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The Protection of Civilians: An Evolving Paradigm?

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Whilst the protection of civilians (POC) in conflict has been a recurring feature of the humanitarian discourse the same has not been true in military doctrines, where the protection of civilians has long been cast in terms of arms bearers upholding
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  Introduction  Whilst the protection of civilians (POC) in conflict has been a perpetual and recurring feature of the humanitarian discourse the same has not been true in military doctrines,  where the protection of civilians has long been cast in terms of arms bearers uphold-ing their responsibilities under international humanitarian law (IHL). However, opportu-nities for and pressures on military actors to develop more specific capacities and approaches in this field have grown. This is partly a response to the changing nature, location and scope of conflict, particularly the increasing proportion of internal con-flicts fought by irregular armed groups in urban environments. It is also a response to the scale and complexity of protection challenges in the Balkans, Rwanda, Darfur and Libya - each of which has clearly dem-onstrated that threats to civilians are com-plex and dynamic and that no single inter-national actor is capable of mitigating them  without significant support from other insti-tutions (O’Callaghan and Pantuliano, 2007). Elsewhere Victoria Metcalfe (2012) argues that despite the resultant growth in oppor-tunities for interaction between militaries and humanitarians in what is increasingly a shared endeavour, there is only a very limited literature on their interaction over protec- Gordon, S 2013 The Protection of Civilians: An Evolving Paradigm?. Stability: International Journal of Security & Development, 2(2): 40, pp. 1-16, DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5334/sta.cb RESEARCH ARTICLE The Protection of Civilians: An Evolving Paradigm? Stuart Gordon * stability *Department of International Development, Con - naught House London School of Economics and Political Science, United Kingdom gordond3@sky.com Whilst the protection of civilians (POC) in conict has been a recurring feature of the humanitarian discourse the same has not been true in military doctrines, where the pro - tection of civilians has long been cast in terms of arms bearers upholding their responsi - bilities under international humanitarian law (IHL). However, opportunities for and pres - sures on military actors to develop more specic capacities and approaches in this eld have grown: partly as a response to the changing nature, location and scope of conict, particularly the increasing proportion of internal conicts fought by irregular armed groups in urban environments. It is also a response to the scale and complexity of pro - tection challenges in the Balkans, Rwanda, Darfur and Libya - each of which has clearly demonstrated that threats to civilians are complex and dynamic and that no single inter - national actor is capable of mitigating them without signicant support from other insti - tutions (O’Callaghan and Pantuliano, 2007). Despite the enormous growth in opportunities for interaction between militaries and humanitarians there is only a very limited literature on their interaction over protection issues and evaluations of the emerging doctrines. Consequently this article charts the growth in military policies towards POC in the UN, UK, NATO and a range of other states as well as drawing attention to the challenges that still remain in operationalising responses.  Gordon: The Protection of Civilians Art. 40, page 2 of 16 tion issues and evaluations of the emerging doctrines. Consequently this article charts the growth in military policies towards POC and the challenges that still remain in their operationalisation. What is the Protection of Civilians?  Traditionally the concept of ‘protection’ has been relatively straightforward, rooted in IHL’s protection of civilians from the con-sequences of war. As such, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has tra-ditionally occupied a key role in its applica-tion. Later conceptualisations of ‘protection’ have broadened to encompass elements of refugee law and international human rights law (IHRL), with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) adopting a role cor-responding to that of the ICRC. As a con-sequence of the prominent roles played by both the ICRC and UNHCR, the implementa-tion of protection has tended to reflect their mandates and operational approaches, mani-festing itself as a ‘legally oriented, diplomatic and persuasive engagement with national state and non-state actors’ (O’Callaghan and Pantuliano 2007). Both the ICRC and the UN’s Inter Agency Standing Commit-tee (IASC) reflect this quasi-legal approach; accepting that ‘the concept of protection encompasses all activities aimed at obtaining full respect for the rights of the individual in accordance with the letter