coordination of all relevant actors within and outside the United Nations, to develop best practices, to help to ensure predictable financing for early recovery activities and to extend the period of attention given by the international community to post-conflict recovery.[15]

The Peacebuilding Commission has demonstrated promise in its efforts to assist its first two country cases, Sierra Leone and Burundi. The Commission is an advisory body, intended to have a catalytic effect on other agencies and international institutions, yet its role within the UN system is far from clear. Nevertheless, it has demonstrated through its rules of procedure and early practice, approaches to peacebuilding dilemmas and deliberations that may help others address challenges in promoting coordinated peacebuilding approaches.

Firstly, the Commission has adopted an approach to setting priorities that is driven by the government of the country in question. This stands in contrast to other post-conflict contexts where the international community has occasionally played too prominent a role in determining priorities. Secondly, the PBC has gone to considerable lengths to engage national stakeholders, including civil society, in the consultative process in discussing and determining integrated national peacebuilding strategies.  Thirdly, the peacebuilding strategy for Burundi and Sierra Leone will be subject to periodic monitoring and review, by the Commission, in the years to come. As a political forum with built in roles for national and international civil society representatives, the PBC can provide an important venue for reviewing country-specific peacebuilding strategies and highlighting inevitable adaptations and course corrections.[16]

Another strand of recent UN reforms is the “Delivering as One” initiative, announced with the November 2006 report of the High-level Panel on UN System-wide Coherence in the Area of Development, Humanitarian Assistance and the Environment.  This put forward a series of recommendations to overcome the fragmentation of United Nations agencies and programs through a “stronger commitment to working together on the implementation of one strategy, in the pursuit of one set of goals.”[17]

The report specifically recommended the establishment of one UN at country level, with one leader, one program, one budget, and, where appropriate, one office in five country pilots by 2007.[18]  Subsequently, the governments of eight countries – Albania, Cape Verde, Mozambique, Pakistan, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uruguay and Vietnam volunteered to become the “One UN” pilot countries, testing variations of the “One UN” model.

Government (Bilateral) Aid Donors and the OECD

Recent research into the effectiveness of donor contributions to peace missions has generally reinforced the thinking that the key to making more of a positive impact is a greater degree of coordination internally, among the various arms of government (termed “whole of government approaches”, “3-Ds”, “joined up approaches” or “coherence”), but also between donor governments (known as aid “harmonization”), and in accordance with the plans of the national recipient government (known as “alignment”).[19] Despite all the inherent challenges, coordinated approaches to peacebuilding, in aid to fragile states, and in post-conflict reconstruction efforts are now widely recognized as essential good practice.  The 2004 Utstein Study gave major support to the push for greater donor coordination.[20]  Its review of 336 projects identified among the important lessons learned:  the multidimensional nature of peacebuilding; the interdependence of different components; the need for peacebuilding to be sustained in the long term; and the major need for coordination between and among governments and between governments and IGOs and NGOs. It concluded that there was a major “strategic deficit” in the peacebuilding efforts studied, with more than 55% not showing any link to a broader strategy for the country in which they were implemented.  In short, there was no connection between an HQ policy and strategy and what was being done on the ground.[21] Furthermore, it found that security and socio-economic projects were particularly “strategy resistant”, and pursued as if their worth was self-evident and not in need of a larger strategy.[22]

Within the OECD, major donor governments have been engaged in an intensive process of policy development relating to coordination of assistance to conflict affected countries.  Since they were issued in 1997, the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) guidelines on peacebuilding have constituted the basis for the policy of many OECD governments.  These guidelines articulated the range of sectoral activities needed (security sector reform, rule of law, and good governance, for example) and the principles that should guide good policy. [23]

In 2005, a Fragile States Group was launched within the DAC to provide guidance to donors on how to improve whole of government approaches in states where weak governance and state capacity are key obstacles to positive aid outcomes.  This group developed a list of 12 principles for effective international engagement in fragile states.[24]  It called for donor countries to develop coherence amongst their own agencies; that is, to forge close links between the political, security, economic and social arms of government, or whole of government approaches.  The principles also call for recognition of the political-security-development nexus, in that failure in one area risks failure in all the others, and for unified planning frameworks. They call for states to develop practical coordination mechanisms between international actors and to work jointly with national reformers in government and civil society.  Other key principles include an agreed focus on state-building as the central objective in fragile states; that is, helping states develop capacity to perform core functions, develop legitimacy and accountability, and provide an enabling environment for economic development.   Another key principle was that international actors should align assistance efforts fully behind government strategies, provided governments demonstrate the political will to foster development.

Since adopting these principles, donors have been interested in critically assessing their performance and effective action in fragile states, and have launched an innovative pilot project focusing on methods, tools, and frameworks for measuring progress on key indicators.

B) Internal Coordination (intra-organizational horizontal and vertical coordination)

Improving Horizontal Linkages:  Within most major donor governments, “whole of government approaches” have been developed in line with the principles and policies formulated within the OECD in an attempt to create effective horizontal linkages between government departments.

In Canada, for example, the “whole of government ” policy of integrated efforts between the various arms of government was initially termed the “3-Ds policy” (referring to defence, diplomacy and development) in the 2005 International Policy Statement of the Paul Martin government.[25]  Under the government of Stephen Harper, terminology has shifted officially to “whole of government approach” consistent with the OECD’s policy constructs that Canada has endorsed.  Canadian policies currently are based on the idea that only more integrated approaches between the Department of National Defense (DND), the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), and the Department for Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) can address the interrelated security, governance, and development needs of fragile states. (Where deemed relevant, other domestic agencies such as the Department of Justice, Elections Canada, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Department of Finance, and the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness are also involved.) To realize this whole of government agenda, the Canadian government has initiated key reforms to promote interdepartmental cooperation and promote government-wide strategies, including:

  • creating the Stabilization and Reconstruction Task Force (START) as a standing interagency mechanism within the foreign affairs ministry to facilitate government-wide responses to crises;
  • mandating that that Canadian ambassadors or high commissioners develop an annual united “Country Strategy” for the various departments represented in the embassy, in effect holding the ambassador accountable for fostering a whole of government approach;[26]
  • creating interdepartmental task forces for specific crises, generally chaired by START, to focus on coming up with shared understandings of the situation and a consensus on objectives across different departments;
  • creating new more flexible financial mechanisms such as the C$150 million Crisis Pool, and the C$100 million Global Peace and Security Fund (GPSF) to facilitate rapid response to crises by various government departments;
  • Launching an ambitious integrated effort in Haiti to promote security, good governance and development, managed by an interdepartmental steering group involving five key ministries (DFAIT, CIDA, DND, PSEP, and PCO), which has had promising results.
  • Launching a process of interagency agreement on additional fragile states to focus on, beyond the five fragile states that receive the bulk of Canadian assistance (Afghanistan, Iraq, Haiti, Sudan, and the Palestinian Territories).

While the policy changes and initiatives reflect the government’s determination to promote WGAs, many of these initiatives in practice have reportedly faced great difficulties getting different departments to reconcile their competing objectives and motivations, or even conduct common country assessments.[27]

The U.K., Germany, France, Sweden, the Netherlands, Australia and the United States, among others, have all adopted variations of such joined up approaches over the last two years. Some have pioneered innovative models like the U.K.’s pooled funding mechanisms (Conflict Prevention Pools) which have achieved some, limited, success in promoting “jointness”, but these initiatives have all faced similar institutional obstacles that have resulted in impacts falling short of expectations.   Recent studies assessing the record of whole of government approaches report mixed results. A landmark 2007 review of the WGAs of seven major donor countries found that across the board there was a conflict between the focus of development ministries on poverty alleviation and beneficiary population welfare, and the focus of foreign affairs and defence ministries on home country national security and political interests, making a common strategic vision very difficult to achieve.  As well, within the countries surveyed, one of these three ministries tended to dominate within the government, often the defence ministry as in the U.S., but in the case of Sweden the development agenda dominates.  In both cases, lack of parity among the 3 branches undermined sincere cooperation. Canada is singled out in the report as a country where there is relative parity and a “culture of equals” among the three departments, but where truly integrated approaches are still lacking.[28]

This report reaffirmed the findings of a prior 2006 study commissioned by the OECD that documented strong institutional resistance to greater cooperation amongst the key departments of defence, development and foreign affairs across donor countries – citing competition for resources and agency profile and different information management systems among key disincentives. It noted a “considerable gap between what has been agreed in principle, and the practice of ministries and agencies and advocated institutional mechanisms such as joint analysis among departments, country-specific joint operational strategies, strong political leadership and a “lead agency” to steer the process, along with financial measures such as joint budget lines and pooled funds. [29]

Ironically, attempts to reduce intra-organizational fragmentation and duplication of effort can undermine collaboration with those groups who remain outside the structures of integration.  There have been some reports that when countries focus on strengthening their “whole of government” strategies, the dialogue with NGOs and civil society groups was weakened.[30] Similarly, the UN effort to integrate the field operations of its political, peacekeeping, development, and humanitarian departments by placing them under the authority of a Special Representative of the Secretary General (SRSG) has, in the view of critics, effectively shut out humanitarian NGOs.[31]

Improving Vertical Linkages:  Achieving consistency and coherence between the field level and the HQs or policy level within an organization is another key element of internal coordination.  Organizational politics and inadequate awareness of the factors affecting decisions at each level commonly results in a disconnect between HQs and the field. In many organizations, the trend has been towards greater delegation of decision-making authority from HQ to the field in order to increase flexibility and responsiveness to rapidly changing circumstances.  Addressing these problems requires processes for achieving open two-way communication between field and HQ and mutual “buy in” to the strategies developed.

C) Field Level/Operational Level

There are numerous forms of field coordination undertaken by the UN, NGOs, donors and other actors, sometimes involving the military as well. Often, the UN plays a valuable convening role for interagency cooperation in the field through hosting regular information sharing meetings or aid agencies organize these amongst themselves. Even when such coordination in the field “goes well”, it reportedly involves mostly superficial levels of information sharing and rarely reflects agreement between agencies on basic strategies.  As the Utstein Study showed, impressive levels of informal coordination can occur in the field while key actors still have very different views on the overall strategies they are pursuing.[32]

In recent years many international NGOs have established their own coordination bodies to share security information, debate policies, forge common positions and engage in joint advocacy with donors and host governments.  In some cases, NGOs have adopted explicit codes of conduct establishing common principles and standards for their work, with the result that NGOs that are signatories see themselves as a community based on explicit shared principles.

The area of civil-military coordination in the field is even more difficult than other interagency relationships given fundamental differences between international military forces and humanitarian and development agencies in terms of their agendas, operating styles, roles, and the principles and doctrines guiding their work.  For groups that do try to engage across these divides, there is a strong sense of frustration on both sides with the energy invested in trying to establish good communication and clear understanding of each other’s perspectives.  Another key issue is that field-level coordination is vulnerable to directives coming from the policy level, and a reported lack of two-way information flow between the field and policy levels.  As one NGO commentator working in Afghanistan put it, “even when military-NGO meetings in the field are quite helpful, and there is lots of mutual respect, in the end things don’t change correspondingly or a new policy comes down from above and there is a sense that the right people were not in the room.”  Furthermore, field cooperation often depends on developing good personal relationships, but such relationship building must begin from scratch with each personnel change, given high turnover rates amongst both aid agencies and militaries.

Within the NGO community, as among donors, there have been trends to improve the impact of humanitarian, development and peacebuilding programs, to identify best practices and improve effectiveness.  Work underway currently on the NGO-focused Reflecting on Peace Practice project, is developing a project-level understanding of effective linkages among field-based NGOs and agencies that demonstrably contributes to the broadest goal of sustainable peace in countries affected by conflict.  Over the last several years this project has facilitated joint conflict analysis sessions as an applied way to build cooperative relationships and approaches, getting representatives of international and national NGOs and donors together to diagnose the causes of conflict as a basis for then discussing program strategies to address conflict.   As well, the long-standing War Torn Societies project and the NGO, International Alert, among others, have experimented with inclusive, multi-actor exercises in conflict analysis to develop consensus based peacebuilding strategies amongst key local actors. [33]

D) Coordination Between International Actors and National Governments

The principle of “local ownership” in the state-building process is widely accepted by donors, aid agencies and militaries alike, though the practical realization of this principle remains very difficult. The OECD has called this process alignment with the priorities and structures of host governments and makes this one of its key 2005 principles guiding effective aid to fragile states.

In both Afghanistan and Liberia there are numerous formal coordinating bodies involving the national government and international donors, as will be described later in the case studies.  However, obstacles to true “local ownership” are real, not least among them the restrictions that some donors have on channeling funds through national governments, resulting in working primarily with international NGOs and private contractors and creating a parallel international public sector.  As well, new national governments have difficulty dealing with the multiplicity of actors involved in modern peace missions, and often lack the human and technical capacities to effectively track and oversee the activities of so many aid actors.  Furthermore, a lack of donor confidence in new national governments both in terms of their integrity, their lack of track record in managing large sums of money, and the lack of implementing capacity are frequently encountered obstacles.

There have been many efforts to create inclusive processes to bring together national governments, civil society, subnational levels of government and international actors to determine broad national strategies for development and transition. Some of these have been more successful than others and recent provocative research suggests the success of peacebuilding efforts may, in fact, have little to do with the level of coordination among international interveners.  According to a recent study, a key factor determining whether external assistance for peacebuilding leads to a relative degree of stability is the strength of internal processes in a country for building cohesion and unity.  This review of the UN’s recent experience in Sierra Leone, East Timor, the Solomon Islands, Mali, South Africa and Niger suggests that while the international community may make considerable investments and develop integrated and collaborative approaches, “a sustainable degree of internal cohesion is a critical factor that allows countries to move towards lasting peace.”[34]

Similarly, coordination problems within national, provincial, and district levels of government are also an important factor. In fragile states and post-war scenarios, there are often unclear and conflicting lines of authority between subnational levels of government and national line ministries. Overlapping programs, struggles over authority and control of resources, the existence of overarching personal networks and extra-constitutional sources of authority all complicate the picture of how international actors coordinate with levels of government that are often at odds with each other.[35]

3. Factors Contributing to the Coordination Problem

As the above description shows, there are many factors that can and do render coordination and collaboration problematic. In the discussion below we examine some of these, which can be broadly grouped as political and organizational factors.

Political Factors

National Interests and Political Factors

The engagement of key bilateral aid donors in conflict-affected states is often driven by political considerations more than assessment of needs. Commentators note that whole of government approaches often tend to be motivated by “classical national interest calculations, based on considerations such as strategic location, diplomatic implications, and economic consequences, as well as intangible variables like colonial history and Diaspora linkages…”[36] Multilateral engagement in humanitarian and development activity can also be problematic. The work of UN departments that have sought to step up the level and scope of humanitarian intervention has been met with resistance by some states in the General Assembly who view such penetration as a threat to state sovereignty.[37] Regional, governmental and NGO actors all have vested interests that an often vague commitment to multilateralism in peace-building cannot overcome. Necla Tschirgi of the National Peace Academy writes:

The integrated policies promoted by the United Nations or the linked-up policies by key donor countries applied primarily to conflicts that did not affect the vital interests of powerful external actors. In politically difficult cases like Kashmir, North Korea or Palestine, there was little insistence on integrated policies; in other cases like Bosnia, Kosovo and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the sequencing of security and development approaches decidedly reflected the vital interests of key players.[38]

Tschirgi reminds us that when advocating for integrated policies we must ask, “Whose security is at stake? Whose development is affected [and] Whose agenda has precedence?” National governments in conflict-ridden states also worry about being overwhelmed by a range of external actors with differing missions and objectives determined as often by the agency’s organizational capacity as the recipient country’s needs. Such countries are wary of highly coordinated multi-donor interventions and the potential threat posed by a “donor cartel.”[39]

Incompatible Objectives

Different organizations hold differing, and sometimes mutually contradictory, policy goals. Humanitarian and development agencies are concerned that their core objectives, such as relief, reconstruction and structural reform will be subordinated to more immediate security and political concerns. Such incompatibilities can exist within the same organization. One study points to the OSCE, “where the democratization branch generally seeks to develop working relationships with local authorities, while the human rights branch is tasked with responding to complaints against local authorities.”[40] According to a study of the Liberia case, “Many NGOs in Liberia were unhappy with UNMIL’s incorporation of the Humanitarian Coordinator role (as a dual function of the SRSG) as well as OCHA into the integrated mission framework.” The study quotes the following observation by the International Council of Volunteer agencies regarding the integrated mission framework in Liberia:

“This step, which could be seen as the final step in realizing the full integration of humanitarian coordination under a political banner, may involve humanitarian concerns becoming subservient to the political process and/or the UN neglecting immediate humanitarian needs. The coordination of humanitarian action needs, however, its own humanitarian space.”[41]

As a practical matter, carving out such space is difficult at best. Military units generally undertake UN CIMIC operations according to the national doctrines of their respective nations. These doctrines are not necessarily designed to comport with the specific requirements of humanitarian action in a specific geographic space. Peace operations are most often carried out by the military at the battalion level. Currently, the countries providing the largest number of battalions include Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan, South Africa, Ukraine, and Uruguay. According to one study, “none of these countries have a national CIMIC doctrine for use in peace operations.”[42] Their soldiers are trained for the most part in counter insurgency warfare, which some are called on to wage in select theaters. As the same study concludes, “without a conscious effort to provide them with clear policies and guidelines for UN CIMIC actions in the UN peace operations where they are deployed, it is natural that they will revert to what they know best, i.e., counter insurgency style “winning hearts and minds” campaigns.”[43]

Conflicting Definitions of Peace

The challenge to cross-sectoral collaboration in peace-building at the most fundamental level may well come down to differing concepts about the path to, and ultimate meaning of, peace. Differing conceptions of peace lead to differing approaches to achieving it. Generally speaking, the role of the military has been to achieve peace by winning wars. What some characterize as “mission creep” has expanded this role to include conflict prevention and management in more complex intrastate environments where civil conflict has led to something less than victory or defeat for belligerents who continue to occupy the same physical space. The absence of violence (or negative peace) in such situations is an acceptable end state for military interveners. This may also be characterized as attainment of peace at the symptomatic level; that is, the reduction or elimination of actual (or kinetic) violence. It does not, nor is it designed to, address the underlying or structural causes of violent conflict.

While humanitarian action is generally not concerned with peace but with alleviating immediate suffering, development policy is much more in line with concepts of positive peace, which includes attempts to root out and ameliorate the causes of conflict in state and society. The requirements of positive peace are complex and vary depending on the socio-economic and political characteristics of a given society. Addressing these factors is usually a long term proposition and requires sustained programming across a range of activities planned and executed with maximum input from key actors in the host nation. Ideally, structural change will lead to transformation in human relations leading to stable and sustainable peace that satisfies basic human needs, including the need for identity, security, recognition and personal development.[44]

Conflicting Theories of Change

Research currently underway suggests that a big part of the coordination problem rests at the conceptual level.  The Reflecting on Peace Practice Project found that agencies have trouble coordinating in the field, or even agreeing on an analysis of the problem, often because they are guided by radically different theories, or assumptions, about what causes conflict and how conflict can be resolved.[45] Some examples of commonly held theories of change are[46]:

Theory of Change Methods (examples only)
Reduction of Violence: If we reduce the levels of violence perpetrated by combatants and/or their representatives, we will increase the chances of bringing security and peace. Cease-fires, creation of zones of peace, withdrawal/retreat from direct engagement, introduction of peacekeeping forces/interposition, observation missions, accompaniment efforts, promotion of nonviolent methods for achieving political/social/economic ends; reform of security sector institutions (military, police, justice system/courts, prisons).
Good Governance: Peace is secured by establishing stable/reliable social institutions that guarantee democracy, equity, justice, and fair allocation of resources New constitutional and governance arrangements/entities; power sharing structures; development of human rights, rule of law, anti-corruption; establishment of democratic/equitable economic structures; economic development; democratization; elections and election monitoring; increased participation and access to decision making.

The RPP project’s findings suggest that a first step in working to achieve better coordination may lie in getting people to first recognize the “theories of change” that guide their own work.

“While peace practitioners select methods, approaches and tactics that are rooted in a range of ‘theories’ of how peace is achieved, in many (perhaps most) cases these theories are not necessarily conscious. Rather, they are embedded in the skills and approaches that they have learned, the capacities and ‘technologies’ of their organizations, attachments to favorite methodologies, and the perspectives they bring to the peacebuilding process.  They may also be dictated by international political dynamics and policies. A useful first step in enhancing the ability to develop effective strategies is to become more explicit about underlying assumptions about how change comes about—that is, theories of how to achieve peace.  Such theories can take the simple format: We believe that by doing X (action) successfully, we will produce Y (movement towards peace).”[47]

Often coordination is seen as an engineering issue – a technical question of how to achieve the best coordination structures and mechanisms. Or it is seen as a political problem, in terms of getting some groups to cede power and agree to be coordinated by others.  What the “theories of change” concept points to instead, is that people and organizations operate with fundamentally different mental maps of what causes conflict, and therefore how to address it. Without recognition of these different assumptions, what passes for coordination is often a dialogue of the deaf.

Organizational Factors

Common inefficiencies and organizational problems are also responsible for lack of coherence – whether between various divisions within the same government, military agency or NGO, or between the efforts of multiple international actors in a given peace mission.

Structural Barriers

Rigid organizational structures, including the stove piping of departments and units, physical distance between headquarters and field operations, the differing mandates of bureaus or divisions even within the same organization, along with bureaucratic and daily operational constraints tend to stifle innovation and favor the status quo. The considerable gap between policy formulators and implementers and between headquarters and field operations continues to undermine effectiveness. Among the problems identified by researchers are:

  • extremely weak knowledge management within organizations;
  • inadequate mechanisms to incorporate lessons learned;
  • little institutional memory about new programs implemented in various countries;
  • lack of a consistent and rigorous planning methodology and management capacity;
  • little country or field level interaction between program implementers, national authorities and donors resulting in a multitude of unconnected programs and projects in various sectors; and
  • lack of transparency and accountability.[48]

Organizational Cultures

There is a general tendency among organizations and even across units within the same organization to adopt substantially different planning and implementation terminology or to describe different processes and outcomes even when employing the same terminology. Examples abound. Civil-military coordination is relatively simple to conceptualize as an effort by civilian and military organizations to harmonize their operations, yet it has been described as a “contested concept with many different, competing definitions and doctrines that describe essentially the same activity…” Civil-Military Cooperation (CIMIC) is the terminology employed by NATO, most of the EU and Canada, the United States prefers Civil Military Operations (CMO), while the UN humanitarian community describes such activity as Humanitarian Civil-Military Coordination (CMCoord). The UN uses the acronym CIMIC when referring to “Civil-Military Coordination,” whereas NATO uses CIMIC to describe “Civil-Military Cooperation.” Here there are conceptual differences that matter, growing out of fundamental differences in each organization’s expectations and approach to the civil-military interface as it pertains to peace-building.[49]

Military culture and civilian cultures do not generally mesh seamlessly in conflict settings. There are inherent stressors between them owing to differences in mandates, objectives, methods of operation and vocabulary. Operationally, aid agencies tend to be flexible whereas the military functions in a top-down manner, the durations of stay of aid agencies can be for many years, the military, on the other hand, prefers well defined end states and exit strategies, aid agencies have a culture of independence while the military is hierarchical, and soldiers are armed when dealing with local actors while aid and development workers are not.[50] Private contractors fall somewhere in between depending on the nature of their assignment.

Organizational Independence

Some organizations consider their independence a higher priority than coordination with other organizations. They are not prepared to follow the lead of another organization, especially if it means compromising on their fundamental principles and mandate. There is too a fear among NGOs of cooption and marginalization in some crisis regions where military forces have an overwhelming presence. “This first became apparent in Afghanistan. NGOs previously open to dialogue with the military found their arguments for the importance of their independence and neutrality had limited impact, as US forces took on new small scale relief endeavors, and administration officials spoke of humanitarian NGOs as “force multipliers.”[51]

The UN and international financial institutions (IFIs), especially the World Bank, have also come to play dominant roles in peacemaking vis-à-vis NGOs, especially where the strategic interests of powerful states are high. The transitional authority missions in Kosovo and East Timor enjoyed full control of virtually all aspects of state-building. The UN “performed functions related to civil administration, economic reconstruction, financial management, internal security, external security, international relations and treaty making, mounting of elections, administration of justice (including police and courts), and drafting of laws and constitutions.”[52]

Some agencies argue that closer coordination (or integration within UN missions) is, by definition, a threat to humanitarian action because it undermines impartiality and represents a fundamental threat to the operational flexibility and physical safety of aid workers. In Afghanistan and Iraq in particular, where the military mission is not considered impartial, the blocking and deliberate targeting of aid workers has resulted in unprecedented numbers of fatalities. The counter-argument posits that humanitarian space can be better protected through integrated structures as opposed to a fragmented approach and that the humanitarian perspective will have a more effective voice when at the same table with other elements of a coordinated mission. There are also questions about the capability of humanitarian and aid organizations to provide for their own security in highly dangerous settings and the ability of soldiers to provide quality aid.

Competition for Resources

Organizations compete for financial resources, status, power, recognition and influence. As one study of development and humanitarian action concludes: “The most direct course for the expanding humanitarian sphere may be found in the large flows of donor aid to high profile emergencies, and the desire of UN development agencies to tap into these resources and establish themselves as players early on in the crisis. In the competitive environment that exists within the UN system of agencies and larger aid community, to do otherwise is to risk marginalization.”[53]

Competition also pits NGOs against generally higher paying organizations flying the banner of the UN, of donor government agencies, and increasingly of private contracting firms. NGOs complain of losing in-country staff in particular to these competitors and of being lumped together with for-profit entities, as in Afghanistan where until new NGO legislation was passed in 2005, NGOs were officially categorized as belonging to the private sector. In addition, while NGOs are often singled out for criticism for the failings of the overall international effort, NGOs in Afghanistan pointed to an Afghan government study reporting that of the $3.9 billion of donor funding physically disbursed in the country by mid-2005, 45.5% had gone directly to the UN, 30% to the government, 16% to private contractors, and only 9% directly to NGOs.[54]

Inexperience and Lack of Proven Models

Organizations do not necessarily share a common understanding of the requirements or objectives of coordination. This problem is compounded by the fact that many organizations do not have established and well-defined working relationships with one another. Difficulties also arise when organizations are stretched beyond their traditional areas of expertise, as when development agencies take on security sector reform and the military becomes involved in state-building operations. As one study notes:

There is little accumulated knowledge about how best to combine development, governance, rule of law, security and other interventions in fragile states, nor about how to sequence these components in response to specific local contexts.[55]

In UN missions, for example, there is less than full appreciation of the exact nature or function of the integrated mission structure below senior management levels. NGOs and civil society organizations consulted by one study team were even more in the dark as to the exact form and function of integrated missions. Mission structures were found to be improvised. “In three different missions, senior management explained that it has applied best practices from other missions. Yet there was no evidence that such practices had ever been rigorously and systematically identified.” Rather, the study team reveals, with reference to Liberia and Sudan, as well as to Cote d’Ivoire and Sierra Leone, where the problem was less pronounced, “design reflects the inclinations and predilections of senior management, with little, if any, substantive reference to best practices, concepts of integration, or modern management practices.”[56]

Idiosyncratic/Personality Factors

Success in cross-sectoral collaboration, particularly in the realm of civil-military relations, often depends on the personalities of the field level personnel and the liaison structures that are established. Reliance on individuals is a risky business, however, particularly among relief and development NGOs and other peacemaking organizations, given high rates of turnover among field staff.

Uncooperative attitudes are not uncommon within and across organizations. This may result from competition for resources, for power, and for notoriety, but it may also arise from personal likes and dislikes or stereotyping. “Aid workers may consider the military arrogant or dominant and they may blame soldiers for a lack of true commitment and argue they should establish closer contact with the people rather than staying in the camp…The military, on the other hand, may blame aid workers for being an uncoordinated, self-interested group of arrogant money-spenders that drive around in expensive cars and send impressive pictures to their constituencies without actually accomplishing much.”[57] Facts aside, where such views are held, collaboration is the more difficult to achieve.

