In the recently published policy brief Protecting organizations, protecting civilians, Ole Jacob Sending (NUPI) notes that the protection of civilians (PoC) has been a central policy norm advocated by the UN since the late 1990s. Yet, claims about the need to protect civilians have been with us for much longer, and have been advocated by international organizations for almost a century.
Sending presents a brief sketch of how the protection of civilians has been interpreted and acted on in different historical periods by either the League of Nations (LoN) or the United Nations (UN). He finds that these two international organizations have used the language of protection to demonstrate their relevance to member states, which means that the meaning of protection has varied considerably over time. The implication is that how protection of civilians is defined and acted upon by international organizations is always associated with a range of interests that have little to do with humanitarian concerns for civilians.
Note: This policy brief was published by NUPI and is an output of the Protection of Civilians: From Principle to Practice project, a project under the umbrella of the Norwegian Centre for Humanitarian Studies (NCHS). Read the full policy brief here.