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Naval War College, Harvard Aim to Improve Civilian-Military Humanitarian Response

Navy News Service

Story Number: NNS141120-06
Release Date: 11/20/2014 8:46:00 AM

By Daniel S. Marciniak, U.S. Naval War College Public Affairs

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (NNS) -- The U.S. Naval War College (NWC) College of Operational & Strategic Leadership (COSL) and the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) kicked off the inaugural meeting of the Joint Humanitarian Civilian-Military Working Group, Nov. 6, at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative in Cambridge.

The gathering initiates a strategic partnership established on May 5, 2014, through a research and education memorandum of understanding (MOU) that aims to improve the coordination and integration of U.S. military, nongovernmental organization (NGO) and intergovernmental organization (IGO) responses during humanitarian disasters.

Signed by retired Rear Adm. Jamie Kelly, dean of COSL, and Dr. Julio Frenk, dean of HSPH, the MOU promotes collaborative research and teaching between the two institutions and serves as an opportunity to explore the establishment of programs to improve humanitarian assistance and disaster relief activities across the humanitarian community and U.S. military.

'After 18 months of informal collaboration between COSL and HSPH, it is thrilling to finally sit down and begin formal discussions on possible partnership activities,' said COSL professor Dave Polatty, who spearheaded the initiative with HSPH's Dr. Michael Lappi. 'Our goal from the very first discussion in early 2013 was to find innovative ways to improve the effectiveness of responding organizations during major disasters.

'If we can invest now in multidisciplinary educational programs that enable militaries, NGOs and IGOs to better synchronize and integrate their humanitarian response activities, we should all be better prepared for the next major crisis and ultimately be able to save more lives and alleviate suffering in the wake of these horrific events.'

Lappi agrees, adding that the partnership creates an opportunity to share world-renowned experts in multiple fields that will enhance the effectiveness of our future military and civilian leaders.

'We're counting on COSL to provide our students with an unparalleled access to the foundational elements of leadership and planning, generally reserved for our senior officers,' said Lappi. 'In return, we hope to provide COSL with an academic and experience-based appreciation of humanitarian principles and operations far beyond anything previously offered to military officers.'

According to Kelly, this collaborative exchange of intellectual capital can only lead to improved response.

'The partnership between COSL and HSPH brings together faculty from two of our nation's leading academic institutions,' said Kelly. 'We are confident that the alliance will significantly and positively improve the future of civilian-military responses to humanitarian crises.'

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