Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 05/2008

Cultural Challenges in Military Operations

Cees M. Coops, Tibor Szvircsev Tresch

October 2007

NATO Defense College


On 15 and 16 March 2007 a conference was held at the NATO Defense College on the topic of “Cultural Challenges in Military Operations”. It offered a preliminary overview of the operational and multicultural challenges of cooperation among different forces with NGOs, IOs and the local population in theatres.

The conference was the follow-up to a preliminary meeting held at the NDC on 27 November 2006. Its specific objectives were to advance understanding in multinational forces during operations, to discuss different military cultures and forms of cooperation, and to address the issue of cultural interoperability and mission effectiveness in multinational forces. Presentations were given on the lessons learned in military operations, the inter-cultural and intra-cultural challenges in organizations, and educational and leadership aspects. Military sociologists and psychologists together with experts and practitioners from Mediterranean Dialogue countries and NATO nations offered the findings of their individual research projects on the cultural aspects of armed forces assigned to missions, lessons learned during missions and cross-cultural interaction.

The speakers presented different approaches: 1. Theoretical approaches; 2. Case studies (surveys, questionnaires, expert interviews); 3. Personal experiences in the field, as former commander of a unit/battalion.