4. Key Challenges

Existing policy and research on coordination in international peace missions points to four key challenges that must be confronted.

The Evaluation Challenge

Can we measure the effectiveness and utility of coordination in international peace operations? Even asking this question challenges common assumptions that coordination is “good” and suggests it must prove its worth by leading to demonstrably better impacts than are possible without coordination. In many civilian and military organizations involved in peace missions, “effects based” or “results based” management models are now commonplace, yet these are not applied to the coordination process itself.   Currently, any evaluation of coordination efforts faces difficulty in answering two basic questions – what to measure, and how?

What Impacts to Measure? At the broadest level, coordinated efforts should logically lead to greater, quicker, or more sustainable progress on long-term sustainable peace.[58] More narrowly, within specific sectors or issues, agencies working together should be able to devise some mutually agreed criteria to answer the question, “we are working together to better achieve what?”  Despite the appeal of the broad goal of “peace”, experience with integrated efforts to date within and across donor governments and within the UN integrated missions consistently reveals fundamental conflicts between development, security, and political goals.

“Predictably, development agencies advocate policy coherence for development – that is the alignment of national policy instruments to advance prospects for poverty alleviation and sustained growth in partner countries…Foreign and defense ministries tend to be more preoccupied with achieving what might be termed policy coherence for national security, or the alignment of instruments to ensure that unstable developing countries do not pose a threat to the lives and well-being of rich world citizens.”[59]

Current efforts to “join up” these political, defence and developmental agendas inevitably bring a “lack of clarity and agreement about the metrics one should use to measure these overlapping, (and sometimes competing) goals”.[60]  At the field level, things are equally complex.  What common metrics can measure the combined impact of different streams of civilian and military aid intended to reduce violent attacks, meet humanitarian needs, improve maternal mortality or educational enrollment, or access to sustainable livelihoods?  These types of monitoring and evaluation questions get to the heart of the challenges with the coordinated approaches agenda, and closely connect the issue of aid effectiveness with coordination. To put it bluntly, if we don’t know what to measure at the end, do we know what we want from these efforts?

How to Measure Impacts? The huge challenge of evaluating peacebuilding efforts at all complicates this picture further.  The broad processes of social change attempted under the rubric of peacebuilding missions are incredibly complex and there are no proven methodologies for evaluating the impact of individual projects on the broader peace, let alone the role of coordination. A radical recommendation of the 2004 Utstein report was to simply “give up” on trying to establish the impact on peace of individual projects (because there is currently no good science for doing so), and instead shift impact assessment to the strategic level, asking whether the intervention strategy as a whole is working.[61]  This approach implies a collective responsibility for the overall strategy, reinforcing the idea that coordination is key to success.

In the face of these complexities, most people simply accept the value of coordination as a matter of faith.   But coordination has costs in terms of political will, time, personnel and resources, and agencies involved will always weigh these costs against the benefits gained. Working on the evaluation challenge is critical because without demonstrable evidence of the value of coordination for their “bottom line”, agencies may drop out of such processes or participate only superficially.

The Policy Practice Challenge 

The need for more, and more effective, coordination amongst the multiple actors involved in today’s international peace missions has become an unquestioned mantra among governments and multilateral agencies involved in international peace missions. Coordinated approaches to post-conflict reconstruction are now widely recognized as essential good practice.

However, recent reviews of the application of “whole of government approaches” reveal a major policy-practice gap for all donor countries. A 2006 OECD report concluded that there is a general lack of understanding of how to operationalize such policies into concrete assistance programs that show themselves to be effective.[62]  These findings were firmly substantiated by the 2007 multi-country study, Greater than the Sum of its Parts?, already mentioned. By all accounts the consensus at the policy level often bears little relationship to the messy reality of coordination practices and outcomes. Much of the experience and literature reviewed here relates to HQ-level approaches, norms and dynamics and resulting policies.  The goal of the workshop was to gain a deeper understanding of the processes of coordination in the field, that is, in Afghanistan and Liberia, informed as well by an understanding of how personnel at the HQ level of relevant agencies understand the challenges involved. Are there factors, beyond the well-known organizational and political dynamics mentioned above, that account for this disconnect?  The approach taken by the workshop was that only by focusing on the concrete dynamics of multi-agency interactions in a particular place and comparing and contrasting these to HQ-level thinking, one can better understand what lies behind this gap.

It must be mentioned that the terms HQ and field are clearly relative.   There are various ”headquarters” and various “fields”, from HQs in New York, Washington, Geneva, or Ottawa to HQs of operations in provincial bases.  The field can mean the national capitals of Kabul or Monrovia or a tiny provincial centre far in the hinterland.  The distinctions then are somewhat arbitrary but in order to understand the policy-practice gap, the different factors influencing these two levels deserve separate, in-depth analysis.

The Challenge of Acknowledging Mixed Consequences

Research to date on donor coordination policies acknowledges that it has not sought to provide a balanced assessment of joined-up working in terms of both positive and negative consequences.[63] Analysis is needed of the negative consequences and tradeoffs that may come along with greater coordination and integration. The main critiques of these approaches come from outside the governmental sector, although informal conversations with public officials also reveal significant problems and challenges.  Three key dilemmas were identified in a 2005 study of UN integrated missions.[64]

  1. The humanitarian dilemma, resulting from the tension between the partiality involved in supporting a political transition process and the impartiality needed to protect humanitarian space; that is, the independence of aid provision from political actors so that life-saving goods and services can be delivered to needy civilians on all sides of a conflict.
  2. The human rights dilemma, inherent in the need to work with those who may have unsatisfactory human rights records in order to promote peace.
  3. The local ownership dilemma, arising from the need to root peace processes in the host country’s society and political structures without reinforcing the very structures that led to the conflict in the first place.[65]  (Other studies point to the possibility that outside interveners “sewing it all up” amongst themselves undermines local ownership, rather than supporting it.)

Some argue it is “too early” to assess the practice of such recently instituted policies.  But there is experience to learn from already. In fact, assessments may be especially useful at an early stage, when the policies being crafted are still open to course correction.

The Challenge of NGO Roles

Much of the existing analysis of the coordination agenda focuses on the governmental or intergovernmental level, for instance coordination amongst different departments of donor governments, within the UN, or between donor governments.  Yet, international and local NGOs and civil society organizations are key players in relief, reconstruction, development and peacebuilding work in peace missions such as Afghanistan and Liberia.  They are often engaged in a range of coordination and information sharing forums with the other actors, while remaining outside formal structures of integration with the UN or governments.  However their critical role often seems neglected – a glaring gap since how the broader strategies are operationalized by agencies with real implementing capacity will often mean the difference between success and failure.

For most humanitarian and development NGOs, a large share of project funding now comes from the same government donors who are pursuing coordination agendas internally and with other international donors. In policy discussions on coordination and aid coherence, the unstated assumption seems to be that once policies are decided at the political level, they will be implemented in the same spirit.  However most NGOs maintain their historical and operational independence and have resisted greater integration with the more politically-driven agendas of the UN and government donors. Many NGOs have strong reservations about the current international ethos promoting greater integration of political, military, relief and development aid to countries in crisis. Their vocal advocacy on these issues has not been reflected in the policy level consensus that has emerged, resulting in limited “buy in” to the broader strategies by the very same groups that are charged with much of the implementation on the ground.

Clearly, NGO perspectives need to be part of the discussion and as well, it is important to disaggregate these as the diverse community of NGOs does not speak with one voice on these issues.  Differences between international and national NGOs on these issues are particularly important to better understand.

5. Introduction to Workshop Results

The sections that follow capture insights from the workshop into the field dynamics of coordination amongst various civilian and military assistance actors. The two cases presented here, Afghanistan and Liberia, offer opportunities for more comprehensive analysis of the challenges in coordinated approaches in that they both present similar scenarios of war to peace transitions as well as contrasting examples of the coordination challenges that have faced interveners.  Liberia involves a UN integrated mission with one chain of command and Afghanistan represents an ad hoc coalition of agencies with no centralized command structure. Any workshop can only draw on a limited number of perspectives, however well chosen and representative.  Consequently, the findings here are preliminary in nature and part of a larger, continuing research agenda on effective cross-agency coordination in war to peace transitions.


This case captures the comments and analysis of workshop participants, with additional information gathered from pre-workshop interviews and publicly available sources.  The goal has been to construct a case study of coordination issues in Liberia that can be refined through feedback and further research. 

1. Overview of International Assistance

Liberia today is widely viewed as a post-conflict setting, where after 14 years of civil strife, basic security and stability have been restored due to two key factors, the continued presence of a large UN peacekeeping force and the resolution of the wars in neighbouring countries, part of a regional dynamic fueling conflict in Liberia. The peace process officially began with the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement by Liberia’s three warring factions in August 2003, a result of peace talks led by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).  In October 2003, the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) was deployed, including a substantial peacekeeping contingent through the “rehatting” of the existing ECOWAS force to provide security for a population of 3 million. UNMIL is an integrated mission with 3 broad divisions – the force commander, a division responsible for rule of law, and one responsible for humanitarian action – bringing all elements of the UN response under a single chain of command.

UNMIL’s mandate is wide ranging – to restore stability, foster good governance, and facilitate development gains.  The Integrated Mission Implementation Plan, developed subsequently, elaborated on this mandate, setting 8 core goals:

  1. to consolidate and strengthen peace and security;
  2. to establish mechanisms and programs for disarmament and demobilization;
  3. to rehabilitate and reintegrate ex-combatants into society;
  4. to establish the rule of law;
  5. to establish safeguards for human rights;
  6. to facilitate the functioning and restoration of state authority;
  7. to provide factual information to the public; and
  8. to coordinate UN agencies.[66]

From the initial deployment, UNMIL forces grew to 15,000 troops from 48 countries. The security apparatus also includes 1200 police officers and advisers.  Security incidents common in the first year soon subsided, though there are still localized flare-ups of violence. UNMIL forces engage in a range of activities to provide security across the country, often in conjunction with Liberian police units: response to violent clashes; policing actions to curb crime; security patrols and presence along the border with Guinea, Ivory Coast, and Sierra Leone; operations to retrieve weapons; support to UN agencies and NGOs engaged in development work; and assistance in the reconstruction of roads and bridges. As well, they provide security support to the Special Court.[67]

In the last three years, the UNMIL forces are credited with having stabilized the country, and their popularity remains very high.  As one workshop participant declared, “in Liberia we welcomed the peacekeepers, they were seen as saviors and could never do wrong. People welcomed the purpose for which they were there, even including the armed groups who needed them for protection.” Reportedly, the fact that no one in the country suspected UNMIL forces of having a hidden agenda (oil interests or counterterrorism) is a key part of why they are so well regarded.

However, economically Liberia remains among the poorest and least developed countries in the world.  It has been devastated by 14 years of civil strife that between 1989 and 2003 killed an estimated 250,000 people, displaced close to a third of the country’s population of 3 million, and devastated an already impoverished infrastructure.  Over the conflict period, GDP per capita dropped from US$1,269 to US$163, and UNDP estimates are that currently 76% of the population lives in absolute poverty, i.e., on less than $1 per day, and a further 52% live in extreme poverty, living on less than $.50 per day.[68]  The total number of people displaced by the Liberian conflict was 554,264, although some surveys indicated that up to 80% of the rural population was displaced at some point.[69]

The National Transitional Government of Liberia (NTGL), led by Chairman Gyude Bryant, oversaw a transitional period from 2003-2005. UNMIL, the UN and other humanitarian agencies worked during this period to stabilize the security and humanitarian situation respectively in the lead up to elections.[70]  In addition, in December 2003, the UN instituted embargos on the trade of Liberian timber and diamonds, given the role these resources had played in fueling the conflict.  In 2004, international donors pledged US$500 million for Liberian reconstruction and numerous NGOs began operating in country.

Successful national elections in November 2005 brought to power the government of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, the first elected female Head of State in Africa, who took office in January 2006. The new government launched a 150 day plan to address urgent and visible needs, and prevent unrest in the short-term.  However, public expectations are very high and there is a widely shared concern that these will prove nearly impossible to meet, given the daunting needs of the country. The new government also inherited a political and economic system characterized by a lack of sound governance, corruption, absent or ineffectual rule of law institutions, endemic abuses of human rights, and severely inadequate provision of basic social services.[71]  The government’s ability to address corruption, transparency and accountability as well as to deliver basic social services remains a key to Liberia’s successful war-to-peace transition.

Under Johnson-Sirleaf’s administration, the restoration and consolidation of state authority is underway. Local government officials have been appointed throughout the country, and in 2006, UN-led County Support Teams were established to help support local government capacity in Liberia’s 15 counties.  Major developments in 2006 included the arrest of former President Charles Taylor and his transfer to the Special Court for Sierra Leone and the beginning of the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.  In 2006, the return process for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) was completed, with some 321,000 IDPs assisted in returning to their home areas and over 78,000 refugees returning from abroad, with another 110,000 registered refugees yet to return.[72]  International donors have continued their commitment to Liberia. At the Liberia Partners’ Forum, held February 13 -14, 2007 in Washington, D.C., Germany and the U.S. pledged to forgive Liberia’s bilateral debt, and others soon followed suit.

2. Main Challenges for the Liberian Transition

Workshop participants were in general agreement on the key challenges in solidifying Liberia’s transition from decades of crisis to sustainable peace.

A) Basic Humanitarian Needs

Liberia faces monumental challenges to recover from the destruction wrought by 14 years of civil strife. Though the country has been categorized by international donors as in a transitional stage from emergency relief to development, enormous basic needs remain unmet.  The majority of Liberians still do not have access to basic healthcare, safe water and sanitation, shelter and education.[73]  Some reports claim an 85% unemployment rate, and equally high levels of illiteracy. Liberia faces several “lost generations” of children who grew up during the war years and had no access to educational opportunities. Only half of school age children are currently in school.

Basic infrastructure problems are also immense. Significant areas of the country cannot be reached by road, and these are areas where the basic needs are greatest. NGOs are not working in some communities because the only way in is via UNMIL helicopters and ships, an option some NGOs reject as compromising their humanitarian independence. Restoration of electricity to Monrovia has been promised for two years but this promise has yet to be fulfilled.

Food security and malnutrition remain significant problems. Agriculture accounts for 70% of employment and the war years devastated this sector. The World Food Program estimates that close to 25% of the population will still be in need of food assistance in 2007.[74]  Poverty levels are higher in rural areas, exacerbated by the lack of basic services, adequate shelter and limited opportunities for monetary income.  Around one half of the population is food-insecure or highly vulnerable to food insecurity. An alarming proportion of Liberian children will not reach their full potential due to malnutrition.[75]

NGOs have been key actors in providing essential services. In some areas, for example, more than 70% of health facilities currently rely on NGOs.[76]  As many agencies and donors with a strictly humanitarian mandate are preparing to close down operations in 2007, given Liberia’s “transitional” designation, there is widespread concern about potentially dangerous gaps in funding and basic services.

B) Economic Recovery and Employment

The lack of jobs or economic opportunities in general, and for youth and ex-combatants in particular, is a core challenge to ensuring sustainable peace in Liberia. As one workshop participant noted, “85% unemployment for a post-conflict country is a time bomb waiting to go off – most of our young people don’t have a source of livelihood.”  Since economic inequalities and disenfranchisement in the past helped fuel conflict, many fear that the absence of economic opportunities could lead to future political instability. Large numbers of ex-combatants, including child soldiers, have presented a major security challenge for Liberia since the 2003 peace accord.  While the demobilization and disarmament process has been successfully completed, reintegrating ex-combatants and ensuring they are engaged in meaningful and sustainable livelihoods remains a largely unfulfilled objective. Of the total caseload of roughly 101,000 ex-combatants, the last 40,000 began rehabilitation and reintegration programs in 2007, funded by the UNDP Trust Fund and other parallel programs.  UNICEF provides assistance to the more than 10,000 child soldiers undergoing rehabilitation.[77] The key issue, however, remains whether employment opportunities are available to this group in the areas they return to and this longer-term reintegration is dependent on a revival of Liberia’s economy as a whole.

C) Security Sector Reform, Justice and Rule of Law

The Liberian transition involves international assistance in the demobilization, disarmament, rehabilitation and reintegration (DDRR) of ex-combatants, as well as the creation of a new army and police force.  Since the police and army in Liberia were seen as active “machineries” in the conflict, it is an immense challenge to restore public confidence in these institutions.

The re-training and restructuring of the Liberian armed forces is being led by the U.S. government and reportedly progress has been slow so far. The US contracted the task out to a private corporation, Dyncorp, with the goal of training a total of 15,000 troops. The first group of 106 soldiers graduated from basic training in November 2006.[78]

Police reform and training is part of UNMIL’s mandate, which plays an advisory and monitoring role vis-à-vis the government in this area.  To date, 2,610 Liberian National Police have been trained and deployed, with the goal of 3,500 by July 2007.[79] There are concerns that the process is going too slow and that “the 2,500 troops trained so far are primarily in the capital, and don’t even have cars,” as one participant noted. The deployment of police is hampered by the lack of basic infrastructure and equipment, including vehicles and communications. Furthermore, while many police stations across the country are in the process of being repaired or rebuilt, many more still need urgent rehabilitation.[80]

As for the justice system and rule of law, government institutions remain weak or, as one UN report put it, “glaringly absent” in many parts of the country, with the police, judiciary and detention and penal system suffering enormous gaps in capacity.

One participant described the rule of law situation in vivid terms:

“Corruption is endemic and there is no linkage between the justice sector and the police force…There are no rules of evidence and no link between police, the courts and the penitentiary system. Right now there are 700 accused criminals languishing without charge in Liberian jails and no one knows what to do with them. If you are in prison in Liberia that means you didn’t have enough money to pay your way out. If they are thieves they are not very good ones because they are so poor they can’t pay their way out. That is the reality…”

In the absence of rule of law institutions, protection of basic rights is a matter of concern and human rights violations by law enforcement and judicial personnel are a persistent problem. As well, the issue of dealing with the abuses of the war years is far from resolved. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) began proceedings in 2006, but remains plagued with problems. It is seen as not answering the basic desire for justice by some, and as simply ineffective by others.  Progress in implementing its mandate has been hindered by staffing problems, financial and logistical constraints, as well as shortcomings in management.[81]  Currently, there is a working group looking into possible financial wrongdoings; the Commission’s plans to start public hearings in Monrovia have been suspended in the meantime. [82]

D) Weak Government Capacity

With the successful 2005 elections and reforms under the administration of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberia is generally seen to have made good progress on governance to date and to have effectively “bought time” to deal with other key issues. However, below the sub-ministerial level there is reportedly little capacity in the state institutions. As one participant noted, “right now we have a very slim level of experienced, educated Liberians and they are doing the best they can”.  Furthermore, the political system is seen as being highly centralized in the capital, and people below the ministerial level are rarely delegated the authority and responsibility to make decisions. According to some, this is due in part to a problem of human capacity stemming from low education and low literacy levels in the country as a whole.

These human capacity problems relate directly to the government’s ability to effectively coordinate international assistance on the one hand and, on the other, to build local capacity to take up and replace those services now being provided by the UN and NGOs, including security.  In addition, this problem directly affects the government’s ability to follow through on planned reforms and initiatives.  The anti-corruption campaign launched by President Johnson-Sirleaf soon after being elected was raised in the workshop as an example:

According to one participant, many of the lawyers in the Ministry of Justice who would prosecute corruption cases have “no proper education in law or experience.  In contrast, those who are being prosecuted, people who have stashed away millions of dollars, are able to hire the best, most experienced lawyers in Monrovia; so, not surprisingly, almost all corruption cases have been won by the defendants.”

E) Regional Tensions and Conflict Fueling Factors

The Liberian conflict has always been part of a wider regional conflict dynamic.  Combatants, weapons and financial and logistical support from neighbouring countries in the West-African sub-region were part of a conflict cycle that directly fed instability in Liberia.  The resolution of the wars in Sierra Leone and most recently in Cote d’Ivoire, and easing of tensions in Guinea are key regional factors that support stability in Liberia. However, the possibility of a resumption of violent conflicts in the sub-region and significant refugee movements into Liberia are widely seen as potential and unpredictable threats to Liberia’s stability. [83]

A vivid example of the impact of regional dynamics on Liberia was pointed out by one participant.  Liberia has 176 entry points along the borders of Guinea, Ivory Coast and Sierra Leone, and by some estimates only 30-36 are manned with a border post and officials, with huge implications for weapons trafficking and the movement of fighters across borders.  The UNMIL mission is criticized by some groups for not dealing with the regional dimensions of the conflict; limiting its role instead to providing security within the territorial boundaries of Liberia.

3. Views on the Links between Security and Development

The situation of Liberia today clearly demonstrates the interdependence in the security-development relationship and the mutual fragility of the gains made to date in both areas. Currently, UNMIL’s 15,000  peacekeepers guarantee security to buy time for training and restructuring of domestic security institutions and the revival of the domestic economy to support the provision of basic services to the population, including the restructured army, police and judiciary. However, if these efforts are not successful or are slow in being realized, security will continue to be highly dependent on the external forces that will not remain in Liberia forever – over the last year there has been significant pressure on the UN to begin drawing down UNMIL forces in Liberia. Most participants were not optimistic that UNMIL forces would remain long enough to ensure a truly effective national security apparatus was in place, and saw Liberia’s continuing dependence on UNMIL as worrisome.

How to achieve the development gains needed to secure the peace has been a controversial issue between the UN mission and other civilian aid actors and NGOs.  Throughout the Liberian transition, these latter groups have voiced concerns about the integration of humanitarian coordination within the UNMIL mission (a key element of the integrated mission model), and advocated for a strict separation of roles between the civilian humanitarian and development actors and UNMIL forces.  The departure of the independent coordination agency, UNOCHA, in 2004, and the absorption of humanitarian coordination within UNMIL was strongly criticized by Liberia’s international NGO community as further eroding humanitarian independence and subordinating humanitarian concerns to the larger political and security mandate of the UN mission.

Many aid agencies were concerned with the militarization of aid and the resulting “blurring of the lines” between civilian and military actors that threatened the security of aid personnel, and access to beneficiaries if Liberia were to revert back to war, as many feared.[84]  Current relations between the military side of the mission and civilian aid agencies were assessed  as “bad” in pre-workshop interviews with humanitarian agencies. UNMIL troops have been heavily involved in reconstruction activities in many areas, and individual battalions have launched “Hearts and Minds” projects to build support for their presence, building hospitals, roads and bridges, rebuilding civic administration buildings and at times offering direct assistance to communities such as health services.

However, as the Liberian peace has held, these concerns have become less prominent for the NGO aid community as a whole, and they were reportedly never uniformly held by all NGOs and development actors.  As one field-based aid worker described it, the international and national aid community was split between 1/3 of agencies who felt there were serious threats to humanitarian space from the way UNMIL operated in Liberia, another 1/3 were pragmatic in trying to work with the mission where they could without compromising their independence, while the rest saw little problem in actively coordinating efforts with the UN mission, and their dedicated civil-affairs section, on common priorities.  Some commented that the positive public view of the UNMIL forces and the fact that they had not been engaged in large scale violence or inflicted heavy civilian casualties meant that “Liberia was different from Iraq and Afghanistan” and the strict separation of roles between civilian and military actors did not make as much sense in Liberia as it did in these other cases.

Since the economic development gains required to solidify the peace have been slow and Liberia still faces daunting humanitarian and development needs, many fear that these root causes of the Liberian conflict could provoke renewed violence when the UN peacekeepers depart.  Consequently, economic development and the linked issues of security sector reform, rule of law, and corruption have moved front and center to become the critical issues for the recovery process now.  As a result, much of the discussion in the workshop revolved around effective coordination amongst humanitarian and development actors, versus civil-military coordination.

Below are some participants’ views of the linkage between security, development and peace in the Liberian transition:

  • Disarmament, demobilization, rehabilitation and reintegration (DDRR) efforts all hinge on the reintegration component, but it is not clear who will do it, since long-term reintegration of ex-combatants into the community involves almost everything – and especially long-term employment, which rests on Liberia’s overall economic recovery. If the reintegration part is not successful, the disarmament and demobilization part is a total failure, no matter how well done.
  • There is a real need to respond to the conflict from more than a security perspective, to look at the root causes. Huge unemployment rates, illiteracy, a dysfunctional legal system, ill-equipped police force and an almost non-existent correctional unit all affect people in Liberia and make it difficult to really consolidate peace.
  • How development aid is provided is critical to whether it will help stabilize the situation or fuel further conflict. Many of the current development initiatives are not taking a conflict sensitive approach and, therefore, are inadvertently benefiting certain groups over others. For example, teacher education or police recruitment programs all reportedly require literacy levels that can only be met by the Amero-Liberian community whose dominance of the country for many decades was a source of conflict. As well, the low level of education of the population restricts dramatically the type and range of people it is possible to recruit for the army and police, for example, and this can upset the sensitive balance of groups regionally and tribally who are involved in state institutions.
  • The weakness and corruption of the rule of law institutions in the country poses a direct risk to sustained peace over the longer term. One participant described how the failure of police reform to create a police force with the training, resources, and management to really secure law and order would lead to increased crime and fear of crime and, subsequently, the resurgence of vigilante groups known as community neighbourhood watch teams. Since these groups often have neighbourhood and ethnic and tribal affiliations, they would form “ready, willing, and able militia forces” if there is renewed conflict – which is what reportedly happened in the last phase of Liberia’s civil war.
4. Coordination Models and Practices in Liberia

Coordination between donors, UNMIL and the UN agencies, NGOs and the Liberian government happens through key agreements and documents that spell out broad frameworks for Liberian recovery, as well as through an array of coordination forums, mechanisms, and meetings at both the national and county level.  (For a more detailed description of the coordination system in Liberia, see Annex B.)

A) National-Level Coordination

I. Agreed National Frameworks and Strategies

In terms of national-level frameworks, in the last several years there have been two main documents involving the government, the UN, and international donors that act as a general framework for the efforts of all assistance actors.  The 2004 Results Focused Transitional Framework (RFTF) sets out the overarching transition strategy for the country from 2004 to 2006, laying out expected target outcomes and results, and was implemented through RFTF working committees and a dedicated RFTF Implementation and Monitoring Committee (RIMCO).[85]

In 2006 the RFTF was superseded by the Interim Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (iPRSP), in which the government lays out its aims to consolidate peace and build the foundation for sustained pro-poor economic growth and human development, covering two years, until June 2008.  In the iPRSP, the key development issues are framed as 4 strategic and interdependent pillars.

Pillar 1: Enhancing National Security (including completing the restructuring of the army, police and security services)

Pillar 2: Revitalizing Economic Growth (including agriculture to ensure pro-poor growth, job creation, strengthening the environment for private sector growth and attracting foreign investment)

Pillar 3: Strengthening Governance and Rule of Law (including human resource development)

Pillar 4: Rehabilitating Infrastructure and Delivering Basic Services (including rebuilding the nation’s road network)

The iPRSP calls for continued provision of basic social services by humanitarian actors as the basis for Liberian recovery and development efforts, and commits itself to combating corruption, empowering local governance and promoting human rights.[86]  At the same time, the Liberia Reconstruction and Development Committee (LRDC) was established within the office of the President to provide oversight and guidance on new programs for recovery. The iPRSP is to be followed up by a full Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRSP) covering the period 2008 – 2011.

II. Humanitarian Inter-agency Coordination between UN Agencies and NGOs

As the fullest expression of the UN integrated mission concept, UNMIL represents an unprecedented level of coordination between the peacekeeping forces and the civilian side of the mission responsible for governance and humanitarian relief.  UNMIL’s Humanitarian Coordination Section (HCS) is the entity that leads humanitarian coordination through a variety of mechanisms. It has five regional offices and hosts regular meetings for key actors within and outside UNMIL  – Humanitarian Action Committee (HAC) meetings and Security Management Meetings (SMTs).  As well, HCS runs a Humanitarian Information Centre (HIC).

