STANDING WITH CIVILIANS
Growing Our Impact
GROWING OUR IMPACT: 2015 - 2017
Around the world, conflict and violence against civilians show no sign of abatement. Both the need and the demand for our work on behalf of civilians in conflict are, alas, steadily growing. The tools we helped develop and implement in countries and conflicts as diverse as Afghanistan and Somalia have been effective at preventing harm to civilians and addressing its consequences, proving we can adapt our work to myriad contexts and actors. This document represents our plan to respond to the growing call for our expertise and sets out our overarching goal for the next three years: to improve the protections afforded to civilians in conflicts around the world, working toward the development of a global standard for civilian harm mitigation.
A family flees following airstrikes in the neighborhood of Bustan al Qasr in Aleppo, Syria.
Photo by Nicole Tung
I didn’t know there was a gap in human rights work until Center for Civilians in Conflict came along to fill it.
—Aryeh Neier, President Emeritus, Open Society Foundations
Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC) works to make warring parties more responsible to civilians before, during, and after armed conflict. We are advocates who believe no civilian caught in conflict should be ignored, and advisors who provide practical solutions to prevent and respond to civilian harm.
For warring parties to recognize the imperative to prevent civilian harm, protect civilians caught on the battlefield, and make amends for the harm they do cause.
Civilian-focused: We believe all harm to civilians should be prevented to the greatest extent possible. Change should be rooted in the wants and needs of civilians caught in conflict. We bring their voices to those making decisions about conduct in conflict. Pragmatic: We believe changes in the behavior of parties to a conflict will result from working directly with decision-makers, helping them understand the effects of their actions and providing them with practical policy solutions to limit and address civilian harm. By adopting a pragmatic approach based on policy rather than law, we are able to secure the cooperation of key actors and motivate them to adopt additional measures to ensure the safety of civilians. Collaborative: We believe working in partnership to protect civilians is more effective than working alone. We work with civilians themselves as well as civil society, governments, military actors, international organizations, thought leaders, and the media as passionate advocates and pragmatic advisors.
International humanitarian law (IHL) imposes a number of legal obligations on parties to a conflict that are intended to minimize human suffering during the conduct of hostilities. Yet, civilians still suffer. CIVIC works to encourage parties to armed conflicts to adopt of a set of tools, policies, and practices that go above and beyond what is legally required by IHL, thus raising the level of protection afforded to civilians before, during, and after conflict. Where prevention fails, harm must be appropriately addressed through the making of amends or provision of post harm assistance. Our work takes us from the homes of civilians in active conflict zones to halls of power around the world—the very places where the decisions that impact civilian lives are being made. We document harm to civilians and analyze its causes. We also advise governments, their armed forces, and international and regional institutions on practical solutions for preventing and responding to civilian harm. We then offer our technical expertise to implement proposed solutions. We call the whole of our work “civilian harm mitigation,” a vitally important new field, which we have helped to create. Ultimately, we work toward the establishment of a new international standard on prevention and response to civilian harm. To this end, our efforts over the next three years must ensure that our work graduates from an innovative niche area to a mainstream field of work with developed theory and practice.
POST HARM AMENDS AND ASSISTANCE
Making amends is the practice of parties to conflict providing recognition and assistance to civilians they harm within the lawful parameters of their combat operations. Amends canww take a variety of forms and include explanations, apologies, monetary payments, and other offerings in accordance with victims’ needs and preferences.
