Resilient Civilians in Hybrid and Population-Centric Warfare

Are civilian perspectives heard in war?

Institutional measures by national governments, EU and/or NATO can be important in times of crisis and conflict, but they still do little to engage with civilians themselves during times of crisis. Institutional measures may not adequately respond (including the choice to not respond) to the complex dynamics of civilians in their communities when crisis arises. ResilientCivilians contributes to a better understanding of the complex factors that lie between and affect relations between states, their security forces, and their populations.

Why and What?

The recent conflicts of the 21st century (Afghanistan, Iraq) reflected an increasing recognition of the role of civilian populations in conflict. Today in both hybrid and population-centric warfare cases, civilians are explicitly recognised as central actors – either as targets and/or as central to the fighting effort. More often than not however, civilians are included in the strategies of war, but are neither consulted nor necessarily understood as a complex, diverse, complicated array of people that compose this group “civilian”.

More work is needed on understanding the role of civilians in conflict. In 2000 the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security. It was a ground-breaking resolution in many ways. Not least remarkable was the recognition coming the most powerful international body dealing with international peace and security issues officially that non-state actors – women in particular (but extending to the experiences of civilians both female and male) – are significantly impacted by, and have impact upon, conflict.

Problematising “hard” and “soft” security distinctions

Militarised state security perspectives are referred to as “hard” security – engaging in the tough business of war. Civilian perspectives of security are often encapsulated within “human security” discourse, and not always considered relevant to the tougher concerns of hard security. With the increasing recognition of the relevance of civilian efforts and perspectives in conflict situations, this distinction becomes increasingly difficult to maintain.

Civilians and conflict

Civilians have always been a part of conflict. Civilians are more often than not caught in the middle and/or affected, and/or can affect the nature and direction of conflicts. There has been an increase in research and policy directed towards protecting civilians in conflict. Less effort, however, has been made to understand the different roles and levels of agency that civilians have had and continue to have in different conflict situations.

The ResilientCivilians project contributes to an increased understanding of the role of civilians in conflict, in particular “hybrid” threat and warfare scenarios, whereby multiple actors are involved (state and non-state), as well as multiple means employed (military and non-military) to destabilise a society. In these cases, civilians – regular people – are often targeted, manipulated, recruited, and affected by hybrid measures.

Increasing recognition of relevance of civilians in conflict environments

The ResilientCivilians project takes a closer look at the complexity of the civilian landscape in conflict. We will examine different possible scenarios of vulnerability and strengths in communities that could potentially find themselves (or already have) targeted or enveloped within hybrid warfare contexts. National and international institutions, including the EU and NATO, already recognise the civilian landscape but from a primarily “top-down” perspective, where these institutions assume the needs and behaviours of civilian populations and design a response plan accordingly (eg: baseline requirements to stabilise transport, energy, etc). Countries like Norway and Sweden are dusting off previous “Total Defence” concepts which rely upon varying levels of cooperation by civilians or between civilian and military.

Welcome to the ResilientCivilians project

Please explore the pages above to find out more about the ResilientCivilians project! ResilientCivilians is a project led by the UiT The Arctic University of Norway, and is partly funded by the NATO Science for Peace and Security (SPS) Programme, as well as by the partner institutions.

The website is still new and “developing”. But it will expand as the project does! Please feel free to contact the project leadership (under contacts) for any questions and comments.