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. Building on previous Stimson research, the Civilians in Conflict project engages policy makers and practitioners in relevant institutions, offering recommendations and proposed guidance on how to better protect civilians from violence.
Recent research and analysis
Addressing the Doctrinal Deficit
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:
- Publication | Addressing the Doctrinal Deficit: Developing Guidance to Prevent and Respond to Widespread or Systematic Attacks Against Civilians by Alison Giffen (Spring 2010). A workshop report from the international experts' workshop. The document explores the lack of protection-related doctrine and training and captures the key challenges and gray areas that leaders face in a protection crisis that should be addressed in guidance and training.
- Publication | 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.
- Publication â”‚Military Planning to Protect Civilians: Proposed Guidance for United Nations Peacekeeping Operations by Max Kelly with 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.
In addition to these three publications, former Research Associate Guy Hammond wrote Saving Port-au-Prince: United Nations efforts to Protect Civilians in Haiti in 2006-2007 (June 2012), a case study examining how MINUSTAH's efforts to protect civilians in 2006-7 illustrate or depart from Stimson's "Protecting Civilians: Proposed Principles for Military Operations."
These publications build on the cumulative body of research developed by the Civilians in Conflict project which aims to improve international prevention and response mechanisms.
Additional research and analysis
- Analysis | New UN Force May Increase Risks for Civilians by Aditi Gorur and Michelle Ker (July 11, 2013)
- Analysis â”‚Eliminating the Lord’s Resistance Army Once and for All by Guy Hammond (October 19, 2011)
- Analysis â”‚Fundamentals of Protecting Civilians by Alison Giffen (April 7, 2011)
- Publication â”‚Halting Widespread or Systematic Attacks on Civilians by Victoria Holt, Joshua G. Smith (May 29, 2008)
- Publication â”‚The Impossible Mandate? by Victoria Holt, Tobias C. Berkman (September 1, 2006)
- Publication â”‚The Military and Civilian Protection: Developing Roles and Capacities by Victoria Holt (March 1, 2006)
Photo credit: UN Photo/Albert Gonzalez Farran