Protection activities

The overwhelming agreement that protection of civilians forms a central component of humanitarian response contrasts with the lack of any agreed definition as to what is, and is not, protection. Broadly speaking, protection activities fall into a few main categories. At a basic level, aid should not in itself create risks for the intended beneficiaries, hence the need to safeguard against latrines being located in a dark corner of the camp, or food distributions that lead to recipients being targeted. Presence itself – the humanitarian as a potential witness – may also offer some protection, but should not be overstated, as humanitarians cannot directly safeguard the physical safety of people against an armed threat. Beyond these programmatic activities, protection work includes an array of efforts to promote and ensure the respect of rights and protections, such as training on IHL, engagement with armed groups, or advocacy against violations and abuse. It is also important to recognize the activities taken by people and communities themselves.

Remnant of a mortar projectile on the ground in front of a group of children in an IDP camp

Photo: Albert Gonzalez Farran, UNAMID

Latest content

Key actors

Main inter-agency forum at the global level for standard and policy setting as well as collaboration and overall coordination of activities supporting the protection response in complex and natural disaster humanitarian emergencies

Key references

Provides reference points and guidance to humanitarian actors to mainstream protection in the assessment, design, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of humanitarian programs, projects, and activities

Provides a set of standards and recommendations applicable to all humanitarian and human rights actors doing protection work in conflict and other situations of violence

IASC policy document highlighting the shared responsibility at the forefront of humanitarian action, requiring system-wide approaches

Brief document on the definition of protection in humanitarian response, and OCHA’s role in protection work

Basic principles for humanitarian organizations for them to contribute to protection by helping people stay safe, access assistance, recover from violence, and claim their rights

Tools for the job

Guidance on mainstreaming protection throughout the humanitarian program cycle

Crosscutting themes


Evaluation guidance focusing on protection in humanitarian action seeking to address the challenges of the definitional problem for protection work, variation in protection approaches, understanding cause-effect relationships, and collecting data

Latest discussions

PHAP certifications

Certification badge for International Legal Frameworks for Humanitarian Action (ILFHA)

Understanding the legal basis for protection is a primary focus of the International Legal Frameworks for Humanitarian Action (ILFHA) certification.


Global Protection Cluster