Context

Natural disasters pose dire threats to individuals and communities, often straining state capacity and forcing states to redirect resources to humanitarian response. In fragile contexts, disasters can strain social and political systems to the breaking point, increasing the risk of conflict or humanitarian crises. At the same time, readiness for and response to such emergencies can enhance cooperation and promote peace within and between countries. Preparing for and responding to climate-related emergencies are thus important aspects within the climate and security nexus, along with the need to prepare for mitigation, adaptation, and resilience.

National militaries increasingly play a key role in areas struck by climate-related emergencies, working alongside civilian responders and often facing calls for greater involvement when civilian capacity is strained. As the frequency and severity of climate-related hazards continue to increase, more information is needed to assess current practices and potential future directions of civil-military cooperation in climate-related emergencies.

Whether the military should be involved in preparing for and responding to climate-related emergencies is a matter of considerable debate, and views vary depending upon the context, the country, the political culture, and whether the involvement is within national boundaries or beyond. This project seeks to inform this debate by addressing the need for better understanding of the nature, extent, and effectiveness of civil-military cooperation in climate-related emergencies. With rapidly escalating climate challenges, the case for working together on climate and security to protect and defend our global casa has never been greater.

Objectives

This project on Climate and Security Action through Civil-Military Cooperation in Climate-Related Emergencies (Project CASA) studies the extent to which NATO and selected non-NATO countries have engaged their national militaries in responding to climate-related emergencies. It examines trends in these responses over time, the degree to which national militaries have the resources and mechanisms needed to prepare for and respond to these emergencies, and the consequences for force composition and readiness from participation in civil protection operations. The project does so through an interdisciplinary network of experts who are working to collect, analyse, and publish data on relevant military activities and civil-military cooperation.

The project aims to provide actionable data for decision makers, stakeholders, and the wider public on how militaries are working together with civilian emergency management agencies within countries and across international borders. 

Project CASA was launched in June 2023 with initial support from the Directorate of Strategic Coordination and Outreach of the Canadian Department of Defence through its Mobilizing Insights in Defence and Security Program which aims to:

  • Respond to the need for relevant and timely advice from defence and security experts,
  • Foster the next generation of experts, 
  • Contribute to Canadians’ understanding of defence and security issues, 
  • Advance informed public conversations relating to defence and security issues, and
  • Incorporate new analysis and innovative ideas and perspectives into the conversation.

Opinions expressed by any persons engaged in the project who are external to the Government of Canada do not reflect the opinions or positions of the Government of Canada.

Methodology and Research Questions

The project explores a broad set of research questions to assess the nature, extent, and effectiveness of military involvement in climate-related emergencies and to identify good practices across a wide range of national contexts. Depending on the country context, the questions could include:

  • What is the level of military involvement—i.e., personnel, equipment, and funding—in the protection of civilians and property in climate-related emergencies? 
  • What are the patterns and trends in this military involvement in recent years?
  • At what stage and by whom are military personnel called in to assist with climate-related emergencies? Who provides funding for such activities of the military?
  • What is the legal framework for the military’s use in civil protection?
  • Does the military have policies for its involvement in climate change mitigation, adaptation, disaster prevention, disaster response, and/or equitable disaster response implementation?
  • Which military branches and civilian authorities are primarily involved in civil protection? Which tasks are handled by each? Does this differ in domestic and foreign operations?
  • What are the standard operating procedures for civil-military cooperation in civil protection?
  • What domestic training and cross-border cooperation exists for such activities?
  • What multilateral engagement exists through the EU, IFRC, NATO, OSCE, or UN.*
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages in having military units with specialization in climate-related emergencies, versus preparing all armed forces to assist in such tasks?
  • Are there advantages to having the military do some tasks?
  • Which tasks are best done by civilian agencies?What effect does military involvement in civil protection have on force composition, recruitment, morale, and retention?
  • What effect does military involvement in civil protection have on force readiness?

For more information see the Research Methodology

* NATO improved capacities for climate-related disaster response is a component of its 2021 Climate and Security Action Plan, and its 2022 Strategic Concept states that “Our forces need to operate in more extreme climate conditions and our militaries are more frequently called upon to assist in disaster relief” (para 19).

