COMMUNIQUE ISSUED AT CSO MEETING ON VIDEO MESSAGING AND ADVOCACY STRATEGY TOWARDS INSTITUTIONALIZING PROTECTION OF CIVILIANS AND CIVILIAN HARM MITIGATION IN NIGERIA, HELD ON THE 13TH OF OCTOBER, 2020 IN ABUJA.
Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) in collaboration with Centre for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC) with support from the European Union, organised a one-day CSOs workshop on viewing and reviewing of video messages featuring civilians caught up in the ongoing 11th year conflict in the NE and then developing an advocacy strategy towards institutionalizing Protection of Civilians and Civilian Harm mitigation in Nigeria. The meeting resolved the urgent need to implement key policies and political declarations related to the protection of civilians agenda, including: developing, implementing and financing National Action Plans/legislation/policies that can galvanize clear roadmap for all that are involved: Government, Parliamentarians, CSOs, Media and Security institutions both state and non-state.
State and non-state armed groups, primarily government security forces and community militias (not including ‘armed opposition groups’) must commit to a robust and sustained dialogue with civil society on the protection of civilians on a regular basis towards developing meaningful actions that promote protection of civilians. Greater outreach to women, girls , youth, persons with disabilities and other minority groups in conflict-affected areas is needed to encourage and enable their full, equal and meaningful participation in decisions that will impact their lives and communities.
- Security providers, including the Nigerian military, police, and community-based militias, seeking to extend control over contested territories, have also on occasions been implicated in civilian harm. Civilians have been killed, and others face sexual exploitation and abuse, unlawful detention, restrictions on freedom of movement, family separation, and repeated displacement from armed actors.
- Both state and non-state parties to conflict demonstrate a failure to distinguish between military objectives and civilians and civilian objects and a failure to take all feasible precautions in the conduct of hostilities. Much of the harm civilians experience in conflict is indiscriminate, foreseeable, and preventable.
- Conflict in densely populated areas exacerbates risks to civilians and disrupts livelihoods, education, health systems, and critical infrastructure, creating conditions for severe food insecurity and the spread of deadly disease.
- Civil society organizations are essential to the systematic collection of information and data regarding threats to civilians and civilian harm incidents to improve transparency and objectivity while enabling more efficient and effective solutions to the protection of civilians in conflict.
- Enforced prostitution, sex for food and indecent assault in various camps and affected communities including inappropriate application of Standard Operating Procedures (SoPs) within the camps which are sometimes offensive, violate rights of women and children have been observed in various contexts. Girls may suffer specific outrages and particular attention should be paid to their protection.
- Government should prevent harm to civilians and concrete steps be taken to prioritize Protection of Civilian including: first, by timely legislation of a national policy/legal frameworks on the protection of civilians; second, by maintaining a principled and sustained engagement with state and non-state actors to negotiate safe and timely humanitarian access and to promote compliance; and third, by ensuring accountability for violations.
- Relevant International, Regional and NationalGovernment should hold perpetrators to account, especially on every deliberate attack on the rights and culture of civilians, including healthcare and education facilities, and support. Independent investigative and prosecution mechanisms should be put in place. The greatest advance in protection of civilians can and should come from parties to conflict upholding their obligations under international humanitarian law and other applicable frameworks.
- Ministries, Departments and Agencies of Government as well as security agencies must demonstrate leadership by articulating the practical steps and financial decisions taken to promote protection of civilians. Make bold, forward-looking political and financial commitments to translate laws and norms that safeguard civilians in conflict zones into practice.
- Camp administrators should prioritise the voices of those they serve, including women, children, persons with disabilities, the displaced, and those most marginalized are elevated and heard, especially during existing dialogue sessions while using the feedback from the dialogue as ingredients for reforming policy and programs of government.
- Sustained political will on the rules of engagements, dialogue sessions and respect for culture and practice and continuous discussion on duty of care in various Internally Displaced (IDPs) Camps and soft approaches in conflict zones are needed to move the agenda forward.
- Improve Civil society organizations inclusion in the systematic collection of information and data regarding threats to civilians and civilian harm incidents, including grave violations against children, enabling more efficient and effective solutions to the protection of civilians in conflict. Civil society organizations work at global, national and local levels with communities affected by conflict and are uniquely positioned to connect stakeholders across all levels
- It was noted that the ongoing conflict is taking a toll on security forces, the workshop there encouraged the government to ensure that welfare of the relevant security agencies are considered especially psychosocial support.
After deliberations and mapping on the roles of stakeholders, the Armed forces, Civilian Joint Task Force, Police and other security agencies, Management of IDPs (I-NGOs, NGOs, NEMA, Humanitarian Agencies e.t.c), Gender Groups, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Community leaders, Religious leaders, Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of Government, Legislative and Judicial interest were identified as relevant target audiences and key messages are to be adapted by the CSOs for each of the audiences.
Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani) – Executive Director, CISLAC
Tunde Ojei – Country Director, Civilians in Conflict