CIVIC has long championed the adoption and implementation of national protection of civilians (POC) policies or strategies. These policies are intended to translate rhetorical support for POC into concrete commitments and enhanced resources, with the goal of improving protection outcomes for conflict-affected civilians. With advocacy by CIVIC and many other civil society organizations, the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General has made the creation of POC policies at the national level a primary recommendation in his annual reports on the protection of civilians in armed conflict since 2017. However, despite high-level support for national POC policy frameworks, little has been written about the implementation of these policies, and ultimately, their impact on the lives of conflict-affected civilians.

CIVIC set out to learn from its own experiences, other policy movements and normative developments, and academic literature to answer the following questions:

  • What is required to build support for a national POC policy and get it enacted?
  • What factors affect whether POC policies are implemented once adopted?
  • What conditions need to be in place to ensure that POC policies result in meaningful improvements in the lives of civilians caught in conflict?

This policy brief, “Closing the Gap: Implementation of Protection of Civilians Policies,” outlines CIVIC’s preliminary conclusions to these vital questions, finding that having a broad POC policy accompanied by a clear implementation plan is the best route to ensure operationalization of policy commitments. Moreover, our research points to the importance of having influential “champions” to advocate for the policy and its implementation; clear roles and responsibilities designated across relevant departments and agencies; dedicated resources for policy implementation; and effective communication and coordination between stakeholders in order to close the gap between the promise invoked by a national policy and the reality experienced by civilians in conflict.

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