GCRF Development Award Creating Safer Space - Building Networks and Knowledge Bases for Civilian Protection

Lead Research Organisation: Aberystwyth University
Department Name: International Politics

Abstract

The Development Award project "Creating Safer Space" works towards the vision of enhancing unarmed civilian protection practices, which create safer space for communities amidst violent conflict and help prevent displacement. According to United Nations Refugee Agency, there are now a record high of 68.5 million people forcibly displaced by violent conflict (UNHCR, 2019), and the majority of deaths in conflicts are among civilians, not armed actors. This makes the protection of civilians from physical harm in contexts of war a pressing issue of our time. While the international community has acknowledged the need for protection, the physical safety of civilians is still seen almost exclusively as a task of armed outside actors like UN blue helmets.

The originality of this project is its focus on protection provided by unarmed civilian actors and deployed at the local level of communities, be it by "outside" specialists, "insider/local" protection actors or the conflict-affected communities themselves. Specifically, the project supports the building and consolidation of equitable partnerships in the field of unarmed civilian protection (UCP) between researchers in the UK and researchers and practitioners in four Low and Middle Income countries (LMIC) in Latin America and Southeast Asia, which have witnessed long-term and/or large-scale violence and displacement of different types and have been home to a variety of local protection initiatives: Colombia, Mexico, Myanmar, and the Philippines.

The project's activities concentrate on five core objectives: (1) building and consolidating UCP partner networks that work equitably to enhance UCP work and knowledge; (2) scoping existing knowledge on UCP, including academic, non-academic and other sources (such as film, art or craft) and ways of knowing (such as indigenous knowledges and cosmologies); (3) enhancing research capacity and procedures by developing online training materials that enhance UK and partner country researchers' capacity to conduct safe, ethical and inclusive research; (4) creating communication channels for South-South learning by building a digital platfom that works across technological, lingusitic and cultural divides and enables a transnational sharing of experiences, and (5) facilitating advocacy and impact through stakeholder mapping.

Through these activities the project will leave a sustainable legacy by putting in place partnerships, capacities and procedures for equitable research and impact which are of benefit to partners in their UCP work and also lay the foundations for future collaboration between UK and/or LMIC colleagues and organisations in the field of UCP. Taken together, these activities will work towards increasing the number of people benefiting from civilian protection worldwide.

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