One Conflict After Another, We’re Building a New Expectation in War:

That the Tragedy of Civilian Losses Will Never Be Ignored.

“I want to thank CIVIC for bringing us together…I have heard many things that I will go back to discuss with my commander for action.”

-Nigerian Army Major Badare of 28th Taskforce Brigade

Letters from Center for Civilians in Conflict


These days are difficult ones for proponents of human rights. Even so, it still seems possible to make headway in some places on issues of concern to human rights advocates. These include the issue on which Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC) focuses: the protection of civilians against harm in armed conflicts.

One factor making it possible for CIVIC to be effective is that some military leaders have come to agree that minimizing civilian casualties can confer a strategic advantage. This is not a new idea. Since ancient times, some commanders have recognized and sought the prestige of mercy. Still others have also recognized that if one side took care to limit harm to the other side’s people, it increased the chances that opponents would do the same. Since the nineteenth century, this reciprocity has played an important part in the codification of international humanitarian law.

Today, the strategic advantage of minimizing harm to civilians should be especially apparent: contemporary wars are not fought on restricted battlefields; they take place in large territories populated by civilians. And in the face of widespread civilian hostility exacerbated by harming civilians, it is difficult for any military force to prevail.

However, the main reason to minimize harm to civilians is not to confer military advantage—rather, it is to save innocent lives. That is why CIVIC exists. Persuading military leaders where it is in their self interest to minimize civilian harm is how we advance our mission.

Of course, there are still many military commanders and political leaders who think they can prevail by spreading terror, such as Syria’s Bashar al-Assad. In the short run, these tactics may seem to succeed. Yet, such regimes never regain legitimacy at home or abroad, and they entrench the permanent hostility of a large portion of the Syrian population. At some point, the disadvantages of such behavior may come back to haunt President Assad’s government and its military allies.

The conduct of the war in Syria shows how much remains to be done to achieve the goals of CIVIC. We are making headway in some places, but we have a very long way to go. With your help and support, we will move forward. And for that we are eternally grateful.

With gratitude and respect,

Dear friends:

I’m going to be honest with you: This past year was not great for civilians trapped in conflicts around the world.

We all watched the massacres of civilians in Aleppo with a feeling of horror and impotence. We witnessed the violation, not once but twice, of the sanctuary of United Nations bases in South Sudan, despite the presence of international peacekeepers. Civilians in Yemen, Iraq, and Ukraine felt that danger can come at any time, by all sides, from the air or from the ground. In Ukraine, civilians told us, “We are afraid of silence,” because in some places silence does not mean peace, but instead only a threatening lull in the violence.

Around the world, we have seen the growth of populist movements that cheer the closing of borders and disregard the basic rules to protect civilians.

And yet I am proud to say that CIVIC has risen to the challenge. We are working with the Nigerian government to help them create the right policies to better protect their own civilians in the multiple conflicts they are facing. We trained Kurdish commanders prior to the Mosul operation in Iraq, and once the operation started, we heard back from them that “their first rule is to protect civilians.” Our work in South Sudan promoted more transparency and accountability to the UN system, and our advocacy helped bring about landmark standing policies to protect civilians within NATO and the US government.

In 2017, we are determined to keep moving forward, expanding our work in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, and engaging a diverse set of stakeholders—from both the North and the Global South—around the need to strengthen, rather than weaken, the rules, policies, and practices for the protection of civilians. That commitment will make civilians safer not only in Iraq and South Sudan, but also in Europe and the United States.

We are here only because of your support. In these extraordinary times, we need that support more than ever.


Aryeh Neier
Chair of the Board
President Emeritus, Open Society Foundations

Federico Borello
Executive Director
Center for Civilians in Conflict

Our Mission

Our mission is to improve protection for civilians caught in conflicts around the world. We call on and advise international organizations, governments, militaries, and armed non-state actors to adopt and implement policies to prevent civilian harm. When civilians are harmed we advocate the provision of amends and post-harm assistance. We bring the voices of civilians themselves to those making decisions affecting their lives.

