Unarmed Civilian Peacekeeping: Has its Time Come?
Briefing and dialogue on the eve of the International Day of Peace 2012

Co-organized by

United Nations Institute for Training and Research
Nonviolent Peaceforce
Manchester University Humanitarian & Conflict Response Institute

With the kind support of 

Permanent Mission of Belgium
Permanent Mission of the Republic of Benin
Permanent Mission of the Republic of Costa Rica
Permanent Mission of Philippines

Thursday, 20 September 2012, 1230 - 1500 
Room XVI, Palais des Nations - Geneva 


1.5 billion people are currently living in countries affected by violent conflicts. Moreover, the vast majority of the victims of armed conflict are civilians, not combatants.

Recognising the political contentiousness, complexity, dynamics and expense of modern peacekeeping interventions, UN doctrine has also been challenged. More than ever before, UN peacekeepers are expected to take on complex and high-risk activities, such as the protection of civilians, or to perform tasks that require different sets of skills, such as humanitarian assistance support and early peacebuilding. This transformation has had important - and contested - operational, budgetary and institutional ramifications.

Yet, despite the UN’s important efforts in the last years to adapt its conceptual and operational frameworks to this changing reality, real challenges remain for the timely deployment of competent peacekeeping personnel, both military and civilian, to field operations. Therefore, reimagining peacekeeping with a more robust and nimble civilian dimension and adapting institutional arrangements remains an important priority.

The Civilian Capacities Review has helped determine how the UN and the international community can establish a broader and deeper pool of civilian experts to support the immediate capacity development needs of countries emerging from conflict. Yet, it has not focused on the deployment of civilians (both local and international) at an earlier stage to provide direct unarmed protection of civilians, and on how this role by the civil society can be supported through adequate institutional arrangements.

In this regard, the experience of nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) in providing unarmed protection to civilians and monitoring ceasefires can offer lessons for the broader peacekeeping community. Over the past several decades, various NGOs have systematically developed and employed innovative peacekeeping methods. It can be argued that the work of these NGOs in unarmed civilian protection and ceasefire monitoring is much broader than the DPKO definition of peacekeeping. These methods of direct civilian protection and violence prevention include: proactive presence at potential or actual flashpoints without relying on weapons or the use of physical force; protective accompaniment of vulnerable individuals; community-based early warning and response mechanisms; rumour management; creating local-level safe spaces, and grassroots mediation techniques. Through their close contact with local communities and the protection and training they provide, such NGOs sometimes function as a force multiplier for UN peacekeepers.

Objectives of the briefing and dialogue

The UN International Day of Peace is held annually on September 21 to recognize the efforts of individuals, organizations and governments to end conflict and promote peace.  On the eve (20 September) of this day in 2012, this briefing will explore the concept of direct unarmed protection of civilians, and how it can provide a key additional dimension to international and national peacekeeping as part of strategies to resolve conflicts.

This briefing and dialogue follows on from consultations and a similar High-Level Briefing held in New York earlier this year, and is intended to brief and involve the Geneva community into the discussion.


The briefing and dialogue will cover the following questions:

  • What is meant by unarmed civilian peacekeeping (UCP) and why is needed?
  • In what contexts can unarmed civilians play a role in the protection of civilians?
  • What instruments and strategies for unarmed protection have been developed, and what are the guiding principles that underlie their use?
  • How does it work?
  • What examples of practice exist and what has been learnt from them?
  • In what current conflict situations could UCP be deployed?
  • What can the International Geneva community contribute?
  • How could the UN peacekeeping/protection architecture make better use of NGOs for the direct unarmed protection of civilians in the context of its integrated strategic framework?
  • Update on discussions so far in New York with UN secretariat and Member States.
  • What needs to be done for training/capacity building for UCP for both international and internal national peacekeeping? 

Tentative agenda

1230 – 1300   Informal networking. Sandwiches available.

1300 – 1310   Chair’s welcome and opening remarks – H.E. Ambassador Manuel B. Dengo, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Costa Rica

1310 – 1400   Keynote speakers and discussants

1400 – 1430   Open discussion

1430 – 1450   Reflections from sponsoring missions and closing remarks

Participation and speakers

Participation is open. The event targets an expert-level audience from Permanent Missions in Geneva, UN agencies and NGOs, academics and researchers, and think tanks.

Speakers include distinguished UN, government, academic and civil society policy makers and practitioners. More details will be circulated as participation is confirmed.

Information and contact

To confirm your participation to this event, register by 17 September 2012 clicking here.

For more information, please contact Dr Ludwig Gelot at:

E-mail - ludwig.gelot@unitar.org  
Telephone - +41 22 917 8929