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Improving civil-military relations

The British Red Cross chairs the neutral NGO-Military Contact Group (NMCG) for
non-governmental organisations (NGOs),
the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, the British Armed Forces and the British Government.

The aim is to improve communication and understanding between the different organisations to improve humanitarian response.

The group has more than 70 members and has connections with the UN Humanitarian Civil-Military Co-ordination Consultative Group. It meets quarterly to discuss current humanitarian operations, policy and doctrine.

Since 2000 the NMCG has addressed some of the major humanitarian operations and dilemmas of our times, such as humanitarian space in Iraq, stabilisation operations in Afghanistan, civil-military co-ordination in Haiti, and civilian protection in Syria.


In February 2015, NMCG held its third international conference, hosted by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office at Lancaster House. Attended by some 160 colleagues from a wide range of organisations and professions, the theme was ‘Challenge and innovation: civil-military relations in a changing world’.

Some key points from the discussion were:

  • The importance of a context-specific approach to any humanitarian crisis that reflects the range of actors and issues involved, particularly conflict dynamics.
  • Enhanced scientific-military-civilian humanitarian discussions about innovation, managing risk, and planning, could have real benefits for humanitarian response, but these discussions may have to be conducted well away from sensitive contexts.
  • Innovations must focus on addressing humanitarian needs and real-life problems, not just fitting a product to a situation.
  • Successful organisations foster institutional and individual courage. The attributes of organisations which allow for this or facilitate this kind of approach could be shared.
  • More frank discussions about the capacity of UK and other militaries to respond to biological threats or other major crises such as Ebola would be useful.

Read the summary notes, reports and speeches

You can download the summary note and conclusions from all our conferences below.

Conference summary notes from 2015.

Final summary notes from the 2011 NGO-military contact group conference (PDF). The theme was ‘Civil-military relations in natural disasters: new developments from the field’.

2011 keynote speech by Dr Hugo Slim (PDF).

Paper on civil-military relations in the 2010 Pakistan floods (PDF).

Report from the 2009 NGO-military contact Group conference (PDF), which addressed the topic of stabilisation and civil-military relations to humanitarian response. 

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