Southern Africa: Protecting civilians in armed conflict

HARARE, 16 March (IRIN) - A two-day workshop in Harare, Zimbabwe, aimed at bringing an African perspective to humanitarian issues involving the protection of civilians in armed conflicts ended on Wednesday by expressing concern that civilians are being deliberately targeted and their rights systematically violated.
The 35 participants suggested that an African culture of peace needed to be promoted, and should include provisions for early warning of impending conflicts and early action. The workshop also emphasised the need for further work in the region in the fields of advocacy, research, education and training.

Organised by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), the workshop participants included high-level government officials, military personnel, policy analysts, think-tanks and civil society representatives as well as international and regional organisations mainly from Southern Africa.

The workshop examined concrete proposals for improving the protection of civilians in armed conflicts and agreed on ways of forging partnerships between OCHA and African think-tanks on humanitarian policy issues and advocacy, an OCHA statement said.

The co-hosts of the workshop, Martin Barber of OCHA and Dr Donald Chimanikire of IDS stressed that the workshop was not a "once-off" event, but should mark the beginning of joint policy initiatives in the region.

Participants also agreed that special efforts were needed to protect the rights of children and women in conflict situations.

The UN reported in 1997 that there were over nine million internally displaced persons and 4.5 million refugees in Africa because of armed conflict. Many of these victims were exposed to systematic atrocities and had no adequate physical protection as they had been forced to flee their homes, leaving behind their families and possessions.


IRIN-SA - Tel: +2711 880 4633
Fax: +2711 880 1421

[This item is delivered in the English service of the UN's IRIN humanitarian information unit, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations. For further information, free subscriptions, or to change your keywords, contact e-mail: or Web: . If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer.]

Copyright (c) UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2000