Protecting civilians in war : the ICRC, UNHCR, and their limitations in internal armed conflicts
Oxford : Oxford University Press, 2016
VIII, 221 p. : tabl. ; 24 cm
Bibliographie : p. 197-214. Index
Since the end of the Cold War, the protection of civilians during armed conflict has received increasing attention from humanitarian agencies and the international community more broadly. However, there is a broad consensus among humanitarians that outcomes are falling short of intentions, and that the increased emphasis on protection by humanitarian actors has failed to yield a corresponding improvement in the security of the civilian population. Against this background, and focusing in particular on the protection efforts of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), this paper has three main aims: (1) to enhance our understanding of how these major protection agencies understand protection and go about putting that understanding into practice; (2) to identify some of the key limitations of their protection approaches; and (3) to explain why approaches that are limited in these ways arose and persist. Drawing on analysis of institutional policy documents and secondary literature, as well as field research in Colombia, the paper makes two sets of claims. The first speaks to humanitarian policy debates, and highlights the state-centric nature of both these approaches as a barrier to more effective and expansive protection. The second is of interest to scholars and students of international organizations, and suggests that these approaches are dysfunctionally state-centric due to each agency’s institutional history, and in particular the processes of mandate expansion through which they have arrived at the relatively new task of in-country protection during conflict. The ICRC and UNHCR have used particular frames to justify expansion into new issue-areas, highlighting the moral and functional similarity of new and old challenges. These frames subsequently affect the way in which the new issue-areas are understood and addressed, resulting in a replication of old solutions to address the new problems. To the extent that the new ‘problem’ of in-country protection in contemporary armed conflict is different from the old problems, such replication limits the scope of protection that the ICRC and UNHCR are able to provide.