Civilian Solutions to Civilian Problems
Expanding the Peace Toolbox--Civilian Peacebuilders
In 2008, Congress passed legislation authorizing the creation of the the Civilian Response Corps (CRC), a cadre of civilian experts who can be deployed to conflict situations to help prevent, mitigate, and rebuild after wars.
FCNL lobbied for creation of the State Department’s Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization (S/CRS), which managed the Civilian Response Corps. At the end of 2011, S/CRS was transformed and elevated into the Conflict and Stabilization Operations (CSO) bureau.
The creation of a new bureau recognizes the need to create conditions that make long-term peace possible by emphasizing civilian-led efforts to prevent, respond to, and stabilize crises.
FCNL continues to lobby for adequate funding to strengthen the Civilian Response Corps (CRC) and the newly established Conflict and Stabilization Operations (CSO) bureau, and to ensure appropriate training and use of this cadre of civilian conflict responders.
The FY2011 budget drastically cut the Civilian Response Corps funding down to $40 million from the 2010 enacted $150 million. For the FY2012 budget, the Civilian Response Corps received $10 million for general use and $33 million in “Overseas Contingency Operations” (OCO). This classification limits where the Civilian Response Corps can operate to countries that are central to U.S. national security interests.
- Why create a Civilian Response Corps?
- What would a fully functional Civilian Response Corps look like?
- Where is the CRC working and how is it helping prevent and mitigate deadly conflict?
- What still needs to be done to make the CRC effective?
Why create a Civilian Response Corps?
Since the end of the Cold War, U.S. military forces have deployed at least once every 18-24 months. In places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, and Kenya, U.S. military forces are also engaging in tasks for which they are not trained and which should be carried out by civilians, including development projects and building local governance. Rather than responding to global problems with military force and sending soldiers to perform civilian functions, a cadre of civilian experts could help stabilize states in crisis and prevent violent conflict, avoiding costly deployments of military force which endanger civilians and often escalate conflict further.
Back to Top
What would a fully functional Civilian Response Corps look like?
The Civilian Response Corps will include three components; active, standby and expert. When fully stood-up the CRC will be comprised of 250 full-time active members ready to deploy in 48 hours and engaged in ongoing training and support for program activities around the world; 2000 stand-by members who hold permanent government jobs in civilian agencies, but who could deploy within 30 days; and an additional "experts" group of individuals from outside of the government. In 2008, the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) received initial funding from the government to begin recruiting and training members to serve in the active and stand-by components of the corps. S/CRS currently has more than 1,100 active and stand-by members ready to deploy, and several deployments all over the world in South Sudan, Kyrgyzstan, and other countries. Congress has not yet provided funding for the expert component, previously called the reserve component.
Back to Top
Where is the CRC working and how is it helping prevent and mitigate deadly conflict?
CRC members have deployed all over the world including Nepal, Sri Lanka, Liberia, and Chad, undertaking a variety of different projects in response to the specific situation in each country. For example, the deployment of 29 members of the Civilian Response Corps during the January 2011 referendum in Southern Sudan contributed to the mostly peaceful voting process there. Several CRC members have also been in Kosovo coordinating strategic planning for the four-year period following Kosovo’s declaration of independence.
Back to Top
What still needs to be done to make the CRC effective?
Congress should approve the annual funding requests to continue building up the CRC, and provide additional flexible funding for CRC activities through the new Complex Crises Fund. It should also help ensure adequate training and compensation are provided for CRC members. The State Department and USAID should accelerate and improve their processes for recruiting and hiring CRC members and shift the focus of the corps more heavily toward crisis prevention, rather than response. The Department of Defense should refrain from duplicating the efforts of the CRC and reduce its role in civilian activities like governance and development.
Back to Top
The Image above depicts Keith Mines, a Civilian Response Corps member with extensive experience in Sudan, listens to local government officials in Omdurman, Sudan. Omdurman is the largest city in Sudan. Courtesy of State Dept.