Making States Take Responsibility for War Victims

March 17, 2008

In our discussions last week on the Ottawa Convention against anti-personnel landmines, many of us argued that the success of the campaign was partially attributable to its focused and concrete goals, a feature often missing from unsuccessful human security advocacy efforts (like those devoted to universalizing R2P norms).

Interestingly, this week I read about a brand new campaign calling for “the adoption of a new international norm that would require warring parties to take responsibility for the civilians they harm in conflict.” (Hat Tip: Duck of Minerva) As Duck of Minerva’s Charli Carpenter points out, “hitting civilians by accident is perfectly lawful” for states under our current laws of war and while “a right to humanitarian assistance is widely recognized, the architecture for it constitutes little more than organized charity.” This campaign aims to rectify this appalling gap in our international legal architecture by establishing a new international norm requiring governments to pay reparations to civilian victims of war.

I admit that this is an ambitious effort by a brand-new and untested NGO, but I also believe its objectives are just and concrete, and could be internationally recognized as such with the right advocacy efforts. The good news is that this campaign has had some early success in the US with the establishment of a war victims program in Iraq and Afghanistan. (Interestingly, the US legislation to establish this fund was sponsored by Senator Patrick Leahy, who was also instrumental in the AP landmines campaign.)

Check out the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict (CIVIC) website here. I would be interested in hearing whether you agree with my optimistic assessment of his campaign’s potential.

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3 Responses to “Making States Take Responsibility for War Victims”


  1. […] could be adopted to advocate for other human security agenda items. For example, I suggested in this blog post that students think about the potential for success of efforts to convince the international […]

  2. sandrar Says:

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