In a decade of work, we have proved that more can and should be done to protect civilians in conflict. We are particularly proud of the following achievements: • CIVIC’s research in Afghanistan and advocacy in Brussels directly led to NATO approving its first amends policy for Afghan war victims. CIVIC’s advocacy in 20082009 led directly to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) command emphasis on civilian harm mitigation and a significant shift in tactics to avoid civilian harm. According to UN reports, pro-government elements, (which includes ISAF and Afghan forces) accounted for 39% of civilian deaths in 2008. By 2010 that percentage dropped to 15%, and declined further by 2013 to 11%. We created an extensive framework for Afghan forces for tracking civilian harm and provided training materials for over 20,000 international and Afghan forces on how to respond to civilian casualties. The Afghan government has already implemented some of our recommendations, including an office dedicated to assessing civilian harm. We worked with the United States Congress to develop the first assistance programs for civilians harmed by combat operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. In Iraq, the program is named in honor of our founder: Marla Ruzicka Iraqi War Victims Fund. To date, we helped secure more than $200 million for these programs. We co-authored with a former British General a civilian protection policy for the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), after which the number of civilian casualties caused by AMISOM decreased. With the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), we documented civilian losses in Somalia and published the first report on the topic. Over two years, we developed a civilian casualty tracking cell for African Union (AU) forces. Due to be implemented in 2015, it will be the first for an African force and only the second in the world. In Pakistan, we worked with local civil society organizations to draft a groundbreaking law to provide financial assistance to victims of terrorism in the province of Balochistan. Using the Balochistan law as a template, efforts are underway by Pakistani civil society to have similar laws passed in other provinces. In Syria, our field missions are producing unique analysis on the armed opposition’s civilian protection efforts and the expectations of civilians suffering losses. We organized a high-level roundtable of military, humanitarian, and legal experts and extensively analyzed—through a unique civilian protection lens—five military intervention options for Syria. Our work was used by policymakers in the UN, NATO, and US as they made decisions as to what actions to take. We produced the first in-depth analysis of the civilian impact of weaponized drones in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. Our calls for greater transparency, for operations to shift from the CIA to the Department of Defense (now under consideration by the Obama Administration), and for amends for civilian losses (a concept noted by CIA director John Brennan during his confirmation hearing) are featured in Wired, The Christian Science Monitor, CNN, NPR, and BBC, among others. CIVIC served on the Council on Foreign Relation’s drone advisory board.
We were on the ground in Libya within days of the start of the conflict, documenting civilian harm in reports that contributed to a front-page story for the New York Times, showing the world the tragedy of civilian casualties. We advised NATO on civilian harm mitigation best practices, and extensively assessed abandoned ordnance with Harvard International Human Rights Law Clinic, leading to pledges from both the US and Libyan governments to do more to secure left over weapons and munitions. Our recommendations to the United Nations on minimizing harm to civilians were noted in several Security Council Resolutions on Somalia from 2012 to 2014. The Security Council adopted our specific recommendation that peacekeeping forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo mitigate civilian harm before, during, and after operations—a first for a peacekeeping mandate. In addition, our concepts of ‘making amends’ and ‘civilian harm tracking’ are emerging themes at Protection of Civilians (PoC) discussions and documents at the United Nations. We worked with American military leaders on new civilian harm mitigation policy and guidance, including writing significant portions of the US Army doctrine on Civilian Casualty Mitigation and a chapter for an Army handbook on this topic. While more can and should be done, US forces have significantly shifted the way they understand and apply civilian harm mitigation principles, and we take great pride in our contribution.
CIVILIAN HARM TRACKING
An emerging practice in armed conflict, civilian harm tracking is an internal process by which an armed actor gathers data on civilian harm caused by its operations in order to analyze causes of harm and revise tactics to better protect civilians. Armed groups must understand where, when, and how their operations have harmed civilians in order to reduce civilian harm
African Union soldiers man their positions in a house they have just taken from the control of Al Shabaab insurgents in the Sigaale District of Mogadishu, Somalia.
Photo by Kate Holt
OUR THREE-YEAR GOAL
SUPPORTING OBJECTIVES 1 2 3[
SUPPORTING OBJECTIVE 4
Our goal over the next three years is to improve the protections afforded to civilians in conflicts around the world, working toward the development of a global standard for civilian harm mitigation.
To achieve that goal, in the next three years we will pursue three programmatic objectives
Influence governments and armed actors in conflict to implement effective harm mitigation practices Influence governments, international organizations, and coalitions involved in multinational operations to adopt standing policies on civilian protection and harm mitigation Advance the field of civilian harm mitigation policy and practice
and one organizational objective
Expand our reach, influence, and impact by responsibly growing our organization
SUPPORTING OBJECTIVE ONE: Influence governments and armed actors in conflict to implement effective harm mitigation practices
In most current conflicts, national militaries and armed non-state actors (ANSAs) are the primary actors engaged in fighting. Even where multinational forces are involved, their mandates are often limited to supporting local forces. There is a clear legal, ethical, and strategic imperative for security actors to avoid harming their own population. The same imperatives exist for international actors providing support to local forces. Too many governments and armed actors, however, neglect civilian protection. Some even deliberately use violence against civilians as a weapon of war. International actors and multinational forces often find themselves ill-prepared to influence local actors to better prevent harm to civilians. CIVIC is perfectly placed to challenge the status quo and change these dynamics helping all actors strengthen their role in protecting civilians.
