The protection of civilians in armed conflict (POC) remains a constant preoccupation of humanitarian actors and also others. Much effort has gone into devising standards of behaviour and training for armed forces of states parties, non-state armed actors and humanitarians on the ground.
While norms have been improved, the reality on the ground is that abuses of all kinds continue to be perpetrated and affected populations feel that nothing has changed for them. The nature of warfare has changed over time. Interstate wars are now far fewer than in the past and have been increasingly overtaken by internal conflicts, many of the protracted. Unregulated flows of weapons have fuelled and facilitated such conflicts. Some have argued that given the changing nature of warfare regular armies cannot be expected to abide by existing norms such as proportionality and distinction when their non-state armed adversaries are hiding among the civilian population. The concept of POC has been refined over the years and attempts made to codify good practices and norms. Those working on protection issues today undergo a thorough training and standards have been better integrated. And yet the results remain far from satisfactory.
The conference brought together humanitarians, diplomats, soldiers, experts, journalists and others for a frank discussion about these issues affecting the protection of civilians and produced some recommendations for the future that have been captured in the summary report.