International Order & Conflict

The Impossible Mandate?

in Program

Is the world prepared to use military force to protect civilians from mass violence? In 2001, the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty argued that when nations failed to protect their citizens from large-scale violence and genocide, the international community should take on that “responsibility to protect.”

As policymakers embrace the idea of such a responsibility, more attention is needed on how military missions should protect civilians and what multinational organizations and national armed services are doing to prepare for such operations. This study looks at these tough questions, examines various concepts of civilian protection and identifies the challenges. It considers likely international actors and the tools used to prepare forces-mandates, rules of engagement, doctrine, and training-to support their missions. Key issues confronting peacekeepers mandated to protect civilians are examined in the case of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This book identifies clear gaps that must be addressed if aspirations to protect civilians are to transcend rhetoric and translate into effective action in the field.

“A sharp-eyed and hard-nosed account of what is needed not just to talk
the ‘responsibility to protect’ talk but to translate it into effective operational action.”
~The Honorable Gareth Evans
President & CEO, International Crisis Group
Co-Chair, International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty

About the Project:

The Henry L. Stimson Center began to investigate these issues in 2004. The Center hosted a small workshop with military and civilian experts in December 2004 to discuss military efforts at “civilian protection” and identify some of the concepts involved. In January 2005, the Center published an initial report on its findings, geared toward an expert audience. The Impossible Mandate? expands on the initial report and seeks to introduce a broader audience to the issues involved.

Findings are based on dozens of interviews with military and civilian experts on peace and stability operations within governments, international organizations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and research centers. Interviewees were asked a series of interrelated and seemingly straightforward questions:

• Which international organizations have declared a willingness and authority to use military force to halt genocide, ethnic cleansing, or mass killing?
• What tools do these organizations and their member states typically use to prepare their military forces?
• Have such means been employed to prepare forces for a military mission to protect civilians from genocide, ethnic cleansing, or mass killing in a non-permissive environment?
• Have these tools been used to prepare forces in peace operations to implement their “civilian protection” mandates in regions of large-scale violence and/or mass killing?
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