From paper to practice: A study on the implementation of NATO’s Protection of Civilians policy
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During the 2016 Warsaw Summit NATO member states for the first time adopted a policy on the Protection of Civilians in armed conflict. Although the policy aimed to codify already existing PoC practices at NATO, it also revealed a shift in NATO’s approach towards the Protection of Civilians. Whereas previously its main protection actions included preventing civilian casualties caused by its own attacks, the new policy included a full paragraph on how NATO should also pro-actively protect civilians attacked by other’s actions. With the adoption of an action plan early 2017, NATO commenced the implementation of the policy. However, so far little is known about policy implementation processes at NATO. Policy implementation studies on international organisations have mainly focused on the European Union, but NATO has not yet been subject to a theoretically supported study on its policy implementation. This thesis aims to provide insight in how NATO implements its Protection of Civilians policy. In addition, it describes how the implementation process will most likely unfold and which challenges could arise, using Matland’s (1995) ambiguity-conflict model. The outcome of the research suggested that the Protection of Civilians policy is not seen as a controversial policy at NATO. As a consequence, the implementation process is relatively accessible for outside parties. Results also revealed that the involved actors think the policy is clear and unambiguous in its language. However, implicitly can be derived from the answers that there are considerable differences between actors’ understanding of Protection of Civilians policy. This most likely leads to differentiated implementation at the micro level in member states and at military headquarters. Identified challenges to the implementation process are a lack of political support for the implementation, a lack of common understanding of what Protection of Civilians is and insufficient (human) resources to implement the policy. Matland’s (1995) ambiguity-conflict model proved to be a useful tool to predict implementation processes, but it had difficulties explaining mechanisms in multilevel governance systems such as the intergovernmental structure of NATO.