International Order & Conflict
Policy Paper

Protecting Civilians: Proposed Principles for Military Operations

in Program

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  “Protecting Civilians: Proposed Principles for Military Operations” by Max Kelly (May 2010). A document offering proposed guidance and considerations for military operations that must effectively prevent and respond to protection crises. The document is informed by research into the fundamental drivers and dynamics of violence against civilians; analysis of military operations that attempted to protect civilians across a variety of regional, institutional, and theatre contexts; and wide consultations with experts, policy makers, and practitioners who have worked on these operations.

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