UNITAR Workshop on the Protection of Civilians: Challenges in Meeting a Core UN Expectation

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Global Action was honored recently to join a diverse group of UN stakeholders in a UNITAR-sponsored training for diplomats on the Protection of Civilians.

Global Action has long taken note of the many changes in policies governing UN peacekeeping operations.  Along with our Fellows and affiliates, we have offered caution regarding the trend towards more robust, coercive peacekeeping mandates – most containing the worthy objective of Protecting Civilians — that are insufficiently clear in their objectives, overload peacekeepers with responsibilities ranging from protecting UN country teams to rebuilding national judiciaries, and increasingly distort the last vestiges of peacekeeper neutrality.  As GAPW Fellow David Curran has noted often, peacekeepers face increasing dangers amidst complex deployments where there is simply “no peace to keep.”

There are other dangers to peacekeeping credibility, including the over-reliance on peacekeeping operations as a substitute for robust, preventive, diplomatic and development engagements. The UN’s annual ceremony in May honoring fallen peacekeepers is a particularly moving affair. However, the growing number of casualties cited underscores growing threats to peacekeepers placed in highly volatile contexts and asked to work wonders to protect both civilians and UN operations through an increasingly complex mix of coercive and non-coercive measures.

And then there is the growing concern that some of those entrusted with the task of protecting civilians from abuse are themselves guilty of abuse. We simply and completely must uphold the values we seek to protect. Most UN peacekeepers understand that abuse by some jeopardizes all members of UN country teams, puts all of UN operations at risk. The scandals emanating now from Central African Republic and the unresolved abuses in Darfur stain a larger area than that occupied by the perpetrators. If we fail to meet the POC expectations that we have ourselves established, people will needlessly suffer.  The reputation of the UN will needlessly suffer as well.

For a complete overview of the UNITAR workshop click here.

For a summary of Dr. Zuber’s remarks, click here.