Our Vision

A future where parties involved in conflict go above and beyond their legal obligations to minimize harm to civilians in conflict.

Our activities are four-fold:

  • Documenting the toll of armed conflict on civilians, through interviews with civilians themselves, humanitarians, and security actors.
  • Advocating with decision makers in world capitals and international and regional institutions to change mindsets and develop policies and practices that protect civilians and dignify their losses.
  • Engaging directly with military actors to provide them with practical solutions to minimize civilian harm.
  • Amplifying civilian’s voices by highlighting both their plight and our solutions to lessen their suffering.
In 2017, We Plan To:
  1. Continue our work with the Afghanistan national government and the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) to adopt national policies to reduce civilian harm during operations and to identify new capabilities to protect civilians.
  2. Develop our work in Ukraine, Yemen, and Iraq by building our capacity in country and strengthening our advocacy on civilian protection with security forces.
  3. Establish a Europe program to deepen our work with regional organizations (EU, NATO) and with states who are key actors in the security landscape both at home and abroad.
  4. Continue our work supporting protection efforts of the African Union including the Peace and Security Operations Division and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).
  5. Support communities in Nigeria to develop self-protection strategies to minimize civilian harm and expand our work with the Nigerian military to
    develop and implement civilian protection policies.
  6. Expand our work on peacekeeping operations mandated to protect civilians, focusing on the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali, and South Sudan.
  7. Help strengthen the UN’s capacity to track, analyze, and respond to civilian harm, as well as mitigate harm to civilians in UN peace operations.


On the Ground Training

In early 2016, CIVIC staff returned to Nigeria and Chad to continue our advocacy around the findings of our 2015 report, When We Can’t See the Enemy, Civilians Become the Enemy. This report called on the Nigerian army to place protecting Nigerian civilians at the heart of military planning rather than focusing operations merely on defeating Boko Haram.

CIVIC was asked by the Nigerian government to assist in drafting the country’s first civilian protection policy, and in November 2016, CIVIC organized a high-level event that brought together members of the government, Defense Headquarters (DHQ) and civil society representatives to discuss the proposed policy and how it could be adopted and implemented.

The end of the year also saw CIVIC working in Borno, the epicenter of the violent conflict in Northeast Nigeria. CIVIC engaged with security actors on how to better protect civilians, worked with local civil society on self-protection strategies and held workshops with IDPs to help strategize how they can better protect themselves from attacks. CIVIC also traveled to Chad and received support from the head of the Lake Chad Basin Commission, the Multi-National Joint Task Force, and officials from the African Union to collaborate on joint tactics to improve civilian protection.

Thanks to numerous high-level endorsements, CIVIC has the necessary access to security officials and has observed a newfound enthusiasm on the part of the government and military on the need to protect civilians in ongoing military operations, and CIVIC was informed that our recommendations were being taken into consideration.

Unfortunately, these recommendations have taken on new urgency in the face of continuing reports of high levels of civilian harm and human rights abuses, as well as the mistaken bombing of an IDP camp in January 2017, which killed over 200 civilians and aid workers.

There is a building momentum and recognition by the military and other security actors of the need to prioritize civilian protection and we continue to work with the Nigerian government to improve their response to such incidents.

“If not for you, the community will be afraid of us. You are like our bridge to the community.”

Brig. Gen. Gidriss, Commander 22 Armoured Brigade in Dikwa, Nigeria, after civilian protection workshop in March 2017



Our Work with AMISOM: Set For Expansion

The African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) continues to face challenges in its interaction with the civilian population and its responses to al-Shabaab. The Mission has stated its intent to begin withdrawal from Somalia in 2018, to be completed by 2020; however, Somalia’s security situation is uncertain. Approximately 20,000 local forces need to be trained and other measures put in place to ensure that AMISOM’s withdrawal does not cause the country to descend into further violence.