Our Work in Conflict Zones
Our engagement is specifically tailored to the context and environment of each conflict but always includes a combination of some or all of the following core elements of our work: Research and Analysis of Civilian Harm: First, we conduct a thorough assessment of the harm to civilians. We gain an understanding from victims and survivors as to how they were harmed, what protection gaps exist, their perceptions of security actors, and what victims want and expect in terms of recognition and assistance. We also engage with militaries to build an understanding of what civilian harm mitigation guidance—above and beyond what is already required by IHL—currently exists for use of force and what assessments are made before and after operations. Empowering Civil Society: Whenever possible, we partner with civil society groups to strengthen our research, elevate civilian voices, and build civil society’s capacity to engage governments or armed actors on civilian protection and harm mitigation. We believe effective advocacy with governments, militaries, or armed non-state actors depends also on local civil society having the knowledge and tools to press for better policies and practices to improve civilian protection.
Policy & Public Advocacy: After we formulate our recommendations to address civilian harm issues in terms of prevention and response, we advocate for pragmatic solutions. While the primary target of our advocacy is the party responsible for the harm, we develop a detailed advocacy plan for every situation, targeting all parties who might influence the outcome we are seeking. In this context we also work with the media to raise public consciousness about the plight of civilians in a particular conflict—thereby creating a public demand for civilian protection and harm mitigation. Policy Implementation: Technical support to policy implementation is an integral part of our work and varies greatly from conflict to conflict. It can include: assisting in the technical drafting of policy frameworks for post harm assistance mechanisms; drafting military doctrine, policies, or directives; developing implementation plans for practical tools such as tracking cells; and, providing expert technical guidance on recruiting and staffing of specialized positions. We have extensive inhouse expertise and deploy our senior staff and expert consultants to support implementation. Training Engagements: There is often a complementary need for the training of officers and civilians tasked with implementation of policies and of soldiers who must ultimately carry out harm mitigation tactics on the ground. Our methodology begins with an assessment of needs such as gaps in current training programs, and includes primary source information from our interviews with civilians. We conduct post-training assessments to gauge progress and identify further opportunities for education. Evaluation and Lessons Learned: Once policies and tools are implemented, it is a priority for CIVIC to evaluate how they perform. Evaluations are essential for three reasons: first, to ensure policies are aligned with country-specific priorities and that civilians are indeed better protected; second, to draw lessons to apply in other contexts and conflicts; and third, to better measure the long-term impact of CIVIC’s actions and ensure the effectiveness of our operations. Women and Children in Conflict: The majority of civilians in conflict are women and children, and we make every effort to amplify the voice and perspectives of women in our research, documentation and policy creation and implementation. In line with Security Council Resolution 1325, we promote women’s involvement as active participants in protection and as actors for policy change within communities.
Expanding Work to Engage Appropriate ANSAs
In order to ensure that more civilians are protected, it is imperative that we begin to engage with Armed Non-State Actors (ANSAs)—particularly those who have a genuine desire to better protect civilians. Working with ANSAs poses a number of legal, ethical, and policy questions that we must carefully evaluate both in principle and on a case-by-case basis. As we shape our efforts in this area, we will collaborate with other groups that have successfully built relevant programs. Our efforts will leverage our unique expertise to build on their efforts and avoid duplication.
Toward the Protection of Civilians (PoC)
IHL sets out the baseline legal requirements for the protection of civilians caught in conflict. Civilian harm mitigation comprises additional steps that military actors should take to further prevent their own combat operations from harming civilians. However, parties to a conflict are sometimes mandated to go even further—to proactively protect civilians from harm potentially caused by other parties some of whom may even harm civilians as a matter of policy. This field, which has been developed over the past 15 years in the context of UN peacekeeping operations, is known as “Protection of Civilians” (PoC). We are enhancing our expertise in PoC by hiring expert staff and through our partnerships with organizations leading in this field. We intend to leverage our experience and contacts to design, advocate for, and implement proactive protection practices. Particularly with the AU and UN peacekeeping missions, there are often already solid policies in place but a general lack of capacity and expertise to successfully implement them. We believe our experience and approach will be very effective in this work. Measures of impact: Governments and armed actors: 1) demonstrably lower the incidents of civilian harm; and 2) provide appropriate compensation in the event civilians are harmed. Our current work is focused in our priority regions: the Middle East (Iraq and Syria), South Asia (Afghanistan), and Africa (Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali, Somalia, and South Sudan). Over the next three years we will expand our efforts to other conflicts, which may include the Central African Republic, Israel/Gaza, Libya, Myanmar, Nigeria, Pakistan, South Sudan, Ukraine, and Yemen. Decisions will be made based on organizational capacity, opportunity for maximum impact, and a rigorous set of other internal selection criteria.
