September 2012, Geneva, Switzerland - UNITAR co-organized a Briefing and Dialogue on “Unarmed Civilian Peacekeeping: Has Its Time Come?” in cooperation with Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP), the Manchester University Humanitarian & Conflict Response Institute and the Permanent Missions of Belgium, Benin, Costa Rica and the Philippines on 20 September 2012. The event was held at the Palais des Nations on the eve of the International Day of Peace 2012 and aimed at exploring 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. H.E. Ambassador Manuel B. Dengo chaired the event and keynote speakers included Alan Doss, Senior Political Advisor at the Kofi Annan Foundation, Tiffany Easthorn, NP’s Country Director for South Sudan and Dr. Mukesh Kapila, Professor of Global Health and Humanitarian Affairs at the University of Manchester.
The speakers highlighted the increasing need for civilian peacekeeping, as nowadays the majority of victims in armed conflict are civilians and mission mandates are increasingly complex. In this context unarmed civilian peacekeeping should comprehend two dimensions: a reactive dimension involving the direct physical protection of civilians under threat of violent conflict and a proactive dimension involving conflict resolution and diplomatic efforts.
There was also an emphasis on the need to integrate civil society into UN peacekeeping efforts on a collaborative basis, as different actors have limitations and can complement each other. Speakers pointed out that unarmed civilian peacekeepers often have an enhanced knowledge of and access to local communities, which facilitate their interaction with different stakeholders at the local level. Meanwhile, speakers also stressed the necessity for both local and national strategies to find political solutions and address the causes of conflict. A key aspect arising from lessons learned is the importance of presence: outreach to local communities, direct contact and listening are key for successful peacekeeping operations.
All participants underlined the importance of the topic and expressed their interest in and the need for continuing dialogue on Unarmed Civilian Peacekeeping.