From Chaos to Coherence?
Toward a Regime for
Protecting Civilians in War
Bruce D. Jones and Charles K. Cater
The centenary of the first Hague International Peace Conference, convened in the wake of the Franco-Prussian war, reminds us of the enduring challenge that first prompted Czar Nicholas II's initiative: limiting the carnage that accompanies war. While the nineteenth-century leaders of Europe may have been primarily concerned with the welfare of their standing armies, the passage of a century has distinctly shifted concern toward the particular vulnerability of civilians and efforts to protect them from the effects of war. In this chapter we analyze both the progress and the failures of the “international community” in this regard—while also pointing the way toward developing a more effective approach for coping with this difficult problem.
The timing of the symposium that inspired this volume on September 23–24, 1999, was fortuitous. 1 In the same week, the protection of civilians took center stage at the United Nations. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights addressed the Security Council for the first time in its history, helping to introduce a report on the protection of civilians in armed conflict; 2 at the UN's general debate, member states alternately attacked or supported the Secretary-General's defense of humanitarian intervention, 3 a debate that has continued in the pages of leading journals; and, most significantly, the Security Council authorized a peace-enforcement mission to halt ethnic cleansing and deter mass killings in East Timor. 4
Meanwhile at the symposium, academics, international policymakers, and field practitioners from the legal, security, and humanitarian fields presented a range of views on protecting civilians. Discussion covered the issues of evolving norms and laws, international organizations and their strategies, the interests and behavior of belligerents, and case reviews of the local contexts in which violence against civilians occurs. Underlying the ensuing