Capacity to Protect Civilians: Rhetoric or Reality?

After the experiences of Rwanda and Srebrenica in the 1990’s, and the United Nations (UN) failure to act, the protection of civilians (POC) has taken an increasingly prominent role in international peace operations. The first mission to be mandated with an explicit POC-mandate was the UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNASIL) in 1999. While the emphasis on POC may initially have been met with reluctance, both from traditional Troop and Police Contributing Countries (T/PCCs) and from within the system, the concept has increasingly taken a central role in UN peace operations after the presentation of the milestone Brahimi Report in 2000. More than 98 percent of military and police personnel currently deployed in peace operations have a mandate to protect civilians, as part of integrated missionwide efforts. This policy brief focuses on the UN’s protection capacities, asking what this implies for civilians in the countries where the organization operates. This is related to capacity- and institution-building in host nations, in particular in the security sector. The policy brief provides a short overview of the implementation of POC-mandates in UN peace operations drawing upon the author’s experience from the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) between 2011-2014 first, with a particular focus on the capacity to protect through non-military means, and second, on the capacity to provide physical protection. Third, the responsibility of the host government is elaborated upon, ending with some concluding remarks on what the next steps should be in order to further enhance the UN’s capacity to protect civilians. Download the policy brief here. The policy brief was originally written as a background paper for the Challenges Annual Forum 2015 on...
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