This Network Paper presents the findings of five community-based studies on self- protection in Myanmar, Sudan, South Sudan and Zimbabwe.

The studies demonstrate how vulnerable people take the lead in activities to protect themselves and their communities, and how local understandings of ‘protection’ vary from how the concept is used by international humanitarian agencies. While hugely important for everyday survival, local understandings and self-protection activities are rarely acknowledged or effectively supported by aid agencies.

The case studies also illustrate that, while self-protection strategies may be crucial for survival, they are rarely fully adequate. Local agency cannot be regarded as a substitute for the protection responsibilities of national authorities or international actors.

The paper suggests two distinct but complementary approaches to protection: strengthening local capacities for self-protection, and generating the political will to prevent or stop targeted attacks on civilians.


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