Skip to content

Thoughts about Protection of Civilians -course

National Defence University
Publication date 11.4.2019 15.25 | Published in English on 11.4.2019 at 15.27

The Finnish Defence Forces International Centre (FINCENT) organized NATO and UN Approaches to the Protection of Civilians (NATO-UN PoC) course in Santahamina, Finland. The course gathered together experts in the field of protection of civilians from different countries and organizations. A pilot version of the course was organized in October 2018.

One man and two women posing in front of a Fincent logo

A few of the participants from different organizations were asked to write about their experiences and share their thoughts on protection of civilians.

1. What organization are you representing?

  • What is your position in the organization?
  • Could you briefly summarize your main responsibilities?

John Francis Draper, United Nations:

"I am the Senior Analyst with the Joint Mission Analysis Centre in the UN Mission in South Sudan. I am the team leader of the human information cell within the JMAC and responsible for providing the mission leadership with early warning information regarding the protection of Civilians."

Ludovica Glorioso, NATO Security Force Assistance Centre of Excellence:

"I am a captain in the Italian Army. My position at the NATO Security Force Assistance Centre of Excellence is a legal advisor. My tasks include assisting the director and his staff during the preparation and conclusion of agreements and contracts with international organizations. I am also in charge of projects related to the Centre of Excellence’s activities. For example, I organized a workshop last year in Rome where the crucial role of the right recruitment selection and training was being analyzed.

NATO Security Force Assistance Centre of Excellence is an international military organization composed by Italy, Albania and Slovenia. The Centre of Excellence received its accreditation from NATO in December 2018. Its mission is to support the alliance in promoting stability and reconstruction projects in conflict and post-conflict scenarios through the main pillars that are doctrine, education, training and lessons learned."

Uta Filz, Humanitarian Civil-Military Coordination Service of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)

"I am working for the Humanitarian Civil-Military Coordination Service of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Humanitarian civil-military coordination, or in short CMCoord, is a core function of OCHA. The CMCoord function is a humanitarian function. The CMCoord Officer plays a critical role in ensuring appropriate interaction between military and humanitarian actors to uphold the distinction between humanitarian and military objectives and strategies.

Humanitarian action comprises assistance, protection and advocacy in response to human needs resulting from complex emergencies and disasters. Humanitarian assistance is provided in accordance with the core humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence. The delivery of humanitarian assistance must be based on needs alone; it cannot discriminate or take sides. Humanitarian organizations must remain independent from political or military objectives, from NATO and UN peacekeeping objectives.

It is important to remember that the military and humanitarian definitions of protection differ. According to the IASC Policy on Protection in Humanitarian Action, protection encompasses "… all activities aimed at obtaining full respect for the rights of the individual in accordance with the letter and the spirit of the relevant bodies of law (i.e. International Human Rights Law (IHRL), International Humanitarian Law, International Refugee Law (IRL))." Protection is a shared, humanitarian system-wide responsibility."

2. Why is it important to you and your organization to take part in the NATO-UN PoC -course?

  • What are the learning objectives for you and your organization?

John Francis Draper:

"This course is very interesting for me in helping me understand better the different roles such as militarily roles, UN’s role and humanitarians’ role within a protection environment. It has been helpful to work towards coming up with new ideas of how we can all work together for a common goal."

Ludovica Glorioso:

"It is important to participate in the protection of civilians -course to understand how to harmonize civilian and military capabilities for conducting exercises and defining programs and tools in developing scenarios. Military role and the international approach to the protection of civilians is one of our focal points."

Uta Filz:

"In every humanitarian response, it is crucial to establish dialogue and interaction with all armed actors. In complex emergencies, there will be an emphasis on making a distinction between humanitarian and military interventions, as well as negotiating with non-state armed groups (NSAGs) for humanitarian access or protection, and ensuring the security of humanitarian actors. The CMCoord Officer has a crucial role to play in liaison – explaining not only the humanitarian mandate and principles to armed actors, but also the mandate, objectives and rules of engagement of armed actors to the humanitarian community. This facilitates mutual understanding, working in the same operational environment and appropriate coordination arrangements."

3. What has been the most interesting/useful part of NATO-UN PoC -course so far?

  • Were there some specific themes that were of special interest to you?

Ludovica Glorioso:

"The most important part has been the international humanitarian law applied to the protection of civilian population and the military contribution to humanitarian assistance.

For the new operations around the world, in conflict and post-conflict scenarios where the main goal is to support the host government in projecting stability and capacity building, the focus is on the coordination of the planning process at strategic, operational and tactical levels between all the actors involved in UN / NATO missions."

4. How would you evaluate the current state of co-operation between all stakeholders involved in protection of civilians? Is there something that could be improved?

Ludovica Glorioso:

"The Centre of Excellence is contributing to include this important topic, the Protection of Civilians, in its courses and in the analysis of different doctrines that include the Protection of Civilians in the SFA areas and in developing of the International humanitarian law in training activities and supporting the NATO Handbook draft as well."

Uta Filz:

"NATO consulted OCHA on the Protection of Civilians Concept. A key principle is the principle of last resort, which we see included in the concept. In disasters during peacetime, foreign military assets (FMA) should be utilized only when there is no civilian alternative that is equally capable and available to meet a critical humanitarian need. In complex emergencies, the concept is even more important: military assets and escorts should be used only if they are the last resort to respond to a critical life-threatening situation, in which the need cannot be met by available civilian assets and there are no alternatives to the military taking action. As a matter of principle, the FMA of belligerent forces or of units actively engaged in combat shall not be used to support humanitarian activities. To safeguard the communities and assure the aid workers’ ability to operate effectively now and the in the future, decision-makers must weigh all risks against the urgency of the affected population’s needs. They also need to take into consideration the requirement to use FMA to respond to those needs."

5. What are key take-aways for you from NATO-UN PoC -course?

Ludovica Glorioso:

"The key takeaways for me are the importance of understanding the critical characteristics of the operational environment, the crucial role of the threat assessment and understanding the main differences with other international organizations. It is important to work with the commonalities in order to have an effective coordination between the main actors that work closely with the civilians."

Uta Filz:

"Maintaining a clear distinction between the role and function of humanitarian actors from that of the military and other armed actors is the determining factor in creating an operating environment in which humanitarian organizations can carry out their responsibilities effectively and safely. Enhancing mutual understanding and respect requires a constant dialogue. We do not say cooperation, we say coordination. I am looking forward to seeing the course expanded to military operators and planners, to ensure that humanitarian principles are well understood, upheld and respected."

Click here to learn more about FINCENT and NATO-UN PoC -course.

Työ ja koulutus