Exchange Hub – The growing inclusion of protection of civilians in military operations

On Thursday, 29 January 2015, PHAP hosted its First Exchange Hub online event. It provided members of the association with the opportunity to interactively engage with current topics in humanitarian affairs through online discussions and to learn from the experiences and expertise of other humanitarian practitioners. Two weeks of discussion culminated in this online event.

The discussion was introduced with a special briefing from Alison Giffen, Senior Associate & Co-Director, Future of Peace Operations Program, Civilians in Conflict Project, The Stimson Center. The briefing was followed by a panel discussion on the overarching questions on the topic and the case of South Sudan with Jules Frost, the Senior Advisor for Civil-Military & Police Relations for World Vision International; Nicki Bennett, Head of Humanitarian Policy Unit at OCHA South Sudan; and Damian Lilly, who was Senior Advisor on the Protection of Civilians for UNMISS until March 2014.

Click here to watch the recording

Click here to download the event report

Protection of civilians (PoC) has been widely agreed by humanitarian actors to encompass “all activities aimed at obtaining full respect for the rights of the individual in accordance with the letter and spirit of the relevant bodies of law (i.e., IHRL, IHL and refugee law).” The concept is rooted in the law of armed conflict, under which belligerents have the obligation to protect civilians from the harmful effects of war. When humanitarian actors undertake protection activities in such a context, they undertake primarily to prevent or cease violations by the parties to the conflict. In practice, the scope of activities that this entails has been evolving over time and also varies by agency – with an increasing number of humanitarian organizations including protection in their programming. At the same time, over the course of the last 15 years, PoC has also increasingly been included in the mandates of UN peacekeeping missions and other military forces – in South Sudan, CAR, Libya, Afghanistan, and elsewhere – where humanitarian organizations are also active. This raises a number of important questions:

  • How can/ should peacekeeping missions balance PoC aims among their other mandated priorities, all of which compete for scarce resources and some of which may even conflict with each other? What does a focused and effective protection of civilians strategy for a peacekeeping operation look like in practice?
  • How can/ should peacekeeping missions and humanitarian actors pursuing PoC objectives in the same context relate to each other?
  • In the context of pursuing PoC objectives, what are the relative strengths and weaknesses of military and humanitarian actors?
  • In an armed conflict situation, if there is a peacekeeping actor with a “robust” PoC mandate, how should humanitarian actors approach coordination with the peacekeeping mission? Do regular civil-military guidelines apply? Or does the PoC mandate of the mission make it a special case?
  • In what situations is cooperation and/ or coordination with PoC-mandated military actors not compatible with a principled approach to humanitarian action?
  • Why do humanitarian actors not adhere consistently to established guidelines and basic principles for civil-military coordination? Is it because of a lack of clarity or appropriateness of the guidance, a lack of awareness, or competing priorities?
  • In what ways, concretely, could more effective civil-military coordination support improve humanitarian outcomes for affected populations?

The Exchange Hub online events are only open to members of PHAP, the only sector-wide professional association of individuals engaged in humanitarian assistance and protection worldwide. You can read more about membership and apply at


Guest expert

Alison Giffen is a senior associate and co-director of Stimson's Future of Peace Operations program and leads Stimson's Civilians in Conflict project. Giffen is an expert on peace operations and the prevention of violence against civilians, including in its most extreme manifestation: mass atrocities. She has more than 15 years of policy, advocacy and research experience. Giffen joined Stimson in 2009 after working in Sudan to design, implement and coordinate an international NGO's global strategy to secure civilian rights to protection. As a policy analyst for the Open Society Institute, Giffen promoted multilateral US foreign engagement and US support of UN reform initiatives. She was project director of a groundbreaking study on ex-combatants in Sierra Leone, and was the founding director of the US Office on Colombia, an international coalition of groups monitoring military assistance to and promoting peace and human rights in Colombia. Giffen received her MA in international affairs from the School for International and Public Affairs at Columbia University, and received her BA in diplomacy and world affairs from Occidental College.


Jules Frost is the Senior Advisor for Civil-Military & Police Relations for World Vision International. She provides leadership and oversight for strategy and policy development, and operational guidance pertaining to engagement with state and non-state armed actors. Previously, as co-chair for the IASC Humanitarian Space and Civil-Military Relations Task Force, Frost facilitated the revision of the IASC Non-Binding Guidelines on the Use of Armed Escorts for Humanitarian Convoys.

Nicki Bennett is currently on maternity leave from her job as the Head of OCHA South Sudan's Policy Unit, where she works on the protection of civilians, humanitarian access and civil-military coordination. She has also worked at OCHA headquarters as the Acting Chief of the Protection & Displacement Section, and for OCHA Pakistan as the Head of Policy & Strategic Planning Unit. Prior to joining OCHA, Nicki spent seven years working in the field for humanitarian NGOs (including five years with Oxfam's global emergency response team). She holds a Masters degree in Development Management and a Bachelors degree in Political Studies.

Damian Lilly was Senior Advisor on the Protection of Civilians for UNMISS until March 2014.


Angharad Laing is currently the Executive Director of the International Association of Professionals in Humanitarian Assistance and Protection (PHAP) and has worked in the field of humanitarian policy since 2003. She is also a board member of the European Society of Association Executives (ESAE) and a member of the Steering Committee of ELRHA. Having previously worked in the private sector, she spent several years with the Program on Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research (HPCR) at Harvard University. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Harvard College and a master’s degree in public policy from the Harvard Kennedy School.

January 29th, 2015 2:00 PM   through   3:30 PM

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