As Australia prepares to assume its two-year seat on the U.N. Security Council from Jan. 1, it will either have to react to, or may well decide to actively promote, the cause of protecting civilians caught in harm’s way in contemporary armed conflicts. Either way, it would benefit from drawing on a recent study by the U.N. University in Tokyo and the UNU-affiliated Institute for Ethics, Governance and Law (IEGL) based at Griffith University in Brisbane.

There has been a steady rise over the 200 years in the proportion of civilians killed in armed conflict, whether in the violence of war directly, or from conflict-related hunger and disease. The international community has responded to the calls to protect them by developing two principles in parallel, the protection of civilians (POC) and the responsibility to protect (R2P).

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