The UK Strategy on Protection of Civilians: Insights for the Review Process

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This Whitehall Report details the research conducted by RUSI and Save the Children on how to improve the UK's Protection of Civilians strategy following its review.

As the UK reviews its 2010 Protection of Civilians (PoC) strategy, RUSI and Save the Children have conducted research on how to strengthen the content and the implementation of the new strategy, with the aim of contributing to critical thinking around the review. The research included two roundtables and 15 semi-structured interviews and draws on the experiences of experts that sit both within and outside government seeking to protect civilians in armed conflict.

This Whitehall Report sets out these reflections in three parts. The first outlines key challenges for the creation of a new strategy, shining a spotlight on differing perspectives on definitions and the format a strategy should take. The authors recommend the new strategy focuses on ensuring a common understanding of protection and of the UK’s role in PoC, including providing clear guidance to the various actors across government of their roles in achieving this goal.

Second, the report sets out the main factors for the success of a new strategy, arguing this needs to raise awareness, to take into account specific protection needs of vulnerable groups, including through meaningful engagement with communities to address their key protection concerns, and to respond to emerging challenges which have appeared in conflicts over the past decade.

Third, the report explores the essential elements a strategy should include to translate protection into policy and practice within the diplomatic, defence and aid sectors. To achieve this goal, the UK government should adopt a cross-Whitehall approach, ensure processes and frameworks effectively operationalise the strategy, include mechanisms to track civilian harm and record civilian casualties, and strengthen key training on protection as well as frameworks for civil–military cooperation.

All these measures are critical for the integrity of civilian protection objectives working from policy to operations in conflict and for the UK to play a vital role in leading and shaping the global agenda on the protection of civilians.


Dr Aniseh Bassiri Tabrizi

Senior Research Fellow

International Security Studies

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Ewan Lawson

Associate Fellow

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