International concern about the civilian impact of armed conflict and armed violence has grown over the past two decades. The concept of human security has shifted at- tention from national security to the security of individuals. Introduced in the UN Development Programme’s 1994 Human Development Report, human security has also been used to guide discussions of the conduct of war. Since 1999, the UN Security Council has requested 10 reports on the protection of civilians from the Secretary- General. These reports highlight current threats to civilians from armed conflict and assess promising advances and emerging problems in the field of civilian protection. Humanitarian disarmament, which places the well-being of civilians at the center of disarmament law, has become an accepted method of governing weapons. It originated in the adoption of the Mine Ban Treaty in 1997 and proved its viability with the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions.
While these and other developments seek primarily to prevent civilian casualties before they happen, there has also been a move to address the needs of civilians after harm has occurred. Those who work to enhance and expand assistance to civilian victims adopt a range of strategies. They share the common goal of alleviating human suffering, and their achievements to date show that this moral imperative has become a legal and policy priority. Differences among approaches are evident, however. They target either lawful or unlawful harm, assign responsibility for providing assistance to different parties, call for various forms of recognition and aid, and have distinct underpinnings.
This publication examines five methods currently used to mitigate the harm to civilian victims and identifies key issues they raise comparatively. The approaches—(in alphabetical order) casualty recording, civilian harm tracking, making amends, transitional justice, and victim assistance—are described in detail in individual chapters written by experts in the selected fields. By presenting the five approaches together, the publication seeks to increase understanding of the strategies, their shared principles and differences, and the challenges they face individually and collectively. These approaches are not
mutually exclusive and do not represent an exhaustive list of responses to civilian harm, but they serve as a starting point for consideration of how more effectively and efficiently to reduce the suffering of civilians.