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Shaping United States policy and practice on the protection of civilians

Briefing/policy paper

Written by Victoria Metcalfe-Hough

Since 2016, a diverse group of international humanitarian and human rights organisations has been engaging with the US government to increase understanding of the impact of US military operations on civilians, and how to strengthen military policy and practice in order to reduce this impact.

Focusing on the US Congress and the Department of Defense, the group has presented comprehensive analysis of the immediate and wider impact of US military operations on civilians in different theatres, and offered legislative, policy and operational actions that could reduce that impact. Initially involving a few key (mainly US-based) international NGOs working together in a very informal manner, the group has expanded and formalised its collaboration through the establishment in 2020 of a Protection of Civilians Working Group, currently comprising 16 NGOs.

This briefing note outlines how this initiative has evolved, the strategic and tactical decisions taken and how this collaborative, multidisciplinary effort has helped shape US government policy on the protection of civilians. It is part of HPG’s project ‘Advocating for humanity: securing better protection outcomes for conflict-affected people’. The project explores the practice of advocacy by international humanitarian actors and offers recommendations for strengthening this core aspect of humanitarian action.