Event | 13 October 2020 | by Hans Rouw


PAX Protection of Civilians Conference 2020

Protecting civilians in conflict is an increasingly complex task, and the question of how to protect is ever more pertinent. Providing effective protection starts with understanding what threats to human security exist and how these differ within a population, and continues with examining how your own capacities can best contribute to mitigating those threats. However, even with the best of intentions civilian harm still occurs and needs to be addressed to maintain credibility. The COVID-19 pandemic has further constrained the international community’s ability to maintain focus on their protection responsibilities in the face of an acute crisis at home. These reasons, combined with the continued work and aspirations on protection of civilians (PoC) from PAX inspired us to organize the online PAX Protection of Civilians Conference on December 1-3, 2020.

This conference aims to engage our network of PoC partners on three key themes: People and Protection, National Contributions to PoC, and the Reverberating Effects of Civilian Harm. The conference is organized by PAX’s Protection of Civilians team in partnership with the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and is open to the global audience of practitioners, researchers, uniformed service members, and other experts on civilian protection, as well as civilians living in situations of conflictIt will provide participants with diverse backgrounds and perspectives the opportunity to share knowledge, lessons learned, and ideas for how to advance the field. International interaction will be facilitated through live virtual panels, surveys, Q&A sessions, and pre-recorded messages from the field.

This conference is open to the global audience, registration for this conference is required. Please sign up before November 23, 2020, via the online registration form.

The latest information about the program, invitation, confirmed speakers and recommended reading can be found in the online dashboard of this event.

A detailed program of this conference is available here:


The invitation for this conference is available here:


+ Day 1 - National Contributions to PoC

General resources: 

  • United Kingdom Approach to Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict
    • This policy brief provides an update to March 2020 on the UK approach to the Protection of Civilians (PoC) in armed conflict situations. It builds on the UK’s PoC strategy paper published in 2010, and has been drafted following consultation with non-governmental organisations, civil society, academics and others.

Content-specific resources:

  • Stimson Center – Operationalizing Protection of Civilians in NATO Operations
    • This paper, written by Marla Keenan and Alexander W. Beadle, identified elements of what NATO needed to consider for a policy on the Protection of Civilians to be comprehensive and successful. They addressed conceptual and practical recommendations, including that NATO should consider protection from their actions as well as from the activities of other armed groups.
  • Contributing to Human Security through training: a mission impossible?
    • This conference, organised by PAX’s PoC team, focused on both training Troop/Police Contributing Countries (T/PCCs) in the case of pre-deployment for UN missions and bilateral training programs Security Force Assistance (SFA) such as Flintlock. This report reflects on the conference and aims to summarise its proceedings.
  • Virtual Panel – Training for the Protection of Civilians
    • On June 1, 2020, the Governments of Bangladesh, the Netherlands, Rwanda, and Uruguay, in partnership with PAX, convened a virtual panel of training experts and policy-makers to reflect on the challenges and best practices of contributions to UN peacekeeping training aimed at improving the capacities of UN peacekeeping operations to fulfill their mandates to protect civilians. This virtual event took place on the sidelines of the May 27, 2020, UNSC Open Debate on the Protection of Civilians.

+ Day 2 - People & Protection

General resources:

  • Al Jazeera – South Sudan counts human cost of deadly cattle raids
    • For many in South Sudan, cattle are regarded as a symbol of wealth. But they are often stolen by rival communities in violent and sometimes deadly raids. Local organisations say more than 5,000 civilians have been killed in cattle raids since South Sudan gained its independence in 2011. Al Jazeera’s Hiba Morgan reports from Rumbek.
  • Bayan Center – Iraqi Woman: Fears of a New Economic Crisis
    • Iraqis have always faced crises in different periods like what happened after the United Nations Security Council issued economic sanctions against Iraq in 1990, which lasted for years. They have adapted to a way of life to interact smoothly with the crisis. The situation is different now.

Content-specific resources:

  • CIVIC – ‘Let Us Be Part of It’ Community Engagement by the UN Peacekeeping Mission in South Sudan
    • This CIVIC report provides a look at how military, police, and civilian components of the United Nations peacekeeping operation in South Sudan (UNMISS) are engaging communities to understand and address civilian protection concerns. The report highlights the importance of UNMISS personnel conducting strategic and coordinated engagement activities and ensuring that information collected from civilians is used to inform operational decisions.
  • CIVIC – “We Just Want Someone to Protect Us” Civilian Protection Challenges in Kirkuk
    • This policy brief analyzes the protection threats affecting civilians in Kirkuk due to the existence of ISIS cells still active in the governorate. It also assesses the response of security forces to these threats, the efforts by the Government of Iraq (GOI) and the ISF to improve security in the governorate and ensure the safety of its inhabitants, and the trust deficit between civilians and security actors.
  • IOM Iraq – Perceptions of Police, Security and Governance in Iraq
    • This report by IOM Iraq and Yale Law School’s Center for Global Legal Challenges compares survey findings evaluating civilians’ attitudes and behaviors towards providers of security and justice; their perceptions of the legitimacy of the Iraqi government; police officers’ attitudes and behaviors toward civilians; and the prevalence of crime and violence.
  • National Democratic Institute – Focus Group Report: Iraqi Citizens Continue to Demand More Responsive Governance
    • This report details a qualitative public opinion research conducted by the NDI with funding from the Government of Canada. Results show that the most pressing need among Iraqi citizens in provinces formerly occupied by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is finding job opportunities and improving their economic situation. This is seen as a precondition for satisfying other necessities which the government is failing to provide, mainly water and electricity.

+ Day 3 - The reverberating effects of Civilian Harm

General resources:

  • Civil Society Guidance for a Model Policy
    • The U.S. military is engaged in a cooperative process with a range of non-governmental organisations to improve its civilian harm mitigation and transparency policy. The report presents the NGOs’ overarching recommendations for improvement.

Content-specific resources:

  • PAX PoC – Civilian harm tracking, analysis and response
    • Paper that explains the concepts of civilian harm tracking, analysis and response, and which outlines PAX’ position with regard to implementation thereof in practice. It proposes a new and more comprehensive definition of ‘civilian harm’, and explains the benefits of tracking, analysis and response from military-strategic, political, and humanitarian points of view.
  • Interactive Website – War in Raqqa: Rhetoric vs. Reality
    • This website compares the Coalition against ISIS’ civilian casualty figures and statements to its own research. It offers personal testimonies from victims of Coalition airstrikes, and it uses a range of different sources and images (satellite imagery, interactive maps) to map the scope of the violence that took place in Raqqa, Iraq.


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