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Protection of Civilians: Demanding Better from the British Government

AOAV is one of eleven civil society organisations that are asking for more to be done to ensure accountability and transparency in the protection of civilians during conflict. A 2021 report by the New York Times revealed critical failures by Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR) to prevent, respond to, and be held accountable for civilian harm in Iraq and Syria. These developments need to have important implications for the way the UK approaches civilian harm.

On Protection of Civilians Week, eleven civil society organisations request to meet the
UK Secretary of State for Defence to discuss improvements on the way the UK mitigates,
accounts and investigates instances of civilian harm.

May 27th 2022, 9am

As the United States announces a review of its approach to how it protects civilians in warfare
there is an urgent need for the United Kingdom to conduct its own review, a coalition of civil
society organisations specialised in the subject said on Friday, the final day of the UN Protection
of Civilians Week from May 23rd to May 27th 2022.

After devastating revelations published in The New York Times late last year revealed critical
failures by the US-led Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR) in
the prevention of civilian harm in Iraq and Syria, the Biden administration has launched a review
to improve policies on data collection, reporting and acknowledgement of civilian harm,
improvements which aim to overhaul processes and create a Civilian Harm Mitigation and
Response Action Plan (CHMRAP), as well as a civilian protection ‘center of excellence’.

These revelations add to the strong evidence base of civilian harm from CJTF-OIR operations
built up by researchers, humanitarian agencies, and international organisations over the years.
Developments in the US have substantial implications for the UK’s own approach to civilian
harm, as the UK played an important role in CJTF-OIR. The UK must now engage with civil
society on these issues and implement urgent reforms.

The use of explosive weapons, with wide area effects, in urban areas continues to be a cause of
immense human suffering – with nine out of ten casualties being civilians.

“We believe that the UK for its part has an opportunity to be a global leader on civilian protection
issues” – Action on Armed Violence (AOAV), Airwars, Amnesty International UK, Ceasefire
Centre for Civilian Rights, Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC), Crisis Action, Every Casualty
Counts, Iraq Body Count, Reprieve, Save the Children, and War Child call for Rt. Hon. Ben
Wallace MP to act urgently.

For comment, please contact Airwars’ UK Advocacy Officer, Georgia Edwards
( or Ceasefire’s Advocacy Officer, Lydia Day