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Civilians in War

Simon Chesterman, editor
Civilians in War
ISBN: 978-1-55587-965-5
2001/291 pages/LC: 00-045980
A Project of the International Peace Institute

"Offers many helpful tools that can improve not only the understanding of what civilians need in times of armed conflict, but also how to implement this in programs initiated by international organizations. Civilians in War enforces the call for more political will on behalf of both state and non-state actors, the one feature of international politics in general that is ultimately needed for the protection of civilians to take place."—Kjersti Brathagen, Millennium

"The one test that can and should be applied [to edited volumes] is whether the editor or editors have succeeded in providing a measure of intellectual and thematic coherence to the book so that the sum is greater than the individual parts. In Civilians in War, Simon Chesterman has succeeded admirably in doing just that.... The recognition of the need to place the discussion of civilians in war within a historical and political context is one of the book's virtues. So is the use of in-depth and carefully researched case-studies on Namibia, Angola, Mozambique, Colombia, and Rwanda, among others."—Mats Berdal, International Affairs


In World War I, only 5 percent of all casualties were civilian; in World War II, that number was 50 percent; and in conflicts in the 1990s, civilians accounted for up to 90 percent of those killed. Clearly, the 1949 Geneva Convention on the Protection of Civilians, while recognizing the changing face of war, has not succeeded in reversing the trend.

Focusing particularly on the intrastate conflicts that characterized the late twentieth century, this book seeks to expand the tools available to national and international actors endeavoring to protect civilians in times of war. The authors present a range of perspectives on the evolving norms of international humanitarian law and how humanitarian actors can persuade—or compel—belligerents to respect those norms. Their work is a critical step toward limiting suffering in future battles.


Simon Chesterman is director of the NYU School of Law Singapore Programme and associate professor of law at the National University of Singapore. He is author of Just War or Just Peace? Humanitarian Intervention and International Law.


  • Introduction: Global Norms, Local Contexts—S. Chesterman.
  • Evolving Conceptions of Civilians and Belligerents: 100 Years After the Hague Peace Conferences—K. Nabulsi.
  • Putting Belligerents in Context: The Case of Namibia and Angola—G. Lamb.
  • Protégés, Clients, Cannon Fodder: Civil-Militia Relations in Internal Conflicts—M-J. Zahar.
  • Colombia: Persuading Belligerents to Comply with International Norms—P. Gassmann.
  • Gaining Compliance Without Force: Human Rights Field Operations—W.G. O'Neill.
  • Children of War: Understanding War and War Cleansing in Mozambique and Angola—A. Honwana.
  • No Justice Without Peace? International Criminal Law and the Decision to Prosecute—S. Chesterman.
  • Sexual Violence in Times of Conflict: The Jurisprudence of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda—N. Pillay.
  • Humanitarian Issues and Agencies as Triggers for International Military Action—A. Roberts.
  • The Enforcement of Humanitarian Norms and the Politics of Ambivalence—E.C. Luck.
  • The End of Innocence: Humanitarian Protection in the Twenty-First Century—C. Bruderlein.
  • From Chaos to Coherence? Toward a Regime for Protecting Civilians in War—B.D. Jones and C.K. Cater.