1.5 billion people are currently living in countries affected by violent conflict. 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 employ different sets of skills, such as humanitarian assistance support and early peacebuilding. This transformation has had important – and contested - operational, budgetary and institutional ramifications.
As mission mandates have grown increasingly complex, so has the need for qualified civilian personnel. Recent reports suggest that the number of civilians assigned to global multilateral peace operations have nearly doubled over the past few years. This important growth has encouraged the UN to rethink the way it identifies, recruits, trains and deploys civilian experts to peacekeeping missions.
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 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 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; 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.
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 workshop follows-on from consultations and high-level briefings held in New York earlier this year and is intended to brief and involve the Geneva community into the discussion.
The briefing 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 Geneva community contribute? (Including humanitarian, human rights, arms control perspectives)
- How could the UN peacekeeping/protection architecture make better use of trained civilian rosters from NGOs for the direct unarmed protection of civilians in the context of its integrated strategic framework? How could such arrangements be made compatible with the neutrality of NGOs?
- 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?
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.