Since late 2011, CIVIC has been working with AMISOM on the creation of a Civilian Casualty Tracking Cell (CCTARC) to help gather and analyze information on civilian harm allowing AMISOM to change tactics when necessary to mitigate harm to civilians. In mid-2015 the CCTARC was officially created, and steady progress continues to be made.

In the fall of 2016, CIVIC was invited by AMISOM to lead a conference to draft an amends and post harm assistance policy and Standard Operating Procedure (SOP). After sustained advocacy by CIVIC over several years, the African Union (AU) and AMISOM gave official support for such a mechanism. CIVIC delivered the draft to the AU in November and the SOP is currently pending adoption. The significant progress on this SOP will hopefully be replicated in all future AU operations.

In December, we received formal sign off granting CIVIC access to work with CCTARC staff to assess gaps in and obstacles to CCTARC’s current work. We continue to work with the Peace and Security Operations Division of AU headquarters to secure an official memorandum of understanding, laying the groundwork for future work across the African Union.


‘Making amends to the victims is about much more than the money,’ says Marla Keenan, managing director of the Center for Civilians in Conflict. ‘It can seem incredibly arbitrary if you are the victim and someone shows up on your doorstep with a bag of money.’

U.S. Airstrikes In Afghanistan Are Killing Civilians At Greatest Rate In Seven Years, NEWSWEEK, Feb 18, 2016

The Central African Republic (CAR)


Capturing What Works in Peacekeeping

Since September 2016, CAR has seen an uptick in violence, much of it targeting civilians. Clashes have broken out between ex-Séléka forces and pro-government forces and there has been minimal progress on demobilization, security sector reform, and the other promises of the 2015 Peace Accords. About 60 percent of the country remains under the control of non-state actors.

The UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) is tasked with a long list of responsibilities, ranging from directly protecting civilians from physical violence to supporting the extension of state authority and the preservation of territorial integrity. But MINUSCA isn’t a substitute for the state and is limited in the protection it can provide to civilians across large swaths of territory.

CIVIC staff travelled to CAR in December 2016 to review MINUSCA’s protection of civilians operations. The research gathered lessons learned from failures and successes alike. In 2017, CIVIC will augment its focus on MINUSCA, call on the Security Council to further prioritize the protection of civilians in CAR, and urge the UN to integrate good practices in MINUSCA’s policies.

We are doing everything we can to prevent fighting from entering Bambari.

—MINUSCA military official

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)


Mitigating Harm by Those Mandated to Protect

Eastern DRC has faced widespread and almost uninterrupted violence for two decades now. The national political crisis has worsened since September 2016, when opposition leaders stepped up their protests to call for president Kabila to step down at the end of his second constitutional term, which ended in December 2016. On New Year’s Eve, the ruling coalition and the opposition reached a tentative agreement to postpone elections until the end of 2017 and to forge a power-sharing agreement. The signatories, however, have struggled to implement the agreement.

Many DRC civilians face violence on a daily basis. The United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) has much work to do to achieve the stabilization and protection goals at the heart of its mandate, despite its long-running presence and the unprecedented addition of a Force Intervention Brigade authorized to use force to neutralize abusive non-state armed actors.

As peacekeeping operations increase their use of force they must also increase the measures they take to track, prevent, and make amends for harm caused during their operations. From July to December 2016, CIVIC conducted in-depth field research in the DRC to assess strengths, gaps, and civilian perceptions of peacekeepers in the Goma, Beni, Masisi, and Walikale regions. Our December 2016 report, From Mandate to Mission: Mitigating Civilian Harm in UN Peacekeeping Operations in the DRC, based on this research, is a comprehensive examination of MONUSCO’s own policies to mitigate and respond to civilian harm occurring in joint operations with DRC’s armed forces. Since its publication, MONUSCO officials have asked CIVIC for further policy recommendations to improve their approach to civilian harm mitigation.

