In the face of deliberate violence against civilians, communities often have no one to rely on for protection but themselves. These communities may pursue a wide variety of activities to counter, mitigate, deter or avoid threats. A diverse range of actors has recognized the importance of considering a community's self-protection strategies before intervening. These actors advise that external protection providers should ideally enhance these strategies as appropriate, or at least avoid undermining them. However, protection providers such as United Nations peacekeeping operations are still grappling with how best to accomplish this goal and, as a result, run the risk of endangering the communities they seek to protect.
This brief aims to contribute to what is currently known about self-protection strategies and to raise questions about how peacekeepers can safely and effectively support those strategies. It does not aim to make recommendations about specific actions that peacekeeping operations should pursue, but rather presents options for exploration by peacekeeping operations and for future studies. It is part of a series of publications from a three-year project which explores how external protection actors can safely and effectively engage conflict-affected communities in external protection strategies.