Photo: Ingrid Samset

Liv Tønnessen

Director of Center on Law and Social Transformation and Senior Researcher

With the increase in civilian casualties and suffering in contemporary conflict, the protection of civilians (PoC) became a central concern in the international community in the late 1990s. While considerable normative progress has been made by the UN and the humanitarian community, PoC has been insufficiently operationalized and institutionalized on the ground. Research has so far focused on PoC as a principle; we know little about what counts as PoC in practice, how intended beneficiaries view protection efforts, and how PoC efforts may be improved.

This project thus explores the research question: What is the role and impact of contemporary policies and practices of PoC? We will answer this question by (1) examining how the principle of PoC is operationalized on the ground by humanitarian, security, and other actors; (2) situating these practices through field-based analyses of the security situation of intended beneficiaries, including displaced people and vulnerable groups (women, children and indigenous peoples); (3) ascertaining how the implementation of PoC programs affects and is experienced by these groups and the wider host communities; and (4) drawing lessons for how the efficiency and legitimacy of the studied PoC efforts might be improved in light of organizational, political and ethical preconditions.

The project features a multi-disciplinary team (anthropology, history, law, geography, philosophy and political science) whose work willbe organized into three work packages: Local Practices, case studies of Afghanistan, Colombia, the Sudans, Uganda, Liberia, and the Horn of Africa; International Policies, case studies of PoC in light of institutionalization processes, the veto powers, and emerging powers; and Comparison, Ethics and Policy Implications, analysis of the political, organizational and ethical conditions for various policy options.

The project will be organized under the newly established Norwegian Centre for Humanitarian Studies (NCHS).