The war between Russia and Ukraine as well as other ongoing conflicts from the Lake Chad Basin to Yemen are causing massive suffering by civilians. Civilians are caught up in fighting, deliberately targeted, denied access to basic needs, and forced to flee. Their injuries and trauma oftentimes persist for a lifetime.
International efforts to protect civilians have much evolved over the last century, leading to well-established international rules and institutional policies to protect civilians. Examples are the 4th Geneva Convention of 1949 and the two 1977 Additional Protocols, the 2016 NATO Policy and the 2019 UN Policy on PoC, and the recently adopted U.S. DoD Civilian Harm Mitigation and Response Action Plan.
Yet, in light of the current suffering by civilians around the globe, the question arises whether current efforts to protect civilians are appropriate. Do the policies on the protection of civilians work? Is the protection to which states are obliged under international law enough? Or are even the terms “protection” and “civilians” not fit for purpose? How can we move from rhetoric about the need to protect children, women, and persons with disabilities to an operational framework? What are the most salient challenges to protecting civilians, and how can the protection of civilians be strengthened in the future?
This Geneva Security Debate discusses the normative framework and current challenges to the protection of civilians. It debates the concept based on insights from the new book on International Law and Policy on the Protection of Civilians (CUP, 2022) and critically reflects on how to reinvigorate the protection of those at risk in conflict. You can read the book here: https://www.gcsp.ch/publications/inte...
Mr Tobias Vestner, Head of the Research and Policy Advice Department and Security and Law Programme, Geneva Centre for Security Policy.
- Ambassador Thomas Greminger, Director of the Geneva Centre for Security Policy, Swiss Diplomat and Former Secretary-General of the OSCE.
- Ms Oksana Kikot, Deputy Country Director for Ukraine, Center for Civilians in Conflict.
- Ms Irene Fellin, Special Representative for Women, Peace and Security, NATO. Mr Ralph Mamiya, Advisor, Center for Excellence in Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance, U.S. Department of Defense. Dr Stuart Casey-Maslen, Extraordinary Professor at the University of Pretoria and Associate Fellow, Geneva Centre for Security Policy. Mr Christian Cardon de Lichtbuer, Chief Protection Officer, International Committee of the Red Cross.