Roundtable: The Politics of Protecting Civilians

Date/Time: 27/01/2017  09:00 - 10:30

Location: NUPI


The Norwegian Centre for Humanitarian Studies  (NCHS) and the Norwegian Institute for International Affairs (NUPI) shall host a roundtable on the politics of protecting civilians.

Since the late 1990s, the protection of civilians (PoC) has become a separate task and objective in most UN peace operations. While earlier peace operations also invoked some idea of protection, UN peace operations have increasingly come to derive a significant part of its legitimacy from the goal of protecting civilians. This development, which is part of a broader debate about the Responsibility to Protect (R2P), establishes higher expectations and more complicated tasks for both civilian and military personnel. This roundtable will discuss the history and the politics of PoC as part of a broader reflection on key findings from a recently concluded project, “Protection of Civilians: From Principle to Practice”, funded by the Research Council of Norway.  

The roundtable will feature three short presentations:

  1. The history of “protection” in UN peace operations, with Ole Jacob Sending (NUPI), where a key finding is that protection of civilians has gone from a core task of peace operations to a foundational rationale for such operations, making them more prone to criticism and perception of failure.
  2. The politics of protection at the UN Security Council, with Simon Reid-Henry (PRIO, University of London) and Kristoffer Lidén (PRIO), where a key finding is that while protection is a key norm, the interpretation and application of the norm is subject to power-political negotiations between the permanent members of the Security Council.
  3. The future of protection as an international norm, with Kristoffer Lidén (PRIO) and Ole Jacob Sending (NUPI), where a key argument is that both the practice, and the study, of protection should shift focus from the tasks performed by peace operations, to a more systematic assessment of the broader factors that facilitate and hinder successful protection of civilians.

The objective of the roundtable is to discuss these findings and their policy implications with key stakeholders in Norway, including the key humanitarian organizations as well as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Additional information

Participants in this event may find the recent policy brief published by Kristoffer Lidén (PRIO) and Simon Reid-Henry (PRIO, University of London) of interest:  What’s in It for Them? Why the Veto Powers All Support Protection of Civilians (And Why They Often Fail to Agree on It).

Additionally, please also take note of this blog post by Kristoffer Lidén (PRIO), Against the Merger of Humanitarianism with Development and Security.

Please note that participation in this event will be by invitation.

Contact Amanda Cellini ( with any questions.

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