Thematic Areas: Protection

Protection broadly encompasses activities aimed at obtaining full respect for the rights of all individuals in accordance with international law – international humanitarian, human rights, and refugee law – regardless of their age, gender, social ethnic, national, religious, or other background (IASC-endorsed definition).
In general, protection refers to:

  • Protection of civilians in armed conflict (POC), whereby all parties to the conflict are responsible for ensuring that the civilian population is respected and protected
  • Protection in contexts of natural disasters or civil unrest, whereby national authorities have the primary responsibility for the well-being of those affected

In 1999, the Security Council (SC) first requested a dedicated report by the UN Secretary-General on the protection of civilians (POC) in armed conflict, followed by the adoption of a Security Council (SC) resolution (S/RES/1265) to highlight ways to protect civilian populations in armed conflict.
At the normative level, significant progress has been achieved with respect to the protection of civilians over the past decade, but this progress has not consistently translated into more effective and better-coordinated protection efforts on the ground. To this end, the SG identified five core challenges in his 2009 POC report to the SC:

  • Enhancing compliance of parties to the conflict with their obligations under international law, in particular the conduct of hostilities
  • Engagement with non-State armed groups (NSAGs)
  • Protecting civilians through UN peacekeeping and other relevant missions
  • Humanitarian access
  • Enhancing accountability for violations

At the global level, OCHA promotes POC through support to the Emergency Relief Coordinator (ERC) mandate, including by:

  • Drafting the biennial SG report to the SC on POC
  • Preparing ERC’s biannual POC briefing to the SC
  • Providing periodic country-specific POC briefings to the SC’s informal POC Expert Group
  • Providing normative guidance, e.g. the Aide Memoire
  • Commissioning studies, e.g. the joint OCHA/DPKO study on ‘POC in the context of peacekeeping operations’


Security Council, Report of the Secretary-General on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict, S/2012/376, [22 May 2012]
Accountability and Fact-finding Mechanisms for Violations of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights Law: The Role of the Security Council – Past and Future, 1 Nov 2011 - OCHA
Security Council, Report of the Secretary-General on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict, S/2010/579 [11 November 2010]
Security Council, Report of the Secretary-General on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict, S/2009/277 [29 May 2009]
Aide Memoire: For the consideration of issues pertaining to the protection of civilians in armed conflict, Vol. II, Policy and Studies Series, 2011 - OCHA  [Vol. I, 2009]
Protecting Civilians in the Context of UN Peacekeeping Operations, 2009 - Independent study commissioned by OCHA and DPKO
Protection, OCHA on Message [EN - AR - FR]
Sanctions Assessment Handbook: Assessing the Humanitarian Implications of Sanctions, 2004 - IASC