Protection of Civilians

Protection of civilians is at the heart of PAX’s work. Since the genocide in Rwanda and the failed attempts to protect civilians in the former Yugoslavia during the 1990s, protection of civilians is high on the international agenda. But who ensures that security? And how? What resources are needed in order to safeguard the security of civilians? The answers to those questions are largely dependent on the local conditions in a conflict. PAX therefore chooses to work on protecting civilians from the bottom up with local partners, activists and civil society organizations..

PAX has been involved with the operationalization of Protection of Civilians (PoC) in war for many years. A dedicated PoC team was established by PAX early 2016, in partnership with the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which was expanded in 2019. The overall goal for this team is to increase the effectiveness of PoC interventions by enabling civilians to hold local and international security actors to account, and by enabling and motivating security actors to design and implement protection strategies that are civilian centered.

PAX developed a method that gives civilians in communities a voice about their security: the Human Security Survey (HSS). Using smartphones, local researchers map their community`s security situation. Who or what is a source of security or insecurity? What sort of protection is required? And what do civilians think of the military missions that claim to protect them? Human Security Surveys are currently conducted in nine regions in Iraq and South Sudan.

The team also researches the effectiveness of international military missions in their efforts to protect civilians. What improvements can be made to their mission mandates, doctrine, the tools and methods they use to map, analyze and share information on the security of civilians? And how relevant are policies drawn up in capital for the protection practice in real life?

The research findings are used to strengthen civilians in their dialogue with government bodies, armed groups and international peacekeeping missions with regard to their security, and holding these security providers to account.

Influencing policy
We inform discussions on security policy with international organizations like the UN and NATO with our lessons learned with our partners in the field. We aim to address questions such as how the UN can strengthen the protection practice of UNMISS? What elements should be part of NATO’s new PoC policy? Should the Netherlands participate in a new mission to protect civilians in Iraq? And what capabilities  should European countries develop in order to be able to adequately protect civilians in the future?

Advice and training
PAX assists in the development of training and exercise modules for military personnel and advises military forces prior to and during missions. We work with Dutch training centers on land warfare, the first German Netherlands Corps (1GNC), UN and NATO training agencies and focus on threat-based approaches and community engagement and address questions around what local civilians expect from them. What will the military encounter on the ground and what opportunities are there to protect civilians?

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