Protecting civilians in urban sieges: how to best support ‘first responders’
Urban warfare in Syria has had a devastating impact on besieged civilians targeted by deliberate aerial bombing and human rights abuses. Local actors, some with an overt humanitarian mandate, engage in civilian protection (CP) activities but often lack sufficient training, equipment and organisation. Our research in four besieged urban areas found a range of capabilities, understandings and mandates among six types of organisations involved in first response (FR). Our mixed methods research methodology generated a strong evidence base to show how external actors can better support organisations undertaking CP. Based on our findings, we recommend: increasing remote support for such organisations, prioritising training provision, assisting them to develop greater professionalism and coordination, and rolling out FR as a distinct concept from other humanitarian services.