Civilians are harmed in every conflict. While many flee and become internally displaced persons or refugees, some do not or cannot. Civilians may stay in conflict zones for many reasons: Armed actors may prevent them from leaving, they may lack the economic resources to move to safety, they may fear their homes and livelihoods will be lost forever, or they or a relative may be too sick or aged to travel. CIVIC tells the stories of how conflict affects civilians, and advocates that policymakers and armed actors recognize their rights, publicly acknowledge when they have been harmed, and take their well-being into consideration before, during, and after the fighting.
To comply with international law, armed actors must take precautions to prevent harm caused by their own operations. Effectively preventing harm requires leadership, investigating and understanding how civilians are harmed, and ensuring that armed actors are adequately trained in best practices in civilian harm prevention. CIVIC works with various armed actors to translate lessons learned and law into policies and practices that can prevent harm to civilians.
Some groups deliberately terrorize, intimidate, exploit, and, in some cases, eliminate individuals and communities. When this happens, governments, their security forces, and international peacekeepers have a responsibility to protect civilians from harm. CIVIC works with international organizations such as the United Nations and the African Union, as well as national militaries, to develop policies and build skills that enable them to protect civilians from those who would harm them.
While all possible measures should be taken to prevent harm, some civilians are still likely to be harmed during conflict. When this happens, it is not acceptable for those who caused the harm to just walk away, leaving families and communities to recover on their own. CIVIC advocates that armed actors and peacekeepers work with victims and survivors to offer appropriate amends to those injured and to the families of those killed. These may take the form of apologies and financial assistance. Whatever the form of amends, CIVIC has worked since 2003 to ensure the dignity of the victims and their families is recognized and respected.