Protection is the foundation of all humanitarian work, and humanitarians have a duty to do all they can to protect civilians whenever and wherever they are at risk.
Whilst protection is primarily the duty of member states and the parties to conflicts, Humanitarian Coordinators (HCs) and Humanitarian Country Teams (HCTs) are responsible for ensuring that protection is at the heart of humanitarian response. As the top strategic body within an interagency response, they have leadership and advocacy responsibilities that cannot be delegated to the Protection cluster or an individual agency.
The importance of HCT’s fulfilling their responsibilities on protection was highlighted during the Sri Lanka crisis in 2009, which led to the Secretary General’s 2012 Internal Review Panel and the UN Human Rights Up Front Action Plan. This expectation is also reflected in the IASC Principals Statement on the centrality of protection in humanitarian action, from December 2013, as well as various IASC and Global Protection Cluster policies and guidance.
The ‘Protection Pyramid’ illustrates how the HC/HCT should provide clear direction on the way senior leaders will work together to address the 2 or 3 most critical protection concerns through high level advocacy and operations. The Protection cluster and sub-clusters support this function by compiling the analysis and facilitating protection programming. Whilst the Inter-Cluster Coordination Group (ICCG) ensures that protection mainstreaming is put into practice by the different clusters.
"Disrespect for International Humanitarian Law and the obligation to protect civilians is increasing."
Practical steps that HCs and HCTs can take to put their protection responsibilities into practice are set out in the STAIT and Global Protection Cluster Note: ‘The Centrality of protection in practice: Practical steps for HCs and HCTs.' Focusing on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, the Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq, Lise Grande also discussed these steps in the Protection of Civilians: Mission Impossible? Humanitarian Leadership in Action webinar. They include:
Do you have practical examples to share on the centrality of protection in field operations? Please email them to STAIT@un.org