Disasters and Conflict Zones Around the World: The Roles and Relationships of the Military and Nongovernmental Organizations

  • Ramey L. Wilson

In 2007, Dr. Wilson deployed to Afghanistan as the physician for a 600-soldier Airborne Infantry Battalion on a combat/counterinsurgency mission. During that 15-month deployment, he worked hand-in-hand and shoulder-to-shoulder with varying success with assorted NGOs, IGOs, local physicians, Afghan Ministry of Health officials, allied military forces, and the colocated Provincial Reconstruction Team. His dual duties as the unit surgeon caring for trauma and routine medical aliments of coalition military units and his job assisting in the building of the Afghan health care system as part of the counterinsurgency fight placed him at the crossroads of military and NGO interaction.

This chapter offers Dr. Wilson’s perspective on the current issues facing NGO–military interaction and his recommendations for continued improvement.

This chapter offers Dr. Wilson’s perspective on the current issues facing NGO–military interaction and his recommendations for continued improvement.

The co-location of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and military forces in areas requiring humanitarian aid, disaster assistance, or reconstruction has become a reality of the twenty-first century. During the 1990s, numerous complex emergencies, disasters, and military conflicts brought armed forces and NGOs into close proximity, increasing the frequency of interaction as they pursued their missions (Burkle 1999). Although both groups often shared the goals of effecting positive change and building capacity in response to crisis, their backgrounds, motivations, and perspectives differed radically. They tended to misunderstand each other’s goals and methods. As a result, friction arose that hindered both of them in their work (Weiss 1997).


Military Force North Atlantic Treaty Organization Civil Affair World Food Program Humanitarian Assistance 
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