Project on Civilians in Conflict
Either caught in the crossfire or directly targeted by unscrupulous actors, each year millions of civilians suffer from physical violence or are denied access to essential services. Protecting civilians in conflict is not just a moral or legal imperative; it is a necessary component of and pragmatic step to sustainable peace.
The Civilians in Conflict project envisions a world in which the international community, nation-states, and local communities effectively eliminate violence against civilians in conflict-affected societies. As a contribution to this ambitious vision, this project works to expand and improve international efforts to develop effective prevention and response mechanisms. The Civilians in Conflict project looks at a number of areas that continue to perplex policy makers and practitioners and undermine strategies to protect.
Current research areas
Engaging Communities in Protection Strategies
Despite the growing awareness that local voices are critical to violence prevention and peacebuilding in conflict-affected countries, there is very little understanding of or guidance on how to engage conflict-affected community in interventions to protect civilians from deliberate violence. In 2011, Stimson's Civilians in Conflict project developed Engaging Community Voices in Protection Strategies, a three-year initiative that seeks to protect civilians under threat by ensuring that conflict-affected communities are safely and effectively engaged in the development, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation of external protection strategies. Read more >>
Using Force to Protect Civilians
The UN, regional organizations, coalitions and individual states have deployed military actors to protect civilians. Despite the proliferation of such operations, guidance on how to use force to protect civilians is largely absent. Through Addressing the Doctrinal Deficit, the project seeks to ensure that states and multilateral institutions develop appropriate doctrine and training to fill the gap. Read more >>
Working with Humanitarian Actors
Humanitarian actors play an important role in protecting civilians. Any comprehensive approach to protecting civilians should enable humanitarian access and assistance. UN Integration and Humanitarian Space explores the impact of UN integration on the ability of humanitarian actors to deliver assistance and makes recommendations towards the improved management of this impact. Read more >>
Building Civilian Capacity
Advocates and policymakers often call for helicopters in the air and boots on the ground to protect civilians, but what role should civilians play in international responses? Some governments have developed civilian response corps that deploy into crises to enable whole of government or comprehensive approaches. Peace operations are expanding their civilian components. This research explores how civilian expertise can be harnessed to prevent violence against civilians. Read more >>
Putting the Pieces Together
Research shows that effective international operations mandated to protect civilians include a combination of political, other civilian, and military resources. But planning and implementing a comprehensive response is a challenge, especially when the operation is multilateral. This research reviews the effectiveness of multidimensional approaches and makes recommendations for improved responses. Read more >>
Tailoring Strategies to Protect
Conflict-affected areas are characterized by diverse and often inter-related forms of violence against civilians: political, inter-group, ideological, and criminal. Effective strategies to protect civilians should be based on a thorough analysis of who is perpetrating the violence, why and how the violence is perpetrated, and why certain civilians are vulnerable. Read more >>
Related research and analysis
- Research on the rule of law and security sector reform – critical components of building safe and secure environments over the long-term – is available through Stimson’s Future of Peace Operations project on Restoring the Rule of Law led by Bill Durch.
- For analysis on the crisis in Syria, see the work of Mona Yacoubian, a Stimson Senior Advisor on the Middle East and Project Director of Pathways to Progress.
- For related work on child soldiers, the arms trade, and illicit weapons (including from Libya) see the work of Senior Associate Rachel Stohl with Stimson’s Managing Across Boundaries program.
- Stimson has produced a number of publications and analysis on the Responsibility to Protect.
- Previous research on the International Criminal Court, including a 2006 report on why the US needs to engage with the ICC to protect the interests of its military service members, is also available.
Video | Exploring Linkages between UN Peacekeeping and Peacebuilding - USIP and Alliance for Peacebuilding (May 21, 2014)
Table | Protection of Civilians in UN Peacekeeping: Reform Requests and Initiatives of the Secretariat - Guy Hammond (August 1, 2011)
Timeline | Election Crisis in Côte d’Ivoire - Rebecca Friedrichs (April 20, 2011)