Since 2005, HCS has set up three new coordination structures in Liberia.  In 2006, the HCS organized all relevant humanitarian actors into a consultative process to put together a joint funding appeal that the UN system calls the Consolidated Appeals Process (CAP), involving key NGOs, the Red Cross and donors, and raising more than $US 70 million.  Also in 2006, Liberia became one of 4 pilot countries for the new UN cluster approach to humanitarian coordination, The approach involves creating partnerships of all stakeholders at the field level (including government) in key issue areas or clusters (e.g., water and sanitation, health, early recovery, protection, food, and camp management) that have represented longstanding gaps in the humanitarian response to emergencies. Each cluster was led by a UN agency and produced a cluster action plan and terms of reference.[87]  The third new coordination mechanism set up in Liberia in this period was a country-level Inter Agency Standing Committee (IASC) bringing together UN agencies and NGOs on policy and operational issues.

III. NGO Coordination Mechanisms

International NGOs have been a major presence in Liberia and provide a large percentage of the country’s basic services.  The Management Steering Group (MSG) is a consortium for 54 international NGOs that meet regularly to share information and discuss strategy. Another influential body, the Liberia NGOs Network (Linnk) brings together over 200 national NGOs to coordinate policy and approaches, network and do capacity building.

IV. UN Development Focused Planning

Independent of the HCS, the UN Development Assistance Framework for Liberia (UNDAF) and the Common Country Assessment (CCF) are two key common framework documents with a development focus by UN actors and that form another element of the coordination system. Several multi-donor trust funds managed by UNDP Liberia are yet another way to integrate the activities of donors on key issues in recovery.

B) Coordination at the Sub-national Level

 I. County Support Teams (CSTs)

Established in 2006, County Support Teams are comprised of representatives from UNMIL, the UN country team, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, county administration, government line ministries and non-governmental institutions and are based in each of Liberia’s 15 counties.  The goal of the teams is to consolidate the government’s authority outside of the capital and support the county governments through capacity building, ensuring a coordinated approach to local challenges and assisting in devising county recovery and development strategies.

The CSTs are relatively new and unproven, but are viewed as having great potential to address deficiencies in the coordination system identified in 2006, namely the lack of linkages and information flows between the county and national levels within many sectors/clusters.[88]

In practical terms, the CST mechanism provides a new forum for interaction and coordination with NGOs and international organizations.  The CSTs host County Assessment and Action Meetings (CAAM) monthly, bringing together local authorities, the UNCT, and NGOs to identify key issues to be addressed.  In most counties these CAAMs have replaced the regular Humanitarian Inter-Agency Meetings.  There are reports that in some counties, the CST format has increased interaction between NGOs (especially smaller ones) and local authorities.[89]

5. What has worked?  What hasn’t? Why?

The workshop revealed that the record of coordination in Liberia to date is mixed and the jury is still out on the long-term impact of various efforts. Many of the key areas for the Liberian transition were discussed as examples of where coordination was not working well, or where the agencies involved had very different strategies and conflicting views on the effectiveness of existing mechanisms. Still, there were some positive tendencies that may be as instructive as those that point to continuing difficulties. It should be noted that “success” or “failure” is often dependent on the policy objectives of the actor making such determinations.

A) Reported Examples of “Good” and “Mixed” Coordination

I. Health and Education Sectors

The health and education sectors were mentioned as areas where there is positive interagency coordination. At the 2005 donor conference, The Liberia Partners Forum, held in New York, the health and education sectors were reportedly strongly supported by international NGOs, and there are reportedly excellent relations with the ministers and government team in these areas.

It is noteworthy that effective coordination has been achieved despite the fact that funding for health needs in particular has been very low, with only 13% of needs identified by the CAP being covered, which would indicate that competition for resources amongst agencies working in this sector is quite high.

II. The Return of Internally Displaced People (IDPs)

The return of IDPs was completed in 2006, with some 321,000 IDPs receiving assistance to return to their previous homes and more than 30 IDP camps dismantled and campsites rehabilitated.[90] Despite this result, there were very different views among participating agencies as to whether this operation as successful.

To coordinate this process, a special unit, the IDP Consultative Forum (ICF), was set up to involve all key actors  – the UN, NGOs and donors, most notably the U.S. government and ECHO. UNMIL was the lead international actor and the government was represented through its Liberian Refugee Repatriation and Resettlement Commission (LRRRC).

These agencies had very different motives and agendas, and this reportedly complicated the coordination process greatly, and resulted in very different assessments of the outcomes.  Some agencies, particularly many NGOs, did not feel that security and adequate conditions existed in many areas of return, and many areas were not even accessible. They saw the entire repatriation agenda as politically motivated and driven by the government and the UN to show that Liberia was now safe and secure, when the reality was that, in many areas, security and minimally acceptable conditions were lacking. Other agencies were motivated to move the IDPs out of the capital, Monrovia, because their presence discouraged private investment or presented problems with civil unrest. A key motivation for the government and those planning the upcoming elections was the need to have people return to their home districts to ensure that election results reflected their pre-war population levels and guaranteed adequate numbers of seats from those areas.

Other problems identified were: inadequate planning amongst agencies; the lack of accommodations and basic services for returnees in most communities; and inadequate resources to create the necessary conditions for return. Evaluations of this coordination process varied widely.  A total of 325,000 IDPs were repatriated over eighteen months, and some actors felt that achieving this result made the effort a big success.  Other positive results noted were that a sense of “normalcy” was returned to the capital area, reassuring the public and potential investors, and that donors no longer had to cover the high costs of supporting IDPs in camps. However, for IDPs success was defined as stability and personal security, and a “sense of reliability about where they were going”, and on this score the effort was highly criticized by NGOs.

The inability of the agencies present in the workshop to agree about whether the IDP return process was an example of effective or poor coordination was telling. It illustrates the lack of a common strategic vision uniting the actors who were part of this exercise and the resulting lack of common criteria to judge success.

III. The Overall System of Humanitarian Coordination Led by the HCS

The mechanisms for humanitarian coordination developed by the HCS of UNMIL described above (regular HAC meetings, the cluster approach, ISAC country team, and such) are designed to bring UN and non-UN agencies together in deciding humanitarian priorities and concrete projects. Workshop participants had mixed views of how well this system is meeting these objectives.

A concrete example offered of this system working well was the distribution of a particular pot of funding, US$ 4 million, made available in 2006 from UN OCHA’s Central Emergency Response Fund because Liberia was deemed a “chronic under-funded” emergency.  Led by the HCS, the country-level Interagency Standing Committee (IASC) of UN agencies and NGOs was given the role of deciding how to use these funds.  The cluster approach was used to determine priorities and the implementing capacity of various agencies. In the end, the Health, Water and Sanitation and Food Security Clusters selected 24 UN and NGO projects to be funded and the UN agencies acting as cluster leads (WHO, UNICEF and FAO) channeled the funds directly to implementing partners.  Those who saw this experience as a success felt it was an example of what good coordination should do – jointly identifying priority needs and projects and allocating funding to those areas.[91]

However, comments from participants on the effectiveness of the HCS-led coordination system overall were mixed.  It was noted that UN agency views of these mechanisms depend on the agency and their need for coordination with operational UN agencies that have a tendency to do their own coordination likely not seeing added value, while others saw great benefits.  High levels of participation by UN agencies in the regular meetings of the Interagency Standing Group or the Humanitarian Action Committee Meetings was noted as an indicator that agencies find these mechanisms useful.  However, there is reportedly less consistent participation by non-UN agencies in these meetings.  The new cluster approach in particular was seen by some as not appropriate, given that Liberia’s needs reflected a transitional setting, rather than a humanitarian emergency.  Some participants suggested that these structures are not really functioning as intended.

Coordination within key agencies was also noted as critical to outcomes, with reports that the official policies of various agencies, whether UNMIL, the Liberian government, or international NGOs, were often undermined by the actions of their own personnel or subunits.

An interim assessment of the cluster approach in Liberia and the other pilot countries conducted by the global-level Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) of the UN, representing UN agencies and NGOs, found that the record was mixed to date, with the cluster approach demonstrating potential to address long-standing gaps and promote coordination and partnerships among actors. However, in terms of implementation in the pilot countries, including Liberia, it found that success depends greatly on the skills of the lead agencies; there was great variation in how cluster leads carried out their roles; the new system often amounted to participating in “badly run meetings”; and the clusters often disproportionately served the interests of the cluster lead (UN) agencies.[92]

In terms of the goals of the cluster approach – to strengthen partnerships between UN and non-UN organizations and to create a greater spirit of collaboration – the IASC assessment reported a feeling that there has not yet been sufficient progress on this.  It noted confusion and a sense of competition for resources between the new clusters and the more traditional sectors such as education or shelter.  One of the strong recommendations emerging from this review was that cluster leaders and UN agencies receive training in skills necessary to carry out their roles – namely meeting management, facilitation, and consensus building –   skills that many agency personnel did not have.

B) Examples of “Poor” Coordination

I. The Rehabilitation and Reintegration Portion of DDRR

The successful reintegration of the more than 100,000 ex-combatants in Liberia is arguably the key issue of the transition.  UNDP manages the Disarmament, Demobilization, Rehabilitation and Reintegration (DDRR) Trust Fund, with US$62 million committed by donors by the end of 2005, to be used for DDRR program activities, national recovery overall and programs in the most war-affected communities.[93]  The DD portion was successfully completed in December 2004 with 103,000 ex-combatants disarmed and demobilized, in which process 28,314 weapons, 33,604 pieces of heavy munitions, and 6,486,136 rounds of ammunition were collected at cantonment sites.[94]

The DDRR efforts have been directed by a Joint Implementation Unit composed of UNMIL, UNDP and the government’s National Commission for DDRR (NCDDRR), and supported by six regional field referral and counseling offices in the counties with the highest concentrations of returning combatants.

There are mixed views on the effectiveness of the current approach. One participant summed up this effort as follows, “it appears as though the exercise was meant to collect arms from people, train them, keep them active, give them some funding, and generally keep them away, but it never planned for how to engage them beyond the disarmament process.”

The rehabilitation and reintegration component has been the focus since 2005, with programs to support the choices ex-combatants made at the time of demobilization.  Forty-one percent of ex-combatants chose to return to formal education and 54% chose vocational training, with these groups accommodated in schools and colleges and in training programs in construction, carpentry, plumbing, tailoring, cobbling, electronics, mechanics, soap production, baking and agriculture, provided through programs involving up to 20 NGOs and UN agencies across the country.[95] Programs also involve social reintegration efforts such as psycho-trauma counseling and human rights education projects.

There is much concern that there will be no sustainable employment when the large numbers of ex-combatants complete the various training schemes they are currently involved in, given Liberia’s 85% unemployment rate.  Many feel that this problem should have been looked at in a more holistic way much earlier, given the importance of this process.  Two key problems, critics say, are that the reintegration program has lacked input from civil society and there has been poor coordination with other programs whose goals are reconstruction, job creation and development. Critics cite weak links between the skills or vocations acquired by ex-combatants and the needs of rehabilitation or recovery activities carried out by UN and other humanitarian and development agencies.  As one participant commented:

“If the CBRP (Community Based Recovery Program) is reconstructing a school, instead of hiring the trained combatants in that community, often people are brought in from outside – there is no horizontal connectivity and linkage between different recovery programs.”

II. Security Sector Reform: Retraining of the Liberian Army 

Coordination in the retraining of the army and police was assessed as “poor”, and criticisms highlighted the lack of opportunities for civil society input into these key components of security sector reform. Overall, there appear to be significant divisions among agencies on the strategic vision for these areas as well as little transparency in procedural matters.

One participant noted that:

“The inability to involve local decision makers and stakeholders such as counterparts from the government, civil society and ordinary citizens means these efforts are bound to be imperfect and lead to a situation where the military, gendarmerie, paramilitary and police become predators as opposed to protectors.”

Rebuilding public confidence in the Liberian armed forces is an immense and critical task in the transition process, in light of the active role the military played in Liberia’s cycles of violence. As noted previously, the US government leads the reform of the Liberian Armed Forces, with a private company, Dyncorp, contracted to conduct the retraining. There are big divisions over the approach, however, and the entire process has been criticized for poor coordination and inadequate civil society involvement. The retraining effort began before the government had a national security policy in place and participants reported that civil society has not been involved or informed about the process.  As a result, the public has no knowledge of what skills, values and approaches are being imparted to the new army, as well as its basic purpose.  (There are questions about whether the army is being trained to respond to military threats only, since many see the reformation of the military as an opportunity to train engineers, doctors, agronomists and other specialists to help with national reconstruction and development.) Furthermore, recruitment efforts currently underway are faulted for drawing on individuals who “do not have the confidence of the population”, with the concern that selection criteria tend to favour certain groups over others, with potentially negative consequences if the new army is seen as the instrument of one ethnic group or faction. As well, there are questions about who determines the size of the army, how the approach will be sustained once Dyncorp leaves, and who will ultimately be accountable to the population for the outcomes.

III. Security Sector Reform: Police Reform and Restructuring

UNMIL is mandated to play an advisory role to the government on the restructuring of a police force that citizens can have confidence in.  Members of UNPOL, the UN police force in Liberia numbering 1,500 members and drawn from 55 countries, are responsible for the training of police and for maintaining order across the country in the interim. They are to carry out their mission with the help of the UNMIL troops until the new Liberian police force is ready; the goal is to train 3,200 new police officers by July 2007.  Officers will have some mandatory training and will receive $80 a month, but almost all the surrounding apparatus and legal framework that are necessary for an effective police force is lacking at this time.

According to a workshop participant:

“There is no follow up to the training provided, no field supervision, no police oversight, and no involvement of the judicial sector in overseeing the processes of the police. There is minimal understanding of the most basic police practices, for example, what is just cause for stopping a resident. Furthermore, there is no accountability for police who are accused of violations.  So there will be a police force, but it won’t have the resources, the training, the management or environment in which to really secure law and order.”

Many of the criticisms point to the lack of public involvement in this process and the lack of coordination with other initiatives and projects that are responsible for public security.  For example, there are similar concerns that the recruitment criteria, as with the army, may restrict the range and type of people who are selected both regionally and tribally. As well, despite efforts to recruit female officers and the presence of an Indian all-female police unit with UNPOL, the force will inevitably be male-dominated, undermining women’s confidence in the police in a country experiencing very high levels of sexual violence.

6. Conclusions and Analysis

It is noteworthy that examples of good coordination involve the less overtly political and more technical areas of health and education, and other humanitarian issues as coordinated through the HCS.  Though these systems are not perfect, there is a long institutional history of engagement among these actors and mechanisms to deal with issues that have been emerged from decades of experience in crisis settings.  However, the system of humanitarian coordination is criticized for serving UN actors more than the NGO community, which plays a huge role in the delivery of basic services in Liberia. Even among such like actors, issues of power complicate coordination efforts.

The examples of poor coordination noted involved areas relating to security sector reform where agencies had little history of contact and where models for coordination and participatory public processes are very new and untested.  In these areas, there is a lack of “holistic” engagement between security related and development related agencies. It is interesting that the controversies identified do not involve the military side of UNMIL directly, but rather are focused on the humanitarian coordination side of the mission, bypassing the culture clashes evident between military and humanitarian agencies elsewhere. That said, the relationships within UNMIL between the military and humanitarian/development sides of the mission remain unclear and an area where further research is needed. Despite regular information sharing and a common chain of command between the civilian and military parts of the mission, programmatic linkage and complementarity are reportedly weak in the areas of legal, judicial and police reform among others.

The fundamental differences in the world views and missions of relief and development NGOs and other actors render coordination problematic. The IDP return process reviewed above starkly illustrated such differences. Benchmarks for success ranged from very short-term, limited goals (physically resettling IDPs) to holistic, long-term goals (to reintegrate people, secure new livelihoods, and restore peaceful social relationships). Repatriating 325,000 IDPs in an eighteen month period is by all measures a major success.  Yet without linking this to a more comprehensive plan for sustainable peace, including economic development and job creation, the entire system may collapse leading to substantial backsliding even in those areas that enjoyed early successes.

The commentary gathered during the workshop on the record of many of the coordination mechanisms in Liberia to date suggests the following conclusions:

A) Lack of Common Strategic Vision as the Basis for Coordination

As the above examples illustrate, amongst actors in the Liberian transition, coordination efforts and the creation of strategic framework documents occurs in the absence of an effective and sincere dialogue over basic strategies.

As one participant noted:

“Sometimes we are not very clear on what we are trying to pursue and we each take on approaches that don’t support the vision. Unless the different components that we want to see coordinated are committed to a common vision and work toward the implementation of the agreements made, there is no sense of talking about coordination.”

Different facets of this problem emerged in the discussion that point to why this shared vision is so hard to achieve.

I. The Lack of Effective Participatory Planning Processes

Often the areas identified as “not well coordinated” in Liberia were where basic disagreements in strategic vision exist between key players.  With respect to SSR in particular, there is a reported lack of engagement with and input from civil society, a lack of transparent processes, and a resulting lack of clear public understanding of the strategies being pursued.  These concerns were voiced particularly regarding the reformation and training of the new army and police, where civil society groups have strong criticisms of the approaches being pursued, but this same problem also applies to the DDRR efforts. The result is that there is not widespread “buy in” into the strategies adopted. Coordination is undermined since civil society groups and NGOs involved in related development efforts, whether it is reintegration of ex-combatants or community-based recovery, are often either unaware of or do not agree with the strategies adopted.

Despite all the coordination mechanisms that exist amongst assistance actors in Liberia, coordination structures for SSR are reportedly very weak.  One basic reason noted for this is a lack of expertise on security sector issues from donor countries whose security experts typically do not have a host country national security perspective in mind. Another reason is a lack of issue specific coordination mechanisms that would involve the wider aid community. One participant suggested the need for a SSR and security sector governance working group that would bring donors, UNMIL, UNPOL and groups with experience in SSR in the region together, along with inviting more civil society input in this area.

II. The Challenge of Going Beyond Information Sharing

Existing coordination mechanisms often prove unable to affect the policies and program strategies of the agencies that take part.  In Liberia, interagency coordination efforts reportedly are used for mere information sharing or, as one participant called it, “propaganda” about agency activities, rather than to sincerely debate various approaches and push for common strategies.  For example, despite the intense humanitarian coordination efforts reviewed above, agencies still have very different basic strategies for community reconstruction projects, with some agencies insisting on full community involvement in rebuilding for themselves, and others taking a far less participatory approach, rebuilding with hired labour or even paying local people for their labour. These clashing approaches result in inconsistency for communities, fuel resentment between beneficiary groups, and undermine people’s incentives to participate in reconstruction efforts when they see neighbouring areas receiving much more assistance.

This occurs even amongst very similar organizations, let alone across diverse agencies and actors. One example cited was the NGO coordination body, the Management Steering Group (MSG) where heads of INGOs regularly share information about their programs but reportedly nothing substantive comes of it. These and similar forums in Liberia reportedly do not focus aid actors on strategic questions like how to engage the government and donors on policies and issues. In the words of one participant, “we must move beyond an opportunity to discuss and share what we are doing and try to influence the policies that affect our agencies as implementers.”

III. Different Diagnoses of the Problems

Clearly, various assistance actors in Liberia define the problems and therefore the solutions very differently (and, as above, have few forums to effectively iron out these differences).  Differences in analysis exist between the UN and NGOs, and often between international agencies, “those that come in to help”, and national governments and civil society.  This is a critical matter because how the problem is defined can result in decisions that have enormous consequences for the country.

The following example reported by one participant illustrates this tension. In 2005, the Liberian parliament was under intense pressure to adopt an election law that mirrored US standards though the parliament itself was composed of people mainly from one part of the country who had been essentially “bribed with parliamentary seats”, in order to stop the war. Some Liberians advocated compromising on the proposed standards to ensure the law was passed, given that the purpose of the elections was, first and foremost, to solidify the fragile peace. International partners responded to these arguments by accusing those who opposed the election law of “blocking” the peace process.

This example makes the point that the terms used by outside interveners, such as elections or corruption, often oversimplify and divert people from the “true nature” of the problems. However, because they have the resources, external actors often determine how problems are defined and what solutions are devised, even though their solutions do not always fit the problems as understood by the local population.

A similar gap in analysis was mentioned in the frequent charges by international advisors that the Liberian judicial system is corrupt, which one participant commented, “misrepresents the problems and obscures the solutions”. Instead, in his view, “prisoners walk free because there aren’t any prisons, and judges are not competent because they have never gone to law school and have no adequate training.”  Seen this way, the real problem is the lack of proper institutions and capacities, and the solutions offered will be radically different.

International agencies also differ strongly over what role external actors should play in the process of formulating solutions to ethical tradeoffs and key political decisions for Liberia’s recovery.  Some felt that the role of external actors in a peace process like Liberia’s was to work directly with national political actors” and get involved in decisions that entail tradeoffs between important values and cost-benefit calculations, such as the above cited example of “bribing” warlords to lay down arms and take up politics in the interests of peace. Others felt strongly that “outsiders” should only articulate the ethics involved and help internal actors and the wider population see clearly what is lost and gained, but that national politicians alone must be left to make those decisions, as only they can be accountable to their publics.  Positions on both sides of this question were strongly held and represent fundamental disagreements on the very value of “coordination” on such political decisions. Such fundamental differences about ethical roles for different actors in the process can, clearly, block efforts to practically coordinate in the field.

B) Power Asymmetries

The provocative concept of false coherence was introduced during the workshop by one participant and resonated strongly with many.  It refers to the gap between the plans laid out in official agreements and national development frameworks between the government and international actors, and the measures taken subsequently to follow through on these commitments.  In fact, in some cases the commitment to such documents by personnel of key organizations was reportedly weak.  Several reasons were suggested for this.  One is organizational – that such documents and frameworks are produced by agency personnel to illustrate progress, to please their ministry bosses and the donors with the sense that there is a positive forward momentum. As one participant noted, “people will lose their jobs if they are not seen to be delivering on the requirements of the donors and agency HQ, so the documents reflect what donors need to hear.”

Another key reason is political, relating to power and resource imbalances between the parties.  At least on paper, it is often the actors with the most resources whose views and priorities win the day. Personnel from the national government, UN agencies or NGOs reportedly privately claim “they made us say that” with no real commitment to implementation.  This dynamic may be especially acute between fragile new governments and international donors.  Participants reported that in Liberia the government realizes that it is the UN that has the money and personnel and in the end “often they just go along with the UN’s priorities”.

As one participant noted, “when the UN or the US have the resources, you find it hard to express a different point of view ….  Since you don’t put out the money, you are inhibited from making the kind of critique you want to make.” Another expressed frustration that when objections are raised with donors, the label  “sovereignty issue” is attached as if to imply a government veto was being used, whereas what national government officials often want is a “genuine, respectful discussion” of the different points of view on the question.

The relationship between the UN and the government in particular was the focus of much debate and directly relates to the coordination dilemmas connected to power asymmetries.  One participant summed up the tensions succinctly as a question of whether the UN was “beside” the government, or “behind” the government, the latter implying an auxiliary, supportive role only. In the view of some, this power relationship has evolved in ways consistent with a phased approach in peacebuilding missions, with the UN standing “beside” the government in the early years and exercising strong authority over the transition process but now with a legitimately elected central government in place under Sirleaf-Johnson, moving to a more supportive position behind the scenes, and “pushing the ministers to the forefront”.  However, comments from other actors suggested a widespread perception that the UN’s role in Liberia in many ways still reflects the more assertive “beside the government” orientation.

Liberia’s experience with the cluster approach to humanitarian coordination illustrated the difficulty of achieving a sincere, balanced relationship even between such like entities as the UN and NGO humanitarian agencies.  As the example showed, problems of power have emerged, with the IASC assessment of the pilot countries finding cluster leads (all UN agencies) sometimes pursuing their own program priorities and acting contrary to the spirit of partnership that was intended. In some cases, participating agencies were reportedly viewed simply as implementing partners of the lead agency, rather than as part of the decision making group. Furthermore, the reality of competition for funding amongst agencies undermines the most coherent looking frameworks and plans, with reports that some UN agencies see the cluster approach as a way to gain greater funding and NGOs feel disadvantaged in terms of competition for funds vis-à-vis the UN agencies.

C) The Rigidity of Existing International Instruments

A final factor undermining the effectiveness of recovery efforts in Liberia is a dilemma common to all international peace missions – the rigidity of the institutions and response mechanisms at hand. Coordination efforts ultimately aim to ensure that international assistance is effective in responding to the needs of the country.  (It should be noted that some participants cautioned against putting too much emphasis on coordination as the key to ensuring successful outcomes, when in fact there are far fewer resources available than are needed for recovery in fragile states like Liberia.) Others, however, pointed more to the limitations imposed by structural constraints within UN missions in spending the substantial amounts of assistance that are available.  For example, there was much commentary on how Liberia does not need 15,000 peacekeepers at this stage, but instead needs engineers, and skilled technical specialists to help realize the development gains required to secure the peace.  Some noted that Liberia would rather have such specialists from troop contributing countries than infantry troops, but the peacekeeping budget is not freely available to allocate for this – it needs to be spent on peacekeepers. What may seem a lack of coordination ultimately reflects the rigidity of the international response mechanisms at hand.


This case represents a snapshot of the views of multiple assistance actors in the spring of 2007. While the fact that some key agencies, notably UNAMA, were not represented leaves gaps requiring further research, the results are representative of the major issues currently under discussion in the field.

1. Overview of International Assistance in Afghanistan

International efforts in Afghanistan are focused on state building; supporting the elected government of Hamid Karzai as it endeavors to extend its authority and capacity to provide security and basic services to the Afghan people.[96] The effort includes major international military, political and development aid alongside humanitarian assistance to address the ongoing basic needs of the population.

Decades of internationalized civil strife have left Afghanistan the poorest country in Asia – killing over 1.5 million people, leaving 4.5 million Afghans refugees and displacing millions more.  Afghanistan’s infrastructure and roads have been left in ruins, more than half the population lives below the poverty line, 50% of Afghan children are malnourished, and a fifth of them die before they reach the age of five. Life expectancy generally is one of the lowest in the world, at 44.5 years. Only 25 per cent of the population has access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation. [97]

These enormous needs exist amidst ongoing military conflict.  Over five years after the Taliban were driven from power, Afghanistan still cannot be called a post-conflict country.  Elections and reconstruction efforts have taken place alongside continuing low-scale conflict with Taliban remnants and other armed groups collectively dubbed “anti-government elements”. By most accounts, continuing insecurity is the product of a complex interplay of tribal elements, organized crime, banditry, corrupt elements within the government forces, and insurgents. By 2006, resurgent Taliban forces in the south launched a full-fledged insurgency and violence has increasingly flared in other areas once seen as comparatively safe.  Rising crime rates are also a major concern for Afghans.

International military interventions in Afghanistan since 2001 have involved two sets of forces.  The US-led coalition, Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), that overthrew the Taliban regime, has primarily focused on the ongoing search for Al Qaeda and fighting the Taliban in the southern and eastern provinces. The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), established by the 2001 Bonn Agreement, initially focused on supporting the Afghan government to enable a secure environment for reconstruction around Kabul. With a broader mandate for the ISAF force agreed upon in October 2003, NATO forces gradually deployed in phased expansions throughout the country, coming into direct contact with the Taliban insurgency in the south, and incorporating offensive operations and counterinsurgency into its role.

Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) are a key international instrument intended to support security and reconstruction in the provinces.  PRTs are provincial bases led by various NATO countries that combine military forces and civilian aid personnel from that nation. Their official mandate is to “assist the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to extend its authority, in order to facilitate the development of a stable and secure environment in the identified areas of operations, and enable SSR (security sector reform) and reconstruction efforts.”[98]  PRTs, on average, include up to 150 military personnel who provide force protection to a range of civilian representatives, most commonly diplomats, government development agency staff, and police advisors.  Some PRTs house counternarcotics teams, judicial and criminal experts from donor governments, and liaison officers from the Afghan Ministry of the Interior.  Within this basic common structure, the national policies of the PRT lead nation govern the specific operations of any given PRT.[99]  With their mixed military-civilian composition, many PRTs reflect the “whole of government approaches” of the major donor countries and represent increased internal coordination between the military, aid and diplomatic departments of their lead nation.