and spirit of the relevant bodies of law (i.e., IHRL, IHL and refugee law)’ (ICRC 1999: 3). The Rise in Civilian Protection Discourse  The broader humanitarian community became increasingly concerned with the protection of civilians caught in the midst of armed conflict, particularly from the early 1990s with the end of the Cold War. This reflected changing perceptions of the rela-tionship between humanitarian action and  warfare, ‘prompting humanitarian actors to think more deeply about the extent of their responsibility to provide more than relief alone’ (O’Callaghan and Pantuliano 2007: 1). Conflict in the Balkans, Somalia and Africa more generally resulted both in a greater understanding of the impact of war on civil-ian populations as well as ‘the limitations and sometimes negative consequences of relief assistance’. These situations also led to a ‘greater emphasis in international policy spheres on a responsibility to protect’ and ‘closer linkages between humanitarian action and the wider policy agenda’. This also encour-aged a reconsideration of the boundaries of humanitarian action and the role and mean-ing of protection within this space. Increas-ingly ‘protection’ expanded from being the domain of the ICRC and UNHCR and took on a broader meaning which encompassed ‘issues of civilian safety.’ Its importance also expanded organisationally as new humani-tarian actors, particularly Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), adopted protection policies as part of their operational program-ming and the UN cluster system established protection as one of the 11 core areas of humanitarian action (O’Callaghan and Pan-tuliano 2007: 1). In practical terms this led to protection policies continuing to be pursued not only in terms of national-level dialogues between the traditional protection actors and state/non-state armed actors but also to its operationalisation by a much broader array of NGO actors working within com-munities and ‘drawing on links with other political and military actors in their efforts to increase civilian safety’ (O’Callaghan and Pantuliano 2007: 2).  The widening of the definition of civilian ‘protection’ actors has undoubtedly compli-cated agreement operational priorities even amongst the humanitarian community. This has been complicated further by the increas-ing role of military forces in protection strat-egies. Nevertheless, there are large areas of agreement that must not be overlooked.  There is a broad acceptance within both the humanitarian community and military doc-trine that the protection of civilians in armed conflict relates both to violations of IHL and  Gordon: The Protection of Civilians Art. 40, page 3 of 16 human rights law as well as encompassing a ‘broader spectrum of human security and human dignity’ (HPG 2011: 2) – and this is reflected in much of the military doctrine analysed later in this article. Despite the dif-fering tactics and priorities, as well as the cultural difficulty of some humanitarians in accepting a military role in protection strate-gies, both military and humanitarian actors recognise each other as having important contributions to make to a shared goal of reducing threats to civilians. Elsewhere, Met-calfe argues that there exists a broad consen-sus on the protection of civilians including three elements: ‘compliance by all parties to conflict with international humanitarian and human rights law; mitigating or reducing the threats and vulnerabilities of civilian popula-tions; and, in the longer term, building a pro-tective environment, including strengthen-ing the capacities of the host state and local communities’ (HPG 2012: 1).Nevertheless, profound differences in strategies and tactics have complicated rela-tions not least of all because military support to the protection of civilians is not simply rooted in a humanitarian imperative (see Metcalfe, Haysom and Gordon 2012). Within the growing range of military doctrines on this subject protection is recognised both as a quasi-humanitarian obligation and, impor-tantly, as an essentially pragmatic response to sustaining a viable peace and mission legitimacy. Holt et al. (2009: 14). stress the latter, arguing that protection is central to peacekeeping mandates because the ‘safety and security of civilians is critical to the legitimacy and credibility of peacekeeping missions. Missions rely upon their legiti-macy with the local civilian population and external observers alike to help build peace and maintain political momentum behind the peace process. Moreover, wherever peacekeepers deploy they raise expectations amongst the local population - and among those who view missions from afar - that the reason for their presence is to support peo-ple at risk. As seen in Rwanda, the Balkans, Sierra Leone, Haiti, DRC and Darfur, among others, peacekeeping operations that are ill-prepared to address large-scale violence directed against civilians will falter and may even collapse’ (Holt, Taylor and Kelly 2009).  