Rome '08 Workshop

Working with International Organizations and NGOs 

Lieutenant General James Soligan

Allied Command - Transformation 

Lieutenant General James Soligan

W e have had a lot of discussions over the last two or three days about what needs to be done to resolve crises but I will focus most of my discussion on what is actually happening in NATO and the progress we are making. Then I will put a bit of a yardstick out there for some of the next steps that we hope to be able to accomplish. 


When I discuss a comprehensive approach, I am really focusing on the close cooperation and coordination that is needed among all the elements of the international response. That includes NATO military and NATO non-military personnel who will operate the military and government agency pieces, as well as NATO and international organizations and NGOs. My focus will be on NATO and government agencies and NATO and international organizations and NGOs, although I will also mention the way ahead, particularly at the Brussels and national levels, where change is needed in order to more easily plug into some of the non-NATO military contributions. I will look at how we are developing, implementing, and institutionalizing consultation, coordination, and planning between NATO and government agencies and between NATO and the IO/NGO community, in particular at the independent decision-making responsibilities of each. I believe it is really important to figure out how we can institutionalize the changes necessary to have separate but mutually supportive elements of this contribution as we move forward. 

Because of the political difficulties of reaching consensus in Brussels, the guidance has been to start with a bottom-up approach, then go to the field and see what you can accomplish on the comprehensive approach, and then let that trickle up—the opposite of a trickle-down strategy. It is a trickle-up strategy of going out and accomplishing things on the field.  


The cornerstone of a comprehensive approach is trust and confidence. It is really about person-to-person relationships. I have been working with Renée Acosta and Global Impact now for some 10 or 12 years. Our relationship started in EUCOM, then continued in SOUTHCOM, then continued when we worked together when I was in Korea, and now continues while I am at Allied Command Transformation. It is that type of long-term relationship, that understanding of what each body does, whether it is a military body or an NGO or an IO or a government agency, and having respect for each other’s domain that helps us work together effectively. 

A comprehensive approach has worked pretty well in the field if we look at Afghanistan in particular, at the Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs), 26 of which are in the field right now. The nations and NATO have collectively recognized the need for the military and government agencies to work together and to interact with NGOS and IOs in the field in a comprehensive way. Admiral Fitzgerald told us about the liaison monitoring teams in Kosovo and the ability of those teams to be able to not only interact with the local population but to interact with the interagency international organizations and NGOs. We have seen a senior civilian representative in Afghanistan interact with the international community and the NGOs in a way that was never done in the past. We have reached very significant milestones and have made great progress in implementing free deployment training, in which we actually bring the IOs and NGOs from Afghanistan into the training at military headquarters and have them build their relationships before deployment. In that way they gain a good understanding of the local community leaders, the IOs, and the NGOs in the theater, before they move forward. 

We have also implemented something called the civil-military overview. Recognizing the need for information sharing—for everyone to have a common picture of what is going on in Afghanistan—we have implemented a basic Web page design that receives information maintained and managed by the individual international organizations as well as ISAF. It provides commonly available information that informs each of the players about who and what and where something is going on in the theater. Recognizing the sensitivities of the NGOs and IOs to not be too closely associated with the military in some cases but also their need for a common view of what is happening, where aid is taking place, and what is going on in the PRTs, we have implemented a one-year test inside Afghanistan. Most of the people who are providing the information are from the U.N., the OSCE, and UNHCR. 


Obviously, in many cases, the challenges are ad hoc—the commander lands on the ground and says, Okay, who is here and what do we need to do? I believe that the actions that we have talked about will help minimize that situation, but we also need to institutionalize some areas of planning in order to work together more effectively. Admiral Fitzgerald mentioned the lack of agreement in the theater itself among the various organizations. I think these organizations make it work, but there is not a clear understanding, certainly at the higher levels, of roles and missions and responsibilities. NGOs in particular immediately jump to their higher headquarters and say, Can we do this? Then, because they do not have a strong relationship at the highest levels, the burden of responsibility stays on the people on the ground. 