We will continue this work in 2017 and increase our focus on how peacekeeping operations can better engage the communities they seek to protect. While it has had its share of failures, MONUSCO has also been a leader in developing innovative approaches to working with communities under threat. We will work to capture practices that work and lessons learned when they don’t.

South Sudan


Holding Peacekeepers Accountable

2016 saw increased armed conflict in many parts of South Sudan. Armed state and non-state actors continued to target civilians. Parties also blocked humanitarian assistance in many parts of the country, compounding the devastating consequences for civilians affected by violence.

The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) remains the only barrier between perpetrators of violence and their intended victims in many of the country’s most conflict-affected areas. In February 2016, an UNMISS base and protection of civilians site housing over 47,000 displaced persons in the town of Malakal, was engulfed in violence that left at least 30 people dead and much of the camp in ashes. CIVIC staff traveled to the town days after the crisis ended and conducted extensive research, interviewing both civilians and UN officials. Our report, A Refuge in Flames: The February 17-18 Violence in Malakal POC, found that the mission’s reaction was slow and ineffective throughout much of the incident and a quicker and more robust response likely would have saved civilian lives. The report provided a unique outside perspective, and CIVIC was asked to testify on the events before the US House of Representatives’ Africa and Global Human Rights Subcommittee.

Five months later, UNMISS found itself again trying to prevent attacks on civilians in Juba. Warring parties committed widespread sexual violence against women and attacked international and national humanitarians and journalists. CIVIC undertook another investigation and published Under Fire: The July 2016 Violence in Juba and UN Response, which found that, even allowing for significant constraints, peacekeepers were unable or unwilling to leave their bases and at times even underperformed in protecting 37,000 civilians in its bases. Our decision to name troop contributing countries responsible for protection failures helped to pave the way for the UN’s own Special Investigation to do the same in November and hold commanders accountable.

In 2017, we will continue to monitor how the UN implements recommendations resulting from these investigations. We will also review how the mission engages with conflict-affected communities.

MEDIA SPOTLIGHT: Associated Press

‘There is very little accountability for peacekeeping failures in terms of protection of civilians,’ said Matt Wells, a senior advisor on peacekeeping. ‘As long as there is little consequence to failing to perform under a mandate, events like Malakal and Juba are unfortunately likely to happen again.’

UN Peacekeepers Fled, Used Tear Gas on South Sudan Civilians,The Associated Press, Oct 5, 2016


What we want is for [warring parties] to care about civilians’ lives and fight each other out of our villages and towns.

—Malek Khairuddin, Tribal Chief in Parliz Village, Kandahar Province


A Three-Level Approach To Civilian Protection

Civilians in Afghanistan continued to face violence amidst a resilient insurgency emboldened by the departure of most international combat forces in December 2014. The Taliban are on the offensive in the countryside, threatening to overrun provincial capitals and launching attacks in Kabul. Civilians bear the brunt of the fighting with deaths and injuries; thousands have been displaced. Armed opposition groups, which include the Taliban and, since 2015, the Islamic State of Khorasan Province (IS-K) are responsible for the majority of deaths and injuries in Afghanistan.

CIVIC, however, continued our work with the national government and the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) to adopt national policies to reduce civilian harm during operations and to identify new capabilities to protect civilians. CIVIC provided technical assistance to the Afghan government on a national civilian casualty prevention policy, which will be signed by the Afghan president in 2017. We are part of the working group to implement the policy and improve trainings and processes to assess and mitigate civilian harm. We also issued the report, Saving Ourselves: Civilian Protection and Security Transition, examining the challenges civilians are facing and offered recommendations to the government to address protection concerns.

Since 2015, we have been working with Afghan civil society to develop their capabilities to engage the Afghan government and military forces on civilian protection. We helped created the Civilian Protection Working Group, based in Kabul, and which will be expanded to Baghlan and Kandahar in in 2017. In 2017, we are launching programs to create civilian protection shuras so communities can engage with both government forces and the Taliban on the need to conduct operations away from civilian areas. Civilian protection at the grassroots level is a new engagement for CIVIC. This expansion and the creation of community civilian protection groups means more access, outreach, and influence beyond Kabul to empower civil society and communities.


