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.

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