Canadian PRT in Kandahar Province

The Kandahar PRT is the central implementation and coordination mechanism for Canadian governmental aid in Kandahar, reflecting Canada’s whole of government approach to achieve greater aid coherence.  The PRT includes personnel from Canada’s Department of National Defence, the Canadian International Development Agency, the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and the Department of Justice.   The model calls for the military component to provide security for the other components as they do their jobs – to facilitate the movement of diplomats and aid advisers and to coordinate their activities. At times, the military also plays a role in direct aid provision. The PRT troops are separate from the much larger number of Canadian combat forces present in Kandahar that are engaged in the counterinsurgency campaign.

On the political reform side, the U.N. and key donor states have focused on the step-by-step building of new Afghan political institutions as laid out in the 2001 Bonn Agreement, including national elections in 2005 that affirmed Hamid Karzai as president and brought in an elected upper and lower house of parliament. The United Nations Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has been mandated to coordinate this political process, while working with UN agencies and NGOs on relief, reconstruction and economic recovery.  UNAMA is one of the integrated U.N. missions that combines the political and humanitarian roles under the authority of the UN Special Representative of the Secretary General (SRSG), but has no military component.  International donors have pledged nearly US$ 40 billion in aid to Afghanistan through three major aid conferences since early 2002. The US is by far the largest donor, followed by the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and the European Commission, with Canada among the top 10 aid donors.[100]

2. Main Challenges for Afghan Recovery

Within the huge challenge posed by this broader statebuilding agenda, workshop participants agreed on some key issues currently confronting Afghanistan.

A) Corruption and a Crisis of Legitimacy for the Karzai Government

Popular discontent with high levels of corruption is seen to be eating away at the prospects for Afghanistan’s recovery.  Since the 2005 elections, President Karzai has filled many high-level government positions with powerful individuals, some widely viewed as “warlords” and “criminals”, and some accused of direct involvement in either the facilitation of the opium trade or of trafficking opium themselves. While these alliances have reinforced Karzai’s position internally, they have reportedly severely undermined the government’s credibility with the population. Corruption is seen as rife within key ministries, such as the Ministry of the Interior, and this affects perceptions of the government at the provincial and district, as well as central levels.   The police and the judiciary are singled out as key institutions that are deeply compromised and where reform efforts to date have been ineffectual. President Karzai is widely criticized for lacking the political will to tackle these issues, though some justify this in that “political deals are essential for uniting the country”.  Others claim however, that in doing so, the government is “losing the hearts and minds” of Afghans.

The deepening public cynicism extends as well to the foreign donors and international organizations allied with the Karzai government.  Furthermore, public dissatisfaction with corruption is seen as fueling more insecurity with some people now remembering the Taliban as “at least less corrupt”. As one participant noted, “[t]he Taliban’s strength is that they can convince citizens that the Afghan government is corrupt and that NATO’s intentions are not pure.”  While the absolute levels of corruption in Afghanistan are not as bad as in other conflict settings – according to one participant studies have shown that $.50 cents of every aid dollar is reaching its intended targets in Afghanistan, versus only $.10 cents of every dollar reaching its target in the DRC for example – it is the widespread popular disaffection with the government and association of the international effort with corrupt practices that makes this issue critical. In some cases, international agencies have undertaken measures to ensure they are not seen to be contributing to corruption, but in other cases, however, international efforts are seen to be directly supporting corrupt practices.

B) Security, Counterinsurgency and Crime

Security is the foundation for Afghan recovery and a necessary precondition for progress in all other areas. How to ensure the necessary level of security to allow development initiatives to move ahead and ensure the population’s commitment to peace is the biggest challenge for the whole international mission.  Since the handover from OEF in late 2006, NATO has deployed approximately 40,000 troops across the country, but these troop levels are considered low in comparison to previous international missions [101] and inadequate for a country of 30 million people with an ongoing insurgency and extremely difficult geography.

Participants differed on whether the security situation was improving, with military personnel emphasizing the success of NATO forces in depriving the insurgency of real momentum in the south, while others stressed that the military strategy has so far failed to generate real security for the population.  Some claimed that the international military’s approach is “so forcible it can end up endangering civilians rather than protecting them in many cases”, with ongoing incidents of civilian casualties from allied efforts triggering the Kabul riots of May 2006 and numerous demonstrations against foreign forces in 2007.

Some noted a major disjuncture between the focus of international military forces on “killing Taliban” and most Afghans who see corruption fuelled by the narcotics trade and continuing impunity as the key problems.  A number of participants claimed the counterinsurgency push is distorting the whole international aid effort in that “short-termism” and a focus on “high visibility quick impact projects to win hearts and minds” has taken over, eclipsing meaningful steps to promote long-term fundamental democratic change.

Security levels are directly related to the opportunity to implement development projects, with different development actors having different thresholds to work in insecure areas.  In addition, there were strongly differing views on how to make communities secure.  While a common assumption is that a military presence provides the security to enable development work, representatives of national and international NGOs claimed they did not see security as determined by the presence of military forces, but rather as “in the hands of the local communities themselves”, that is, a critical factor was whether the community was able to offer protection to allow development agencies to work in their communities.  The retreat of NGOs in particular from many parts of the South and East was determined by the inability of the communities they had formerly worked with to be able to continue to protect them for fear of reprisals. National Afghan NGOs and national staff of international NGOs have the highest tolerance for risk, often working in areas where the UN and international NGOs could not because of security regimes imposed by their headquarters. National NGO staffs have faced growing casualties from targeted attacks, however, and are more exposed than internationals since they are based in or move around high-risk areas.  Reportedly, some civilian private sector contractors did not see their security as tied to the foreign military presence either.  In the South and East, select development actors reported a strong perception that the presence of international military forces in areas they were working tended to attract problems.

According to a private development contractor working in highly insecure areas, “there were many times we didn’t want the military around us, because they became a target…we had a framework where our last resort was to ever contact the military, instead relying on locally hired community liaisons and private security guards.”

While it is indisputable that the foreign military forces and the Afghan army are the prime targets for attacks by insurgents and other groups. Some participants claimed that this does not reflect hostility to the foreign military presence per se, but that any project seen as connected to the government was a target for Taliban attack, because the Taliban’s goal is to undermine the regime.

C) The Opium Trade

Many view the growing opium trade as driving corruption, crime and insecurity, the main threats to Afghanistan’s recovery.  The scale of the problem is made clear by the following World Bank statistics:

  • The opium trade accounts for 1/3 of Afghanistan’s total economic activity.
  • Opium production rose by 49% in 2006.
  • 90% of the world’s illegal opium output comes from Afghanistan.
  • Roughly 10% of Afghanistan’s total population is involved in opium cultivation.

There is growing evidence that the Taliban profit from the opium trade by imposing taxes on its movement and cultivation, as do other anti-government groups.  Despite efforts by the Afghan government and international donors, opium production has increased especially in the South in the last two years.  Reasons for cultivating poppy are mixed, but research has shown that many impoverished Afghan farmers are unable to diversify to earn a subsistence livelihood, even where improved access to markets exists.

NATO forces in general do not want to directly get involved in poppy eradication, fearing that in attacking the livelihoods of many Afghans they will fuel support for the Taliban.  While some see this as a sound approach, others worry that it ignores the fact that for the Afghan population, much of the security threat is purely criminal and economic based, related to narco-trafficking.  In the first 4 years of limited international security presence in the South, a security-vacuum developed there that was filled by some Taliban, but also former commanders, powerful tribal leaders, and organized criminal groups who were able to use profits from the narcotics trade to corrupt and co-opt government structures. While all these groups have different motivations, the emergence of a strong central government capable of instituting law, order and stability is not in any of their interests. The resurgence of the narcotics trade, especially in the South and East, has eroded public trust in government as Afghans commonly perceive the police and other government figures as facilitating the traffic in drugs.

3. Coordination Structures and Practices in Afghanistan

There are numerous formal structures for coordination amongst multi-national civilian and military assistance actors, donors and various levels of government in Afghanistan.  Some participants felt there were, in fact, too many coordination bodies and that the current system is confusing in its complexity.  The “coordination system” in Afghanistan, therefore, represents multiple, overlapping mechanisms focused on different actors and different issues at different levels.  The overall impact of all these arrangements should, in theory, be more coherence between the efforts of multiple actors.

Annex B provides a more detailed mapping of coordination in Afghanistan, with the four main types of coordination processes summarized here.

A) National-Level Coordination

I. Agreed National Frameworks and Strategies

The 2006 Afghanistan Compact is the key framework for the overall recovery and state building effort, committing the government and the international community to a shared vision of Afghanistan’s future, with clear benchmarks to be achieved by 2010.

The Afghan National Development Strategy (ANDS), part of the Compact, outlines three key pillars for development (and 8 sectors within these):

Pillar I: Security (comprising Sector 1)
Pillar II: Governance, Rule of Law and Human Rights (comprising Sector 2)
Pillar III:
Economic and Social Development: (Sectors 3-8)
  • Sector 3: Infrastructure and Natural Resources
  • Sector 4: Education
  • Sector 5: Health
  • Sector 7: Social Protection
  • Sector 6: Agriculture and Rural Development
  • Sector 8: Economic Governance and Private Sector Development

The ANDS also identifies 5 cross-cutting themes of gender equity, counternarcotics, regional cooperation, anti-corruption, and the environment, to be worked on in all of the pillars. Operationally, work in these areas is coordinated through a national level consultative group for each sector, and a lead donor system for the key security sector reform areas.

In addition to such national policy frameworks, several pooled donor funds have been created that serve a clear coordinating function.  They consolidate donor support to key policy areas, reduce waste and duplication, and allow the government to direct donor funds to national priorities. The Afghan governments’ Aid Coordination Unit (ACU) in the Finance Ministry works to increase the government’s influence on the organization and management of international financial assistance.

II. Policy-Level Coordination Bodies and Meetings

Coordination between the national government and international donors and partners takes place at the highest political levels through the annual Afghanistan Development Forum, and the quarterly Aid Effectiveness Working Group and the PRT Executive Steering Committee.  2006 saw the creation of two new mechanisms, the quarterly Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board, to monitor the implementation of the Afghanistan Compact, and the Policy Action Group (PAG), a high-level task force chaired by President Karzai that meets weekly to deal with governance, security and development issues country wide. (Initially this new mechanism focused on the insurgency in the South only, but evolved to address nation-wide issues.)

III.  Operational Coordination Structures between Assistance Agencies

 In Kabul, there are numerous coordination structures and meetings involving headquarters personnel of the UN, NATO, international NGOs and Afghan NGOs as well as the use of dedicated liaisons and embedded personnel to open up interagency communication at the operational level.  NATO maintains a Senior Civilian Representative (SCR) in Afghanistan, with explicit responsibility for coordination between ISAF, the Afghan government, and civilian agencies, like UNAMA, that are operating in the country.

The Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief (ACBAR) is the most influential NGO coordination body, of which there are several, and it runs the Afghan NGO Security Office (ANSO) to provide security briefings to the aid community. It has been engaged in policy advocacy and has created an NGO code of conduct for its 94 members. There are other primarily Afghan-NGO coordination bodies, the largest of which is ANCB with a membership of 330 Afghan NGOs.  Regular NGO- Military coordination meetings are held in Kabul between ISAF headquarters and the NGO community.

IV. Provincial Level Structures and Mechanisms

At the provincial level, Provincial Development Committees (PDCs) are responsible for the implementation of ANDS in each province. Provincial Coordination Centres are entities established to support the Provincial Security Committee, and are capable of coordinating security operations involving national and international security forces. Other provincial structures include the Provincial Development Office (run by UNAMA).

There are regular provincial-level NGO coordination meetings, provincial security meetings, individual meetings between PRTs and NGOs, and meetings between government and implementing agencies working in various sectors such as health and education.  The Provincial Reconstruction Teams’ role includes coordinating donor-funded development initiatives with provincial governments as well as international agencies and NGOs.  PRTs work at the provincial level with the governor, the provincial council, and the various provincial departments.

4. Assessments of Coordination Effectiveness

Participants’ assessments of “how coordination was working” in Afghanistan differed, with different actors clearly using different criteria for their judgements.

From the perspective of the Afghan government, aid coordination is seen as effective if it directs international assistance to agreed upon national priorities.  Other criteria noted include whether coordination arrangements maximize the utility of limited financial resources, avoid parallel mechanisms, meet public expectations and put the government in the “driver’s seat”. (All these principles are consistent with internationally accepted principles for aid effectiveness worldwide adopted in the 2005 Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness by OECD countries.)[102] From this perspective, the record has been reportedly poor to date.  As one participant commented, “there is a long way to go to get to the point where the money that comes to Afghanistan is spent on Afghan priorities.”    The Afghanistan National Development Strategy (ANDS) in particular was cited as an effective coordination mechanism, but undermined by the fact that in practice, less than 25% of all international development funding goes through the core government budget.  The lack of national government control over, and basic information about, the significant development initiatives of the PRTs in the provinces was also cited as a key coordination gap.   Another gap mentioned was in the coordination of donor purchases from Afghan businesses and the channeling of reconstruction contracts to Afghan firms where, it was felt, greater international coordination could stimulate the Afghan economy and help the country wean itself from dependency on foreign donors.

From the perspective of the NGO representatives present, there were two very different types of coordination processes.  Coordination exercises amongst humanitarian actors were uncontroversial, and expected to result in information sharing and avoidance of duplication and waste as minimal goals, while in some cases such coordination produced explicit collaboration between different agencies.  However, the goals for civil-military coordination were quite different, reflecting what one participant called “communication mode” – communication with military actors in the field to foster awareness of their activities “so they will not be shot at”.  Beyond this, some NGOs reject any coordination with any military coalition, “either ISAF or the Taliban forces”. Strictly humanitarian NGOs generally reject coordination with military or political actors in the interests of protecting the neutrality that enables them to access needy populations on all sides of a conflict and protect the safety of their staff, seen to be at risk from a “blurring of lines” between humanitarian and military actors in situations of ongoing conflict.

NGOs involved in development programming reportedly operate more in “coordination mode”, attempting to work collaboratively with other key actors with interests ranging from minimal goals of avoiding duplication and waste, to the more ambitious goals of forging linkages and partnerships. Currently in Afghanistan, humanitarian and development needs exist side by side in some areas, creating a situation where multi-mandate NGOs (that conduct both relief and development programming) operate in “communication mode” in one area and “cooperation mode” in another. While this is a practical response to the coexistence of humanitarian and development needs, as one participant noted, “this makes it difficult for military and other actors to know how to relate to you”. Military personnel present expressed frustration with sorting out the overlapping mandates and operations of humanitarian and development NGOs and the lack of clarity over where reconstruction, the military’s main aid activity in Afghanistan, fits in this spectrum.

NGO assessments of civil-military coordination in Afghanistan were generally negative. One participant commented that, “the civil-military relationship was generally seen as a liability for NGOs rather than a facilitator”. NGOs also pointed to risks of damaging “bandwagon effects” amongst international actors if all actors are highly coordinated in their approaches, increasing the difficulty that local organizations and beneficiaries face in making their voices heard.

One NGO leader commented, “Women activists in all areas of the country told me they feel they have no voice, and the agenda is totally driven by the donors.  If they come to donors with a project proposal for an urgent need in their community, for example, women’s shelters, they are told – this is not a priority, but we do have money for HIV, environment, and gender mainstreaming so bring us a proposal on that.”

Amongst personnel of international military organizations, the criteria for effective coordination appear to be whether the work of different actors creates greater combined impacts on the achievement of security, development and sustainable peace.  The ambitions for coordination seemed greatest amongst these actors – given the prominence of the military role in Afghanistan, they see themselves as being held accountable by their constituencies for the success or failure of the whole international effort.  Though they are only a part of the puzzle, and security is only one of the three pillars of Afghan recovery, NATO is “left carrying the can” for the success of the whole effort, in the view of one participant.

Their assessments of the overall aid effort in Afghanistan to date were quite negative, though coordination arrangements were seen as having improved somewhat.  Blocks to coordination noted were disagreements at the political level and at the HQ level between the major aid actors, a lack of clear and effective leadership by non-military actors; alliance politics within NATO where national interests of donor states clash; lack of capacity within the Afghan government; and lack of “real” cooperation with development agencies and NGOs in the field. One participant judged the international effort in Afghanistan to be “incoherent and poorly coordinated”, though certain recent developments, such as the Policy Action Group (PAG), were showing great promise, though “four years too late”.   Experiences to date were very mixed, with the results amounting to “information sharing” rather than “real coordination”. Some expressed skepticism about whether other major international actors really seek cooperation in a substantive way and reported deep prejudices between the international actors that do “peace and development” and those who do the “war fighting”, even at the highest levels of international organizations. Such comments during the workshop suggest that the concept for coordination in play for the military actors was one of assumed partnership and a functional division of labour towards common goals, and that these aspirations are not being met by other international actors.

5. What has worked?  What hasn’t? Why?

This section presents selected examples where coordination between multiple assistance actors was perceived as either effective or ineffective, giving a snapshot of each example along with the opinions of participants. Some examples represent a consensus view, while others represent opinions that were not directly challenged by others. The tentative conclusions drawn here would benefit from further commentary with a wider range of assistance actors and further research on ultimate impacts of the efforts mentioned.

A) Examples of Effective Coordination

I. Coordination in the Health Sector

The health sector is seen as an example of effective coordination where Afghans have achieved “ownership”, that is, where the Afghan government “drives the agenda”.  The coordination mechanisms involve the Ministry of Public Health, health sector NGOs, UN agencies working in the health sector, UNICEF, WHO, and the main donors, the World Bank, European Commission, USAID, and Asian Development Bank.  The key has reportedly been a fully participatory approach, where strategies, policies, protocols, guidance, and assessment tools were developed by all the members in numerous workshops, working groups, and task forces, with many opportunities for further input before the frameworks received final approval.  Reliable donor support was another key factor – once decisions were made on overall strategies to be pursued, participating donors committed funds for the priorities identified.

A small committee in the Ministry of Health and the Consultative Group on Health and Nutrition (CGHN) composed of high-level Ministry personnel, 2-3 donor representatives and 2-3 NGO leaders reportedly played an important role in the process. Another factor has been a requirement that all large contracts obtain 3 signatures, from the donor, the implementing NGO, and the Ministry of Public Health.  (Participants reported that small donors can sometimes provide funds for NGOs directly, but still they have to report to the Ministry and share information).  These approaches in the health sector have reportedly resulted in a situation where a “standardized level of health services is now provided across the country – that is, clinics run by different NGOs in different provinces provide more or less the same services”.

II. Removal of Marshall Fahim and Demobilization of his Militias

Marshall Fahim, a former Northern Alliance leader and key ally of the US troops during the operation to overthrow the Taliban regime, became the first Minister of Defence and first deputy to Karzai and one of the most powerful men in the interim government. His dismissal in 2004 and the successful demobilization of his private militia was cited by participants as an example of “effective coordination” between the government, key donors and agencies.

While Minister of Defence, Marshall Fahim reportedly presented a “big problem for the Afghan government and the international community, a barrier to democratization, and his private army presented a threat to the citizens of Kabul”.  Fahim was seen as one of the main impediments to reform in the defense sector and he had consistently obstructed the demilitarization process. In 2004, Karzai dropped Fahim from his election slate and after winning the presidential election, replaced Fahim as Defence Minister.  However his home region was designated a province and substantial international funds were allocated for the rehabilitation and development of this area so that his demobilized forces were employed with development programs. Reportedly, this was the result of strong leadership and good coordination between President Karzai, US and other foreign diplomats, ISAF and key development agencies.  Fahim remains a wealthy, influential leader, but today is no longer considered a direct threat to Afghan stability.

III. National Solidarity Programme (NSP)

The NSP is the Government of Afghanistan’s community-based development program, initiated in 2003 and directed by the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development. The NSP facilitates the election of Community Development Councils (CDCs) at the village-level composed of local community leaders and through the CDCs builds capacity, provides direct block grants for projects, and links CDCs with government and NGO agencies and donors to improve access to services and resources.   The intended result is to empower communities to lead their own development processes and to foster a more collaborative relationship between communities, government and aid actors.  The stated goal of the Programme is to reach 20,000 villages by June 2007.  Key donors to the NSP include the World Bank, the European Union, and several national governments: USA, UK, Canada, Japan, Norway, Denmark, and Germany.  As of December 2006, twenty-four international NGOs were working as implementing partners in the NSP, covering all 34 of Afghanistan’s provinces and reaching more than 16,000 villages with improvements in access to drinking water and sanitation, irrigation systems, schools, markets, and electrical power.  In 2006, several assessments by NGOs and research institutes hailed the NSP as a highly successful model, and workshop participants noted it was widely viewed as an example of effective aid coordination.[103]

IV. PRT Coordination with Provincial Governments

The roles played by PRTs include coordinating internationally funded development initiatives with provincial governments, international agencies and NGOs.  Reportedly the PRTs are seen as coordinating well at the provincial level with the government. As one participant noted, “PRTs can really be seen as an advisory team at the provincial level that also has some resources”.   They are closely involved in the provincial government structures through the capacity building and mentoring programs as well as coordination on concrete aid projects.  PRTs work at the provincial level with the governor, the provincial council, and the various provincial departments, which are the ministry offices at the provincial level. However, some PRTs also work with district level leaders and, at times, directly with village leadership on development initiatives.  

V. The Policy Action Group

This high level task force, created in June 2006 and meeting once a week, is seen as a key mechanism for senior policy people to discuss “the big issues” and give direction to “implementers”.  It was created with the purpose of addressing the insurgency in the southern provinces in a more coordinated manner. Chaired by President Karzai, it consists of the Afghan ministers of Defence, Internal Communications, and Education, top leaders of UNAMA, ISAF and OEF, and the ambassadors of the key troop contributing countries in the south, the UK, Canada, and the Netherlands. The PAG comprises four groups that address intelligence, security, strategic communication, and reconstruction and development, meeting weekly on these issues and to monitor an implementation team.  It has reportedly evolved since its creation and now includes key provincial stakeholders who “call the government to task” if the assessments given by national policy makers of their situation are not accurate.  Its key value is seen as bringing the most senior decision makers from all sides together frequently enough to provide concrete direction on issues and problems.

Participants reported positive assessments of the PAG to date, commenting that this form of frequent communication at the highest levels has enormous potential. However, some also noted that it comes “3 years too late” and should have been created in 2002.

B) Examples of Poor or Mixed Coordination Results

I. Counter-narcotics

Coordination amongst donors and the Afghan government in this area is seen as sorely lacking.  There is unity amongst all stakeholders on the desired end goal of addressing the opium problem but, five years after the fall of the Taliban government, there is still no consensus on basic strategies amongst the key stakeholders.  The Afghan government, the UK (the lead government on counter-narcotics), and US all have their own approaches, applying these independently in different areas of the country or sometimes in the same areas where they directly contradict or undermine each other.

A concrete example from Kandahar province discussed at the workshop illustrates how coordination problems at various levels undermine efforts to address the opium issue.  In 2006, the governor of Kandahar called a meeting of 400 community leaders, involving members of key embassies, ISAF coalition forces, and people from the national government in Kabul.  The dignitaries assembled promised modern machinery for improving the cultivation of the fields if people stopped growing poppy, with funding to be provided by foreign donors.  (Prior to this meeting, there had reportedly been a meeting of UK, US, and Canadian ambassadors and Afghan cabinet ministers where they agreed on this strategy.)   However, nothing came of this initiative, reportedly for two main reasons – no alternative livelihoods were identified or initiated and the donors failed to deliver on their promises of assistance to purchase machinery.  In Kandahar, this failed initiative reportedly resulted in a “loss of face” for the Canadian PRT with local leaders, contributing to the public’s deep skepticism of such promises and making future initiatives on the opium issue more difficult.  Further damage was done when, soon after the meeting, Afghan counter-narcotics troops started forcibly plowing up fields in the area, illustrating the absolute lack of coordination between the provincial and national governments and donors on this critical issue.

II. Coordination Amongst the PRTs

The lack of a coherent, nation-wide PRT strategy and a consistent framework across the country defining the role of PRTs is viewed as a major coordination failure. There are wide variations among the 25 PRTs in Afghanistan as each lead country has adopted its own approach, with no standardized models.  Though all PRTs have been under ISAF command since late 2006, five years of two separate chains of command means there are still differences between the 12 US-led PRTs and 13 PRTs led by other NATO countries. Reportedly, coordination amongst these two types of PRTs has always been weak, evidenced by the fact that August 2006 was the first ever joint US-NATO PRT commanders’ conference.  Reportedly, the national interests of donor countries still determine policies of individual PRTs more than decisions taken at ISAF headquarters in Afghanistan.  As one participant commented, “you can issue all the orders you want from ISAF HQ to PRT X in Province Y, but if the lieutenant colonel in charge doesn’t like it, he doesn’t do it!” Longstanding national differences within the NATO alliance, and the lack of coordination at the highest levels among PRT commanders were cited as key obstacles to a more consistent approach.

There is no lack of structures, however, for PRT coordination. Since 2004, the PRT Executive Steering Committee has been tasked with coordinating the activities of the PRTs across the country. Co-chaired by ISAF and the Ministry of Interior, it involves donors, key government ministries, and the big international agencies in meetings every 2-3 months with the explicit purpose of standardizing processes and the effects of the PRTs.  However, results are reportedly disappointing. In practice, the national interests of troop contributing countries often override any joint strategies that are ironed out.  As one participant commented, “what ends up happening is not what must be done but what can be done by the troop contributing nations.”

There is also reportedly a lack of effective coordination between PRTs and the Afghan government at the national level.  The national government wants the PRTs to help fulfill its strategies in the provinces but reportedly does not feel this is currently happening.  Furthermore, the government reportedly has difficulty getting basic information, and tracking and monitoring the millions of aid dollars spent through PRTs in the provinces.  There are concerns that since PRTS are an important mechanism for transferring funds from the centre to the provinces, wide variations in PRT approaches and resource levels risk reinforcing regional disparities and tensions.  Concretely, if a province gets a PRT with a wealthy lead country, it can expect significant resources for development efforts. If a province gets a smaller new NATO country from Eastern Europe it gets “troops but empty pockets”.  Furthermore, the PRT’s direct work with provincial governments can, unintentionally, undermine the national policies and programs of the central government, given the numerous tensions, overlapping lines of authority, and lack of coordination between central government ministries and provincial government bodies.[104]

III. PRT – NGO Coordination at the Provincial Level

PRTs are viewed as poor coordination focal points for civilian assistance NGOs and agencies in the provinces. Many examples of poor coordination, poor communication and programs that undermined each other were reported by both NGO and military personnel, such as:

“In 2006, in one province, the international community was trying to close down IDP camps and normalize those communities, and had stopped providing food and material assistance in these camps in order to encourage IDPs to return or to integrate into the host communities.  In the middle of this process, PRT teams came and delivered village kits to these IDP camps, because they were being pushed to deliver aid wherever possible.”

NGOs are divided on how to relate to the PRTs.  Most NGOs open a dialogue with PRTs in areas where they work in order to establish channels of communication on basic security issues, but beyond this, cooperation and coordination with the PRTs is controversial.  Some NGOs reject all forms of coordination in order to preserve their independence, and some coordinate where they deem “common approaches are possible”. Others work as implementers for PRT-funded development initiatives, while trying to limit the appearance of direct contact and often requesting that uniformed military personnel not visit projects.  Leaders of international NGOs reported that their approach currently to the PRTs in their area was to “have a dialogue to educate the PRTs about NGO approaches and activities”, given their inability over the last several years to significantly influence the PRT model.

In interviews prior to the workshop, international NGO leaders described widely differing experiences of PRT-NGO coordination depending on the policy of the lead country for the PRT and the personality and style of the PRT commander.  Where commanders were open and transparent, and “understood the need for the military to keep a low profile”, avoid taking credit or visiting development projects undertaken by NGOs, a minimal level of communication and cooperation were often achieved. In cases where the PRT commander insisted on direct involvement and high visibility with regard to aid projects, relations were bad and sometimes tragic incidents have occurred.  NGOs reported that in these circumstances they felt they still had to engage the PRTs but their approach was to have some minimal level of information sharing in order to “minimize the harm that the military involvement in aid work could entail”.  A key issue identified by NGO personnel working in the provinces was that the frequent rotation of PRT commanding officers significantly complicated any common approaches. Because military officers are often on regular 6 month rotations, even if constructive relationships and mutual understanding are cultivated between individual NGO and PRT leaders, these are not institutionalized and can be significantly altered when new personnel rotate in.

