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Influencing states' policy and practice on the protection of civilians

Briefing/policy papers

Written by Victoria Metcalfe-Hough

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States bear the primary responsibility under international law to protect civilians from the effects of armed conflict. There are also political, economic and moral imperatives for states to protect their own and other citizens in conflicts. Therefore, states are, or at least should be, a primary target for advocacy by international humanitarian organisations trying to secure better protection of civilians.

Evidence gathered by the Humanitarian Policy Group (HPG) suggests that the engagement of many humanitarian organisations with states on protection issues is often ad hoc and ineffective. This is due to a combination of external and internal factors, including a state’s strategic interests as well as the paucity of capacity, coordination and leadership for advocacy in the international humanitarian sector.

This Briefing Note explores the current practice of international humanitarian organisations in seeking to influence states on their policy and practice regarding the protection of civilians in armed conflict. It considers what factors are inhibiting and enabling these organisations’ influence on states, and sets out suggestions for how to increase influence in this regard.