‘The numbers reported by the White House today simply don’t add up and we’re disappointed by that,’ said Federico Borello, executive director for the Center for Civilians in Conflict.

U.S. Says Kills Up to 116 Civilians in Strikes Outside MINUSCA War Zones, Reuters, July 1, 2016



Peshmerga Training Has Saved Civilian Lives

Violent conflict continues to engulf Iraq; large areas of the country remain under the control of the Islamic State (ISIS), and security in other areas of the country has been undermined by terrorist attacks. The Mosul Operation, launched by the US-led, anti-ISIS coalition to clear Mosul of ISIS, began on Oct. 17, 2016. The eastern half of the city was retaken from Islamic State in January 2017, and the campaign for the western half began in February 2017, where some 400,000 civilians are still trapped. At the operation’s launch, we briefed the Congressional Thomas Lantos Human Rights Commission on civilian protection concerns that need to be addressed by the coalition and Iraqi forces.

Prior to the Mosul operation, we registered our office in Erbil and trained 190 Kurdish Peshmerga commanders on civilian protection. We are assessing the impact on civilians and will continue to work with the Peshmerga on strengthening processes and trainings on civilian protection. CIVIC’s unique training module, Protecting People and Communities During Operations, reflects the legal, ethical, and strategic reasons to protect civilians and their property. It discusses community engagement and how to address challenges in distinguishing between civilians and combatants. The module also explains why it is important to assess the impact of operations on civilians and how to conduct those post-operation assessments. Finally, the module stresses the importance of acknowledging civilian harm when it does occur.

In 2017, we plan to expand our work with Iraqi Security Forces as the country moves towards a stabilization phase. We will also continue to engage the US-led anti-ISIS coalition on its air operations in Iraq and Syria to ensure civilian harm is minimized and civilians are assisted.

We have suffered injustice under Saddam, our homes destroyed and people killed. We cannot let that happen to others.

—Pershmerga commander



CIVIC Helps Raise $1.5 Million For Syrian Civilians

The situation for civilians within Syria remained dire throughout 2016. East Aleppo, a stronghold of the Syrian opposition, finally fell to pro-government forces on Dec. 14, 2016. This came after months of brutal aerial bombardment and fierce urban warfare during which government forces—supported by Russian airstrikes—targeted health centers, schools, and the civilian population in general. Unfortunately, the surrender has not brought an end to persecution for some civilians. In December, the UN’s Human Rights Office reported, “We received quite credible reports that hundreds of men had gone missing after they crossed into government-controlled areas.” While the fall of Aleppo is likely to be a turning point in the war, it is not an end to the violence. Approximately two-thirds of the country remains outside government control.

In April, CIVIC published Waiting for No One: Civilian Survival Strategies in Syria, a report that examines civilians’ experience of the conflict and the survival strategies they have developed in the face of nearly impossible odds. The report provides concrete recommendations on how to support these strategies. Tactics that urgently need support to be more effective include: the development of early warning systems, physical protection of civilian infrastructure including schools and medical facilities, local rescue and aid teams, efforts to mark and dispose of unexploded ordnance, and the creation of a secure platform to share protection strategies.

CIVIC’s report brought tangible benefits to Syrian civilians; nonprofits working inside Syria informed CIVIC that they were able to use our report to secure over $1.5 million for the expansion of early warning systems in Idlib province.

If people can have confidence in a warning system, they can…live their lives instead of constantly looking to the skies.

—Ahmed in Sarmada, Syria



CIVIC Amplified the Voices of Civilians

Yemen’s civil war in 2016 has been catastrophic. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights estimates that since the conflict began, 3,600 civilians have been killed and 6,000 injured. Some 2.8 million people have been displaced. In August 2016, amid aerial bombardment and continued fighting, Médecins Sans Frontières closed six of their remaining 11 hospitals, leaving civilians with few options for even basic healthcare, let alone for injuries from bombs, bullets, or mines.