IV. Capacity Building in the Civil Service

A key priority for international donors has been to build the capacity and skills of personnel in the ministries and other levels of government. This approach is described as a strategy of “leading from behind” to support Afghans’ ability to effectively run their own government institutions, and usually consists of trainings and mentoring programs.  In one such program, Ministry Engagement Teams made up of senior military officers and reservists from NATO countries were brought in to provide their expertise to Afghan ministry staff. Since government capacity is seen as particularly weak outside of Kabul, current capacity building efforts also focus on training at the provincial and district levels.

Participants widely cited capacity building as a major “coordination gap”.  A great deal of donor money has been spent on capacity building, technical assistance and foreign advisers, reportedly with almost no coordination between donors.  Recently, coordination efforts have been launched with the Civil Society Commission of the Afghan government as the lead agency, with hopes that this will better align various efforts.

Proponents of these approaches see “building human capacity” as the most effective way to help improve government performance, in the context of “Afghan ways of doing things” that should not be expected to change overnight.  Critics, however, charge that these approaches ignore the deeper structural issues, that is, the need for deeper political reforms to “create systems people can function in” or, as one participant noted, “you simply put trained people back in their dysfunctional systems and accomplish nothing.”  Furthermore, these approaches were criticized for ignoring corruption and the growth of a powerful “shadow state” that is increasingly “running the show” and that individuals cannot affect, no matter how well-trained they are.

Due to the decision early on that the U.N. should have a “light footprint” in Afghanistan, a strong centralized role in fostering governance along the lines of the UN Office of the High Representative in Bosnia was never seriously considered. Now, with governance increasingly seen as the key element for the Afghan recovery and reform efforts producing little visible impact to date, some international aid actors present claimed this was the wrong decision.

V. Linked Security-Development Strategies

Both military and NGO participants viewed civil-military coordination around issues linking security and development efforts as generally poor.  The recent Afghan Development Zones initiative was cited as a case in point.

Afghan Development Zones (ADZs)

This initiative was proposed by NATO in 2006 with the aim of concentrating international forces to provide security in certain areas with a combination of defensibility, population density, and development opportunities, where NGOs could then do intensive development work.  From the perspective of the NGOs, “this was like putting a red flag in front of a bull” –  announcing these as “development zones” gave the Taliban the incentive to attack these areas to prove ISAF wrong, risking the security of both the NGOs and civilian population. Facing strong opposition, ISAF has instead decided to keep a low profile in the areas it aims to secure. ISAF’s reported intention with the ADZs was to cooperate with other actors and to respond to the concerns about the militarization of aid by limiting itself to a “facilitating role” regarding development. But other actors saw the ADZs as unilaterally “dictating” the framework for development.

This example prompts many questions about the processes used to coordinate on issues where security and development efforts are highly interdependent.  How was ISAF’s intention to cooperate with other actors manifested?  What processes were used to identify and respond to the needs, priorities and approaches of development agencies and NGOs?  Who was included in deliberations leading to the ADZ strategy?  These questions could not be answered during the course of the workshop but deserve further examination.

This example reflects larger differences between the military and NGOs on the effectiveness of current security strategies.   The NGO community is focused on security as protection for the population, and for aid workers.  As one NGO participant put it, the exercise of “forcible peacemaking” by military forces needs to include as much concern for the security of the population now, — “today’s needs” — as there is for establishing the basis for security in the future —  “tomorrow’s needs”.  Many NGOs argue that the military should focus on the more limited security mandate and create the operational space for humanitarian and development agencies to work, versus the much broader mandate of facilitating reconstruction.  Some questioned whether the more expansive reconstruction role has overstretched NATO forces in a way that hurts their ability to promote security, their primary mandate, asking “does the PRT approach result in more security for the Afghan population?”

The military is focused on “defeating or checking the Taliban insurgency” and “facilitating reconstruction” as the key criteria to assess their work. In southern Afghanistan, a huge challenge for the military is how to provide security for the population in the middle of a counterinsurgency operation.  Military actors agree that it is necessary to use development instruments as well as military ones to influence the security situation. At the same time, however, some saw that reconstruction and governance roles were being overly emphasized by some NATO member countries as “political cover” for national populations uncomfortable with combat roles in Afghanistan. This was, however, leading to an overestimation of the military’s role.  As one participant commented, “NATO is a military organization whose main focus is on security not reconstruction and development – our soldiers are carrying guns and not shovels.”

Military personnel present emphasized that the military mission is “grossly undermanned”, and there are simply not enough troops to fulfill the basic security mandate, let alone reconstruction roles.  One participant, who had worked with PRTs in the field, reported that at certain points “there were not enough fighters to basically protect everything and do what we were being asked to do. All we could do was to defend the PRT camp.” This is reportedly due to an underestimation of theater requirements because within NATO “we planned for peacekeeping plus and landed in a full-fledged counterinsurgency in the South” and also because it was impossible to get the numbers of troops needed from NATO countries. In this context, the needs of the development community often got “lost in the wash”.

6. Conclusions

While these examples represent brief snapshots of complex situations, some preliminary conclusions can be drawn, to be tested further against more experience.

Common themes among the examples of good coordination in the health sector and with the National Solidarity Program are the importance of truly participatory, inclusive strategy building processes that include government, implementing NGOs and donors.  The importance of functional relationships already in place seems important, given the engagement of health NGOs and WHO, and relief and development agencies involved in the NSP, many of whom have worked in Afghanistan for decades.   As well, in both examples, the strategies reflect decades of good participatory development practice, and involve spheres with limited, or no, direct military involvement. Arrangements involve mainly humanitarian and development actors, who share many common values and approaches.

The reasons that PRT-provincial government coordination reportedly “works well” seem very different, likely related to the fact that the PRTs represent an important resource source for provinces and because capacity building programs embed personnel in provincial structures, creating many points of contact through which to build close integration.   The PAG and Fahim examples, on the other hand, represent very different dynamics – direct engagement at the highest levels between the key stakeholders (government, donors and troop contributors), with all actors united and mobilized by a specific perceived threat to stability. Furthermore, the PAG meets often enough (weekly) to be able to respond to quickly changing dynamics in the field.

Common themes among examples of poor coordination are that most issues, counternarcotics, national PRT strategy, PRT-NGO coordination, the ADZs – are highly political and relate to security issues.  They involve civilian and military actors with little history of positive cooperation, who do not share a common vision and strategy, and do not seem to have employed inclusive participatory processes to decide strategies. Whether some of these differences can be overcome is key question. The sources of these differences go to the heart of the coordination problem and are illustrative of many of the impediments identified in the opening section of this report. They include significant differences in organizational culture between military and humanitarian and development agencies with respect to operating styles, roles, principles and doctrines; field-HQ challenges; turnover in field personnel; international-national communication; collaboration and ownership of projects; and an tension inherent in the requirements of violence reduction versus the longer term objective of democratization, civil society building and good governance.

At a more fundamental level, coordination challenges grow out of the new and evolving dynamics of war-to-peace transitions, which may include low intensity warfare, alongside humanitarian aid delivery, development assistance, and regime formation. In this regard, the Afghanistan case may have much in common with the experience of the US in Somalia in the 1990s.  Many of the challenges now confronting international interveners in Afghanistan were presaged in Somalia, where an uneasy relationship between the military and humanitarian agencies in particular was forged out of necessity to ensure safe passage of relief supplies, among other objectives. Neither party, however, was happy with the arrangement and felt it cut into its operational flexibility and resulted in “mission creep.” As was evident then, short-term needs are not a sufficient basis upon which to build longer term coordination structures where there are fundamental doctrinal and operational differences between organizations, including substantially different command, control and communication structures.

In our view, the experience reviewed in Afghanistan illustrates three interrelated blocks to achieving greater coherence between the assistance efforts of multiple agencies: differences in strategic vision; different weighting of means and ends; and inadequate processes to deal with clear power asymmetries.

A) Differences in Strategic Vision

The review of Afghan experience illustrates major differences in strategic vision between key actors about how to help Afghanistan move to security, good government, development gains and sustainable peace.  The discussion illustrated why coordination between diverse agencies, and in particular military and civilian actors, is very difficult on issues where there is no agreement or “buy in” to the basic strategies guiding the international effort.  These differences appeared most pronounced over governance policies and security policies, two of the three pillars of the Afghan recovery and state-building process.

I. Governance Programming

There was broad agreement that governance is the weakest point of the overall international strategy right now, and the area that is critical to the success of all the others. As one participant put it, “security and development don’t create synergies unless a governance strategy is in place focusing on building the legitimacy and effectiveness of the government”.   Governance programming in Afghanistan is wide ranging, addressing all aspects of rule of law and human rights issues. However two particular approaches generated much controversy – capacity building approaches in Afghan ministries and the provincial reconstruction teams (PRTs).  These approaches were strongly supported by some and criticized by others as “superficial” and as supporting formal institutions and the Karzai government in particular, rather than “good governance” in general.  According to these criticisms, international programs should prioritize support for the “true foundations of good governance” such as civil society, independent media, “honest members of parliament”, and human rights activists, and “work with tribal leaders in the provinces who have real influence with the population”.

Both capacity building approaches and the PRTs were criticized by some as externally driven efforts motivated more by the need for the donors to have an “exit strategy” than because they are effective. These participants commented that truly participatory processes were absent in the international effort so far and “there has been no effort to foster an honest internal debate over how to create a new Afghan state and structures that would be relevant to Afghan realities.”

II. Security Policy and Military Roles

Participants held strongly opposing views on the PRTs. Military representatives with experience in the Canadian PRT saw the model as very effective because the consensus-based decisions have “buy in” from the major military and civilian agencies involved. For one participant, a key benefit was the greater situational awareness that the multiple agency perspectives within the PRT afforded, which produced “the most comprehensive information he had ever had in an international mission”. Military personnel described the PRTs as a mechanism with great potential to realize development gains, though this potential had not yet been realized due to the ongoing insurgency. NGOs and other critics however, claim the PRTs have not delivered greater security or reconstruction results for the population and don’t deal with the corruption challenges that many see as the biggest threat to Afghan recovery.

One participant claimed that the PRTs are not really getting out and doing what they were sold as. “They were supposed to raise the confidence of the local population that the local power holders are not the only force in town, and to support the government in its ability to protect the population.  However, because so much of the energy has been focused on force protection and dealing with the insurgency, helping civilian advisors and experts access the insecure areas are not key priorities.  The population feels more insecure today than a year ago and cannot be reached by development organizations in some places. Instead, the PRTs end up doing a bit of governance work close to the PRT base.”

The practice in some PRTs of having the military involved in direct aid or reconstruction work, and the wide-spread use of military “hearts and minds” projects in general is strongly opposed by many NGOs.  The military sees material aid as an important part of the military strategy –  the quick provision of visible assistance to civilians needed to win over local support, to solidify the military gains just made, and “to mitigate the effects of combat”.  Military personnel claim they are also meeting humanitarian needs and filling gaps left by civilian agencies.  As one participant noted, “in the aftermath of Operation Medusa we looked behind us and where were the NGOs?” [105]  Reportedly, there is pressure on soldiers from those higher up to distribute material aid for these political-strategic reasons, as well as because “there are just not enough civilian personnel from foreign ministries and development agencies to send to the PRTs, especially political and development advisors in the most insecure areas.”

Behind these military perspectives lies the assumption that as security and development are linked at the conceptual level, there is no justification for building firewalls between security and development agencies at the operational level. One participant summed this up as, “economic development is political and supports the Afghanistan Compact. The minute any NGO takes money from the Government of Canada, it is part of the government’s strategy in Afghanistan.”

Development actors, however, strongly argue for a separation of roles at the operational level, with the military focusing on security roles and creating the conditions for civilian agencies to provide aid.  They claim the military’s role in aid work “blurs the lines” between the military and civilian aid agencies and projects, and casts aid agencies as partners of the military forces, making them “fair targets” in the eyes of insurgents.  As well, a position of neutrality and impartiality is seen as essential for aid providers to access needy populations on all sides of conflict in an ongoing war, or in a fragile peace that could easily revert to war. NGO concerns also relate to increased risks for beneficiaries when aid is delivered by the military, since insurgents see the population’s contact with the NATO forces as “collaboration with the enemy”.

One participant reported, “when the military patrols and CIMIC teams first arrived, they would run around and visit the schools, handing out pencils and paper, getting some good photo opportunities. Very quickly, the director of education paid the PRT a visit and said, we appreciate your support but we’d rather you do not visit the schools because you are threatening the safety of our children.”

NGOs also strongly criticize the fact that militaries use aid instrumentally, aiming to create goodwill with the population for the purposes of force protection or intelligence gathering.  As one participant expressed it, “the identification of health care and schools with the US or Canadian military or NATO might be good for military security, but what you are actually doing is just sharing some of the threat with civilian objects. How many kids are you willing to endanger in order to put a label on a school?”

In general, relief and development agencies accept the interdependence of security and development at the conceptual level, while insisting on a strict separation of these roles in practice.  In general, many major NGOs do not see their role in the overall international effort in Afghanistan as part of the “team” in the same way other actors do.  As one participant noted, “as NGOs it is not our responsibility to give assistance or do reconstruction, it is an act we carry out.” This suggests a much looser association with the larger intervention project than the “division of labour” approach expressed by other actors.

Critical Views from Inside the Military

One participant summarized his field experience in Afghanistan and elsewhere as “the military do not understand humanitarian assistance, are not effective at it, and in many cases, do more harm than good.”  Reasons cited for this included:

  • There is usually no link between priority needs and the aid delivered.
  • It undermines the authority of community leadership who may be able to provide those services themselves.
  • It may increase conflict in areas where there are perceptions of inequality and favouritism towards certain groups and tribes over others.
  • Improperly done, “shoveling stuff” into an area after conflict, may be providing material assistance to the enemy.
  • It undermines other projects and policies.
  • It potentially fuels corruption and misuse of the aid.

Given these major differences over basic strategies in Afghanistan, coordination efforts are not a technical exercise, but in effect power struggles between the assistance actors involved. Many development actors are unwilling to work within a larger strategic plan that they reject.  The result is that a plethora of approaches and programs intersect and sometimes counteract each other, and attempts at coordination often end up being merely “information sharing” because there is no common strategic approach to build on.

The following two comments from workshop participants illustrate fundamental questions regarding who is exactly is the “we” that needs to coordinate. In the eyes of military agencies for example, “we” have to produce short term results because “we have already failed in their eyes”, referring to the whole international community.  In the eyes of a humanitarian NGO leader however, “if we don’t agree on objectives and approaches, there is no we”.

Current approaches to coordination in Afghanistan simply gloss over these dilemmas and differences.   There may be important differences as well in the skill sets and internal organizational processes that field personnel bring to coordination efforts. In the view of one participant, the military strategists are often present in the field, while for development actors, the “doers” are in the field while the strategic level thinking occurs at headquarters. According to one participant, often critiques and objections from the development community are raised only after meetings in the field in which those same representatives were “quiet”.  The bottom line is that there are few effective processes in place in the field to allow frank and open debates over basic strategies. Instead, agencies with the most power over particular sectors impose their approaches and operating styles.  This is not new, of course, but the resulting divergence between approaches may be much more pronounced in a non-UN peace operation like Afghanistan, where there is no overarching organizational structure to enforce some basic policy consensus.

B) Different Weighting of Means and Ends

The discussion revealed that differences between key actors often come down to a different weighting of the means versus the ends of programs to assist Afghan recovery. NGOs strongly emphasize the importance of the means of aid work, with the “right means” reflecting decades of learning within the aid profession on effective bottom-up, participatory programs that at a minimum are conflict sensitive, that is, are designed and implemented in a way that does not exacerbate conflict.  Their principled commitment to these means makes them highly resistant to cooperation with other actors that use other methods. If one must agree with coordinating partners on the means to be used, barriers to coordination are quite high.  For military and political actors, there seems to be more tolerance for a diversity of approaches and methods, including top-down approaches, and value is put on the results or ends achieved.  In this context, barriers to coordination with unlike actors are much lower.  An example that generated intense discussion illustrates this tension between means and ends:

The Road:  Should international agencies pay contracts to Karzai’s allies in the provinces to protect and build a road that is key to Afghanistan’s long-term development prospects?  One perspective is that building the road as quickly as possible will start realizing the significant development gains expected, and if in doing so one supports allies of the Karzai government, this is a “win-win” scenario.  The alternative view is that the end result, the road, is not as significant as modeling good governance practices in the construction of the road, avoiding legitimating corrupt officials or private militias, avoiding favouring some groups over others and ensuring there is a feeling of overall gain for all local groups from the road project.  Within the workshop, there were passionate advocates on both sides of this issue.

This discussion illustrated concretely how priorities of different assistance actors can clash, with each approach demonstrating an internal logic. As the road example suggests, how development projects are implemented (the means) matters with regard to the ultimate impact on the context, and involves many operational decisions and tradeoffs. How different assistance communities (NGOs, military forces, and private sector contractors) with very different value systems can navigate these “means” decisions in a coordinated way is a huge puzzle and national level frameworks and approaches provide little guidance on what to do when the priorities they identify conflict in practice.

This example also highlights the issue of accountability for what are, ultimately, political decisions that involve weighing important goals, values and tradeoffs.  Participants had very different views of what the role of international agencies should be in this process.  While some felt it was legitimate, and in fact sometimes crucial, that international agencies take positions on these tradeoffs, others felt that such political decisions should be left to national political actors who could be held accountable by their publics.

These different ethics are implicit, but rarely explicitly discussed as part of coordination efforts. (In fact, some felt that the very concept of “coordination” conceals these fundamental strategic and ethical issues, or misleadingly frames them as “engineering problems” to be solved by coordination structures.) A common result is that each agency follows its own inclinations, and often end up working at cross-purposes in the field.

C) Power Asymmetries and Leadership

How power differences are dealt with underpins many of the difficulties in coordination processes. Agencies involved need to know if the coordination on offer is reflective of a two-way relationship and mutual influence or if it is simply an effort to establish control over other actors.  In the eyes of some participants, the power dynamic of coordination in Afghanistan is such that it gets dominated by the “big D”, defense or the military, at the expense of other voices, those of international development actors, beneficiaries and local NGOs.  In the discussions, the military personnel rarely talked about perceived power issues vis-à-vis NGOs as relevant to coordination or its outcomes. The Afghan experience reviewed here suggests that when the challenges posed by such asymmetries are not explicitly recognized, “real coordination” is undermined. The ADZ example reflects how these power asymmetries play out in concrete ways. Since security is widely acknowledged as the foundation for the other elements, NATO’s decisions have the power to dramatically affect other actors’ strategies, often without serious prior consultation.

A related issue is one of leadership. NATO, at least, is deeply frustrated with the lack of clear non-military leadership in Afghanistan, with the result that NATO often ends up leading by default: “NATO is part of the system but it is not meant to lead…we haven’t lead in Bosnia, or Kosovo, nor in Afghanistan.”  As one participant noted, “We are not in the lead, but are stuck with most of the negative publicity”.   NATO representatives expressed frustration with the substantial time they invest to “be part of the team”, only to face strong resistance to cooperation.  “We aren’t persuaded that many of the other actors actually want more cooperation – for example, unlike in Bosnia or Kosovo, other international agencies don’t want to be even on the same platform for press conferences as NATO.”

The UN is clearly the entity with the international legitimacy to provide the lead. However, in practice, the US has the bulk of the power in Afghanistan.  The dynamic of the international mission overall in Afghanistan was characterized as one where the US continually exerts its power behind the scenes, while NATO, the UN and the NGO community do not share a common strategic vision.


An element of the workshop involved examining the organizational perspectives of various assistance actors with the goal of better understanding organizational barriers and supports to more effective linkages between security, development and peace efforts. Discussions highlighted the different conceptual models guiding the engagement of different agencies, reflecting major differences in approaches and values as well as dramatically different operating principles, all of which can be obstacles to forging common understandings of what needs to done.

1. The Value of Common Models for Peacebuilding

Workshop discussions reflected a consensus on the need for workable, agreed upon models for how international aid can secure peace in conflict affected areas if agencies are to create more effective linkages between their efforts.  The academic and practitioner literature examining the effectiveness of peace missions emphasizes the need to agree on priority programs and, in some cases, a sequencing of efforts, with the premise that peacebuilding defined as building a just and sustainable peace involves too broad a “wish list”, and it is more effective to do the most important things first. Experience shows that without prioritization, energies and resources get dissipated, and results are disappointing.

However, there was disagreement amongst assistance actors on what the most important pillars of peacebuilding are, and as a result, there is resistance to such prioritization in practice.  Existing research contends that some things are preconditions for all others, namely, security, a political deal between parties, governance and economic development. These are the big elements of most conceptual frameworks for peacebuilding being used by the UN and donor governments. Contrasting opinions, however, urged caution about looking for one guiding model, arguing that with an enterprise as complex as international peacebuilding missions, it is important to build redundancies into the system – that is, use many models to overcome the danger of at least some of them being wrong.

As well, the importance of rigorous evaluation was emphasized as essential to establishing good practice – if agencies are to agree on certain models of peacebuilding, they must be convinced by evidence that these models do indeed “work”. Otherwise, as is currently the case, peacebuilding frameworks are either imposed by the more powerful actors in the system, or merely reflect individual agency beliefs and preferences that are often not shared by others. Unfortunately, there is a poor evidence base for current peacebuilding models and few solid evaluations to base conclusions on to date. In fact the practice of evaluation in this area is highly contested, and plagued by problems of how to distinguish “flawed implementation” from a “flawed model” in untangling the causes of poor peacebuilding outcomes. Attempts to impose top-down coordination models on agencies in the face of this uncertainty over what really works, carries the risk of imposing the “wrong” approach.  Discussions also revealed concerns that close coordination contains the danger of “group think”, that is, if all actors are too closely coordinated, “we all get it wrong”.  However, these reservations were expressed in the context of a general consensus that despite difficulties in implementation, the drive towards more effective coordination is a political imperative for donors and implementers alike and is driven by shared desire to increase aid effectiveness. Such reservations highlight the need for truly inclusive consultative processes to ensure that the peacebuilding goals towards which assistance actors align efforts are the product of true agreement amongst key international and national stakeholders and evidence-based assessment of past approaches, rather than experimental models and fashionable theories of how to build peace.

2. Agency Understandings of the Purpose of Coordination

The discussions revealed that agencies’ views of the purpose of coordination itself were highly diverse.  Some views on this were, frankly, contradictory and illustrated that the term coordination is ambiguous and is used in very different ways by different actors, which surely complicates coordination processes. Coordination was variously defined by participants as:

  • Simple information exchange – who is doing what?
  • Joint analysis amongst agencies as to the nature of the problems and solutions
  • A technical exercise in division of labour and sequencing
  • Strategy making by another name – what should be done? Why?
  • The exercise of power – who coordinates who?
  • Prioritization amongst common goals (trim the “fluff”/ nonessential tasks)
  • An act of faith – “I don’t know that coordination helps but I believe it must”
  • As about “systems” – communication and decision making channels are key
  • As about “people” – personal energy and leadership are key

The diverse understandings of what coordination is about provide clues about why organizations have such mixed assessments of coordination practices. The most ambitious definitions saw the purpose as being joint strategy making and prioritization that translates into changes to the work of individual organizations, while the least ambitious saw coordination as about exchanging information with other agencies with no expected impact on anyone’s work, but simply to create better situational awareness.

3. Diverging Principles Guiding Decision-Making

The discussion revealed that donor governments, multilateral organizations, and NGOs often use very different principles to guide their decision-making; these are sometimes made explicit, but often are merely implicit. Many exchanges throughout the two days revealed that behind disagreements on particular policies or strategies lay fundamentally different principles for deciding what to do in complex conflict environments.  Understanding these seems a crucial starting point if a goal of coordination is to have diverse agencies jointly decide how to respond to a situation.


The principle of neutrality is a key tool that humanitarian agencies use for decision-making. Such agencies describe neutrality not as an end in itself (and agree it is often unattainable in practice), but see its value in guiding their actions. The neutrality principle mandates that assistance agencies suspend judgment about political actors – they are neutral to the causes or origins of conflict and neutral in dealing with belligerents, though they can never be neutral to human suffering. Impartiality is also a related operating principle, mandating that assistance is based on need and is given without adverse distinction. The final interlinked principle is independence, that is, aid is independent of politics and partisan interests.  These principles are enshrined in the Code of Conduct for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent movement that 393 NGOs, including all the major international NGOs, have signed on to. In practice, there is some variation amongst agencies, however. For certain humanitarian NGOs, this principle is not flexible and applies regardless of the situation.  Such humanitarian agencies have minimalist goals of alleviating civilian deaths and suffering, and do not see themselves as agents of peace, statebuilding, or other larger political agendas. Other development agencies and multimandate agencies, that provide both relief and development aid or engage in explicit peacebuilding work, view such strict neutrality as applicable in some situations, but not others.

“UN-endorsed Partiality”

UN Security Council resolutions supporting national governments and certain political actors in conflict areas are the tool that state military and civilian agencies, intergovernmental organizations and many development NGOs use for making decisions about who to work with, and which groups of people to assist in a complex conflict setting. Amongst the military and political actors in the workshop, there was widespread agreement that these decisions by the international community in Afghanistan and Liberia formed the bedrock of donor policies towards these areas and they expressed skepticism that in contexts where the United Nations has taken a firm position, humanitarian groups could still profess neutrality.  Others noted, however, that this position of clear “partiality” in areas of ongoing conflict has had costs, however, with lack of presence on the “other side” often limiting the possibilities to arrive at effective policies.  From the perspective of many NGOs, UN Security Council resolutions are important but clearly reflect the interests of governments and in particular the great powers, and many NGOs feel they should keep their roles distinct from the interests of this state-focused system. As one participant commented, the big “N” in NGO means “non-governmental” and NGOs exist to work independently of their home governments and intergovernmental bodies.

“Local ownership”

The local ownership principle is another important value for assistance agencies to make decisions about how to provide assistance, which actors to work with, how to structure assistance programs, and who should take important decisions?  Local ownership is widely accepted as fundamental to effective international assistance globally, enshrined the 2005 Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness.  As a broad principle, it is uncontroversial, but its application in the context of fragile states and contested governments raises many questions about which local views should prevail.  National governments, opposition groups and parties, provincial or local governments, or civil society actors in most settings often have very different priorities.  Diplomats and military forces explicitly engaged in statebuilding processes are often more attuned to the priorities of national governments. NGOs work more at the community level, and are often more attuned to local priorities. Some actors see local ownership as a process, a principle that should guide all assistance efforts. Others see local ownership as an ideal end state to work towards. Feedback from field personnel of international agencies suggests that often the organizational pressures on international assistance actors to demonstrate their own efficiency and effectiveness, and to “take credit” for successes often works against the application of local ownership principles in practice.  In Liberia and Afghanistan, some participants charged that principle of local ownership has been little more than politically-correct “window dressing” for predetermined international strategies, or used as a rationale for international aid providers to move towards exit strategies.

