chapter  18
Military and humanitarian actors
ByKarsten Friis
Pages 13

How to understand the nature and intensity of the tensions between the military and the humanitarians? Are they a result of the nature and roles of the two sets of actors, or of the operational context? Some have highlighted the internal cultural and national diff erences between these strange bedfellows (Winslow 2005, Ruff a and Vennesson, 2014) – they may have little in common except being foreign interveners in the same territory. Humanitarians may see the military as composed of hierarchically rigid, right-wing, gung-ho men who seek quick fi xes and lack cultural competence. The military, on the other hand, may regard humanitarians as naïve, idealistic peaceniks, operating in a chaotic myriad of loosely connected NGOs, with scant real impact. While such prejudices probably explain some of the challenges, they cannot explain why such confl icts seem to be increasing. Both the military and the humanitarians have proliferated in numbers, missions and tasks (Berdal and Economides 2007; Barnett 2011), perhaps making overlap and clashes more or less unavoidable. But this cannot help us to understand why these clashes diff er in intensity from intervention to intervention, place to place. One argument off ered is that the more volatile the security situation, the more strained the relationship tends to be (Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) 2008: 9). This makes sense, but is rather simplistic and does not take all variations into account.