Coping with Culture

Director’s Intro Speech

“Towards a Holistic Approach to Culture”

Civil-Military Cooperation Centre of Excellence – A Catalyst for holistic change and integration of the civil and military aspects of Cross-Cultural Competence – A key for Operational Relevance in Civil-Military Interaction and interoperability in Civil-Military Cooperation

The overall purpose of every military mission is “operational success” and a large part of that operational success is instrumental on how well we respond to the challenges of culture in all dimensions of its diversity and complexity. For a professional soldier culture has become much more “operationally relevant” than initially anticipated when operational paradigms changed from classical conventional warfare to the military`s engagement in complex emergencies and conflicts.

This challenge in military design is the main focus of work effort at the Civil-Military Co-operation Centre of Excellence (CCOE). A thorough understanding of civil actors, their principles, procedures, mindset, and culture is essential in advising its Sponsoring Nations, NATO and other international organisations on how to implement effective civil-military interaction; conversely offering opportunities to civil actors to learn and to understand the military. The CCOE working in conjunction with the civilian community can assist in providing clarity in a holistic view of culture as it applies to safeguarding operational success.

For the CCOE it is analytically relevant in the following dimensions:

  • It addresses the CIMIC operational environment in its entirety; both civil and military. This encompasses the functional relations to staff procedures and branches in Human Intelligence, Psychological Operations, Information Operations or nowadays Information Activities. Holistic in this context means the integration in CIMIC doctrinal and procedural foundations for the provision of assessments of the operational factor in the civilian environment. The integration of the civil dimension into the planning and conduct of operations has to lead to bringing culture to the heart of the decision making process, not an esoteric sideline for specialists. The CCOE acts as a catalyst for a comprehensive change of mindset and attitudes, it presents a toolbox for generalists and specialists alike. This position is highly justified as the CCOE has evolved into the centre stage of the procedural NATO CIMIC documental hierarchy – from Policy down to Tactics, Techniques and Procedures – manifested in its position as the NATO custodian for the NATO CIMIC Doctrine. Based on this authority for the NATO CIMIC Doctrine the CCOE implements Civil-Military Interaction and CIMIC foundations in the horizontal context of the entire doctrinal hierarchy of NATO and in the vertical line of the entire functional construct for NATO´s CIMIC capability. This strand is complemented by publications fostering the application of CIMIC across the full spectrum of best practices. CCOE´s key products in the area are the CIMIC Field-Handbook and the “make sense” series based on the advanced approach for cultural competence (e.g. Rule of Law, Good Governance, Protection of Cultural Heritage, and Ecosystem Assessment).
  • From an operational point of view these challenges on culture in conflict should be best addressed in Training and Education in particular. Culture is essential in individual training as it fosters professionalism in conduct of operations. On the other hand it remains imperative to general education in order to be conscious of its pervasive character in all aspects of our operations. At the CCOE culture, both in individual training and in education, is taken very seriously. Individual training products provide soldiers with individual skill sets; and general cultural education creates awareness of its everyday operational importance. Education is the oil; training is professionalism that makes the machine run. The CCOE´s central role in Training and Education is well manifested by its position as the NATO Department Head for CMI and CIMIC Education and Training. This position is authorised by the NATO Joint Force Trainer as his process facilitator in the Requirement Definition, Design Development, Execution and Delivery of the most modern multinational Education, Individual and Collective Training available.

To adapt to a changing conflict environment and for operational success the military needs to keep the following points in mind:

  • Holistic operational integration of culture requires a systemic change management process, intra military and in the inter civil-military environment.
  • The subject of interoperability and cohesion is incremental to addressing culture throughout all phases of an operation. This is absolutely relevant to how the military is interacting with the affected population, the Host Nation authorities and its partners in a comprehensive approach.
  • Training and Education is especially important as it can be seen as the decisive factor for change. A general cross-cultural fundament must be created, adopted and implemented throughout all phases of an operation, supported by a comprehensive and concise program of collecting, editing and disseminating individual and organisational lessons learned, especially in operations.