Nonetheless, in the summer and autumn of 2016, CIVIC and a team of Yemeni researchers conducted a preliminary assessment of newly created security forces capabilities to protect civilians in Aden as well as investigated patterns of civilian harm, civilian perceptions of the various parties to the conflict, and civilians’ needs and expectations for protection and assistance. The findings were published in Days in Hell: Civilian Perspectives on the Conflict in Yemen.

All armed actors have harmed Yemeni civilians: the forces backing President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, members of the Saudi-led coalition supporting the Hadi government, and the Houthi militias and other forces backing former President Ali Abdullah Saleh. A 46-yearold man from Majzer, Mareb said, “We would meet with [the] party that caused us harm and they would apologize, but blame the other side for what happened. I don’t trust anyone. All sides are criminals and they have no conscience whatsoever.”

While civilians mistrust all armed actors, there is potential to regain public trust. Yemeni government officials have publicly expressed interest in our findings and acknowledged the need for civilian protection. Now that the Hadi-led government has returned to Aden and local resistance fighters are being incorporated into the security forces, it is imperative that all military and security forces have the requisite knowledge, capabilities, and trainings to minimize civilian harm and protect civilians. In 2017, CIVIC is exploring options to work on civilian protection with newly created forces.

I want a strong state with strong security that can protect me and my city.

—40-year-old woman in Taiz, Yemen



An Assessment, a Film, and a New Opportunity to Help Civilians

Violence continues between Ukraine and Russia along the contact line in the east of Ukraine despite the signing of the Minsk Protocol in 2014 and Minsk II in 2015. As the international community focuses elsewhere, Ukraine and the separatists have settled into a stalemate, with neither side making serious attempts to gain territory, but civilians continue to suffer.

In December, CIVIC released its report, We Are Afraid of Silence: Protecting Civilians in the Donbass Region. Based on several months of research and over a hundred interviews with civilians and humanitarian workers in the Donbass region, the report was accompanied by a short film, a first for CIVIC. Civilians interviewed by CIVIC expressed their main concerns and protection needs in connection with three main activities: artillery shelling; unexploded ordnance, mines, and booby traps; and abuses committed by armed actors. Vira, a civilian living in non-government controlled Horlivka, said: “There are no laws in this land and nobody knows to whom we can report. Ukraine will say that we support separatists by living in our home. Separatists will say that we are Ukrainian collaborators or something like this. Nobody has money, nobody helps.”

The report included recommendations for the Ukrainian government, Russian-backed separatists, civil society actors, and the international donor community to improve proactive protection and harm mitigation for civilians before, during, and after combat operations. It was translated into Ukrainian and Russian, and presented to international and local partners in Kyiv in early December. High-level government officials invited CIVIC to set up a project, and after several successful meetings, in 2017, we progressed to our second phase: a “capabilities assessment” to determine Ukraine’s ability to implement our recommendations. We have been invited by several ministries to continue working with them to fully implement best practices and structures to reduce civilian harm, protect civilians, and provide amends.


‘If you want to win, whatever that means, then part of that is ensuring you have a civilian population that is at least not actively opposed to you,’ Jay Morse said.

Report: Ukraine Must Do More to Protect Civilians in War Zone, KyivPost, Dec 13, 2016


From Policy to Practice

In 2016, NATO adopted a comprehensive Protection of Civilians policy, capping years of sustained advocacy by CIVIC and other organizations. Once implemented, the policy will standardize and strengthen NATO’s capabilities on civilian protection and harm mitigation, including the ability to learn from those operations that have harmed civilians and adjust tactics to avoid harm. It will allow the alliance to work more closely with civil society organizations, and to train allied security forces to better protect civilians on their own. Notably missing from this policy, however, is a standing commitment to making amends for harm done to civilians, and in 2017, CIVIC will continue to push at NATO HQ to ensure civilians are recognized and that amends are made for harm suffered. CIVIC will also provide advice and expertise to NATO as it formulates its Protection of Civilians doctrine, and will participate in the development and coordination of a multinational exercise to test key protection concepts.

