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Protection advocacy by international NGOs in armed conflict situations: breaking the barriers

Briefing/policy paper

Written by Gemma Davies

There is strong recognition that international non-governmental organisations (INGOs) have a key role to play in carrying out advocacy to promote the protection of civilians. However, this research finds that protection advocacy has not been prioritised and is largely ad hoc; that it is inhibted by high levels of risk aversion (including from leadership); and that opportunities for more effective protection advocacy are not strategically or consistently leveraged.

This briefing note seeks to understand INGOs’ current practices, explore the challenges and dilemmas involved, and identify opportunities to strengthen protection advocacy. It draws on the experiences of protection advocacy in Nigeria (on conflict and hunger) and Libya (on durable solutions for internally displaced people), as well as the broader practice of INGO protection advocacy in both contexts and globally.

Ultimately, it identifies a need for leadership and support across all levels of local to global advocacy. This requires detailed analysis as to the levels of risk in carrying out advocacy, ways to share and mitigate risks, and agreement on the level of residual risk organisations are willing to take. This should be set out alongside the risks of not undertaking advocacy. Without this, the system-wide paralysis in carrying out protection advocacy may result in an age of silence.