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The dramatic progress of the global relief system in recent years has meant that generally we no longer have massive causalities, as we did only a decade ago, from lack of basic food, shelter and medicines. But millions of vulnerable civilians from conflict areas continue to remain gravely at risk as humanitarian protection remains a major weakness of the international response system. The author1 argues that, despite all the efforts that have been made, the international system has been unable to substantially improve effective protection for civilian conflict victims. In this paper, the author suggests some reasons why he thinks this is so and what might be done about it. He approaches the subject by highlighting issues such as responsibility and intervention, the protection architecture with its different actors, as well as the challenges of implementation. He suggests that although the protection of civilians is fundamentally linked to political and security issues it is frequently dealt with as a separate aspect of this broader equation. There was also a need to deal more effectively with non-state actors who are party to many current conflicts. UN peacekeeping mandates and resources for civilian protection needed to be strengthened and UN protection agencies needed to be more proactive. He concludes that there has been major progress in the last decade regarding civilian protection at the international level but this has not led to more effective protection in the field. However, progress has provided an exceptional window for much more effective implementation of basic safeguards than we have seen to date.

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Discussion paper


Refugee Studies Centre

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