Protection of civilians

Equipment belonging to the United Nations Peacekeeping Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Sky blue vests and helmets marked in white with 'UN' sit on the grass, along with brown canvas bags.

Casualty recording is a valuable tool both for peace operations and for parties engaged in conflict seeking to minimise harm to civilians.

When done in a timely, accurate and transparent manner, casualty recording can help armed actors identify and predict changing threats to civilians in order to deploy civilian protection forces where they are needed most urgently. It can also highlight which segments of the population are most at risk, and the military strategies which should be avoided. As the twenty year review by OCHA illustrates (below), it is also vital for informing evidence-based advocacy with perpetrators of violence, for decision-making on deployment of UN forces, for accountability and evaluation, and for peacebuilding purposes.

The importance of casualty recording to the Protection of Civilians agenda has been repeatedly acknowledged at the Security Council and in the UN Secretary-General’s annual report on the protection of civilians in armed conflict. Both the United Nations Department of Peace Operations and NATO have incorporated casualty recording within their policies and guidance on protection of civilians.

Protection of Civilians in United Nations Peacekeeping Handbook

This handbook, published in 2020, aims to translate the principles of DPO’s Policy on Protection of Civilians in UN Peacekeeping into a practical guide for civilian, police and military pesonnel deployed in peacekeeping operations. It brings together best practice and experience from a wide range of missions and contexts. The handbook highlights the importance of casualty recording and provides basic guidance on casualty recording principles and practice, including reference to the Standards for Casualty Recording.

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NATO Protection of civilians handbook

This NATO Handbook is intended to support the operationalisation of NATO’s protection of civilians policy, and ensure the integration of POC policy into the planning and conduct of NATO and NATO-led operations. It provides guidance on civilian casualty tracking mechanisms, and highlights the need for shared standards for casualty recording.

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OCHA – Building a culture of protection

This OCHA policy paper reviews twenty years’ of successes and challenges of Security Council engagement with Protection of Civilians. It examines the impact of casualty recording in improving protection of civilians, with a particular focus on the example of Afghanistan.

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