September 8, 2010
The comprehensive approach, aiming at coordinating all the actors, civil and military, on a theatre of operations is an extraordinary complex issue. Have it become a reality and have the humanitarian aid, the international organizations, the EU, the various contingents and so on and so forth working even not together, but at least coordinated seems to me almost impossible. May be am I wrong, or at least I hope that I am wrong.
And I would not deny the capacity and will of some organizations to cooperate individually with the different actors present on the field. As well I would not deny the efforts of thousands people to coordinate their work on the field so that a minimum of dialogue facilitates an optimization of the money spent there. However, I still have some doubts on the global efficiency of the concept, even if it is really a splendid idea.
As the EU spends every year hundreds of millions of Euros on such actions, having a closer look at the way comprehensive approach can work on a daily basis can be of some interest. I will not provide you with some figures, as most of them are scattered between the various EU agencies in a multitude of programs.
Well, in fact, when dealing with comprehensive approach we face two different, even opposite logics, even three logics. I make an attempt to describe them shortly.
-The one I know the best is the military logic. Their action on the ground is coordinated as much as possible and they permanently strive sticking to a commonly agreed area of operations, in which they fulfil their tasks in an environment intrinsically organized and synchronized. Their presence is basically motivated by political interests, which are not always directly bound to their presence in this very country. Very often the coalition members do not all have the same goals. Of course, coordination does not always work smoothly, but at least, everybody does its best to.
-The NGOs, per se, are initially based on personal initiatives, in opposition to the governmental ones and are jealous of their independence, which belongs to their fundamental code of ethics. They accept, in some extend, and on a voluntary basis, some coordination, but in no way they would renounce to their freedom of action. Some of them are very professional, some other ones very amateur; however all those NGO members are characterized by a profound and sincere faith in their role of modern crusader, whose task is to help. Anyway, on major theatres of operation, you will find a multitude of them, and you will never get a clear overview of their action. Some of them are directly and partly financed by governments or local authorities, charities of the country they originate, which do not want to start a dispute at national level, being accused of neglecting the South or areas torn by war. As well we can meet those extremely professional and internationalized NGOs, which have a large mobilization power and make use of it to raise money and protect their independence.
-The international organizations pursue political goals, as they are, at least initially, inspired by the states, which manage them. Their presence may be of various nature, military, aid to development, reconstruction, etc. Usually they suffer (like the military) from heavy structures, because of the extensive coordination they need to work properly. In case of strong leadership, like the US in NATO, their way of operating is largely inspired by the leading party. In contrary, in some other organizations, a weak leadership has lead those organizations to develop their own way, made of balanced positions between the various interests of their members, so that they please nobody and are inclined to take positions that nobody can heavily protest against.
-Then one will find all the bi-lateral or multilateral cooperation programs, official or unofficial, which do not respond to an international organization.
However, in this very diverse environment, there is one common point: initially, all this is financed by the same taxpayer. Then the policies diverge.
Therefore in such a complex environment, you often find organizations or agencies initially financed by the same persons, not coordinated on the field, sometimes competing, or even disparaging each other.
Can we improve the situation? In short term, I do not believe so: this whole system has become so complex that nobody will dare start tackling the issue, as it should be equivalent to open a Pandora box. As well, I do not think our countries and societies able to alleviate our the inner contradictions, still impregnated by the Judaeo-Christian ideal of charity (I say still because of the decreasing influence of religion in our social organization), independently of any political consideration, while they simultaneously want a strong commitment of the troop to protect their home country, their economies, supply roads and simply their peace at home.
Therefore, such coordination could only be initiated from the top level decision makers, and then would probably unfold along the years. That is why I would advocate a civil-military structure at European level, to start looking at the method to decrease the discrepancies between those contradictory interests, although I do not believe that a magic stick will be sufficient to suddenly make of comprehensive approach a coherent and conclusive system. This can be only a permanent effort, aiming, at the best, at limiting the contradictions in European policies.Author : f.