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161110cde03 400The Protection of Civilians (PoC) Concept Workshop marked a major milestone in launching NATO’s concept development work on this important subject. This Workshop was part of the annual International Concept Development and Experimentation Conference that took place from November 14th-16th in Sofia, Bulgaria, where more than 300 military and civilian experts in Concept Development and Experimentation gathered.

In the past decade, the commitment of NATO and its partner nations to the protection of civilians in the planning and conduct of operations and missions has been underpinned by the development of a diverse body of policies. Additionally, NATO and its operational partners have learned important lessons from the effort to mitigate civilian casualties during the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) operation. Based on this body of experience, NATO acknowledged the need to bring together such policies, guidelines and lessons learned under one overarching policy that would address, in a more coherent way, the protection of civilians in relevant NATO operations, missions and activities.

Allied Command Transformation is now working in close cooperation with Allied Command Operations to develop a Bi-Strategic Command Concept that seeks to operationalise the NATO Policy on Protection of Civilians, which was endorsed by nations at the Warsaw Summit in July 2016. The policy emphasizes that all efforts must be taken to protect civilians from conflict-related physical violence. It states that this includes threat of violence from other actors, while avoiding, minimising and mitigating the negative effects on civilians from own actions.

The Allied Command Transformation-led Protection of Civilians concept development and experimentation campaign is developing a holistic approach. This approach includes three objectives; the first is to safeguard civilians from harm by engaging actors causing harm to the civilian population, the second is to facilitate access to basic needs to said population by interacting with providers, and the third is to contribute to a safe and secure environment through support to local government and its institutions.

The workshop explored each of these areas within seminar panel discussions. Allied Command Transformation will continue to develop this important concept throughout next year with a view to deliver the finalised concept by the end of 2017.