What is the Comprehensive Approach? interpretations and definitions


  • Cecilia Hull Wiklund
  • Markus Derblom

Publish date: 2011-04-28

Report number: FOI-R--3195--SE

Pages: 38

Written in: Swedish


  • Comprehensive Approach
  • Integrated Missions
  • Whole-of-Government approaches
  • 3D
  • Integrated Approaches


Despite being frequently used within international conflict or crisis management, there is no universal agreement of what the term Comprehensive Approach (CA) actually entails or how it should be defined. A range of interpretations exist, but what they entail differs. At its most common denominator, CA is a mindset. It includes recognition of oneself as part of a system and an understanding that effectiveness, efficiency and sustainability can be achieved if the interdependencies that exist within this system are responsibly managed. Attempts to concretise and implement CA have nevertheless usually resulted in the establishment of structures and processes for coordination and collaboration. How these structures or processes are outlined depends on the nature of each system and what possibility there is to direct and coordinate the system. A difference, therefore, has to be made between national CA (within a state or government), intra-agency CA (within an organisation, e.g. the UN) and inter-agency CA (encompassing all actors engaged in an international peace or crisis management operation). Since there is no uniform understanding of CA, it is essential to generate an understanding of how the various interpretations vary and what effect each interpretation has on how CA should be implemented, assessed and prepared for. One important conclusion is therefore that it is more useful to speak of Comprehensive Approaches rather than one universal Comprehensive Approach. For the Armed Forces, it is also important to reflect on how the implementation of CA affects military capabilities such as Command and Control (C2). This report highlights that the C2 process needs to be permeated by CA at all levels and that a system-aware mindset as well as recognition of the need to cooperate with civilian actors must form a basis for analysis, planning, execution and monitoring and evaluation. Sweden has high ambitions regarding CA at various levels. In particular, national Whole-of-Government approaches have been prioritised. Nevertheless, Sweden is still in the midst of this process and effective organisational structures that facilitate joint analysis, planning, execution and monitoring and evaluation are still lacking.