The IICRR hosted a three day advanced research workshop “Armed Groups, Civilian Protection and United Nations Peacekeeping” from Wednesday 7th to Friday 9th November. The conference was co-organised by Dr Walt Kilroy, IICRR Associate Director and Dr Sukanya Podder, King’s College London. While the concern with civilians in armed conflict is not new, and the international community is well aware of the key challenges that this presents, recent events on the ground are forcing us to revisit our analysis. These developments include the ‘robust’ turn in peacekeeping in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), difficult relations with the host government in South Sudan, and the way enormous civilian protection ‘sites’ (camps) have become part of the response. With that urgency in mind, this workshop set out to
- Trace the evolution of civilian protection in the mandates and practices of peace support operations
- Isolate obstacles and barriers to effectively protecting civilians from violent attacks by armed groups, including human trafficking, slavery, forced displacement, child recruitment and forced marriages
- Explore the network of relationships with other actors which have a significant bearing on how the mandate is operationalised (such as civil-military cooperation and relations with armed forces and government of a host state). These actors include the state and its armed forces, local peacebuilding organisations, and early warning networks of civil society organisations
- Draw conclusions from peacekeepers’ experience over the last five years of protecting civilians in difficult circumstances, and to see in what ways earlier analyses have to be reconsidered.
Speakers at the event included Dr Philip Cunliffe, University of Kent and Editor-in-Chief, International Peacekeeping; Prof Siobhán Wills, Transitional Justice Institute, Ulster University; Lt Col Timothy O’Brien, UN Training School Ireland; Dr Sara Lindberg Bromley, Uppsala University; and Stian Kjeksrud, Norwegian Defence Research Establishment. The full programme can be viewed at this link (PDF).