‘We can’t expect warring parties to distribute sweets amidst a fight. What we want is for them to care about civilians’ lives and fight each other out of our villages and towns.’ —Malek Khairuddin, tribal chief in Parliz village, Miyanishin district in Kandahar province.

When the Center for Civilians in Conflict began operating in Afghanistan in 2003, civilian protection was not a priority for international forces, and little help was available for civilians who had been harmed. That has changed, thanks in part to our work.

CIVIC convinced NATO to adopt its first amends policy, providing acknowledgment of harm and financial assistance, for Afghan war victims. We pressed international forces to create a formal method of tracking civilian casualties and incorporate it into military operations, which they did. We convinced the US Congress to create its first non-monetary assistance program specifically for civilians harmed by US combat operations.

Since the end of the ISAF mission in December 2014, CIVIC has offered the Afghan government practical solutions to avoid and respond to civilian harm—including training for its forces, a way to track civilian casualties, opportunities to learn from international forces’ experiences, and recommendations to improve post-harm assistance mechanisms. We issued a report, Saving Ourselves: Security Transition and Impact on Civilian Protection, which assessed protection concerns in Baghlan, Kandahar, Kunduz, and Nangarhar after most international forces left and how civilians perceive security forces’ efforts at protection, including on how civilians cope with deteriorating security and how they protect themselves.

We have provided technical assistance to the Afghan government in coordination with NATO’s Resolute Support Mission to develop an Afghan Civilian Casualty Mitigation Team (CCMT) to better enable the Afghan government and security forces to track, analyze, and mitigate civilian harm. We have provided input on an Afghan national policy on civilian casualty mitigation and prevention which is in the process of being adopted. We have examined efforts at government post-harm assistance programs and offered detailed recommendations to improve them.

Since 2015 we have worked with civil society groups to create an Afghan civilian protection working group to help civil society work with parties to the conflict on civilian protection issues. In 2017, we have expanded this work to communities affected by violence.

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Image courtesy of Department of Defense