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

Focused period of exchange: 16 - 29 January 2015
Members-only online event: 29 January 2015
Deadline for member contributions: 25 February

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 in particular to prevent or cease violations by the parties to the conflict. In practice, the scope of activities that this entails has evolved 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.

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Focused period of exchange:
16 - 29 January 2015
Deadline for member contributions: 25 February

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  • 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?

Online event

On 29 January 2015, PHAP hosted an online event featuring Nicki Bennett, Alison Giffen, Jules Frost, and Damian Lilly for members to discuss the topic. Members have access to a recording of the event.

  Read more   Event recording