Our History

Center for Civilians in Conflict was founded as Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict (CIVIC) in 2003 by Marla Ruzicka, a young activist and humanitarian who realized the need for an organization focused on civilian victims in conflict.

After war broke out in 2001, Marla traveled to Afghanistan and Pakistan. She noted that no one, including the US military, was keeping count or helping civilians harmed. As a new war in Iraq unfolded, Marla moved to Baghdad and organized a door-to-door survey of the Iraqi people, bringing her results to Washington. An aid on the Senate Appropriations Committee would later say: “She’d actually seen what we’d only read about, namely US bombs dropped in the wrong place, which had wiped out whole communities. Marla gave us on-the-ground information about these people and told us that nothing was being done to help them.”

In 2003, Marla founded Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict to take on the work she was doing with the help solely of volunteers. Working with Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Marla helped create the first-ever US-funded aid programs dedicated specifically to helping rebuild the lives of civilians unintentionally harmed by US combat operations.

In April 2005, Marla was killed by a suicide bomb in Baghdad while advocating for civilian war victims. Her colleagues, friends and family knew that her organization held a unique place in the advocacy community that should not be left vacant. CIVIC began a new life built on Marla’s extraordinary legacy.

By early 2007, CIVIC had seen success in establishing smarter, more compassionate US policies for war victims. The organization decided that more civilians could be helped and CIVIC broadened its reach beyond Iraq and Afghanistan.

CIVIC also took on the ambitious goal of pressing all parties engaged in conflict—not only the US—to establish a new standard of behavior by providing recognition and help to civilians harmed by their bombs and bullets. This concept of making amends remains at the heart of the organization’s work, even as the scope increased to focusing on all civilians before, during, and after conflicts, not just the victims of harm. The goal of our work is to protect more civilians and to ensure warring parties do not walk away from those they have harmed.

In September 2012, in order to reflect the full scope of the organization’s work at all stages of armed conflict, CIVIC amended its name to the Center for Civilians in Conflict. 

It’s been nearly a decade since Marla Ruzicka founded Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict to help victims in Afghanistan and Iraq get the help they needed after they were harmed. It was—and is—a groundbreaking idea and groundbreaking organization. As we’ve grown over the years, we’ve stayed a unique organization among those working on human rights, justice, and aid in war, a voice for civilians living in conflict.