Wednesday, 22.05.2024

From Protection to Reflection

How can we strengthen the Protection of Civilians (PoC) in an increasingly uncertain peace & security environment?

May 22, 2024 | New York City

Since the late 1990s, the United Nations Security Council has considered the protection of civilians under imminent threat of physical harm (PoC) to be a core objective for peace operations. Today, 25 years later, the PoC framework remains a key component of UN peacekeeping operations: In 2023, six of the twelve UN peacekeeping missions were explicitly tasked with PoC responsibilities.

However, in many conflict contexts, the reality of what peacekeeping missions can deliver in terms of PoC has not matched the high ambitions for it. In his latest report on the protection of civilians (S/2023/345), the Secretary-General painted a bleak picture of civilian safety around the world, urging Member States and the international community to step up their protective measures.

At the same time, failings in key areas like PoC have heightened scrutiny over the model for UN peacekeeping missions as a whole. With the drawdown of several key missions and declining appetite for collective security arrangements, the model of large-scale, multidimensional peacekeeping missions that have dominated over the past two decades may be a thing of the past. As attention shifts toward considering "smaller, light-footprint" peace missions, as well as missions led by regional organizations, it is unclear how PoC would be conceptualized and prioritized within such missions, particularly given increasing Member State objections and politicization of PoC in certain contexts.

To consider this evolving landscape and what it suggests about upholding PoC principles in the future, the United Nations University Centre for Policy Research (UNU-CPR) and the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung's New York Office organized a side event during this year's OCHA Protection of Civilians Week in New York. We welcomed stakeholders to participate in this critical discussion about the dynamics of PoC and future directions for UN peace operations as a whole.


  • Catharina Nickel, Research Officer, United Nations University Centre for Policy Research


  • Richard Gowan, UN Director, International Crisis Group

Open Discussion moderated by:

  • Michael Bröning, Executive Director, FES New York

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