Activities

A Dataset on Military Involvement in Climate-Related Emergencies will capture the level of military involvement in climate-related emergencies. It aims to include information on the responder (country, military branch, military unit), recipient (country, subnational locations), disaster (name, type, description, start end dates, CRED disaster number, GLIDE disaster number), and response (requesting agency, start and end dates, type, description, funding source, funding total, personnel total). The dataset will facilitate analysis and comparison of countries’ involvement in climate-related emergencies over time. It will also provide a framework for systematic recording and tracking of such activities moving forward.

Country Profiles on Civil-Military Cooperation in Climate-Related Emergencies will explore the Project CASA research questions as they relate to selected NATO countries, as well as NATO partners and other countries globally with high climate security risks and/or high civil or military involvement in climate emergencies. Country profiles will include an analysis of the quantitative data collected in the project’s new dataset, as well as details on each country’s legal, funding, and operational frameworks and related policies, procedures, or guidelines on military involvement in climate-related emergencies.

Profiles of International / Intergovernmental Organizations (IGOs) will explore the research questions as they relate to international coordination mechanisms such as those organised by the EU, NATO, and the UN. 

Country and IGO profiles build on the M4CE project conducted by the Foundation for Global Governance and Sustainability on the use of military resources in disasters. The project also follows the publication of "Sustainable Peace & Security in a Changing Climate" by the North-Atlantic Civil-Society Working-Group on Environment and Security.

The project includes an interactive Resource Guide to research and action on civil-military cooperation, including relevant organizations, initiatives, publications, and events. The guide seeks to help promote joint research and cooperation among the project participants and a wider audience. The publications section serves as an ongoing bibliography for the project.

As Project CASA is a participatory research project we welcome the involvement of interested individuals and representatives of like-minded organisations in providing input for the Resouce Guide and also content for the Project Reader which includes personal stories and in-depth expert articles and essays submitted by members of the Correspondents Group for this website. A selection of articles and essays from the Reader will also be publised in a comendium to accompany the final project report.

The project Final Report will contain the main results of the country profiles, IGO profiles, and dataset analysis. It will include policy options and recommendations for relevant EU, NATO, UN, and other institutions and member states, as well as civilian stakeholders with whom militaries interact in emergency response. It will also highlight good practices for that can be advanced from the bottom-up by local authorities and citizens.

Project Events include meetings of the Advisory Group, a workshop for the consolidation of initial findings, and a final conference for presentation and discussion of the final report and results. 

Organization

The project is led by a Coordinating Group composed of representatives from the five project partner organizations: 

The Coordinating Group members reflect a wide range of substantive and geographic experience applicable to this project. They work together to oversee and implement all aspects of the project.

The Advisory Group consists of experts working in civil and military emergency response, research, and policymaking with knowledge of a wide variety of topics and countries covered by the project research. The project is being developed and implemented with their guidance.

The Expert Group involves the active participation of experts on climate change and security. It includes other representatives from the five partner organizations as well as experts from the CMDR COE Community of Interest, the Brussels Dialogue on Climate Diplomacy (BDCD), the North-Atlantic Civil-Society Working Group on Environmental Security (NCWES), and other researchers, policymakers, and practitioners from the international to the local level who exchange information, contribute to the research, provide feedback, and help disseminate the project results. 

Participation and Outreach

As a participatory research project we welcome the involvement of other interested individuals and representatives of like-minded organisations. 

The project is being implemented using the Gender-Based Analysis Plus (GBA+) process to advance diversity and non-discrimination in all phases of project activities—from initiation through development and evaluation. This includes intersectionality beyond gender. This includes broad geographic diversity, with project participants already confirmed from over a dozen countries. This also includes broad professional diversity, with project participants from intergovernmental, governmental, nongovernmental, and university institutions. And we hope that the project will also help foster the next generation of experts and scholars.

Visit the Get Involved section to learn how you can join the Corresponding Members Group to contribute ideas and material or to simply subscribe for updates, follow the project on social media and more.

The project also employ innovation and creativity outreach engaging stakeholders, interacting with the expert community, and disseminating project results. This is embodied in a communications strategy that leverages a wide range of tools, including internal collaborative fora, a public-facing event, this website, social media, video interviews, and news stories. The primary targets of the communication strategy are policymakers and practitioners from the international to the local level. They will not only be beneficiaries of the project results and recommendations, but they will also be invited to provide input into the research, especially concerning good practices for cooperation and coordination among the various stakeholders.