Women in Gao, Mali, examine poster explaining what they should do when they discover unexploded ordinance left behind by the war.
Photo by Thomas Martinez
SUPPORTING OBJECTIVE TWO: Influence governments, international organizations, and coalitions involved in multinational operations to adopt standing policies on civilian protection and harm mitigation
Over the past ten years, and partly as a result of CIVIC’s efforts, the US military, the African Union, NATO, and the United Nations have adopted conflict-specific policies and directives that strengthened the protection afforded to civilians and/or established amends programs to support civilians harmed by their forces. However, we have seen that both NATO in Libya and the AU in the Central African Republic again faced some of the same challenges they successfully addressed in Afghanistan and Somalia respectively and were forced to cobble together new theatre-specific policies and practices. We see evidence that the US, NATO, and partner countries are carrying over some lessons learned in Libya, Afghanistan, and Iraq to the operations against Islamic State, but it is clear that no standing policies and guidelines for civilian harm mitigation yet exist for any of these organizations. It is simply not necessary to ‘reinvent the wheel’ each time a new conflict erupts. Lessons learned in recent conflicts must be captured and inculcated into policy, planning, and training for future conflicts. With these emerging trends, it is clear that now is the time to create and implement standing policies on civilian protection and harm mitigation. Over the next three years CIVIC will engage these actors with the following objectives: US Government: In 2014, Congress responded to CIVIC’s advocacy and passed legislation that created a funding stream for an amends program for the US military. However, to date the Department of Defense (DoD) has yet to create a standing program to make use of this funding. CIVIC is working to ensure that, regardless of where the US may cause harm to civilians, they have an immediately-available program to make amends. The US and others are engaging in “lessons learned processes” that should inform policy and strategy in future conflicts. It is imperative that CIVIC shape and influence these efforts, so that lessons learned in specific theatres are consolidated and codified into standing policies and practices on civilian protection and harm mitigation. CIVIC and its partners are also advocating for the appointment of a senior advisor on civilian protection and harm mitigation at the Pentagon. Implementing progressive best practices from Iraq and Afghanistan is a major step forward, but cannot alone create the institutional change necessary to avoid repeating missteps in future engagements. We are also engaging the US government on aspects of its counterterrorism programs, including the use of weaponized drones inside and outside zones of armed conflict.
NATO: CIVIC has contributed to NATO’s official review of “lessons learned” from operations in Afghanistan and identified successes and challenges on harm mitigation. We are also engaging with NATO to ensure that it institutionalizes civilian harm mitigation policies and tools in doctrine, training, security force assistance missions and in future conflicts. United Nations: We will continue engaging the UN at the HQ level, where the concept of civilian harm mitigation is showing great momentum. We will also continue to develop our thinking on Protection of Civilians and how our unique approach can contribute to ‘operationalizing PoC.’ Further funding will enable us to work in the field with UN peacekeeping missions to develop innovative ways to enhance their capabilities in civilian protection and harm mitigation. African Union: We will support the full implementation of the Civilian Casualty Tracking, Analysis, and Response Cell (CCTARC) in Somalia. With increased resources we will strengthen our existing relationship with the AU to assist in their lessons learned process currently underway and consolidate standing policies and training procedures on both civilian protection and harm mitigation. We also aim to strengthen the AU’s capacity to address future crises by developing key policies and tools, conducting original research, providing relevant training for military commanders and troop-contributing countries, and supporting continuity of operations as AU missions transition to the UN (e.g. Mali and CAR). European Union: In recent years, the EU has increased its security force assistance efforts. We plan to seek a formal relationship with the EU to shape and influence their training curriculum and leader development programs, and provide feedback on the efficacy of their efforts. This will require research and assessments on the ground in order to identify gaps and opportunities in current and future training missions. Troop Contributing Countries and Coalition Partners: With additional resources, CIVIC aims to establish relationships with new military partners in the next three years, particularly those currently engaged in military operations in a third country as members of international coalition forces or peacekeeping operations. Our goal is to work toward the adoption of civilian harm mitigation policies and practices both in the theater where they are involved and at the institutional level. Measures of impact: US and key international organizations and coalitions develop and implement policies, standard operating procedures, and training programs for civilian protection and harm mitigation practices that increasingly lower risk to civilians, and respond appropriately to any harm caused.