Ariela Blatter (2011: 2) echoes these themes, arguing that ‘civilian protection is essential because it is critical to the perceived success of peacekeeping operations and therefore the UN’s ability to work credibly in the field of peace and security.’ Similarly she suggests that POC is a prerequisite for establishing an enduring peace settlement whilst ‘prevent-ing attacks on civilians also pre-empts spoil-ers from creating instability and weakening fragile peace processes in post-war environ-ments’. Furthermore, in its absence ‘humani-tarian assistance cannot be provided by relief agencies, international and regional organi-sations, and NGOs when civilians and third party providers are at risk of being attacked.  The security of civilians is also a key aspect of providing development assistance in post-conflict situations’ (Blatter 2011: 2). The Growth in Military Roles in the Protection of Civilians  The evolution of protection strategies within the humanitarian community has also been echoed in militaries, particularly those deployed under UN auspices. Since 1999,  when the UN Security Council first authorised peacekeeping troops to use force to protect civilians under imminent threat of violence, the Security Council has increasingly man-dated peacekeepers this right. 1  The language of ‘civilian protection’ is now embedded in the majority of peacekeeping mandates 2 , either as an implicit or explicit function, and UN peacekeeping missions have often inno- vated creatively in establishing viable con-cepts of operations (O’Callaghan and Pantu-liano 2007).  The concept has also become increas-ingly important within other international organisations with crisis management roles, such as NATO, the African Union (AU) and the European Union. NATO’s operations in  Gordon: The Protection of Civilians Art. 40, page 4 of 16 both Libya and Afghanistan have raised the significance of POC as a specific objective (i.e., rather than as a component of regime change or a counter insurgency strategy) and states like the United States and United King-dom have increasingly placed the emphasis on conflict prevention in their national secu-rity strategies.  As a consequence of these trends, the mili-tary protection of civilians in armed conflict has increasingly become both more impor-tant and complex. The protection elements in the mandates of peacekeeping missions (UN and other international forces) extend beyond IHL obligations placed on the mili-tary to uphold distinctions between combat-ants and non-combatants. Such mandates focus more on establishing a safe environ-ment, linking military conceptions of ‘protec-tion’ to notions understood by humanitarian organisations and potentially creating ‘new areas where the lines between humanitar-ian and military [action] are blurred’ (SCHR 2010: 6). The practical challenges of ensuring the physical protection of people have also combined with normative shifts such as the increasing acceptance of the ‘Responsibility to Protect’ (R2P) to transform the problem from an essentially humanitarian one into one that is perceived to require a complex mix of political, humanitarian and often mil-itary responses, particularly in the context of integrated mission approaches. Military Doctrinal Adaptation Broadly speaking, military doctrines have tended to touch on protection in a piece-meal fashion, treating it as an obligation of arms bearers to draw distinctions between, on the one hand, combatants and military objectives and, on the other, civilians and civil objectives (Beadle 2010: 7). Counter-insurgency strategies routinely advocate sep-arating civilian populations from insurgents and creating conditions for the extension of government authority and enablement of economic growth. It also features as an ele-ment of stabilisation doctrines’ promotion of the extension of host nation governance and the protection of key persons and insti-tutions (Gordon 2010). Whilst practically all military counter-insurgency and stabilisation doctrines enshrine elements of a POC strat-egy, there is remarkably little on the mechan-ics of how this would translate into a broader POC doctrine.Several of the more recent publications described below have begun to frame protec-tion as a more discrete component that is key to both stabilisation and counter insurgency, often in terms borrowed from the concept of human security. Nevertheless, its gener-ally fragmentary treatment makes it difficult for POC to crystalise into a coherent frame- work - a concept of operations - that is readily understood by soldiers and politicians alike. US Doctrinal Adaptation  In 2006, the US Army and Marine Corps released Counterinsurgency Field Manual 3–24   (hereafter FM 3–24) under Army General David Petraeus and Marine Gen-eral James Mattis. It was one of the earli-est doctrinal adaptations to the conflicts in (principally) Iraq and Afghanistan – result-ing primarily from the need to address the strategic drift in Iraq. Nevertheless, its influ-ence was felt beyond the US military, being unofficially adopted as the NATO counter-insurgency doctrine. It broke with the US  Army’s former preoccupation with the deci-sive use