United States

Protecting civilians is fundamentally consistent with the effective, efficient, and decisive use of force in pursuit of US national interests.

July 1, 2017 Executive Order: “United States Policy on Pre- And PostStrike Measures to Address Civilian Casualties in U.S. Operations Involving the Use of Force”


A Year of Both Progress and Uncertainty for US Policy

Since 2003, CIVIC has been committed to the principles of preventing, recognizing, and making amends for harm to civilians in conflict. We have tirelessly advocated for the formal adoption of these principles in US policy and military practice, and in July 2016, President Barack Obama issued an Executive Order (EO) requiring that any time the United States uses force, protection of civilians should be at the forefront of government officials’ minds. It also requires tracking civilian casualties as well as recognizing and addressing harm to civilians. And not only must US forces follow these standards, but this order requires that partner militaries do as well. This was a great success for CIVIC’s US program and came after 10 years of sustained advocacy.

In September, CIVIC held a day long “war gaming” event with participants from the Defense and State departments as well as other US NGOs that explored the best practices for implementing the EO generally, and post-harm assistance/investigations specifically, in multiple conflict contexts.

The US presidential transition makes it difficult to predict whether the EO will remain in place, but what’s clear is that the operational and strategic benefits of minimizing harm to civilians should persuade military leaders and policymakers alike to preserve its core elements. As the Order makes clear, “protecting civilians is fundamentally consistent with the effective, efficient, and decisive use of force in pursuit of US national interests.”

As the policy agenda of the new administration becomes clearer in 2017, CIVIC will make the case that US leadership in protecting civilians during conflict will always serve the best interests of the United States.

CIVIC will look closely at ways that the United States can reduce the risk of harm to civilians through the many forms of US security cooperation and assistance, especially in countries affected by conflict or where the risk of conflict is greater. As the world’s largest supplier of arms and security assistance, the United States can do much to reduce the risk of civilian harm through its relationships and programs, from more informed risk assessments to customized training, to enhanced end-use monitoring.

United Nations


Bridging Policy and Practice at the UN

In 2016, CIVIC hired a United Nations Advocate and Policy Advisor and opened an office in New York, bolstering our ability to connect our work with UN missions and officials charged with maintaining international peace and security, conflict-affected communities, and armed actors.

CIVIC can now link our cutting-edge programs and on-the-ground field research with advocacy to push for a higher standard of protection for civilians in conflict in 2017 and beyond.

The world is currently facing a global protection crisis of unprecedented proportions. Civilians are suffering from violence in too many conflict zones, prompting massive levels of displacement unseen since World War II. International law is routinely flouted and the international community is struggling to protect civilians in many dire and protracted crises. The UN is the only international organization with the scale that can address these intersecting crises.

In our engagement with the UN, we will raise awareness of civilian harm in countries in conflict—such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, South Sudan, and Ukraine— and what steps the UN and its members should take to address it. CIVIC seeks to improve the UN’s capacities to track, analyze, mitigate, and respond to civilian harm and urges Member States to use their voice and vote to encourage warring parties to do the same.

We will work to strengthen the protection of civilians through UN peace operations and expand the understanding of good peacekeeping practices. CIVIC will also push for accountability when UN peace operations fail to protect civilians, and advocate for broader reforms to ensure UN peace operations are better able to deliver on their mandates to protect.

Going forward in 2017, CIVIC will continue to forge partnerships with Member States, the UN, partner NGOs, think tanks, and the media in our work. The voices of civilians caught in conflict will continue to be central to all of our efforts.

MEDIA SPOTLIGHT: the guardian

‘In general, there needs to be more meaningful accountability when it comes to the failures of UN peacekeepers to protect civilians,’ said Evan CinqMars, an expert on the UN.

