Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Political Science


Thomas Weiss

Committee Members

Zachary Shirkey

Stephanie Golob

Subject Categories

Comparative Politics | International Relations


Protection of civilians, peacekeeping, United Nations, peace process, violence


Since 1999, the protection of civilians (POC) has become central to UN peacekeeping, included in the mandates of most multidimensional missions. In 2009, the Security Council designated POC as a priority among mandated tasks, in part because of the assertion that protecting civilians creates conditions that are conducive to peace. Yet, to this point, there has not been a thorough examination of the relationship between the protection of civilians in conflict settings and the broader peace process. The purpose of this research project is to investigate whether protecting civilians from violence serves to shorten conflict duration and/or create more durable peace. Using a mixed-methods approach, including large-N duration analysis, and case studies on South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, I find that there is indeed a relationship between violence against civilians and the peace process. However, the findings call into question the ability of the UN to serve as a lead protection actor, as even its most robust operations leave the majority of civilians unprotected. The findings of this research contribute to the academic literature by developing material and identity-based mechanisms by which violence against civilians threatens to undermine peace, and by further illuminating the effects of third-party interventions. It also contributes to contemporary policy debates on the relationship between POC and the so-called “primacy of politics,” by which member states seek to prioritize political solutions in peacekeeping contexts.