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Master thesis - protection of civilians
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FFI is interested in getting in touch with Masters' students writing their thesis on the protection of civilians in military operations.
​In recent years, our work at the FFI has focused on how military forces can best be used to protect civilians against deliberate attack. Our research on protection of civilians constantly requires drawing lessons from new conflicts where civilians are deliberately targeted and military forces attempt to protect them. We seek students who can use the scenario-framework we have developed in order to understand the threat faced by civilians in different conflicts. 

We build on academic research, in particular in three areas: Understanding violence against civilians; developing our theory of threat against civilians; independent analyses of the role of military forces in peace and stabilisation operations.

The first task will be to identify which scenario(s) best describes the nature of threat to civilians in during different phases or geographical areas of the conflict. Typical research questions will include:

What are the motivations of the perpetrators? 
Who are they? 
What do they do? 
What is happening to the civilians?

Based on this, it is possible to describe the contextual variations relevant to your case or cases, which distinguishes the particular case from the theoretical scenarios as well as other cases that would fall into the same category. We are particularly interested in research on little known conflicts and operations that broaden the base for our work.

The second and equally important task is to identify which military operations or measures have been attempted to protect civilians. The purpose is to identify which lessons, if any, one may take away from the case. In doing so, one may find inspiration in our guidelines on what military force can or cannot do – in theory – to protect civilians in each different scenario.  An example of the kind of work we are looking for is:
Conflicts and military operations of particular interest include:

Mali, Somalia, DR Congo, Ivory, Coast, Syria, Iraq,  Sudan (Darfur, Blue Nile, Nuba, South Kordofan), Chad, Nigeria, Sri Lanka (offensive against Tamil Tigers), Kenya (tribal clashes), Ukraine

Operation Serval  and AFISMA (Mali) , MONUSCO (including the Intervention Brigade), operations in Iraq (against ISIS), Americans in Baghdad (during Iraqi civil war), African Union in Somalia
Research topics of special interest include

•    The nature of violence against civilians
•    The attempts to protect civilians
•    Effect of attempts to protect civilians at the tactical level

We can offer

•    Supervision and interest in the work
•    A framework for analysis
•    Access to a research community
•    The possibility to apply for a scholarship at the FFI
•    The possibility to publish the work
FFI’s work on protection of civilians

Protection of civilians has emerged as a central objective in many of today’s military operations. Traditionally, protection of civilians has been understood in terms of avoiding ‘collateral damage’, respecting the law of armed conflict, and assisting with the delivery of humanitarian aid. Today, military forces are increasingly expected to protect civilians from perpetrators who deliberately target them and are responsible for the vast majority of civilian casualties. This has posed a new challenge in most operations that remains largely unresolved and requires novel thinking about the utility of force.  

Our main contribution has been the development of seven theoretical scenarios that describe situations where military forces may be tasked with protecting civilians from fundamentally different types of violence. These scenarios can be used to better understand the particular nature civilians are faced with during different phases or areas of a conflict.

See the report:

Beadle, Alexander William (2014), Protection of civilians – military planning scenarios and implications

Additionally, we conduct case-studies of perpetrators in actual conflicts, e.g. the Taliban, al-Shabaab, the Lord’s Resistance Army, tribal war in South Sudan, and the regimes in Libya and Syria. The purpose is to identify how different perpetrators execute their violence in different contextual circumstances, how they acquire the means to do so, and what strategies and tactics they use. See:

Våge, Anders Skeibrok (2014), Violence against civilians: case-studies of perpetrators,

Unlike many other research institutes, we do not carry out purely academic research, but seek to develop practical tools for the military. Based on our scenarios, we have developed a set of guidelines, intended for use during the planning and execution of operations where protection of civilians is an objective. These guidelines have been adapted to NATO’s planning procedures:

Beadle, Alexander William & Kjeksrud, Stian (2014), Military planning and assessment guide for the protection of civilians

And they have been adapted to UN operations:

Stian Kjeksrud, Alexander William Beadle and Petter H. F. Lindqvist (2016). Protecting Civilians from Violence: A Threat-Based Approach to Protection of Civilians in UN Peace Operations​. 
A joint FFI-NODEFIC publication.

For more information about the Protection of Civilians contact 

Tore Nyhamar
Tel: + 47 63 80 77 69

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