South Sudan Peacekeeping Commander Sacked Over ‘Serious Shortcomings’, the guardian, Nov 2, 2016


Foundation Support

Alexander Soros Foundation
John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
Oak Foundation
Open Society Foundations
Rockefeller Brothers Fund
The Countess Moira Charitable Foundation

Government Support

Government of Germany
Government of Liechtenstein
Government of Sweden
Government of the United Kingdom

Corporate Support

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld
craigslist Charitable Fund

Gifts In Kind

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld
Salesforce Foundation

Major Gifts

Ken, Deborah, and Ellie Baron
Frances Bertagnolli
Jocelyn Colquhoun
Sabra Field
Ilaria and Marco Gregotti
Nancy Hechinger
Megan Hull
Christopher Kolenda
Scott and Laura Malkin
Tom and Sandra McCarthy
Ellen-Jane and Ben Moss
Aryeh Neier
Sophie Nicholson and
Tarek Sherif
Griff and Liz Norquist
Open Society Institute
Matching Gifts Program
Susan and Peter Osnos
Robert Palmer
David Quigley and
Hilary Gosher
Cliff and Nancy Ruzicka
Anil Soni
Tom Wedell
Anne Heath Widmark
Peggy and Lee Zeigler

Our Team

Board of Directors

Aryeh Neier (Board Chair)
Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Patrick Cammaert
Thomas Hammarberg
Sarah Holewinski
Michael Kleinman
Thomas McCarthy
Tawanda Mutasah
Griff Norquist
Susan Osnos
David Quigley
Elizabeth Seuling

Board of Associates

Akwasi Aidoo
John Chromy
Brig. Gen. (Ret.) Richard M. O’Meara
Col. (Ret.) Jay Parker, PhD
April Pedersen
Anil Soni
Peter F. Windrem


Federico Borello, Executive Director
Marla B. Keenan, Senior Director, Programs
Jessi Ginther, Senior Director, Operations
Chidi Blyden Rowe, Director, Africa
Alison Giffen, Director, Peacekeeping Program
Sahr Muhammedally, Director, MENA & South Asia
Daniel R. Mahanty, Senior Advisor, US Program
Jay Morse, Senior Military Advisor
Chitra Nagarajan, Senior Advisor, Northeast Nigeria
Sadeeq Garba Shehu, Senior Military Advisor, Nigeria & Lake Chad Basin
Christopher Allbritton, Manager, Communications
Emily Erfani, Manager, Operations
Lee McClure, Manager, Development (Governments & Foundations)
Mikhaela Payden-Travers, Manager, Development (Individual & Corporate Giving)
Evan Cinq-Mars, Advocate & Policy Advisor, United Nations
Lauren Spink, Advisor, Peacekeeping
David Azutoru, Program Officer, Military Training in Northeast Nigeria
Hadi Marifat, Program Officer, Afghanistan
Saman Oman, Program Officer, Iraq
Bénédicte Aboul-Nasr, Program Associate, Africa
Anysa Badran, Program Assistant

2016 Interns

Shannon Callaghan
Kara Hericks
Alex Liffiton
Myrthe Doedens
Kevin Gustafson
Julius Gaiya
Shannyn Ball
Alexis Fessatidis
Kevin George
Ananya Vidyarthi

CIVIC extends special thanks to the many civilians who spoke with us, even in the midst of personal tragedies.

We also thank our consultants, who provided valuable services and contributions to our work around the world.


Center for Civilians in Conflict was founded as Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict (CIVIC) in 2003 by Marla Ruzicka, a young humanitarian who recognized the need for an organization focused on the plight of civilians in war. Following Marla’s death from a suicide bomb in Baghdad in April 2005, her colleagues, friends, and family knew that she had created a unique space in the advocacy community that should not be left vacant. The Center continues to grow, building on Marla’s foundation.


Your donation allows us to speak to civilians firsthand, bring their voices to the halls of power, and offer practical guidance and civilian-focused policies to warring parties.

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