“Greater good

Calculations of the “greater good” represent an implicit principle for decision-making used by many assistance agencies, one that values the need to adapt principles to respond to challenges, with the ultimate criteria being to have assistance accomplish the most good, and inflict the least harm.  Also called “flexibility” by some, this greater good approach informs many decisions about ethical choices and controversial tradeoffs encountered in complex conflict settings:  whether to work with unsavory governments or human rights abusers in the interests of peace; whether humanitarian and development actors should extend their work to human rights work or peacebuilding programs; whether military and civilian actors should work more closely together. Some organizations explicitly talk about calculations of the greater good, others do so implicitly. Who makes these calculations, who benefits, and who bears the costs are all critical questions, and often very subjective ones.  One agency’s or community’s views of “the greater good” are often not shared or accepted by other assistance actors.  For example, some development agencies explicitly talked about using neutrality in a humanitarian context as a principle to guide their work, and UN endorsed partiality as a principle to guide their work in statebuilding contexts.  They defend these choices as key to using their resources and expertise to help the most people in the most sustainable way.  Critics have difficulty seeing this as a principled decision however, charging that such development agencies are “neutral light”, emphasizing neutrality only when useful to protect their own security and abandoning it in more secure settings.  Coordination processes would, in theory, have diverse assistance actors making such greater good decisions together, but this would require a level of partnership and communication that is rarely achieved.

4. Different Timeframes

Another major difference between the military and civilian agencies that can complicate coordination is the fact that they work on the basis of very different time frames.

A very simplistic overview of these differences is that the military tends to have a “do the job and leave” perspective and operates in a short-term time frame. Military deployments are generally for 6 months at a time for regular forces and units naturally tend to focus on what can be accomplished within their deployment.  Humanitarian and development agencies and NGOs and peacebuilding actors tend to operate with a longer time frame, with programs expected to show impacts over years, and sometimes decades.  These different timeframes are a key factor in shaping the strategies various agencies adopt and conflicting timeframes are another reason why various types of agencies often are talking past each other in terms of greater coordination of their work.

5. Insights into Effective Coordination

Through the course of the discussions, participants noted some key attributes of “good coordination” that they had personally experienced. The behaviors, processes, and policies that were mentioned are pulled together below in the following list.

What aids effective coordination?

  1. Informal “face to face” time – to get the “straight information” from someone you trust.
  2. Clear and reliable information all in one place (people drop out of coordination networks when used for agency “propaganda”).
  3. Transparency and horizontal relationships amongst agencies.
  4. Sincere motives to improve program impacts (vs. funding, competition, credit, etc.).
  5. Good negotiation skills (ability to articulate arguments and win over others).
  6. When groups have common knowledge of the issues.
  7. When higher decision makers don’t impose inflexible policies that make any negotiation at the field level pointless or impossible.
  8. A consensus on key issues and priorities within assistance communities– for example within the NGO community, among donors, among international military forces.
  9. Ability to accept criticism from others, in practice it was felt that this was rare, and the majority of actors do not accept criticism from other agencies.
  10. Time – learning how to coordinate takes time and is a learning process.


This section presents our conclusions from the experience reviewed above and recommendations on steps to improve cross-sectoral and multi-agency coordination processes in war-to-peace transitions.

The experience analyzed in this report concerns mainly in-country coordination efforts, and how relief and development agencies and NGOs, international military forces, and national and local governments in Afghanistan and Liberia interact in the field.  While the perspectives of policy makers from the headquarters level of key agencies was a critical part of the discussion, the focus of this inquiry was on how these policies translate into field practice. What was learned from each case was dependent on the experience participants brought to the table: the Liberian experience focused more on coordination within the humanitarian community and between international actors and the national government, while the Afghan experience centered more on coordination between NATO militaries and civilian aid actors, including international and national NGOs, as well as between international agencies and the national government and Afghan NGOs.

The war-to-peace transitions in Liberia and Afghanistan represent new terrain for international interveners. While today’s civil wars and state-breakups are by no means new phenomena, the level, range and depth of international interventions in such fragile situations is indeed new.  In Afghanistan, military, humanitarian and development actors work side by side (though not necessarily together) in an environment that, strictly speaking, constitutes neither war nor peace, but, rather, a peculiar hybrid that simultaneously contains elements of both. In Liberia, despite the overarching structure of the UN integrated mission, the side by side approach is also the norm in the field, with a large UN military peacekeeping force fulfilling domestic military and policing roles to enable relief and development efforts by the UN and NGOs as the capacity of the Liberian state is developed with support from donors and the UN to take over these roles. In both settings, the notion of a sequence from an emergency relief stage to a long-term development stage does not apply – both Liberia and Afghanistan have enormous unmet basic humanitarian needs while already moving ahead with development and statebuilding. An additional overlay that complicates matters further, particularly in Afghanistan, is a highly insecure operational environment that in select regions includes armed conflict between various configurations of combatants motivated by geo-political, ideological, criminal and other motives.

Previously in such missions, the civil-military relationship was premised on the idea of separate roles and a sequenced interaction. Military forces would come in the wake of a peace settlement and provide the security and create the space for relief and development actors to provide the aid.  Today, however, activities and mandates often overlap as military forces engage in aid provision and development actors participate in the security sector reform spectrum; especially demobilization, disarmament and reintegration of excombatants, but also reconstruction and institutional development of justice systems, rule of law and governance.

A pressing challenge in such an environment is determining effective relationships between security, relief, development and civil society-building efforts such that a collapsed state, that was suffering from underdevelopment even prior to a devastating conflict, can develop the capacity to effectively absorb a mind-boggling array of interventions. Absent such capacity-building, and the consequent empowerment and engagement of targeted populations in peacebuilding processes, there is a high risk that even the best intentioned interveners will overwhelm or “roll over” indigenous people and cultures, leading to protests of virtual disenfranchisement or marginalization in the resuscitation of their own societies.

In these situations of an incomplete or fragile peace, the interlinked nature of security and development is inescapable, with security necessary to enable progress on development, and basic relief and longer-term development gains necessary to solidify the peace by giving people a stake in the new stability.  Whether donors, militaries, development and humanitarian relief agencies choose to work together or not, they must work “side by side” in the same settings and the effects of their efforts are inevitably intertwined. A clear example of such involuntary interdependence is DDR efforts– no matter how well the demobilization and disarmament of excombatants is done by security-focused agencies, it will be a failure unless the rehabilitation and reintegration part is also done well by development agencies.  In the same way, new infrastructure and successful programs in agriculture, health and education are directly linked to security efforts, as they are destroyed if a region reverts to war. Given this interdependence, the question of how security and development actors should work side by side to maximum effect is critical, but not easy to answer.

1. Sources of Coordination Problems

As pointed out in Section 1, the coordination problem in international peace missions is multilayered and has many sources – including strategic and political differences, as well as organizational issues.  Scholarly or policy explanations for the problems encountered generally put greater emphasis on organizational styles, structures, and cultural/personality differences and highlight more the technical and operational issues involved, treating coordination as an engineering problem.  Amongst field personnel, much of the focus is on personality factors or stereotypes about organizational cultures (NGOs as doggedly independent and “ideological” and militaries as rigidly “hierarchical” and command and control oriented). Defining the problem as stemming from such incompatibilities reduces incentives for these communities to engage with each other.

Our review of the experience in Liberia and Afghanistan leads us to a somewhat different diagnosis.  The sample of experience with coordination in both countries presented here suggests it is often the more fundamental differences over the strategies being pursued, and the lack of a buy-in to those strategies by the different actors, that pose the most difficult challenges.

These more fundamental differences in political motivations and basic strategies for affecting peace were emphasized by workshop participants as the more significant blocks to closer coordination, though the organizational issues identified in the literature review were also present. To be sure, security actors and the relief and development communities are separated by real as much as perceived differences – different values, different methods and ethics, different tools at their disposal, different organizational cultures. But beyond that, they are separated by fundamentally different visions of the nature of the problems to be addressed and, therefore, the solutions to be applied.  Furthermore, given that these types of international interventions involving civilian and military forces in such close contact are quite recent, these groups have little history of positive interaction and few successful models to learn from.

2. The Coordination Dynamics in Afghanistan and Liberia

In Afghanistan, coordination across the security-development spectrum is undoubtedly harder than in Liberia. In the context of an ongoing insurgency, there are important differences on strategy and no common organizational culture amongst the lead actors (NATO, UN, NGOs).  In Liberia, differences over approaches and principles exist, but lower violence levels in general and a “peacekeeping-style” military posture means that differences over basic strategies are not as pronounced. The fact that key actors in Liberia (military forces, political actors, and the humanitarian coordination focal point) are united in one organization, UNMIL, with some common processes to deal with differences, smoothes the way. There are still differences between UNMIL and the important assistance groups outside UNMIL and concerns over too close an integration between political, military and humanitarian and development agendas, but the tensions are not as pronounced as in Afghanistan, possibly aided by the fact that coordination practices are quite different.

For example, though the military element of UNMIL is part of the County Support Teams concept in Liberia, UNMIL troops do not call meetings to coordinate the humanitarian and development response in Liberia’s counties. Rather, the dedicated UN humanitarian coordination section is the interface with the broader humanitarian community, and though there are still tensions and problems, there is much less friction in this relationship. The direct civilian-military interface that happens through the PRTs in Afghanistan is highly problematic according to NGOs who implement the vast majority of assistance programs, raising questions as to whether it is doing more harm than good. The resulting friction over basic approaches gets in the way of the ability to work out solutions to mutual problems or to identify opportunities to reinforce common goals. While “whole of government approaches” being pursed by major donor states embody this civil-military interface at the level of broader strategies, at the field level there may need to be a fundamental rethink of how to translate such policies into effective linkage between security, development and peacebuilding programs on the ground, given that without the buy in from operational NGOs, both international and Afghan, little can be achieved.

Though Liberia and Afghanistan represent very different contexts to be sure, the fact that very little mention was made of current tensions between civil and military actors in Liberia in the workshop suggests that isolating these groups from direct interaction may be useful. It may help provide the clear separation from military actors that most aid agencies seek, as well as enabling more effective dialogue between the more similar UN and NGO actors in coordination mechanisms.

3. Insights into the Challenges Identified

The literature review in section one of this report outlined four key dilemmas for the coordination of security and development efforts in international peace operations on which the workshop hoped to shed some light.  These are discussed below in terms of what was learned.

The Mixed Consequences Challenge

Promoting more coordination and integration of multiple assistance actors working in war-to-peace transitions seems on the surface to be an uncontroversial agenda. In reality, it presents real dilemmas and tradeoffs and can have negative consequences for other equally important agendas. As the experience presented here has shown, the humanitarian dilemma over compromising humanitarian impartiality, the human rights dilemma over working with war leaders, and the local ownership dilemma over letting local perspectives and “ways of doing things” lead, are abundantly present in Liberia and Afghanistan.[106] They emerge in the many examples of programs where there were fundamental differences in strategies and the weighting of means and ends between the key assistance communities.  Some examples raised where the different goals and ethics of assistance actors clashed were: working with government-allied warlords to quickly build a key road; pushing IDP repatriation to meet a political timetable for elections, “bribing” war leaders to lay down arms with seats in parliament, transforming wartime militias into national police and army units; recruiting skilled people who over-represent certain ethnic groups into these new security institutions; “rewarding” excombatants with employment  in development projects to reduce threats to stability; and, ignoring or accepting corrupt practices because they are more efficient, or are the “way of doing things here”.

In both Liberia and Afghanistan, the international military forces, the humanitarian and development agencies, donor governments and various levels of government and civil society may all have different resolutions to these tradeoffs, and resist falling in line behind strategies their ethics cannot support. The workshop discussions make clear that many groups are concerned about coordination efforts where irreconcilable positions on political and social goals would be hidden behind common positions that may be represent, at best, superficial or forced agreement rather than a real consensus.

Due to this, it is our belief that top-down coordination and integration are not practical frameworks for the relationship between the diverse communities of governmental, intergovernmental and non-governmental assistance actors.  They are being pursued currently, and are possibly more realistic, within single organizations such as donor governments (whole of government approaches) or the United Nations (integrated missions) whose various divisions are prepared to internally hammer out and stand behind political decisions of this nature.  (These efforts, however, also encounter many challenges and obstacles in creating the kinds of “level playing field” between key departments that would produce truly agreed approaches.)   At the level of the entire international mission in a given crisis, such processes are far too ambitious. The attempt to impose a top-down policy of greater integration between multiple assistance actors and civilian and military agencies creates strong resistance. What is needed instead, is to better understand what happens when security and development efforts “bump into each other” in the field in order to identify more minimal shifts in relationships that may ensure these streams of assistance compliment each other and add up to the maximum positive impacts possible.

The Policy Practice Challenge

There is a major gap between policies institutionalizing coordination and coherence amongst the headquarters of assistance actors and actual practice in the field. In both Liberia and Afghanistan, national governments and international actors have agreed upon formal national frameworks that lay out political reforms, economic development, security, governance and national reconciliation as critical “pillars” of national recovery. These frameworks are helpful in establishing the highest-level goals of the recovery process, but do not represent multi-actor agreement on strategies – because there are differences in terms of the weight of different pillars or sectors, and especially over how to actually accomplish these goals. Consequently, these frameworks do not automatically translate into common strategies and approaches between the multiple agencies engaged in different sectors and pillars.  As the two cases show, coordination processes often assume agreement among actors on strategies and don’t provide opportunities for inclusive and meaningful multi-stakeholder dialogue on these more fundamental issues.  Additionally, power asymmetries block real dialogue and limit the ability of existing coordination processes to achieve some level of common intent.  Cross-agency dialogue that might help arrive at consensus on strategies is hard and requires dedicated skills, procedures and incentives. The review of experience here suggests there are few dedicated efforts at the field-level to promote such inclusive approaches to dialogue and consensus building.

As well, the field-headquarters relationship too often reflects a top-down flow of policy directives that often translates into changes in language and formal adherence to new frameworks (dubbed false coherence by one participant) without having achieved “buy in” from field personnel to the intent of policy makers.  The experience shows a need to shift the relationship between field and headquarters within many agencies to promote a two-way information flow with the goal being to bring field perspectives more into the HQ level debates and vice versa. The goal would be to help decision makers at both levels better understand important factors shaping policy and operational responses. In a rapidly changing environment, the ability of field personnel to interpret the intent of a policy is key to devising flexible and effective responses in the field.  The inflexibility of policies set at headquarters level was cited as sometimes rendering dialogue over strategies amongst field actors “pointless”.

The Evaluation Challenge

Effective coordination between security and development actors presumably means more effective work than is possible without coordination.  This requires evaluating the impacts of projects involving significant coordination efforts on the broader peace.  However, as noted, this is an area where there are few credible methodologies, and generally, substantial pessimism that such impacts are possible to trace at the level of individual projects.  Among assistance actors in Liberia and Afghanistan, while coordination was assumed to be a good thing, different actors used dramatically different criteria for what effective coordination looks like. As well, most of these criteria, listed in the box on page 80, focus on coordination processes rather than outcomes or impacts on the quality of the assistance delivered in the larger national recovery effort.

The findings here show the importance of continued effort in assessing the positive benefits of coordination on peace, and, equally important, the negative impacts that may inadvertently arise – on beneficiaries directly, in terms of undermining key project goals, or on prospects for peace more broadly. This is critical because without evidence that striving to attain linkage between diverse assistance efforts matters to their “bottom line”, few actors will want to invest the considerable energy and political will involved, or be willing to accept tradeoffs and even negative consequences for other important goals.  Methodologies for evaluating coordination success and failure remain a very big knowledge gap that needs to be addressed.  Finally, evaluation efforts should not be seen as an “add-on” or as a donor-driven agenda, but rather as critical to helping coordination efforts find their way. Rigorous efforts to clearly define what goals coordinated projects are fostering, and how we can tell if these are achieved, will help all involved better define what is desired and reduce the ambiguity and “faith-based” approach surrounding existing coordination efforts.

The Challenge of the Role of NGOs

Today, NGOs are critical actors in war to peace transitions in that they represent a large proportion of the implementation and service delivery capacity of the international assistance enterprise in a crisis from the earliest emergency stage to the handoff to host government institutions. For example, a recent World Bank report noted that in Afghanistan, money flowing to NGOs accounted for 27% of development aid in 2005, but the magnitude of the NGO role in Afghanistan only becomes clear when looking at specific sectors. For example, in health care some estimates suggest that 90% of total health service delivery is carried out by NGOs and in other sectors and major programmes as much as 75%-80% of the funds are contracted through NGOs.[107]  Though, as often noted, they represent a fantastically diverse number and array of organizations and agendas, recent years have seen the growth of NGO networks united by common principles and practices both internationally, and in-country – as with the NGO coordination bodies in existence in Afghanistan and Liberia.  Though engaged often in multi-agency coordination processes with governmental and intergovernmental actors, NGOs still do not have a lot of power at the formal tables where strategies are decided, though it must be recognized that they have significant power in shaping how these strategies are implemented in the field.

NGOs do not view themselves as subcontractors to their donors (as private sector contractors might) but as implementing partners, to use the common terminology, guided by their own values, principles and approaches.  Mostly, the governmental and intergovernmental agencies that fund a large percentage of humanitarian and development NGO work do so because these approaches, principles, and practices add value to the effort in a variety of ways.  Nonetheless there is a gap in terms of neglecting NGO perspectives at the tables where the major strategies are ironed out, and where, presumably, their approaches, principles and practices could also add value.  If that is to be accomplished, the power asymmetries at such “tables” need to be altered so that those NGOs, both international and national, who want to be engaged in strategy making processes to decide broader international policy directions see their perspectives reflected in the decisions made, rather than being offered a “token” presence, as many characterize current approaches to including NGOs in such deliberations.  This also requires more concerted effort amongst NGOs to further strengthen their own networks and internal dialogue processes so that some common positions can be injected into policy debates that are well vetted, and truly representative of the broader community.  Such efforts to arrive at common positions, and inject common concerns and ideas on policies as they are formulated, should be strongly supported and intensified by both NGOs themselves and their donors.

4. Spheres for Improvement in Coordination Processes

The experience reviewed in the workshop suggests some key areas for coordination where new approaches seem necessary. These relate to people, processes, structures and principles.


The skills and approaches used and the personalities of the people involved matter to coordination outcomes. Participants mentioned individuals, whether military or humanitarian personnel, or diplomats, who by their energy, initiative and communication skills had been very effective at coordination in the field.  In fact, good people can often overcome bad systems. But in general, across the two cases, the level of consensus building skills that aid and military personnel have renders coordination highly problematic.  Recruitment should emphasize such abilities as well as interpersonal and communication skills if agency personnel are to bridge major organizational divides and foster coordination.  The cultivation of “good people” in these roles can also be supported through dedicated training in negotiation, conflict management, consensus-building, and leadership capabilities and through rigorous screening to be sure the right people are situated in the right positions. It is imperative that properly vetted and trained personnel, who can exercise the kind of leadership that cross-organizational and cross-cultural collaboration requires, be placed in leadership positions at all levels.

There is not enough focus on the skills required for managing conflict and engaging in consensus building processes in the way that coordination efforts are currently conceived. This is the case with civil-military coordination, but also among UN agencies and NGOs that are engaged in coordination exercises within their own communities.  The prevalence of “badly run meetings” in field coordination efforts across the board was noted in the workshop, as was a general inability to “win others over with arguments” and to “accept criticism”.  These necessary skills should be cultivated among senior as well as junior personnel so they have the ability to engage effectively in efforts to communicate and coordinate with diverse agencies in the field.  An additional consideration is that international agencies are staffed with people from a very wide range of cultural backgrounds and perspectives on power, authority, and coordination. These differences need to be dealt with in trying to support more inclusive processes for interagency dialogue.


The processes used for interaction are a critical part of effective coordination. Experience from both Liberia and Afghanistan shows assistance actors from all perspectives are currently ill-served by existing top-down approaches to coordination, often resulting in a “false coherence,” a superficial commitment to common strategies on paper only.  At best, most current approaches in Afghanistan achieve information sharing between agencies, but they do not yield the kind of basic agreement on strategies and ‘buy in’ necessary for a coherent response.  In Liberia, humanitarian coordination is an instructive example in that outcomes are somewhat better due to inclusive planning processes, e.g., the Consolidated Appeals Process (CAP) and the Common Humanitarian Action Plan (CHAP) led by the Humanitarian Coordination Section within UNMIL in Liberia, which were developed by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA).  The CAP and CHAP process require UN agencies and NGOs to agree on priority needs, a very important process of creating some minimal common understanding of the problems and the solutions needed. That experience, reviewed in the Liberia case study, nevertheless illustrates that even between like actors (UN and NGO humanitarian agencies) questions of power asymmetry can undermine the integrity of coordination processes and cause some actors to withdraw. Overall, however, the process of dialogue fostered by these mechanisms produces a humanitarian strategy with some basic level of buy in from NGOs, the UN, and donors. These processes require intense efforts and dedicated personnel and resources however and are challenging and time consuming even among humanitarian actors – UN humanitarian agencies, OCHA and humanitarian and development NGOs –  that share similar principles and operational approaches.

In Afghanistan, what stops key political and military actors and a representative group of NGOs from sitting down to do a similar common assessment of problems and needs?  From the experience reviewed, the sense is that the political and military actors forge broad strategies without direct representation of civil society and NGOs in a way commensurate with their importance in the whole implementation enterprise. Consultations are too often held with the development community only after the fact, in particular the NGOs, and are narrowly focused on implementation. The Afghan Development Zones model is a case in point, where NATO planners seemingly sought to facilitate development efforts by devising a plan they assumed met the needs and interests of other actors, only to face strong resistance from development actors when this plan was presented to them.  Effective consensus-based planning processes in other fields show that transparency and horizontal relationships are often critical to effective coordination and joint decision-making. Bringing aid implementers into the up-front planning as the broader strategies are developed will likely result in better strategies, and ones with a better chance of being successfully implemented.  Otherwise, the likely scenario is resistance by implementing groups to strategies decided elsewhere.

Another important dynamic at work in Afghanistan and Liberia was that different assistance communities, in general, had different assumptions about the very goals of coordination efforts.  The fact that groups often do not even share the same assumptions significantly reduces the chances of useful coordination emerging from such interactions. Experience shared during the workshop suggested several different conceptual models (and supporting assumptions) that the different assistance actors bring to coordination efforts, but rarely explicitly discuss.

Top-down Coordination:  Some assume that coordination means compliance with overarching policies that have been identified by a majority or by key power brokers in an organization. This approach is efficient, often hierarchical and works within unitary organizations to a degree, but usually doesn’t work with groups outside a clear hierarchy that may not want to relinquish their autonomy.

Invisible Hand” Coordination: Some assume that diverse groups do not need to explicitly harmonize objectives, but that they can decide to cooperate voluntarily based on mutual awareness and understanding of the direct benefits of doing so.  This approach to coordination assumes groups have the same general aims, have autonomy in terms of decision-making, and that they will make alliances as they see fit to best achieve their aims. Several such models for coordination amongst peacebuilding actors have been proposed in recent years, many based on this business alliance model, such as “decentralized coordination”, “networks of effective action”, and a “self-coordination” model.[108]

Consensus:  Some assume that groups should come together voluntarily to agree on strategies and tactics through debate and discussion until a consensus emerges.  In this model it is often assumed that agreement will be substantive and wide-ranging, extending to common goals, objectives, basic values and ethical principles.

The divergence between these three approaches suggests the need for new models of coordination that can accommodate security and development actors. These groups do not often share the same aims, and do not often agree on strategies, or processes, or means. They work “side by side” in the same theatres, but usually do not explicitly work together.  Their activities are often mutually interdependent but their relationships are fraught with power asymmetries and basic communication challenges.

Some analysts have argued that in cases where agencies are not committed to a common goal, explicit coordination is not appropriate or useful.[109] However, because the effects of the work of agencies in the security-development interface are so closely linked, they cannot, realistically, separate themselves. If they choose not to interact at some minimal level, they still suffer the consequences of poor coordination.  What is needed is a way of working side by side that advances the portion of their respective work that is mutually supportive, but that is different from integration, the top-down coordination currently being pushed in some quarters or the overly optimistic model of self-coordination.  What is needed is a process that recognizes how security and development efforts are linked in practice, and strives to maximize the positive benefits from this and minimize the negative. Much more ambitious, but also needed, are sincere, even-handed inclusive consultative processes for devising overarching strategies, and clear incentives for all groups to engage in these.

In trying to improve the impacts of multiple streams of assistance in international peace missions, we should not overestimate the importance of coordination amongst external actors. We need to keep in mind provocative research findings that in recent international peace missions, the strength of internal processes was more important for successful recovery than coordination amongst external actors.[110]  Some participants pointed out that in both Afghanistan and Liberia, there has been little effort to foster this kind of internal debate inclusive of government, opposition and civil society perspectives so that internal actors reach some basic common positions on the nature of the new state and its institutions.


The structures defining civil-military interaction are also a critical element. The Afghan and Liberian experience reviewed shows the utility of a common organizational structure in affecting the complex interface between security, development and peacemaking.  The UN integrated mission structures in Liberia provide a way to deal with the big differences among diverse actors in a common organizational structure, though we learned little of the dynamics and negotiation between the civilian and military arms of the mission.  The Afghanistan case, by contrast, shows the immense difficulties of direct interface between civilian and military actors as occurs in the PRTs, and also of working on peacebuilding issues as a loose coalition of diverse states with separate policies.

One important structural issue particularly directed at the military is the need to more clearly delineate security and development roles in practice, though they are tied conceptually. The military should focus its efforts on establishing security and resist the temptation or the push from political masters to sell its mission in humanitarian or development terms. Many recent studies have shown that populations in conflict zones appreciate security assistance first and foremost for its own sake.[111]  The selling of the Afghan mission as a humanitarian effort to domestic constituencies in NATO member states is very problematic for humanitarian and development agencies, as noted throughout this report. Discussions revealed however that it is also not fully supported by many military personnel as it forces them to take on roles they are ill-equipped for and that create major problems with the other key actors whose role in relief and development is critical to the success of the overall outcome.

Another structural issue relates to the financial mechanisms available to both security and development-focused actors. One structural explanation for why relief and development actors cannot deliver aid as quickly as the military claims it “needs” is that funding mechanisms for aid and development work require much longer lead times. While military commanders often have access to substantial discretionary funds, relief and development actors must go through much longer processes to secure funding. Donors should consider making available more rapidly accessible standby funds and both donors and NGOs should develop mechanisms that would allow NGOs to respond more quickly to urgent needs in areas where there is an international military presence and preclude the need or temptation for militaries to fill these roles themselves.


The lack of common principles to guide decision-making amongst diverse actors is another key problem area suggested by the experience reviewed.  With some actors basing the daily strategic and operational decisions that arise on the principle of “the will of the international community as expressed by UN resolutions” and others on “humanitarian independence and neutrality” and still others on a more flexible, subjective “greater good” orientation, some clarity on basic principles is needed so that, at a minimum, the efforts of various actors do not undermine each other.

As both cases noted, the interdependence of security and development forces disparate assistance actors to attempt to coordinate, even though they often do not share common objectives.  One clear difference that blocks coordination is the relative weight different agencies place on means and ends.  Agencies that place great importance on a specific means of implementing aid work are not willing to synchronize their efforts with other actors that do not share these values.  Other actors are more willing to compromise on the means in order to get things done and get results. The example of building a strategic road in Afghanistan to open up an area of the country to development casts these differences in stark relief, with some groups emphasizing the actual road as the only important end and other groups emphasizing the governance impact of the way the road was built as equally important.  If agencies could define some “accepted means” to conduct programs and lay out some clear basic common principles, this could assist groups in working “side by side” without undermining each other, even in the absence of common goals.  Such an approach has been suggested by Rob Ricigliano, employing his concept of “networks of effective action” but to date, no test case of this approach has been undertaken.[112]

Yet finding common principles between such diverse actors is still a difficult enterprise. Our discussions showed that a general commitment to “building peace” or “helping the people” in Afghanistan or Liberia is not enough and there must be some agreement at the level of methods and means as well.

This focus on principles may seem abstract but determining what principles the whole international mission stands for can be the critical factor in terms of public acceptance and, ultimately, stability. Liberian participants emphasized the legitimacy of the foreign military intervention as a key issue in their context; that the population’s belief in the “pure intentions” of the foreign military presence was absolutely critical to the whole peace building effort in Liberia.  In Afghanistan by extension, there are sections of the population who have doubts about why the foreign forces are in their country, for a variety of reasons including a perceived international tolerance for corruption within the government, and for high levels of civilian casualties.

