Political Conflict

Policy Brief: Peace Enforcement and the Geography of Violence Against Civilians

Author(s): Jay Benson
Date: February 21, 2018
Publication Type: Policy Briefs


Peace enforcement has become the subject of vigorous debate among both policy makers and academics working in the field of peace operations. However, there has been relatively little empirical examination of how this emerging strategy affects another key objective of contemporary peace operations: reducing violence against civilians. This policy brief discusses the policy implications of an initial study of peace enforcement and its impact on where actors use violence against civilians.

Key Findings:

  • Post-intervention violence against civilians is most likely to remain in the areas that previously had the highest density of such violence. The report finds that targeted actors use violence against civilians over smaller areas after peace enforcement, but that the mean center of events of violence against civilians remains fairly stable.
  • Troop presence should be concentrated in areas that have experienced the highest concentrations of previous violence. The contraction of and stability in the distribution of post-intervention violence against civilians means intervening forces attempting to protect civilians have a fairly distinct and predictable area in which this violence is most likely to occur. Given the limited numbers of troops in intervening forces, defining an area of highest threat for violence against civilians allows forces to concentrate troop presence. More dispersed deployments over a smaller area should allow forces to deter and rapidly react to violence against civilians more effectively.
  • Intelligence assets should be focused in the areas where previous violence against civilians has been concentrated. The ability to better define the area in which violence against civilians is most likely to occur during peace enforcement missions also gives forces the ability to more effectively task intelligence assets. Intervening forces often lack the kind of situational awareness critical for effective civilian protection. The ability to more effectively task intelligence collection (imagery, signals, human, etc.) improves situational awareness, force protection, and civilian protection.

Related Publications

Coups d'Etat and Civil War

When and Why Coups Occur During Civil War

Written by Curtis Bell on January 15, 2016

Coups d’état are frequently both causes and consequences of larger-scale civil wars and rebellions.

Read more
Empirical Trends in Peace

The Century of Peace? Empirical Trends in Peace and Conflict

Written by One Earth Future on November 2, 2015

Is a world without war possible in the 21st century?Trends in armed conflict and a developing body of social scientific research suggest that this idea is plausible.Based on a discussion of high-level experts held in 2014, this report reviews the

Read more
Causes and Outcomes of Coup during Civil War

The Causes and Outcomes of Coup during Civil War

Written by Curtis Bell, Jun Koga Sudduth on October 1, 2015

Though approximately one in four coup attempts takes place during an ongoing civil war, scholars have not yet analyzed how the incidence of civil war affects coup attempts and outcomes.

Read more
Rebels and Service Provision

Negotiating With Rebels: The Effect of Rebel Service Provision on Conflict Negotiations

Written by Lindsay Heger, Danielle F. Jung on September 29, 2015

When rebels provide social services, do they have more leverage negotiating the terms of a peace deal? The literature suggests service-providing groups may, on average, have a wider base of support and a more centralized organizational structure.

Read more
Strengthening Maritime Security

Non-State Actors in Maritime Security

Written by Conor Seyle, Jens Vestergaard Madsen on July 20, 2015

Non-state actors have a strong counter-piracy role for the maritime sector, potentially greater than the role they play in land-based problems.

Read more
Prosecuting pirates

The Issue of Juvenile Piracy

Written by Jon Belish on June 15, 2015

This chapter was published as part of the book Prosecuting Maritime Piracy, editors Michael P. Scharf, Michael Newton, and Milena

Read more
Maritime Piracy 2014

The State of Maritime Piracy 2014

Written by Conor Seyle, Matthew R. Walje, Kellie Brandt, Peter Kerins, Megan Matthews, Tyler Maybee on June 10, 2015

This report is the fifth in a series by Oceans Beyond Piracy with support from OEF Research.These reports annually seek to assess the cost of maritime piracy - both economic and human - to the international community.

Read more
Social evolution

Social evolution in the shadow of asymmetrical relatedness

Written by Daniel Brian Krupp, Peter D. Taylor on April 29, 2015

The persistence of altruism and spite remains an enduring problem of social evolution.

Read more