Generically, civil affairs (CA) are those parts of military organizations intended to deal with the needs of civilians in an area of operations, especially when conventional government has broken down or never existed. They often can be of major support to peace operations.
Another related term is civil-military operations (CMO), which are considered part of information operations. This is a broader term than CA alone, as it is complemented with keeping the public and stakeholders involved (i.e., "white propaganda" acknowledged as official), and, within the broader peace operations context, building effective local government.
- enhance the relationship between military forces and civil authorities in areas where military forces are present;
- involve application of civil affairs functional specialty skills, in areas normally
the responsibility of civil government, to enhance conduct of civil-military operations.
In U.S. practice, it is also a term for designated Active and Reserve component forces and units organized, trained, and equipped specifically to conduct civil affairs activities and to support civil-military operations.
Many of the skills in civil affairs units, not really surprisingly, are those provided by basic civil government: public health, water supply, civil police, repair to buildings and streets, etc. In U.S. units, reservists in CA roles often use their day-to-day civilian skills in a place to which the military deploys them. Providing safe water supplies may differ in details due to climate and other local factors, but the basic skills of water supply engineering, plumbing, etc., are common.