Protecting civilians in armed conflict
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Developing our humanitarian engagement with armed non-state actors on the displacement of civilians

28th June 2018 | Humanitarian norms

The world is currently witnessing the highest levels of displacement ever recorded globally; 20 people are forcibly displaced every minute as a result of conflict or persecution and the number of new displacements associated with conflict and violence has almost doubled, from 6.9 million in 2016 to 11.8 million in 2017. In light of the growing humanitarian consequences of displacement, Geneva Call has decided to strengthen its humanitarian engagement with armed non-State actors (ANSAs) on this thematic area. In particular, Geneva Call plans to focus on increasing their knowledge of the applicable legal obligations with regard to the protection of displaced persons and the prohibition of forced displacement.

In many contexts ANSAs play an important role with regard to displacement; this can sometimes be a negative role, in which they are responsible for unlawfully displacing people, and sometimes a positive role, such as when they facilitate the access of humanitarian actors to displaced persons. In 2017 and 2018 pilot engagement projects were conducted with a selected number of ANSAs and specific training material on this topic was developed.

In spring 2018, awareness-raising sessions on displacement were conducted with ANSAs in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Myanmar and Syria. In Syria 50 members of the Women’s Protection Units (YPJ) and 125 members of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) participated in these sessions. While the planned session with the Affiliate Groups of the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) in Iraq could not yet take place, training sessions on displacement were held for Geneva Call trainers and staff in Iraq who will organize awareness raising sessions with the PMF as soon as possible.

In the DRC awareness-raising sessions were conducted with 17 members of the Nduma Defense of Congo – Rénové (NDCR) and 25 members of the Conseil national pour le renouveau et la démocratie (CNRD), while in Myanmar sessions were held with 14 members of the Pa’O National Liberation Organization (PNLO), 7 of them women. These awareness-raising sessions enabled Geneva Call to learn more about the ANSAs’ perspective on the issue of displacement and to evaluate how training material could be adapted and improved. All ANSAs engaged acknowledged that they needed clarity regarding their obligations to protect displaced persons and additional training on this subject. Furthermore, they highlighted the challenges they face when conducting military operations. These included how to avoid causing the displacement of the civilian population and how to ensure that displaced civilians are able to safely access adequate shelter and food.

For Geneva Call it is crucial to properly coordinate humanitarian engagement activities with other humanitarian actors working in the field of displacement. With this objective in mind a roundtable meeting was organised on displacement in Goma, DRC, in which 18 representatives of INGOs, Congolese NGOs, UN agencies and the local media participated. Geneva Call is now in the process of finalising its training tools and beginning to integrate this topic into its engagement with other ANSAs. For more information on the work being carried out with ANSAs on the subject of displacement in armed conflict please click here.

Source of figures mentioned: UNHCR and IDMC