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The ‘protection crisis’: A review of field-based strategies for humanitarian protection in Darfur

1 December 2006

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The ‘protection crisis’: A review of field-based strategies for humanitarian protection in Darfur

This study aims to examine current practice in humanitarian protection and explore strategies, programmes and initiatives undertaken in different contexts to support the protection of civilians. Focusing on roles, outcomes and the internal and external limitations of humanitarian actors, the purpose of the research is to draw lessons and elicit best practice. The conflict in Darfur is the first emergency to be characterised as a ‘protection crisis’. This paper demonstrates how this emphasis has fundamentally shaped the nature of the humanitarian response. The paper analyses the evolution of the Darfur conflict and its impact on the civilian population, as well as the measures civilians have taken in response to the different threats they face. It explores the conceptual framework behind humanitarian protection, and discusses the response by the international community to civilian insecurity in Darfur. The response is then examined using the ICRC ‘egg framework’, which divides protection activity into three complementary spheres of action. This description is followed by an in-depth analysis of some of the major challenges encountered by humanitarian agencies undertaking protection programming in Darfur, and of the gaps in the response. Finally, the paper explores the politics of protection in humanitarian settings, and describes the dilemmas of leadership and coordination in Darfur.


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