In terms of principles, a key challenge for the humanitarian and development community is to clarify for themselves and other actors how the concepts of neutrality and humanitarian space apply to development and reconstruction activities in such ambiguous half-war/half-peace settings. Development is an expressly political activity, working with the recognized government on building an effective state infrastructure, services, and a functioning economy.   Currently, agencies engaged in development work still defend the importance of neutrality and strict separation from the military, but while the need for neutrality and independence of purely humanitarian actors is accepted, this position for development actors is greeted with skepticism. There is confusion among development agencies themselves, it seems, as to the principles that should guide this development role.  Reconstruction, the primary mandate of the military in aid, is also a major grey area since often only the military has the capacity to undertake certain large-scale reconstruction efforts quickly. There are many questions that the aid community does not seem to have clear answers to.   Do reconstruction activities require neutrality and, if so, why?  Is there a legitimate role for the military in the provision of aid, when there are no humanitarian actors in a setting to provide relief? Is humanitarian space really possible in environments where the security situation is so dangerous?  The aid community, as part of an improved interagency dialogue, needs to develop more clarity internally on these questions.

5. Next Steps

These are the findings and critical questions that this research process and the March 2007 practitioner dialogue addressed, and the areas which need to be examined in more depth. The workshop organizers together with colleagues plan to expand this research project accordingly through a series of in-depth studies of key challenges identified here, along with further practitioner dialogues. The goal will be to improve the understanding and practical impacts of effective cross-agency and cross-sectoral consultation and coordination in international peace missions.


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Perito, Robert M. The U.S. Experience with Provincial Reconstruction Teams in Afghanistan. United States Institute of Peace, October 2005

Provincial Reconstruction Teams Executive Steering Committee. Terms of Reference for Combined Force Command and International Security Assistance Force Provincial Reconstruction Teams in Afghanistan, January 2005.

Ricigliano, Robert. “Networks of Effective Action: Implementing an Integrated Approach to Peacebuilding,” Security Dialogue 34, 2003.

Rieff, David. A Bed for the Night: Humanitarianism in Crisis. Simon and Schuster, 2002.

Rotberg, Robert I. (ed) When States Fail: Causes and Consequences. Princeton University Press, 2002.

Rubin, Barnet and Humayun Hamidzada and Abby Stoddard. Afghanistan 2005 and Beyond: Prospects for Improved Stability Reference Document. Netherlands Institute of International Relations, “Clingendael”, Conflict Research Unit, April 2005.

Shawcross, William. Deliver Us from Evil: Peacekeepers, Warlords and a World of Endless Conflict. Simon & Schuster, 2000.

Sida, Lewis. “Challenges to Humanitarian Space: A review of humanitarian issues related to the UN integrated mission in Liberia and to the relationship between humanitarian and military actors in Liberia.” April 2005.

Smith, Dan. Towards a Strategic Framework for Peacebuilding: Getting their Act Together. Overview report of the Joint Utstein Study of Peacebuilding. Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, April 2004.

Stapleton, Barbara. Presentation on Afghanistan.

Stapleton, Barbara J. NATO: New Tasks and Responsibilities.

Stedman, Stephen John and Donald Rothchild and Elizabeth M. Cousens (eds). Ending Civil Wars: The Implementation of Peace Agreements.  Boulder, Colorado: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2002.

Stoddard, Abby and Adele Harmer. Room to Maneuver: Challenges of Linking Humanitarian Action and Post-Conflict Recovery in the New Global Security Environment.  United Nations Development Programme Human Development Report Office, Occasional Paper, 2005.

Stoddard, Abby and Adele Harmer, and Katherine Haver. Providing Aid in Insecure Environments:  Trends in Policy and Operations.  Humanitarian Policy Group, HPG Report 23, September 2006.

Suhrke, Astri. When More is Less: Aiding Statebuilding in Afghanistan, 2006.

Terry, Fiona. Condemned to Repeat?: The Paradox of Humanitarian Action. Cornell University Press, 2002.

Tschirgi, Necla. Security and Development Policies: Untangling the Relationship. International Peace Academy, September 2005.

United Nations Development Programme. Liberia.

—– Liberia Annual Report 2005,

United Nations Development Programme. National Human Development Report, Liberia, 2006.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA). Common Humanitarian Action Plan (CHAP), 2007., July 2007.

United Nations General Assembly and Security Council.  Report of the Panel on United Nations Peace Operations, 2000.

UN General Assembly Resolution A/RES/60/180, December 30, 2005.  The Peacebuilding Commission.

United Nations Peacebuilding Commission, PBC/1/OC/12, June 4, 2007, Provisional Guidelines for the participation of civil society in the meetings of the Peacebuilding Commission.

United Nations Security Council. Fourteenth progress report of the Secretary General on the United Nations Mission in Liberia, S/2007/151.

United Nations Security Council, Comprehensive review of the whole questions of peacekeeping operations in all their aspects, A/55/305 – S/2000/809, 2000, Executive Summary viii .

—— Comprehensive review of the whole question of peacekeeping operations in all their aspects, A/55/305 – S/2000/809, 2000. (Brahimi report)

United Nations Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on UN System-wide Coherence in the Areas of Development, Humanitarian Assistance, and the Environment. Delivering as One.  9 November 2006 , NY.

Welsh, Jennifer M. (ed). Humanitarian Intervention and International Relations. Oxford University Press, 2004.

Williams, Garland H. “Engineering Peace: The Military Role in Post-Conflict Reconstruction.” United States Institute of Peace Press, 2005.

Woodrow, Peter. “Advancing Practice in Conflict Analysis and Strategy Development”. Cambridge, MA, Collaborative Learning Projects, Reflecting on Peace Practice Project, 2006.

Woodrow, Peter. “Theories of Change/ Theories of Peacebuilding). Cambridge, MA, Collaborative Learning Projects, Reflecting on Peace Practice Project Paper, 2006 (draft.)

World Bank. Service Delivery and Governance at the Sub-National Level in Afghanistan. July, 2007.

ANNEX A – Coordination Structures and Practices in Liberia

Coordination between donors, UNMIL and the UN agencies, NGOs and the Liberian government happens through key agreements and documents that spell out broad frameworks for Liberian recovery, as well as through an array of mechanisms and initiatives in specific sectors and on specific issues.  “Coordination is dispersed within all these levels, issues and sectors, and it is the overall effect of this which builds coherent coordination,” as one participant put it.  This section attempts to map out the key elements of this coordination system.

National-level Agreements and Frameworks

2004 Results Focused Transitional Framework (RTTF) document and RIMCO

The Results-Focused Transition Framework (RTTF) is the overarching transition strategy for the country that was endorsed at the International Donors Conference for Liberia held in New York in February 2004.  It was based on a joint needs assessment conducted by the National Transitional Government of Liberia, the UN Development Group, the United Nations, the World Bank, the US government and other partners.  It lays out expected target outcomes and expected results using six month benchmarks to permit periodic reporting and accountability.  At the New York conference, donors supported the RTTF as the framework for disbursing pledges of US$520 million – which increased to US$672 million by the end of November 2005.[113]  It is implemented through RFTF working committees. In 2005, the government, major donors, UN agencies, World Bank officials and civil society organizations met in Denmark to review progress. The RTTF Implementation and Monitoring Committee (RIMCO) was established, headed by the government, with UNMIL and the World Bank as vice-chairs, and the Ministry of Planning and Economic Affairs serving as the Secretary of the Committee.   The RIMCO support office is tasked to ensure that line ministries are in a position to monitor and coordinate the humanitarian and reconstruction efforts. [114]

Interim Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (iPRSP)

Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs) are the standard mechanisms for national governments to define their long-term development agenda.  They are prepared by the member countries through a participatory process involving domestic stakeholders as well as external development partners.  Interim PRSPs (iPRSPs) summarize the current knowledge and analysis of a country’s poverty situation, describe the existing poverty reduction strategy, and lay out the process for producing a fully developed PRSP in a participatory fashion.[115]

In 2006, the Liberian government launched an iPRSP covering a two year period, until June 2008, which was seen as a significant step in asserting government ownership of the development agenda and signaling an end to the emergency relief phase.  In this document, the government lays out its aims to consolidate peace and build the foundation for sustained pro-poor economic growth and human development.  The key development issues are framed as 4 strategic and interdependent pillars.

Pillar 1:  Enhancing National Security (including completing the restructuring of the army, police and security services)

Pillar 2:  Revitalizing Economic Growth (including agriculture to ensure pro-poor growth, job creation, strengthening the environment for private sector growth and attracting foreign investment)

Pillar 3:  Strengthening Governance and Rule of Law (including human resource development)

Pillar 4:  Rehabilitating Infrastructure and Delivering Basic Services (including rebuilding the nation’s road network)

Acknowledging the continued importance of meeting basic needs, the iPRSP calls for continued provision of basic social services by humanitarian actors as the basis for Liberian recovery and development efforts.[116]  Through the iPRSP the government also committed itself to “doing business differently”, that is, promoting public accountability and transparency, combating corruption, empowering local governance and promoting human rights.[117]  The iPRSP is to be followed up by a full Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRSP) based on the Millennium Development Goals and covering the period 2008 – 2011.

Connected to the iPRSP, a new government body to lead the coordination of international assistance, the Liberia Reconstruction and Development Committee (LRDC), was established within the office of the President to provide oversight and guidance on new programs for recovery.

Humanitarian Inter-agency Coordination between UN Agencies and NGOs

As the fullest expression of the UN integrated mission concept, UNMIL itself represents an unprecedented level of coordination between the peacekeeping forces and the civilian side of the mission responsible for governance and humanitarian relief.   Though individual UN agencies that typically have large humanitarian programs, such as World Food Program, UNHCR, UNDP and UNICEF, remain formally outside the mission and are grouped together as the UN Country Team, a key part of UNMIL’s mandate involves coordination of these agencies as well.

UNMIL’s Humanitarian Coordination Section (HCS) is the entity that leads humanitarian coordination through a variety of mechanisms.  The HCS started in the fall of 2004, replacing UN OCHA, the UN agency mandated to lead humanitarian coordination. This change from OCHA to UNMIL was very acrimonious and reportedly did not involve consultations with any of the major UN agencies or NGOs. The new HCS unit faced big start-up difficulties in terms of staffing and establishing new systems.  The result was that humanitarian coordination was at a low ebb in 2004, and only in mid 2005, with the arrival of a new HCS Chief, did things begin to improve and a more effective coordination system began to be created over the following year, involving:

a) Establishing a countrywide presence.

By mid-2005 the HCS had set up five humanitarian coordination offices across the country.

b) Establishing regular meetings for key actors within and outside UNMIL.

The two main regular mechanisms for interagency coordination were Humanitarian Action Committee (HAC) meetings for UN agencies and NGOs, which include a security presentation by UNMIL and then thematic presentations on key sectors and programs. As well, HCS hosts Security Management Meetings (SMTs) between the UNMIL mission and the UN agencies on security issues and contingency planning relating to threats to stability in Liberia.

c) Establishing a Humanitarian Information Centre (HIC) to meet information coordination and management needs.

Post-2005 Coordination Mechanisms:

Under the leadership of the revitalized HCS, three key new coordination processes were introduced in Liberia with the aim of fostering more unity and coherence in the humanitarian sector.

Consolidated Appeals Process (CAP)

In 2006, the HCS organized all relevant humanitarian actors into a consultative process to put together a joint funding appeal that the UN system calls the Consolidated Appeals Process (CAP) involving key NGOs, the Red Cross and donors. The CAP is the UN’s  main tool for humanitarian coordination, strategic planning and programming,  fostering closer cooperation between host governments, donors, aid agencies, and, in particular, between NGOs, the Red Cross movement, IOM and UN agencies.[118]  While the CAP is an OCHA-led process with UN missions around the world, through personal contacts UNMIL’s HCS worked closely with OCHA headquarters personnel to put together a CAP for 2006 involving donors, the Red Cross, and many of the NGOs. More than $US 70 million was raised for urgent humanitarian needs through the 2006 CAP.  Reportedly, the CAP process “served to bring humanitarian actors and the government around the table to jointly address humanitarian issues … and NGOs perceived the process as a forum where they were on equal footing with UN agencies.” [119]

In 2007, in consultation with other humanitarian actors, the HCS decided to prepare a related document reflecting, the Common Humanitarian Action Plan (CHAP), which provides a common analysis of the context and assessment of needs, best, worse and most likely scenarios, identification of roles and responsibilities, and a clear statement of longer-term objectives and goals.[120]   The 2007 CHAP for Liberia had the specific intention of supporting the overall efforts of the Government as laid out in the iPRSP and avoiding a gap in transition from emergency to development support. [121]

The priorities agreed upon through these two strategic planning processes (CAP and CHAP) were three-fold:

  • Provide basic social services to vulnerable populations (medical care, clean water and adequate sanitation, food security and livelihood opportunities);
  • Revitalize communities to become sustainable, secure, and productive (including the provision of basic social services at the community level, IDP and refugee return, and reintegration of ex-combatants); and
  • Strengthen capacity of civil society and local authorities to support the recovery process. [122]

The Humanitarian Clusters Approach

In 2006, Liberia became one of 4 pilot countries for the new UN cluster approach to humanitarian coordination, a key element of the larger UN humanitarian reform agenda.

The approach involved creating partnerships of all stakeholders at the field level (including government) in key issue areas or clusters (water and sanitation, health, early recovery, protection, food, and camp management, for example) that represented longstanding gaps in the humanitarian response to emergencies. Each cluster was led by a UN agency and produced a cluster action plan and terms of reference, with funding channeled either through the lead agency or directly to implementing cluster partners using the overall cluster response plan as a guide.[123]  The implementation of the cluster approach in Liberia has had mixed success in the view of many, as Liberia was in a transitional phase already and the clusters relate to urgent humanitarian needs (though in Liberia the clusters focused on the gap between humanitarian and development efforts), and because 3 years into the Liberian recovery the clusters had to replace existing mechanisms.  As well, the clusters will not be long-lived. Given Liberia’s transitional status, it is expected that the cluster coordination mechanisms will be transformed into coordination mechanisms led by the government starting in 2007.

The Country Level Interagency Standing Committee (IASC)

Another new coordination mechanism set up in Liberia in this period was a country-level IASC involving UN agencies and NGOs, and mirroring the international IASC at the UN that brings together these key stakeholders on policy and operational issues. An opportunity to give this body an important role in the coordination system was presented when Liberia received US $4 million in Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) monies from UNOCHA for 2006 to fill funding gaps in their CAP. The IASC was given the role of dispersing these funds working with the cluster lead agencies.

NGO Coordination Mechanisms

As noted previously, international NGOs have been a major presence in Liberia since 2003.  Through humanitarian and development aid projects, they provide a large percentage of the country’s basic services.  There are several coordination mechanisms to facilitate coordination among NGOs.  The Management Steering Group (MSG) is a consortium for 54 international NGOs that meet regularly to share information and discuss strategy. It has a rotating chairmanship.  A group called Linnk (the Liberia NGOs Network) brings together over 200 national NGOs to coordinate policy and approaches, network and do capacity building.

UN Development Focused Planning

Independent of the coordination system led by the HCS, key common framework documents with a development focus by UN actors form another element of the coordination system. These include:

  • The UN Development Assistance Framework for Liberia (UNDAF).
  • The Common Country Assessment (CCF) initiated by the UN Country Team (comprised of field-based UN operational agencies), with UNDP a key actor in this process.

Multi-donor Trust Funds

Several multi-donor trust funds managed by UNDP Liberia are yet another way to integrate the activities of donors on key issues in recovery. These consist of the $62 million dollar DDRR Trust Fund,  the $25 million dollar Liberian Emergency Governance Fund (LEGF), and the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis, and Malaria (GFTAM) that has committed US$24 million to Liberia.

Coordination at the Subnational Level

County Support Teams (CSTs)

CSTs were established in 2006 as part of the strategy to consolidate the government’s authority outside of the capital and to provide capacity development support for the local governments.  The teams are comprised of representatives from UNMIL, the UN country team, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, county administration, Government line ministries and non-governmental institutions.

The CST concept was developed as a framework to bring the UN system under one umbrella to better support the government at the county level.  They are intended to meet the following objectives:

  • Ensure a coherent and consolidated approach to addressing county (including district and community) challenges;
  • Support the government in developing county recovery and development strategies; and
  • Build the capacity of government institutions that will increasingly take over responsibility for security, reconstruction and development.[124]

CSTs meet on a monthly basis in each of the 15 counties to develop action plans to address the needs of the county.  The teams have developed long-term capacity building strategies for the local governments and with funding from USAID, they will assist in the rehabilitation and construction of county administration buildings, while UNDP provides vehicles for the local administration heads.  The CSTs are envisioned as a hub to support the Government in promoting the recovery process at the county level and will support humanitarian action as the Humanitarian Coordination section is drawn down in 2007. Their work, however, is hampered by lack of communication, office equipment, accommodation, vehicles and good roads.[125]

The CSTs are relatively new and unproven, but are viewed as having great potential to address deficiencies in the coordination system identified in 2006, namely the lack of linkages and information flows between the county and national levels within many sectors/clusters.  Because they also monitor monthly progress towards targets and benchmarks, they have the potential to become a mechanism for monitoring and evaluation of humanitarian action, provided that there is “buy in” from NGOs and other partners.[126]

In practical terms, the CST mechanism provides a new forum for interaction and coordination with NGOs and international organizations.  The CSTs host County Assessment and Action Meetings (CAAM) monthly, bringing together local authorities, the UNCT, and NGOs to identify key issues to be addressed.  In most counties, these CAAMs have replaced the regular Humanitarian Inter-Agency Meetings.  There are reports that in some counties, the CST format has increased interaction between NGOs (especially smaller ones) and local authorities.[127]

ANNEX B – Coordination Structures and Practices in Afghanistan

There are numerous formal structures for coordination involving multi-national assistance actors, donors and various levels of government in Afghanistan.  Some participants felt there were, in fact, too many coordination bodies and that the current system was confusing in its complexity.  Coordination efforts in Afghanistan consist of agreed frameworks and strategies at the national level involving the government, donors, and key international agencies, along with mechanisms, special units within government or agencies, pooled donor funds, regular coordination meetings and arrangements such as interagency liaisons at the national and provincial levels.  The goal of all these arrangements is to create more coherence between the efforts of multiple actors. The result of all these interactions at many different levels can be seen as the “coordination system” in Afghanistan, the main elements of which are mapped out below.  This is a preliminary map of the coordination system, and will be added to and refined through future activities with the goal of better analyzing why these dedicated mechanisms, and the system itself, is not working.

Agreed Strategies and Overarching Frameworks

Formal political agreements between international donors and the Afghan government lay out overall strategies, benchmarks and timetables for reconstruction and development and political reforms and provide overarching frameworks for the role of international assistance actors in Afghan recovery.

The Afghanistan Compact is the key baseline framework for the overall recovery and state building effort.  This agreement, signed in January 2006 at the London donor conference, commits the GOA and the international community to a shared vision of Afghanistan’s future and lays out benchmarks to be achieved by 2010 in all key areas of the reform process, and commits the international community to providing resources to enable this. US$10.2 billion in donor support was pledged at the London Conference. The Compact follows on the historic Bonn agreement, which ended with the successful parliamentary and presidential elections completed by the end of 2005.

Another key framework is the Afghan National Development Strategy (ANDS), developed jointly by the GOA and the international community, and endorsed by donors as part of the Afghanistan Compact. The ANDS lays out an explicit strategy for development and defines a blueprint for what must be done, providing a clear framework for coordinated efforts between the elected Afghan authorities and the international community.  It identifies the three key pillars for development (and 8 sectors within these):

Pillar I: Security (comprising Sector 1)
Pillar II: Governance, Rule of Law and Human Rights (comprising Sector 2)
Pillar III:
Economic and Social Development: (Sectors 3-8)
  • Sector 3: Infrastructure and Natural Resources
  • Sector 4: Education
  • Sector 5: Health
  • Sector 7: Social Protection
  • Sector 6: Agriculture and Rural Development
  • Sector 8: Economic Governance and Private Sector Development

It also identifies 5 cross-cutting themes to be worked on in all of the pillars: gender equity, counter narcotics, regional cooperation, anti-corruption, and the environment.

In terms of concrete coordination mechanisms, the ANDS has been transformed into the Consultative Group Mechanism, with a national level consultative group for each sector defined by ANDS, chaired by donors and government (representatives of the relevant national ministries), along with the UN, NATO-ISAF, and implementing agencies and NGOs.  The consultative groups meet regularly to set priorities, monitor progress and coordinate activities amongst all relevant actors.

Within Security Sector Reform, a key area of the ANDs, a lead donor system operates for each of the key areas, adopted by international donors already in 2002 to coordinate their efforts. The resulting division of labour among G8 countries is as follows[128]:

Lead Donor Area of SSR Responsibility
United States Training the Afghan National Army
France Training Officer Corps of ANA
EU / Germany* Training Afghan National Police
Japan Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR)
Italy Judicial Reform
UK Counternarcotics

In June 2007, the EU assumed responsibility for the training of Afghan police, though Germany remains the lead nation for police reform.  It is widely acknowledged, however, that despite its early reluctance to get involved in these “nation building activities”, the US has been deeply drawn into involvement in each sector, providing both large amounts of funding and personnel.

Financial mechanisms

Another mechanism for coordination between donors and the government are pooled donor funds.  These are a way to consolidate donor support to key policy areas, reduce waste and duplication, and allow the government to direct donor funds to national priorities.  The Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund and the Law and Order Trust Fund are two such pooled funding mechanisms.  The Afghan government actively lobbies for more donor assistance to be channeled through pooled funds such as these.

Dedicated Coordination Bodies and Meetings

Coordination between the government and international donors and partners in an operational sense takes place at the highest political level through several key mechanisms.

The Afghanistan Development Forum is an annual  review of development progress involving the President and senior heads of government with the development ministers from donor countries.

The Aid Effectiveness Working Group brings together government and donors every 3 months to discuss aid effectiveness, coordination, management and related issues and to try to reach agreements and debate policy issues.

The Aid Coordination Unit (ACU) within the Afghan Ministry of Finance was established with help from UNDP to support the government in increasing its influence on the management, coordination and effectiveness of international financial assistance to Afghanistan. This entity is an explicit recognition that aid coordination requires dedicated resources and capacity in the Afghan government, if the government is to realize its role in leading aid coordination. UNDP supports local staff, seconds staff on international contracts, and has funded an advanced information management system for aid coordination called the “Donor Assistance Database,” which provides regular summaries of all international assistance and monitors how it is being spent.

The PRT Executive Steering Committee. This national level committee was created in 2004 to coordinate the activities of the Provincial Reconstruction Teams across the country.  Its mandate is to provide “high-level” guidance on what activities the PRTs can do to support the Afghan government, define measures of effectiveness for the PRTs, and determine conditions for the handover to full government authority. [129] It is co-chaired by the Afghan Ministry of Interior and the ISAF commander, and meets every two to three months.  It also includes the ambassadors from the countries contributing troops to the PRTs, the Afghan Ministers of Finance and Rural Reconstruction and Development, the UN Special Representative of the Secretary General, the NATO Senior Civilian Representative, and the EU Special Representative.

PRT Working Group. A national level PRT working group, which involves military, government, and NGO representatives, convenes weekly, and has operated since 2004.

Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board.  The Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board was created in April 2006 to monitor the implementation of the Afghanistan Compact, signed two months before, and to improve coordination between donors and the Afghan government.  It meets every quarter and is co-chaired by the UN Special Representative of the Secretary General and the President’s senior economic advisor.   It consists of 28 members, including seven Afghans, representatives from the six largest donors (USA, UK, Japan, Germany, European Union, India), three neighbouring countries (Iran, Pakistan, China), and Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the Russian Federation, Canada, NATO, Coalition forces, the Netherlands, Italy, and France. The World Bank and the Asian Development Bank also sit on the Board. [130]

Policy Action Group. To address the threat of the insurgency in the southern provinces in a more coordinated manner, in June 2006, President Karzai, with then COMISAF Gen. David Richards, established a high-level task force known as the Policy Action Group (PAG).  Chaired by President Karzai, the PAG comprises four groups that address intelligence, security, strategic communication, and reconstruction and development. The PAG meets weekly to give direction on these issues and monitor an implementation team. It consists of the Afghan ministers of Defence, Internal Communications, and Education, top leaders of UNAMA, ISAF and OEF, and the ambassadors of the key troop contributing countries in the south, the UK, Canada, and the Netherlands. The PAG is seen as a key mechanism for senior people to meet once a week to discuss the big issues and give direction. (Initially this new mechanism focused on the insurgency in the South only, but evolved to address nation-wide issues.)

Both the Joint Control and Monitoring Board, and the Policy Action Group are new high-level coordination bodies created only in 2006, suggesting what stakeholders felt needed to be “fixed” in the aid coordination system 4 years into the Afghan transition.  Both these new mechanisms focus on bringing the highest level decision-makers from all sides together frequently enough to provide concrete direction on issues and problems. The creation of these new bodies is seen as a joint donor-government response to widespread popular anger with the lack of development results to date, anger that bubbled over in the Kabul riots of May 2006.

Coordination Structures between Assistance Agencies

In Kabul, where the HQ of all the major agencies are present, there are numerous coordination structures and forums involving the UN, NATO, international and Afghan NGOs.

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) plays a role in assisting the government with the coordination and monitoring of the implementation of the Afghanistan Compact and continuing to manage all UN humanitarian relief, recovery, reconstruction and development activities. UNAMA plays this role through 12 regional offices, besides its headquarters in Kabul. There is no separate OCHA office in Afghanistan and the coordination functions usually performed by OCHA have been part of the UNAMA mission, which is one of the new type of integrated missions.  An OCHA office is reportedly in the process of being established in Afghanistan.

Much UN-ISAF coordination takes place via the high-level national aid coordination bodies described above, which include the top leadership of UNAMA and ISAF.  Another mechanism is the use of embedded personnel to open up communication at the operational level between Kabul headquarters of the two organizations.

NATO maintains a Senior Civilian Representative (SCR) in Afghanistan, appointed by the NATO Secretary General on an ad hoc basis. The SCR has the explicit responsibility for coordination between ISAF, the Afghan government, and civilian agencies, like UNAMA, operating in Afghanistan. ISAF command has also typically had an NGO liaison officer based in Kabul.

The Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief (ACBAR) is the most influential NGO coordination body, of which there are several.  Based in Kabul, with 4 regional offices, it has 94 members and involves most of the major international NGOs working in the country and many of the major Afghan NGOs.  It has been vocal in promoting discussion within the NGO community on common approaches and advocacy with donors and the international community on humanitarian space, development strategies and NGO legislation, and in 2005 adopted a code of conduct for members.  It operates the Afghan NGO Security Office (ANSO) which provides up-to-date security information to NGOs on an advisory basis. ACBAR has strong links to several key NGO networks in donor countries where advocacy and policy coordination also occur, directed at donor governments. There are other primarily Afghan-NGO coordination bodies, the largest of which is ANCB, with a membership of 330 Afghan NGOs, as well as AWN and SWABAC.

Regular NGO – Military coordination meetings are held in Kabul between ISAF headquarters and the NGO community and these are a valued mechanism for communication.  Since the US takeover of ISAF command (ISAF 10) in February 2007, however, there have been no such meetings called, causing concern among NGOs about the new ISAF approach to communication with the NGO sector.

Provincial Level Structures and Mechanisms

At the provincial level, there are similarly a number of formal mechanisms for aid coordination between the international aid providers and provincial government structures.

The national level development strategy, ANDS, has been translated into a National Area Based Development Plan (NABDP) bringing together provincial governors.  Within the framework established by the NABDP, each province has a Provincial Council (the elected body at the provincial level) and Provincial Development Committee (PDC), responsible for the implementation of ANDS at the provincial level. The PDCs are chaired by the governor and involve legislative and urban leaders and government representatives responsible for each pillar of ANDS in the province.  Representatives of UNAMA, and key donor countries (including the PRT lead country), also take part.  The PDCs are seen as entities with lots of potential, but very little capacity at present. 

