One goal of data sharing is to create a “whole of society” approach in which civil society produces a government that is citizen oriented and not just elite oriented, said Lisa Schirch, founding director of 3P Human Security, a collaboration of the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding at Eastern Mennonite University, the Alliance for Peacebuilding, the Kroc Institute at Notre Dame University, and the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict. In such an approach, a citizen-oriented state, the private sector, and civil society organizations cooperate to promote good governance, development, security, and respect for human rights, and civil society partners with, complements, and supplements government in running programs. Without an active civil society, an elite-oriented state and private business sector can result in instability, corruption, and diminished human rights, as is the case for many countries around the world, Schirch observed.
Civil society does not consist just of NGOs. It includes universities, religious organizations, media, professional associations, trade unions, traditional and tribal organizations, and many other entities that seek to improve quality of life. All of these institutions hold government to account, said Schirch. When civil society does not exist or is quashed by the state, government is no longer accountable. Thus, the members of organizations in this sector serve the public in ways comparable to public sector employees. “They often have just as many credentials and take just as many risks as people in the military,” said Schirch.
Yet military personnel often do not understand and sometimes do not even like NGOs, as illustrated by comments quoted by Schirch: “NGOs clog up my battle space.” “They are in the way.” “NGOs will only call when they need rescuing.” “NGOs don’t want to be seen with us in uniform.” “They don’t have the courage to show who their friends are.” She noted that stereotypes extend in the opposite direction as well, and that both sets of stereotypes are damaging.
To foster collaboration, Schirch’s organization supports civilian-military dialogue. In particular, she has been connecting military and civil society organizations in Afghanistan, including an Afghan NGO that does mediation and conflict resolution as part of disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration. Staff of the NGO talk with insurgents to determine grievances and how they can be mediated so that the insurgents can reintegrate into society.