The Grey Zone: Civil-military Coordination and Cooperation in Disaster Management

Keywords: Emergency managment, coordination, military

In a time of terror, war and global organized crime the lines between intentional and non-intentional disasters become ever more blurred. In Denmark the use of military force to counter gangs on the streets of Copenhagen is currently being discussed. Mass migration into Europe requires border control and refugee management on unprecedented levels that often cannot be solved without assistance from defense agencies. And managing disasters in remote areas such as the Arctic is impossible for civil authorities – only the military has the equipment, the experience and the assets needed to operate in such extreme environments. This raises a number of issues that need to be addressed by research: What are the main pitfalls in civil-military cooperation in disaster management? How can military organizations with strict, formal hierarchies and Command & Control mindsets join forces with civil authorities that utilize different forms of leadership and sense-making in ways that are beneficial to both? And what are the social, cultural, political and legal implications of tighter integration of civil and military entities? What can be gained from approaching civil and military aid operations as collaborating entities with shared roles and coping strategies? How are civil and military operations alike and does understanding our shared roles and goals enhance efforts to collaborate and deliver aid? What factors will enable both entities – civil and military – to operate as a unified first responder and watchdog? In this panel we aim at investigating the “Grey Zone” that lies between areas of practice that are either clearly civilian (fire/rescue, police, health etc.) or military (national security, power projection etc.). This zone is home to para-military border protection, coast guard duties, military support operations for civil authorities, security tasks for humanitarian workers and many other practices that defy the classic civil-military dichotomy.

Panel chairs

Rasmus Dahlberg [corresponding panel chair]
Rasmus Dahlberg is an Assistant Professor at the Royal Danish Defense College a co-founding member of the Copenhagen Center for Disaster Research (COPE) at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark. He holds a MA in History and defends Oct 25 2017 his PhD in disaster research, co-sponsored by the Danish Emergency Management Agency (DEMA), on notions of risk and resilience in contemporary disaster and emergency management. He is currently researching the Royal Danish Navy’s conduct of civil duties from historical and Nordic comparative angles. Contact info:

Per Lægreid
Per Lægreid is a Professor at the Department of Administration and Organization Theory at the University of Bergen, Norway. His work has focused on management in and regulation of the public sector, and he has a special interest in coordination challenges in the military-police interface.

Tara Zapp
Tara Zapp is an Adjunct Professor and teaches disaster management at the Tulane University’s Disaster Resilience Leadership Academy. She has extensive experience from the field with co-operation between humanitarian organizations and military forces.  Zapp holds a Master’s of Science in Policy and Non-Profit Management from The New School University and has 7 years of experience working with children and family services affected by disaster. Working with UNHCR, IRC, the European Commission, and local NGOs, she has led and managed education and child protection programs to families in Somalia, Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Bosnia, and Louisiana.