The UN Security Council’s (UNSC) role, to maintain international security, includes protecting civilians in armed conflict. Made explicit in 2009, the UNSC noted that "the deliberate targeting of civilians… may constitute a threat to international peace and security, and [the UNSC] reaffirms… its readiness to consider such situations and, where necessary, to adopt appropriate steps."
States bear the primary responsibility for protecting their civilians, even though they may be unable or unwilling to do this. For this reason, the UNSC has developed means to improve the protection of civilians (PoC), including through UN peacekeeping missions. Since 1999, a number of missions have been explicitly mandated"‘to afford protection to civilians under imminent threat of physical violence."
Conflict-affected communities where there is a peacekeeping mission present expect to be protected and consistently request better protection. This requires an ongoing effort by the UNSC, the UN Department for Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), Troop and Police Contributing Countries (TCCs and PCCs), and individual UN missions. There have been significant normative and technical developments to explain what PoC means and how PoC mandates should be implemented. There remain, however, many challenges to implement these mandates and guidelines to effectively protect civilians on the ground.
Peacekeeping is a temporary solution. But it can help the state take on its responsibility to protect civilians, by supporting security sector reform and rule of law development.