Since the complex emergencies of the 1990s, humanitarian agencies have placed increasing emphasis on the protection of civilians during armed conflict. In spite of this, there is a consensus among humanitarians that outcomes are falling short of intentions, and that the increased emphasis on protection by humanitarian actors has failed to yield a corresponding improvement in the security of the civilian population.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) are two of the most important humanitarian agencies for the protection of civilians, and both have protection at the heart of their mandates. Protecting Civilians in War explores how organizational history, structure, and culture affect how each organization goes about protection, and highlights the ways in which their resulting approaches to protection are inherently limited.
Whereas existing explanations for shortcomings in humanitarian protection tend to blame factors external to humanitarian agencies, the focus of this book is on the organizations themselves, and their understandings of protection. While acknowledging the importance of other actors in determining the level of civilian security or insecurity, the analysis in this book focuses on the ways in which the ICRC and UNHCR conceptualise and practise protection in order to add another layer to our understanding of why protection outcomes are so often so disappointing. Based on research in Geneva, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Myanmar, it examines headquarter-level policy and the way that such policy is translated into practice on the ground.