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Picking up the pieces? The 'protection gap' in CAR

Briefing/policy papers

Written by Veronique Barbelet

During the first twelve months of the conflict in the Central African Republic (CAR), over 600,000 people were displaced and 2.2 million left in need of humanitarian assistance.

Often called a ‘forgotten crisis’, the violence suffered on a daily basis by large swathes of the population did not trigger an adequate and timely response by the international community.

Part of a larger project exploring the protection gap in CAR, this HPG Policy Brief examines the shortcomings of the international response.

Key messages:

  • The conflict in the Central African Republic is yet another illustration of the limitations of international efforts to protect civilians in conflict.
  • Despite the total collapse of national systems and ample warnings of an unfolding crisis in CAR, no adequate mechanism existed within the UN to link information with action, and the international protection response was slow and inadequate.
  • The UN is rethinking ways to put the protection of civilians at the centre of its interventions through the Rights Up Front initiative, which compels the UN to monitor and report rights violations as a priority activity. However, simply knowing that a protection crisis is under way is not sufficient to prompt action.
  • If crises such as CAR are to be mitigated in the future, Member States must put in place triggers linking early warning to early action, and ensure the capacity to operationalise the full set of tools at their disposal for preventing violations and violence against civilians and sanctioning perpetrators.
Veronique Barbelet