International Order & Conflict

Military Planning to Protect Civilians: Proposed Guidance for United Nations Peacekeeping Operations

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For a number of years, Stimson research has focused on identifying the obstacles that multilateral organizations and individual states face in preventing and responding to widespread and systematic violence against civilians. The research found that the absence of guidance, planning, and training on the protection of civilians created a critical gap that hindered effective international responses. As a result, the Civilians in Conflict project launched the “Addressing the Doctrinal Deficit” initiative in 2009 to catalyze and influence the development of doctrine and training (specific to the protection of civilians) within multilateral institutions (UN, AU, NATO) and national militaries.

In September 2009, the Stimson Center engaged experts and doctrine writers alongside military and civilian leaders with experience in protection crises at the UK Defence Academy in Shrivenham. The workshop included a two-day simulation exercise involving escalating violence against civilians in a fictional country, which challenged workshop participants to propose and evaluate courses of action to protect civilians. The workshop was designed to capture insights that could be distilled into guidance for future missions mandated to protect.

The project resulted in three products, including “Military Planning to Protect Civilians: Proposed Guidance for United Nations Peacekeeping Operations by Max Kelly and Alison Giffen (September 2011). A document that illustrates how the Proposed Principles (May 2010) could be applied in the operational context of UN peacekeeping. The publication applies the principles to existing UN policy and frameworks to demonstrate how the UN could develop guidance to plan the military component of a peacekeeping operation mandated to protect. Although an entirely independent endeavor, the document is intended to support processes already underway at the UN to develop such guidance by drawing on recent scholarship and operational research on the challenges of ending complex civil conflicts.

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