of military force, stressing instead a ‘population-centric approach’, and sought to engineer a change in the strategic culture of the US military. Whilst its treatment of pro-tection remained fragmentary, split between its desire to separate the insurgent from the general population and its IHL obligations, (FM 3–24: Appendix D) it framed the counter insurgency war as ‘a struggle for the popula-tion’s support’ with the ‘protection, welfare, and support of the people’ being ‘vital to suc-cess’ (FM 3–24: 1–159).US Joint Publication 3–07.3 entitled ‘Peace Operations’ (2007) introduces elements of a strategy for the protection of civilians, but this tends to focus on protecting the civil-ian components of an international mis-  Gordon: The Protection of Civilians Art. 40, page 5 of 16 sion, referring obliquely to the international humanitarian community, especially in what it labels as ‘foreign humanitarian assistance’ missions. As strategic doctrine it perhaps intentionally sidesteps what the protection of civilians would demand in terms of a concept of operations. However it does draw out an approach that may involve the forcible sepa-ration of belligerents, support to host nation institutions and security apparatus, the main-tenance of law and order, the protection of civilians and public officials, the direct pro-tection of NGOs, Other Government Agen-cies (OGAs) and the military providing what it labels as ‘humanitarian assistance’ (section II-2). It argues that this might involve the protection of safe areas as well as the pro-tection of logistical hubs, corridors and dis-tribution centres. When opposed by one or more belligerents humanitarian assistance may also involve the direct delivery of aid by the military. Whilst many of these activi-ties are potentially valid, the doctrine itself is piecemeal and tends to focus on humanitar-ian commodities, logistics and international staff rather than the safety of host nation civilians. It also presumes the capacity of the host nation to directly provide a secure environment or to do this in an acceptable timeframe with external support. This may not always be a realistic set of assumptions.In 2008 the Army revised its field manual on basic operations, known as Field Manual (FM) 3–0, ‘to elevate stability operations to an essential core competency - as important as defeating foreign enemies and protecting the U.S. from attack’ (Ackerman 2008: 5). It also published FM 3–07, the Stability Opera-tions field manual. None of these contained a systematic treatment of POC although all stressed the multidimensional nature of the contemporary military operating environ-ment. FM 3–07, for example, emphasises the protection of urban infrastructure and the seat of government, the avoidance of collat-eral damage, as well as the requirement to address the range of factors that generate lawlessness, insurgency and subversion. It also referred to the purpose of Civil-Military Operations as building support for the host government, but again POC is not pursued as an end in itself nor does it offer anything resembling a framework of operations. 3 UK Doctrinal Adaptation  In 2009, the UK military produced its equiva-lent to FM 3–24, the  Joint Doctrine Publica- tion 3–40: Security and Stabilisation: The Military Contribution (hereafter JDP 3–40). It borrowed heavily from US approaches but also sought to infuse the UK’s broader lessons from its more civilian-oriented approach to stabilisation. Whilst both the US’s FM 3–24 and the UK’s JDP 3–40 stressed the need to develop the support of the population, JDP 3–40 perhaps went further in its emphasis on human security as being one of the keys to the consolidation of tactical military success  whilst also being a prerequisite for economic and political progress. It argued that ‘win-ning the contest for human security [against the insurgents]’ is ‘fundamental to the devel-opment of host nation government author-ity and, ultimately, security of the state’ (FM 3–07: 513). It suggested that the provision of protection to the population ‘stimulates economic activity and supports longer-term development and governance reform. Impor-tantly POC generates confidence in local peo-ple about their own security satiation – their collective human security – and an economic interest in ongoing stability. It also denies adversarial groups one of the principal strat-egies for expanding their support base’ (FM 3–07: 514). Unlike many of the other doctri-nal developments of the early part of the dec-ade, JDP 3–40 provides a range of suggested techniques for implementing such a strat-egy, including the: (i) static protection of key sites, e.g. market places and refugee camps; (ii) persistent security in areas secured and held, e.g. intensive patrolling and check-points; (iii) targeted action against adversar-ies, e.g. search or strike operations; and (iv) population control, e.g. curfews and vehicle restrictions (FM 3–07: 515).Despite the emergence of a more coher-ent civilian protection framework, JDP 3–40
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