“Listen to Us to Protect Us” War-Affected Communities Tell UN Peacekeepers

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Louis Belanger, Oxfam Media Officer
New York: 917 224 0834

“Listen to Us to Protect Us” War-Affected Communities Tell UN Peacekeepers

Report by Oxfam calls on UN missions to engage and talk with local groups

WASHINGTON - UN peacekeeping missions worldwide – one of the key
instruments to protect civilians trapped in armed conflicts - often fail
to engage with the local communities they are meant to protect,
according to international agency Oxfam.

In a report entitled ‘Engaging with Communities: The Next Challenges for Peacekeepers’, the relief group says that the willingness to engage with communities and take robust action to protect them, vary from one missions to the next.
The call comes as the United Nations is debating in the Security
Council on Monday (November 22) around how best to protect civilians and
improve its peacekeeping operations.

Oxfam says that due to a
lack of clear guidelines, poor training and preparation of personnel,
many battalions on the ground had different interpretations of what
“civilian protection” actually meant and the ways to implement it.

“Still
in 2010, after years of experience from Kosovo to Congo, the way the
international community responds to the major trouble-spots is still
inadequate. While the UN Security Council is prioritizing protection of
civilians in their mandates, not all missions are doing it in the
ground,” said Kirsten Hagon, Oxfam’s Head of Office in New York.

“Communities
are telling us that they want to talk and connect with peacekeepers.
They feel at a loss as to why UN missions will talk to government
officials but often fail to even sit down with them. Local communities
are best placed to explain what needs to be done for them to feel safe.
Peacekeepers need to listen to them.”

Oxfam’s report is based on
field research in DRC and southern Sudan and on Oxfam’s extensive field
experience. Its findings are the result of interviews in southern Sudan
and the DRC with conflict-affected communities. The aid group also
conducted interviews with representatives of local and regional
government, local NGOs, police, the military, as well as both
representatives of peacekeeping missions, UN humanitarian programmes and
agencies.

“The debate at the Security Council on protection of
civilians is an opportunity for the UN to give clearer direction to
peacekeepers to engage with communities as an essential part of
protecting civilians,” said Hagon.

The report calls on simple and effective steps to improve the protection of civilians
such as for missions to be results-driven, engage with local groups,
boost the number of women in UN missions, improve patrols or to
establish hotlines between communities and UN missions.

Hagon:
“For any major emergency, civilians are always the ones that suffer the
most. They bear the brunt of every single crisis. As UN missions aim to
protect the families and communities affected by conflicts, engaging
with them is the least they can do.”

Read more

Download the report - Engaging with Communities: the next challenge por peacekeeping

Oxfam's work on Conflicts and Emergencies

###

Oxfam International is a confederation of 13 like-minded organizations working together and with partners and allies around the world to bring about lasting change. Oxfam works directly with communities and that seeks to influence the powerful to ensure that poor people can improve their lives and livelihoods and have a say in decisions that affect them.

Share This Article

More in: