Protection of Civilians

Civilians pay the heaviest price during armed conflict. The principle of ‘Protection of Civilians’ (POC) is based on international humanitarian law (IHL)

The international community, led by the United Nations (UN), has developed an integrated concept for POC as a result of atrocities in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia over the last two decades.

Following the recommendations of the Brahimi Report (2000), the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) issued a series of Resolutions supporting POC (in particular UNSCR 1674 and 1894), and began including POC in UNSC mandates for peacekeeping operations. Today, most UN missions are required to ‘protect civilians under imminent threat of physical violence’. More recently, the UN concept of POC has expanded beyond providing physical protection—to a range of activities, including human rights protection and delivery of humanitarian assistance.

The Australian Government has worked with the international community and the UN to ensure improved protection of civilians in peacekeeping operations.

  • The ACMC, in partnership with the UN Institute of Training and Research (UNITAR), with support from the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), produced a documentary titled Mandated to Protect: The Protection of Civilians in Peacekeeping Operations (2012). The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon introduces the documentary, and interviewees provide insights on POC in conflict.
  • The ACMC supported the development of Draft Guidelines for the Protection of Civilians in African Union Peace Support Operations (2011). This was the first initiative of a regional peace and security organisation creating strategic and operational-level guidance on POC for peace operations.
  • The ACMC provided support to UN Women and the DPKO to develop an inventory of best practice in preventing sexual violence during conflict: Addressing Conflict-Related Sexual Violence: An Analytical Inventory of Peacekeeping Practice (2011). This provides practical examples of operational approaches to help reduce sexual violence and improve the safety of women during conflict.

POC Guidelines

In 2012, the Australian Government launched a National Action Plan (NAP) on Women, Peace and Security. As part of the NAP, the ACMC is working to develop Protection of Civilians Guidelines for Defence and the Australian Federal Police. The POC Guidelines will establish a common interpretation of POC across government, strengthening understanding of each agency’s contribution and approach to POC internationally and in Australia. A whole-of-government perspective will be incorporated into the guidelines through multi-agency participation and consultation.


Australian Guidelines for the Protection of Civilians (English version)

Australian Guidelines for the Protection of Civilians (Japanese version)

The Japanese version of the Australian Guidelines for the Protection of Civilians was translated by LCDR Takashi Kawashima, Japan Peacekeeping Training and Research Centre.