Engaging with Communities

The next challenge for peacekeeping

Oxfam’s aim is that “all women and men in humanitarian crises will be assured both the protection and the assistance they require, regardless of who they are or how they are affected, in a manner consistent with their human rights.” Years of experience have shown us that, in the contexts in which Oxfam works, United Nations peacekeeping forces are key to improving the protection of civilians.
Oxfam is closely following the United Nations “New Horizon” process – which is currently assessing the major policy and strategy dilemmas that face UN peacekeeping today – to ensure that it results in a shared vision of protection of civilians as the main purpose of UN peacekeeping and establishes the effective approaches and capacities required to implement this vision on the ground.
“Engaging with communities: The next challenge for peacekeeping” looks at how peacekeepers can engage with communities to better protect civilians; it identifies best practices, as well as some clear gaps in existing practice. The report is being launched to coincide with a debate on the protection of civilians in the UN Security Council to be held on 22nd November. Oxfam sees this as an opportunity for the UNSC to give a clearer direction to peacekeepers to engage with communities and to address some the challenges indicated in the report.

Key recommendations

These recommendations are directed at the UNSC, the DPKO and the various missions themselves.

  • Peacekeeping missions must engage communities from the earliest phases of preparation for deployment and must continue through the life of the mission.
  • Missions must ensure that different parts of the mission (civilian, military, police) work together effectively. At the field level, there must be civilian personnel of sufficient seniority that their input and recommendations will be heeded.
  • Missions need to develop public communications strategies to ensure that communities are aware of the role, activities, and limitations of the mission. 
  • The UNSC must be prepared to provide robust political support to enable missions to access vulnerable communities and to fulfil their civilian protection mandate. 
  • UN member states need to allocate adequate human and technical resources to support measures for protection of civilians. 
  • DPKO needs to ensure appropriate recruitment (in particular of women) as well as training and deployment of civilians in the field.
  • DPKO needs to institutionalise and systematise best practices and ensure necessary resourcing for these to continue.