Community Self-Protection Strategies: How Peacekeepers Can Help or Harm

Issue Brief

In the face of deliberate violence against civilians, communities often have no one to rely on for protection but themselves. These communities may pursue a wide variety of activities to counter, mitigate, deter or avoid threats. A diverse range of actors has recognized the importance of considering a community's self-protection strategies before intervening. These actors advise that external protection providers should ideally enhance these strategies as appropriate, or at least avoid undermining them. However, protection providers such as United Nations peacekeeping operations are still grappling with how best to accomplish this goal and, as a result, run the risk of endangering the communities they seek to protect.

This is the first in a series of the Stimson Center's Civilians in Conflict Issue Briefs, which address knowledge gaps that undermine strategies to protect civilians.

The issue brief series grew out of the  Engaging Communities in Protection Strategies initiative, which seeks to protect civilians under threat by ensuring that conflict-affected communities are safely and effectively included in the development, implementation and monitoring of external protection strategies. Coupled with intensive desk research, the initiative's outcomes are the result of research conducted with civil society partners and conflict-affected communities in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo in April 2012 and in South Sudan in May 2013.

To watch a clip of CIC director Alison Giffen talking about the series, click here.

Visit Stimson's Civilians in Conflict program page for additional information on how external actors can safely and effectively works to expand and improve international efforts to develop effective prevention and response mechanisms.

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Photo credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe