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Outcome Report - Trapped in Conflict: Evaluating Scenarios to Assist At-Risk Civilians

An International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and InterAction Roundtable


About this resource

Resource type:Conference, training & meeting documents
Keywords:Access and Negotiation, Conflict, violence & peace, International law, Protection, human rights & security, Working in conflict setting
Agency:ICRC - International Committee of the Red Cross, InterAction
Date published:July 2015

A closed-door roundtable convened on 24 April 2015 brought together U.S. policymakers, humanitarian actors, and other stakeholders to discuss options for assisting civilians trapped in the midst of hostilities, cut off from essential aid, or facing imminent or ongoing risk of targeted attacks, with a view to enrich ongoing policy discussions in the U.S. and in international forums. In these circumstances, various forms of “intervention” – including evacuations, ceasefires, safe havens, buffer zones, and no-fly zones – are contemplated. Such measures may be based on the consent of the parties to the conflict or – absent consent – be militarily-enforced. These proposals often come from organisations not operationally present in the conflict, and frequently neglect to fully assess the ramifications of the sorts of interventions which may be contemplated. The purpose of the roundtable was not to endorse any one option over another, but to establish some key considerations that should underpin decision-making when policymakers contemplate intervention options.

To ground the discussion, the roundtable focused on recent and current experiences in several contexts, including the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria. Participants considered political, legal, and logistical questions relevant to humanitarian pauses, evacuations, and a variety of military operations intended to enhance the protection of civilians. This outcome report presents some of the key dilemmas and insights that emerged at the roundtable and incorporates additional comments received from the participants and other reviewers. Where appropriate, the ICRC and InterAction refined key conclusions based on applicable international law or policy guidance.

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