In this first of two webinars exploring existing efforts to improve the safety of civilians during armed conflict, we discussed “primary” prevention programs, which focus on advocacy, armed actor behavior change, and direct engagement with armed actors, either by the humanitarian organization or by facilitating this engagement by communities. We heard from civil society organizations and UN agencies about their approaches to primary prevention – what the main considerations are and in which situations they are effective. We also discussed what other organizations can learn from their approach and the implications this has for the humanitarian community as a whole.
To know more about the second webinar (Civilian Safety in Armed Conflict: Community-based protection, early warning, and conflict preparedness), please click here.
In armed conflict, the humanitarian community continues to witness highly disturbing situations where the safety of civilians is ignored or not addressed, or where civilians are purposely targeted by parties to a conflict. While protection services continue to provide much-needed support to vulnerable and marginalized groups and individuals and respond to protection concerns with remedial service provision, limited progress has been made on contributing to civilians’ safety in armed conflict. As Hugo Slim expressed it in the recent Oxford Lecture Series on Protection: “When you look at protection’s track record through wars, protection is at its weakest here, in this challenge in protecting people from physical harm and unlawful devastating attacks on their persons and homes.”
In the last few years, there has been a push by both humanitarian agencies and donors to examine how we can prevent and protect civilians from physical harm during conflict. Key questions remain: what does prevention mean and look like within our protection of civilians programming? Where does civilian safety “fit” within the humanitarian architecture?
There are, however, several existing approaches to mitigate and reduce risk in armed conflict for the civilian population, including how to prevent violence from happening in the first place and how to strengthen civilian self-protection strategies through community-based initiatives. This two-part webinar series aims to provide an overview of the range of strategies currently undertaken by national and international civil society organizations, UN agencies, and donors, providing examples of good practice, and discuss how such efforts can be advanced and systematized in the wider humanitarian community.
Registration and participation
The event was held virtually, and participants connected via Zoom. Simultaneous interpretation was provided in Spanish, English, and French.