CMAC 2011 Background Paper – Enhancing the Protection of Civilians in Peace Operations: From Policy to Practice


This background paper seeks to provide participants of the Enhancing the Protection of Civilians in Peace Operations: From Policy to Practice workshop with an overview of progress on the latest reforms since 2009 to improve peace operations’ ability and willingness to fulfill their POC mandates, and how these developments could impact the security and rights of women and children in conflict and post-conflict environments. The paper focuses on developments undertaken by the United Nations in recognition of the notable efforts to close the capability gap.

This builds on previous research and workshops, including the background paper and resulting conference report of the Third International Forum for the Challenges of Peace Operations (Challenges Forum), 27–29 April 2010, hosted in Queanbeyan, Australia, by the Asia Pacific Civil-Military Centre of Excellence. The Challenges Forum and the papers provide an overview of the evolution of the POC concept and offer detailed observations and recommendations aimed at making POC in UN and regional peace operations more effective (Durch and Giffen 2010:21-84; Wilmot 2010).

This paper does not address many of the laudable steps taken by the UN and regional organizations in the past year to enhance the prevention of and response to violence against civilians outside of the context of peace support operations. Further, it does not examine protection in practice during the last year and how the POC concept is evolving. Recent crises in the Ivory Coast, Libya, and Kyrgyzstan and ongoing instability in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) sparked widespread, targeted violence against civilians and raised new  questions about the prospects and limitations of UN action to prevent and respond to such threats to civilians. In particular, these protection crises reminded communities at risk and stakeholders around the world that such violence occurs both within and beyond the response envelope of UN peacekeeping operations. Although it is beyond the scope of this paper to address such issues, it is critically important that UN Member States and other stakeholders understand what peacekeeping can and cannot do well to prevent and respond to violence against civilians.

Prepared as background reading material for attendees at the Civil-Military Affairs Conference, this paper was written by Alison Giffen of the Stimson Center.


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