Provincial Coordination Centres (PCCs) are entities established to support the Provincial Security Committee, and are capable of coordinating independent security operations between the Afghan National Police, the Afghan National Army, and the National Directorate of Security, the Afghan intelligence service.   The PCCs are seen to have had significant positive effects – for example there is improved reaction time by Afghan agencies and reduced “blue on blue friction” between the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police.

Other provincial structures include the Provincial Development Office (run by UNAMA) which consists of a few paid staff to consolidate information on all the development projects in a province.  It plays a central role in coordination with the Ministry of Rural Reconstruction on the country-wide National Solidarity Program.

At the local levels, where development projects are being implemented, participatory community decision-making bodies also fill a coordination function. If such bodies function well, they should result in effective coordination amongst stakeholders and assistance providers at the grassroots level. In areas where the government’s National Solidarity Program (NSP) is being implemented, there are Community Development Councils (CDCs), participatory community structures at the village level that decide development priorities.   Also cited were District Development Committees, followed up by Village Development Committees, which are similar structures at the local level. There is also an Emergency Distribution Committee, an ad hoc group that helps distribute humanitarian aid at the village and district level.  Furthermore, in many areas there are Education Committees, where community members can participate in educational projects and processes and take some ownership in running the schools.

Among implementing agencies and NGOs there are regular provincial level NGO coordination meetings, provincial security meetings, individual meetings between PRTs and NGOs, and meetings between government and implementing agencies working in various sectors such as health and education.

The Provincial Reconstruction Teams’ role includes coordinating internationally funded development initiatives with provincial governments as well as international agencies and NGOs.  PRTs work at the provincial level with the governor, the provincial council, and the various provincial departments, which are the ministry offices at the provincial level.   As one participant noted, “PRTs can really be seen as an advisory team at the provincial level that also has some resources”.  However, some PRTs also work with district level leaders and, at times, directly with village leadership on development initiatives. There are regular agency coordination meetings at the provincial level.

ANNEX C – Workshop Agenda

Session I Taking Stock
Topic: What do we know about the practice and effectiveness of coordinated approaches to security, development and peacemaking? Presentation and discussion of background paper on key research and concepts.
Hrach Gregorian, President, Institute of World Affairs
Lara Olson, Associate, NGOs, Aid and Conflict, CMSS
Michael Lund, Consulting Program Manager, Woodrow Wilson Center Project on Leadership and Building State Capacity; Senior Associate for Conflict and Peacebuilding, Management Systems International, Inc.
Cheyanne Church, Assistant Professor of Practice, The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University & Consultant, Reflecting on Peace Practice Project, Collaborative for Development Action
Session II Organizational Perspectives
Topic: Why do we work the way we do? What are the challenges involved in cooperating with other (humanitarian, development, military or political/diplomatic) agencies?
Eric Povel, Director of the Media Operations Center, NATO HQ
Kenny Gluck, former Director of Operations, MSF Holland
Susan Finch, Policy Analyst, Peace and Security, Democratic Institutions and Conflicts, Policy Branch, Canadian International Development Agency
Ted Itani, Research Fellow, Pearson Peacekeeping Centre
Session III Afghanistan and Liberia: Background and Current Status
Afghanistan Overview: Rob Barrett, Ph.D. Candidate, CMSS
Liberia Overview: Corin Chater, Ph.D. Candidate, CMSS
Session IV Afghanistan – Lessons from the Field /Operational level
Topic: What is the relationship between security, relief, development and peacemaking work in practice in Afghanistan? What are the coordination models and practices amongst key assistance actors? What has worked? What hasn’t? Why?
Barbara J. Stapleton, Political Advisor, Office of the Special Representative of the European Union for Afghanistan
Colonel Chuck Hamel, Canadian Forces LFDTS COS (Res)
Dr. Mohammed Fareed, Deputy Director, Afghan Health Development Services, Afghanistan
Lex Kassenberg, Country Director, Care International, Afghanistan
Major Erik Liebert, Canadian Forces, former deputy PRT commander, Kandahar
Lauryn Oates, Vice-President, Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan
Session V Liberia – Lessons from the Field/Operational Level
Topic: What is the relationship between security, relief, development and peacemaking work in practice in Liberia? What are the coordination models and practices amongst key assistance actors? What has worked? What hasn’t? Why?
Dennis Johnson, Chief of Humanitarian Coordination Section, United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL)
Earnest Gaie, Country Director, ActionAid International, Liberia
Jack McCarthy, Senior Development Specialist, Crisis Mitigation & Democratic Governance, DAI Washington
Session VI Lessons from the HQ/planning level
Topic: How does the HQ of the various agencies understand the security-development-peacemaking link? What assumptions and strategies lie behind the policies of greater coordination that are adopted? What factors influence, support or block efforts to work in closer cooperation with other assistance actors towards these goals?
Liberia Presenters:
Conmany B. Wesseh, Deputy Foreign Minister for International Cooperation and Economic Integration, Government of Liberia
Cedric de Coning, Joint Research Fellow with the African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD), South Africa and the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI)
Afghanistan Presenters:
Mark Laity, Chief, Strategic Communication, NATO
Hamid Rohilai, Adviser, Aid Coordination Unit, Ministry of Finance, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan
Colonel Mike Capstick, Fellow, CMSS, Canadian Forces (Ret)
Session VII Opportunities and Challenges
(Roundtable Discussion) Given the experience in Afghanistan and Liberia, where and when are coordinated efforts advisable? Why? Where are they best avoided and why? What does effective coordination look like?
Session VIII Identifying Principles and Options
Small groups analyze/discuss possible operational principles and options for dealing with the opportunities and challenges identified.
Session IX Recommendations, Next Steps, Closing Remarks
Analysis of small group findings, recommendations and next steps.

ANNEX D – Workshop Participant’s List

Amy Harvey, Emergency Management Policy Directorate, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada (PSEPC) Ottawa, Canada

Barbara J. Stapleton, Political Advisor, Office of the Special Representative of the European Union for Afghanistan, Kabul, Afghanistan

Captain François Caron, Information Operations Officer, Provincial Reconstruction Team Kandahar Department of National Defence, Canada CFB Valcartier, Quebec, Canada.

Cedric de Coning, Joint Research Fellow with the African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD), South Africa and the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI), Oslo, Norway.

Cheyenne Church, Assistant Professor of Practice, Institute for Human Security, the Fletcher School , Medford, Massachusetts, USA

Col. Chuck Hamel, Director Land Reserve Doctrine & Training (DLRDT), Department of National Defence, Calgary, Canada

Col. Mike Capstick (Ret’d), Fellow, Centre for Military & Strategic Studies (CMSS), University of Calgary

Col. Stephen Brent Appleton (Ret’d), President, Appleton Consulting, Inc., Calgary

Corin Chater, Ph.D. Student, Centre for Military & Strategic Studies (CMSS), University of Calgary

Dennis Johnson, Chief of Humanitarian Coordination Section, United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), Monrovia, Liberia

Dr. Hrach Gregorian,  President, Institute of World Affairs, Washington, DC, USA

Dr. Mohammed Fareed, Deputy Director, Afghan Health Development Services (AHDS), Kabul, Afghanistan

Dr. W. Duffie VanBalkom, Faculty of Education, University of Calgary

Eric Cameron, Communications Advisor, Department of National Defence, Canada, National Defence Public Affairs Office, Calgary

Eric Povel, Director, Media Operations Center, North Atlantic Treaty Organization HQ, Brussels, Belgium

Ernest Gaie, Country Director, ActionAid International Liberia, Monrovia, Liberia

Fergus Watt, Chair, Peace Operations Working Group, Canadian Peacebuilding Coordinating Committee; Executive Director World Federalists Movement – Canada, Ottawa, Canada

Hamid Rohilai, Aid Coordination Advisor, Ministry of Finance, Government of Afghanistan

Hon. Conmany B. Wesseh, Deputy Foreign Minister for International Cooperation and Economic Integration, Government of Liberia

Jack McCarthy, Senior Development Specialist Crisis Mitigation & Democratic Governance, DAI Washington, USA

Kenny Gluck, former Operations Director, Médicins Sans Frontiers Holland

Lara Olson, Associate, Centre for Military and Strategic Studies (CMSS), University of Calgary

Lauryn Oates, Vice-President, Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan, Vancouver, Canada

Lex Kassenberg, Country Director, CARE International in Afghanistan, Kabul, Afghanistan

Major Erik Liebert, Regimental Major, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, Department of National Defence, Edmonton, Canada.Mark Laity, Chief, StratComs, North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Mons, Belgium

Michael Lund, Consulting Program Manager, Woodrow Wilson Center Project on Leadership and Building State Capacity; Senior Associate for Conflict and Peacebuilding, Management Systems International, Inc., Washington, D.C. USA

Nancy Pearson Mackie, Events Coordinator, Centre for Military and Strategic Studies (CMSS), University of Calgary

Normand Tremblay, Civilian Military Cooperation Operator, Department of National Defence, CFB Valcartier, Québec, Canada

Rada Howe, International Development Research Officer, International Centre, University of Calgary

Rob Barrett, PhD Student, Centre for Military & Strategic Studies (CMSS), University of Calgary

Sergeant Jonathan Augur, Civilian-Military Cooperation, Provincial Reconstruction Team Kandahar, Canadian Forces, CFB Valcartier, Quebec, Canada

Steve Cornish, Policy Advisor, CARE Canada, Ottawa, Canada

Susan Finch, Policy Analyst, Peace and Security, Democratic Institutions and Conflicts, Policy Branch, Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), Gatineau, Quebec, Canada

Ted Itani, Pearson Peacekeeping Centre, Canada, Ottawa, Canada

Valerie Yankey-Wayne, Ph.D. Student, Centre for Military and Strategic Studies (CMSS), University of Calgary

ANNEX E – Glossary of Terms

3-Ds Diplomacy, Defence and Development
ACBAR Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief
ACCORD African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes
ADZ Afghan Development Zones
ANA Afghan National Army
ANDS Afghan National Development Strategy
ANP Afghan National Police
ANSO Afghan NGO Security Office
CAAM Country Assessment and Action Meetings
CAP Consolidated Appeals Process
CBRP Community Based Recovery Program
CCF Common Country Assessment
CDC Community Development Council
CERF Commander’s Emergency Response Fund
CF Canadian Forces
CGHN Consultative Group on Health and Nutrition
CHAP Common Humanitarian Action Plan
CIDA Canadian International Development Agency
CIMIC Civil-Military Cooperation
CMCoord Civil-Military Coordination
CMO Civil-Military Operations
CMSS Centre for Military and Strategic Studies
COMISAF Commander International Security Assistance Force
CST Country Support Team
DAC Development Assistance Committee
DDR Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration
DFAIT Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (Canada)
DND Department of National Defence (Canada)
DNS National Directorate of Security (Afghanistan)
DRC Democratic Republic of Congo
DSRSG Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General
ECHO European Community Humanitarian Office
ECOWAS Economic Community of West African States
EU European Union
FAO Food and Agriculture Organization
GFTAM Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria
GOA Government of Afghanistan
GWOT Global War on Terrorism
HAC Humanitarian Action Committee
HCS Humanitarian Coordination Section
HIC Humanitarian Information Centre
HIV Human Immunodeficiency Virus
HQ Headquarters
IASC Interagency Standing Committee
ICF IDP Consultative Forum
ICRC International Committee of the Red Cross
IDP Internally Displaced Persons
IFI International Financial Institutions
IGO Inter-Governmental Organization
INGO International Non-Governmental Organization
iPRSP Interim Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers
ISAC Interagency Standing Committee
ISAF International Security Assistance Force
IWA Institute of World Affairs
LEGF Liberian Emergency Governance Fund
Linnk Liberia NGO Network
LRDC Liberia Reconstruction and Development Committee
LRRRC Liberian Refugee Repatriation and Resettlement Commission
MSF Médecins Sans Frontières
MSG Management Steering Group (Liberia)
NABDP National Area Based Development Plan
NATO North Atlantic Treaty Organization
NCDDRR National Commission for Disarmament, Demobilization, Rehabilitation and Reintegration
NGO Non-governmental organization
NSP National Solidarity Program
NTGL National Transitional Government of Liberia
OCHA Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
OECD Organization for Economics Cooperation and Development
OEF Operation Enduring Freedom
OSCE Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe
PAG Policy Action Group
PDC Provincial Development Committee (Afghanistan)
POM Peace Operations Monitor
PRSP Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers
PRT Provincial Reconstruction Team
PSEPC Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada
RIMCO RFTF Implementation and Monitoring Committee
RFTF Results-Focused Transition Framework
SMT Security Management Meetings
SRSG Special Representative of the Secretary General
SS Security Sector
SSR Security Sector Reform
TRC Truth and Reconciliation Commission
UN United Nations
UNAMA United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan
UNAMIL United Nations Observers Mission in Liberia
UNMIL United Nations Mission in Liberia
UNCT United National Country Team
UNDAF United Nations Development Assistance Framework for Liberia
UNDP United Nations Development Programme
UNHCR United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
UNICEF United Nations Children’s Fund
UNMIL United Nations Mission in Liberia
UNPOL United Nations Police Mission
USAID United States Agency for International Development
WHO World Health Organization


[1] Generous financial support for the workshop was provided by the Centre for Military and Strategic Studies, the Institute of World Affairs, the Canadian International Development Agency’s (CIDA) Conference Secretariat, the Department of National Defence’s Security and Defence Forum, NATO’s Public Diplomacy Division, and the Faculty of Social Sciences, the International Centre, and the Political Science Department of the University of Calgary.  As well, many participating agencies covered the time and costs of their personnel.  Though the findings are based on the experience and creative insights shared by workshop participants, responsibility for the conclusions presented here rests exclusively with the authors – Lara Olson and Hrach Gregorian, Co-Directors, The Peacebuilding, Development and Security Program.

[2] The organizers would like to thank CMSS graduate students Corin Chater, Rob Barrett, Valerie Yankey-Wayne, Kris Kotarski, Clayton Dennison, and Royal Roads University practicum student Cody Woitas for invaluable assistance in planning, organizing and hosting this event.  We would also like to acknowledge the very helpful contributions of an informal advisory group that provided expert advice on the design of the workshop and the state of the field.  This advisory group consisted of: Professor David F. Davis, Director, Peace Operations Policy Program, George Mason University, Dr. Allison Frendak-Blume, Academic Director, Peace Operations Policy Program, George Mason University, Dr. Roland Paris, Associate Professor, Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, University of Ottawa, and Fergus Watt, Chair, Peace Operations Working Group, Canadian Peacebuilding Coordinating Committee.

[3] Patrick, Stewart and Kaysie Brown, Greater than the Sum of its Parts? Assessing “Whole of Government” Approaches to Fragile States, (New York: International Peace Academy, 2007).

[4] Centre on International Cooperation, Annual Review of Global Peace Operations, 2006, 6.

[5] Michael Lund, What Kind of Peace is being Built? Assessing the Record of Post-Conflict Peacebuilding, Charting Future Directions,  Ottawa: International Development Research Centre, January 2003.

[6] The term peacebuilding is used in different ways by different researchers, governments and practitioners. For some, it refers to the overall engagement of the international community in a given country to consolidate peace: elections, economic liberalization, security reform, governance, development, human rights assistance, etc. For others, peacebuilding is a particular kind of programming engaging people in a range of activities that have the explicit aim of fostering peaceful relations.

[7] Dan Smith, Towards a Strategic Framework for Peacebuilding: Getting their Act Together. Overview report of the Joint Utstein Study of Peacebuilding. Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, April 2004.  Also, Mary B. Anderson and Lara Olson, Confronting War: Critical Lessons for Peace Practitioners, (Cambridge, MA: Collaborative for Development Action, 2002).

[8] Dan Smith, Utstein Study, 28.

[9] Espen Barth Eide and others, Report on Integrated Missions:  Practical Perspectives and Recommendations, Independent Study for the Expanded UN ECHA Core Group,(2005)., (accessed July 2007).

[10] Espen Barth Eide and others, Report on Integrated Missions, 30.

[11] United Nations General Assembly and Security Council, Report of the Panel on United Nations Peace Operations, (2000).

[12] United Nations Security Council, Comprehensive review of the whole questions of peacekeeping operations in all their aspects, A/55/305 – S/2000/809, 2000, Executive Summary viii .

[13] UN General Assembly Resolution A/RES/60/180, December 30, 2005.  The Peacebuilding Commission, (accessed 15 May 2007)

[14] United Nations Peacebuilding Commission, PBC/1/OC/12, June 4, 2007, Provisional Guidelines for the participation of civil society in the meetings of the Peacebuilding Commission, (accessed 20 September 2007).

[15]  United Nations General Assembly Resolution A/RES/60/180.

[16] We are grateful to Fergus Watt, Executive Director of the World Federalist Movement -Canada, and Chair of the Peace Operations Working Group of the Canadian Peacebuilding Coordinating Committee for these insights, based on his research on CSO participation modalities in the UN Peacebuilding Commission.

[17] “Delivering as One”,  United Nations Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on UN System-wide Coherence in the Areas of Development, Humanitarian Assistance, and the Environment.  9 November 2006 , NY. (accessed September 6, 2007)

[18] One UN Pilots/ Joint Office, United Nations Development Group. (accessed September 6, 2007).

[19] Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Senior Level Forum on Development Effectiveness in Fragile States – Background papers, 13-14 January, 2005.

[20] Dan Smith, Utstein Study, 2004.

[21] Dan Smith, Utstein Study, 47

[22] Dan Smith, Utstein Study, 10.

[23] OECD, Conflict, Peace and Development Co-operation on the Threshold of the 21st Century, 1997, The DAC Guidelines: Helping Prevent Violent Conflict, 2001.

[24] OECD, Principles for Good International Engagement in Fragile States, April 2005.

[25] Canada’s International Policy Statement, A Role of Pride and Influence in the World,, April 9, 2005.

[26] Patrick and Brown, Greater than the Sum of Its Parts? 2007, 69.

[27] Patrick and Brown, Sum of Its Parts? 72-75.

[28] Patrick and Brown, Sum of Its Parts? 55.

[29] Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, Whole of government approaches to fragile states, DAC Guidelines and Reference series: A DAC Reference Document, 2006.

[30] Smith, Dan, Utstein Study.

[31] Stoddard, Abby et al, Room to Manoeuvre, 8-9.

[32] Smith, Dan, Utstein Study, 58.

[33] Lund, M, “Why This Topic Matters – The Quest for Coherence in Countries at Risk of Conflict,” Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars: Occasional Paper Series, Issue 2, December 2006,.3.

[34] Chetan Kumar, “What really works in Preventing and Rebuilding Failed States?”  Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars: Occasional Paper Series, Issue 2, December 2006, 7.

[35] World Bank, “Service Delivery and Governance at the Sub-National Level in Afghanistan”, July, 2007.,,contentMDK:21414488~pagePK:146736~piPK:146830~theSitePK:223547,00.html (accessed September 2, 2007)

[36] Patrick and Brown, Greater than the Sum of Its Parts? 18.

[37] Bruce D Jones, “The changing role of the UN in protracted crises,” HPG Research Briefing, Number 17, July 2004.

[38] Necla Tschirgi, International Peace Academy (IPA), Security and Development Policies: Untangling the Relationship, 2005, 5.

[39] Tschirgi, Untangling the Relationship, 12-13.

[40] Roland Paris, “Understanding The ‘Coordination Problem’ In Post War State-Building,” Research Partnership on Postwar State-building  (RPPS),, 10.

[41] Abby Stoddard and Adele Harmer, Room to Manoeuvre: Challenges of Linking Humanitarian Action and Post-Conflict Recovery in the New Global Security Environment, United Nations Development Programme Human Development Report Office, Occasional Paper, 2005,  10.

[42] Cedric de Coning, “Civil-Military Coordination and UN Peacebuilding Operations,” The Durban Accord,, 12.

[43] de Coning, “Civil-Military Coordination”, 12.

[44] See: John Burton,  Conflict: Basic Human Needs, (New York: St. Martins Press, 1990).

[45] Anderson and Olson, Confronting War.

[46] Peter Woodrow, “Theories of Change/ Theories of Peacebuilding”, Reflecting on Peace Practice Project Working Paper, 2006, 5.

[47] Woodrow, “Theories of Change”, 1.

[48] Tschirgi,“Untangling the Relationship,” 12-13.

[49] de Coning, “Civil-Military Coordination,” 6.

[50] Georg Frerks and Bart Klem, Stefan van Laar and Marleen van Klingeren, Principles and Pragmatism Civil- Military Action in Afghanistan and Liberia. Study commissioned by Cordaid, May 2006, 35.

[51] Abby Stoddard and others, Room to Manoeuvre, 13.

[52] Bruce D. Jones, “The UN’s Evolving Role in Peace and Security: Background Note,”

[53] Abby Stoddard and others, Room to Manoeuvre, 5.

[54] Lara Olson, “Fighting For Humanitarian Space: NGOS In Afghanistan,” Journal of Military and Strategic Studies, 9:1 (2006), 20.

[55] Espen Barth Eide and others, Report on Integrated Missions, 18

[57] Ibid., 36.

[58]  This is a high benchmark but one that different academic and practitioner research has proposed.  See Roland Paris, At War’s End: Building Peace after Civil Conflict. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004).: also Anderson and Olson, Confronting War and the notion of contributions to “Peace Writ Large” as the criteria for assessing the impact of peace-related programs.

[59] Patrick and Brown, Greater than the Sum of Its Parts? 131.

[60]  Ibid., 136.

[61] Smith, Dan, Utstein Study.

[62] OECD, Whole of Government Approaches, 2006.

[63]Ibid., 14

[64] Espen Barth Eide and others, Report on Integrated Missions, 10.

[65] Espen Barth Eide and others, Report on Integrated Missions, 10.

[66]  Government of Liberia, CHAP,  2007, 27

[67]United Nations Security Council, Fourteenth progress report of the Secretary General on the United Nations Mission in Liberia, S/2007/151, 4.

[68] United Nations Development Programme, National Human Development Report, Liberia, 2006.

[69] Government of Liberia, CHAP,  2007, 27

[70] UNDP, Liberia Annual Report 2005, 4.

[71] Government of Liberia, CHAP, 2007, 8.

[72] Government of Liberia, CHAP, 2007, 4.

[73]  Ibid.,  1.

[74] Government of Liberia, CHAP, 2007, 14.

[75]Ibid., 31.


[77]Ibid., 81.

[78] UNSC,  Fourteenth progress report,  7.

[79]Ibid., 5.

[80]Ibid., 6.

[81]Ibid., 10.

[82]Ibid., 10.

[83] Government of Liberia, CHAP, 2007, 31.

[84] Lewis Sida, “Challenges to Humanitarian Space: A review of humanitarian issues related to the UN integrated mission in Liberia and to the relationship between humanitarian and military actors in Liberia”, April 2005.  A Study Commissioned by the Monitoring and Steering Group (MSG). (accessed Feb. 2007)

[85] UNDP in Liberia,, (accessed June 6, 2007).

[86] Government of Liberia, CHAP, 2007,  77.

[87]Ibid., 1.

[88] Government of Liberia, CHAP,  2007, 81.

[89]  Ibid.,  81.

[90] Government of Liberia, CHAP, 2007, 4.

[91] Government of Liberia, CHAP, 2007, 6

[92] IASC Interim Self-Assessment of the Implementation of the Cluster Approach in the Field, 15-17 November, 2006,, (accessed online June 11, 2007).

[93] UNDP, Liberia Annual Report 2005, 12.

[94] UNDP, Liberia Annual Report 2005, 16.

[95]Ibid., 17.

[96] See Alexander Costy, “The Dilemma of Humanitarianism in the Post-Taliban Transition,” and  Nicholas Leader and Mohammed Haneef Atmar, “Political Projects: Reform, Aid, and the State in Afghanistan,”  In Nation-Building Unraveled? Aid, Peace and Justice in Afghanistan, Antonio Donini, Norah Niland, and Karin Wermester (eds).  Bloomfield, CT: Kumarian Press, 2004.

[97] Whiting, Alex, CRISIS PROFILE: Afghanistan still the ‘sick man’ of Asia, Reuters Alertnet, June 20, 2005.,  (All statistics from here except where otherwise noted.)

[98] Terms of Reference for CFC and ISAF PRTs in Afghanistan adopted by the PRT Executive Steering Committee 27 January 2005.

[99] Many PRTs are restricted in their operations by ‘national caveats’ ruling out certain types of engagement, particularly offensive military operations.

[100] The Government of Afghanistan.  Afghan Donor Assistance Database.

[101] Barnett Rubin, Humayun Hamidzada and Abby Stoddard,  Afghanistan 2005 and Beyond: Prospects for Improved Stability Reference Document,  Clingendael Institute, 2005, 1.

[102]Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, The Paris Declaration,,2340,en_2649_3236398_35401554_1_1_1_1,00.html (accessed June 2007)

[103] Relief and Development Efforts, Peace Operations Monitor,, access online May 2007.

[104] World Bank, “Service Delivery and Governance at the Sub-National Level in Afghanistan,” July, 2007.

[105]  Operation Medusa was a major battle in Kandahar province in the summer of 2006 between Canadian Forces and the Taliban.

[106] Espen Barth Eide and others, Report on Integrated Missions,  10

[107] World Bank, “Service Delivery and Governance at the Sub-National Level in Afghanistan,” July, 2007, 29.

[108] See the following works for these concepts: Cedric de Coning, “Integrated Missions, Coherence, Coordination and Complex  Peacebuilding Systems,” paper contributed to the Public  Administration meets Peacebuilding: Peace Operations as Political and  Managerial Challenges Conference, University of Konstanz, Germany,15-16 June 2007; Antonia Handler Chayes and Abram Chayes, Planning for Intervention: International Cooperation in Conflict Management  (The Hague: Kluwer Law International, 1999); Robert Ricigliano, “Networks of Effective Action: Implementing an Integrated Approach to Peacebuilding,” Security Dialogue 34 (2003).

[109] Susan Allen Nan. “Intervention Coordination.” Intractable Conflict Knowledge Base. 2003. (accessed June 2007)

[110] Chetan Kumar, “What really works in Preventing and Rebuilding Failed States?”  Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars: Occasional Paper Series, Issue 2, December 2006, 7.

[111] Antonio Donini, Larry Minear, Ian Smillie, Ted van Baarda and Anthony C. Welch.  Mapping the Security Environment: Understanding the Perceptions of Local Communities, Peace Support Operations and Assistance Agencies, Feinstein International Famine Centre, June 2005, (accessed Jan. 2007): also Diana Chigas, Has Peacebuilding Made a Difference in Kosovo?  (Cambridge, MA:  CDA Collaborative Learning Projects, July 2006). (accessed February 2007).

[112] Robert Ricigliano, “Networks of Effective Action: Implementing an Integrated Approach to Peacebuilding,” Security Dialogue 34 (2003).

[113] United Nations Development Programme, Liberia Annual Report 2005,,  12. (accessed June 2007)

[114] UNDP, Liberia, (accessed June 6, 2007).

[115] IMF, PRSP, (accessed online June 15, 2007).

[116] IMF, PRSP.

[117] Government of Liberia, Interim Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper, December 2006.

[118]  Humanitarian Appeal, Consolidated Appeals Process,, (accessed June 6, 2007)

[119] Government of Liberia, Common Humanitarian Action Plan, 2007,.5.

[120] Humanitarian Appeal, Consolidated Appeals Process.

[121] Government of Liberia, Common Humanitarian Action Plan, 2007,  3.

[122]Ibid., 79-81.

[123]  Ibid., 1.

[124] Government of Liberia, Common Humanitarian Action Plan, 2007,  81.

[125] United Nations Security Council. Fourteenth progress report of the Secretary General on the United Nations Mission in Liberia, S/2007/151,.8.

[126] Government of Liberia, Common Humanitarian Action Plan, 2007, 81.

[127]  Ibid., 81.

[128] Barnett R. Rubin, Humayan Hamidzada, Abby Stoddard, “Afghanistan 2005 and Beyond: Prospects for Improved Stability Reference Document.” Clingendael Institute (April 2005): 58.  (accessed July 2007)

[129] “Coordination Arrangements section, Peace Operations Monitor Afghanistan.”  (accessed online May 2007)

[130]  (accessed May 2, 2007)