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Some considerations for civilian–peacekeeper protection alliances

Author(s): Daniel H. Levine

Journal: Ethics & Global Politics
ISSN 1654-4951

Volume: 6;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 1;
Date: 2013;
Original page

Keywords: United Nations | Liberia | women | self-protection | violence | civil conflict | conflict resolution

Protection of civilians has become enshrined as a core task for international peacekeeping missions. How to ensure that civilians are safe from violence and human rights abuses is central to developing military doctrine for peacekeeping; how safe civilians are from attack is central to how peacekeeping missions are assessed both by locals and international observers. However, protection of civilians is often seen as something that is done by active peacekeepers on behalf of passive civilians, potentially missing the ways in which peacekeepers’ actions interact with strategies that civilians undertake on their own behalf. Integrating peacekeeper and civilian self-protection strategies is not trivial, either from a practical or a moral standpoint. Drawing on primary research among women in Liberia, as well as case studies of civilian protection elsewhere, this essay examines the ways in which working with civilians on protection—creating ‘hybrid’ systems of protection—inevitably entangles peacekeepers in civilians’ other social, political, and moral concerns, undermining at least a naïve impartiality. To retain their moral stance, peacekeepers ought to focus on using the safety they provide to allow different local actors (civilian and armed) to interact safely and, ideally, constructively.
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