PoC WEEK 2022: Prioritizing Protection of Civilians in Peacekeeping Transitions

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On the second day of the PoC Week 2022, a debate was held on Prioritizing Protection of Civilians in Peacekeeping Transitions. 

24 May. Ambassador Byrne Nason opened the floor recalling the Resolution 2594 adopted by the United Nations Security Council in 2021. This resolution mandated UN peace operations to prioritize inclusive national and local ownership, coherent and integrated planning and coordination, and engagement with civil society, including women and youth, among other stakeholders in their drawdown and transition. Led by Ireland, with a range of key stakeholders, UNSCR 2594 (2021) served as a milestone that positioned the Protection of Civilians (PoC) at the heart of UN transitions. It consolidates lessons of prior UN Mission exits based on an inclusive approach and stresses that in planning for transitions, peace operations should ensure joint planning with national and local partners including civil society, prioritizing human rights and protection of civilians. 

The aim of this event was to examine practical implementation of the resolution, drawing on recent research from the Democratic Republic of Congo, with lessons from Darfur and elsewhere. The roundtable examined the field realities of how the Protection of Civilians is prioritized throughout transition processes, including protection of specific vulnerable groups. This specific point was raised by Madame Albertine Kungwa Assa (Civil Society representative of the Democratic Republic of Congo), concerned about combating sexual exploitation and harassment through UN cooperation.

After her statement, Aditi Gorur, Senior Policy Advisor of Permanent Mission of U.S. to the UN, pointed out a continuous “dilemma” about the Protection of Civilians during armed conflicts: “peacekeepers sometimes are not able to implement a complete Protection of civilians because what the community is asking for is not necessarily what the UN peacekeepers do”. This was a relevant remark concerning the role of the UN in this transition, which more than one participant considered not completed or insufficient.

Moreover, participants discussed how PoC factors into joint transition benchmarks, operational decisions on base and office closures, and on how risk assessment, early warning and accountability mechanisms are used. To this, crucial were the interventions of Erica Bussey (Joint Human Rights Office, MONUSCO) and Dirk Druet (UN Transitions Projects), as a primary players in the recognition of human rights with a unique role in the consequent transition. In this context, they also underlined the important role of women and the need to put them at the center of these operations. 

Finally, reference was made to the ongoing efforts to strengthen local and national ownership, community engagement and creating civic space and participation channels for civil society in planning for peacekeeping transition, while prioritizing the safety and capacity of local protection partners. Ambassador Rebab Fatima concluded the discussion by remarking on the importance of the Protection of Civilians, which is a shared responsibility and should see the civilians at the heart of every transition reform, especially in more vulnerable countries.


by Sofiya Ricci Zubok and Alexia Tenneriello

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