Some organizational challenges also go along with this issue. For example, if we look at the NATO Response Force (NRF), are Provincial Reconstruction Teams part of its built-in structure? Is the Senior Civilian Representative (SCR) part of that construct? Should we really build that in, and what are the right relationships? For example, what is the right relationship between the SCR and the ISAF commander? Rather than working out these things on the ground, we need to come up with a plan for basic relationships and responsibilities ahead of time. 

We have talked about the Joint Force Command and the Senior Commander (SC) level, but here progress is not as concrete as we would like it to be. Still, we should be thinking about a comprehensive approach at this level. 


Two years ago we implemented two initiatives. The first one has actually started to have some traction, and that is embedding IO and NGO cells inside the Joint Force Command headquarters as well as inside the Senior Commander level headquarters. At SHAPE the IOs are able to participate in the planning and the day-to-day business of the JFC. We still think there is room to do this at the SC level. 

 Clearly the EU already does planning, but how would other IO organizations interface? If we look at Darfur, what interaction do they have with JFC Lisbon and how can you build that relationship to increase awareness and planning ahead of time? At ACT we would like to see the EU, for example, develop capability with ACT staff to provide common command and control interaction and network-enabled capabilities. Today, we tell each other what we did, but we do not necessarily plan together the way ahead. 

The second initiative, which we are going to reenergize in 2008, is based on conversations with some PERMREPS and General Mathis. It is the idea of having a civilian adviser who is the equivalent of a political adviser but actually is an international organization representative. This person would build the network of NGOs and IOs that would be available to the JFC and Operational Commander staffs and would interface with the international community in the field, just like a political advisor does. However, this person would also be available for training as well as for pre-planning and for building permanent relationships between international organizations and NATO. We had a very interesting discussion about this inside Brussels and we are going to introduce it again, because we believe the idea has proven itself in testing and has the ability to help us progress. 


At headquarters in Brussels and/or at national levels, clearly there has been some progress. We have looked at the different nations; we have looked at all the government approaches. The U.K has the PSRU, Canada has Stabilization and Reconstruction Teams (START), and the U.S. has the State Department office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization (S/CRS), but all of these have room for improvement. One of the key issues is how to bring the whole government approach to a NATO-led operation. A key challenge is not dealing with the military and all the government agencies but how to plan ahead of time so that all the nations can bring all of their power. 

Another issue is who will actually lead a comprehensive approach in theater. Most people I talked to about this naturally defer to the United Nations. They say that it should either be the host nation government and/or the United Nations that leads a comprehensive approach. The U.N., however, does not see itself in that role. Jane Lute said that the United Nations will play a role, but only after the political parties have achieved some agreement that they in fact want the United Nations and the international community there, which, as you know, is not always the first step of peacekeeping. So I think one of the earliest and most important steps we need to take is to have an international community discussion about whether there is a comprehensive approach. Then we need to determine the framework and who should lead it. 


To build trust and confidence, we need ongoing dialogue inside Brussels and inside country capitals about what a comprehensive approach should look like. Then we need to design the structures and processes to create it. We can start out with the military in the lead, and then the United Nations can pass a resolution to appoint a leader of the comprehensive approach. In summary, I would say that three steps need to be taken: 

  • Build trust and confidence. The first is to recognize that the foundation for building success is trust and confidence. Trust and confidence are achieved through constant interaction, planning together, operating together, and being part of each other’s staffs. The way you become an alliance is to put everybody together. We need to put people together and interact effectively. 
  • Determine which organization is responsible for coordination. The second step is to determine who would be responsible for coordinating— the United Nations, the host nation, the government—and then allow the players to coordinate under that leadership and institutionalize change. 
  • Sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the U.N. The third step is to move forward on an agreement in the Fall of 2008 by signing a Memorandum of Understanding with the United Nations. 
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