Bill on civilian protection in conflict, submitted by APPG Vice-Chair, Lord Hodgson, to the Lords Members Bill ballot

Today, a House of Lords ballot is held to allocate the order of the first 25 private members’ bills to be introduced in the new Parliament in the Lords. This provides a unique opportunity to shine a light on the UK’s need to improve mechanisms to track, mitigate and respond to civilian casualties and strengthen civilian protection in conflict. To this end, Lord Hodgson entered the ballot with the following text:

Short title: Conflicts (Protection of Civilians) Bill

Long title: A bill to establish an authority to track, assess and respond to harm to civilians resulting from UK and UK-partnered military actions; to require the Secretary of State to implement a related strategy to strengthen the protection of civilians in conflict; and for connected purposes.

Why introduce this bill now?

Today, civilians represent an unprecedented number of casualties in conflict. During the Second World War, civilians represented 50% of total casualties. However, by the 1990s civilians are believed to have accounted for between 80% to 85% of casualties in armed conflict, with the trend continuing into the twenty-first century. This is particularly evident when states use airstrikes and explosive weapons with wide-area effects populated areas (EWIPA) as a primary means of achieving military objectives. More than 90% of casualties caused by EWIPA are civilians. Today, the widespread harm caused to civilians in Ukraine represents the culmination of a global race to the bottom in terms of civilian protection and acceptable levels of harm and destruction. This doesn’t have to continue.

The UK has the opportunity to be a global leader in raising the standard of civilian protection in conflict. This legislation would not only strengthen the protection of civilians, but the data generated would provide significant benefits for the UK’s achievement of military, humanitarian and political objectives.  

However, this leadership also requires the UK to make changes at home. The UK’s closest allies have already established capabilities to understand and report harm caused to civilians by their operations. Here, the UK is falling behind. This is largely due to lack of legislative improvements and Parliamentary oversight on UK military actions, and UK’s reluctance to institutionalise civil society involvement in overhauling the Ministry of Defence systems that monitor and account for civilian harm. The Conflict (Protection of Civilians) Bill can change this. 

By institutionalising the capabilities and civil society partnerships needed to effectively identify, mitigate, and respond to civilian harm caused by British military and partnered action, this bill would strengthen civilian protection, show important British leadership and provide our armed forces with the capabilities to better understand the full impact of our operations.

 

 

 

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