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Between Culture and Concept: The Protection of Civilians in Sudan (UNMIS)

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image of Journal of International Peacekeeping

The concept of the Protection of Civilians (PoC) is a prevalent buzzword in the discourse on peacekeeping operations. All actors from the military, development and humanitarian segments relate to PoC. Although there is mainstreaming and general infusion of the concept within the international community, there is no coherent and comprehensive understanding of what the concept really means and what kind of practices it comprises and entails. The concept’s seminal thinkers and proponents fail to provide a clear and unambiguous definition of the concept. Rather it seeks to infuse a culture of protection among international actors operating in contexts which see grave human right violations and direct and indirect targeting of civilians. This article addresses the protection discourse as perceived by various actors in the field in Sudan. Rather than making the case for a narrow definition of PoC, we argue for mainstreaming a culture of protection, which in turn can succeed in including a multiplicity of actors. However, this may not be sufficient to engender an inclusive culture of protection, as PoC will be interpreted at the backdrop of organisations’ embedded mandates and institutional culture, which in turn can lead to a general conceptual dilution.


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