In front of a backdrop of 100 personnel, armoured vehicles and AH-64 Apache Attack Helicopters from the Army Air Corps conducting exercises to protect non-combatants in a conflict zone, Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson announced a new UK Centre of Excellence for Human Security…

The Defence Secretary said: “In modern warfare there is no ‘front line’ and the sad reality is that innocent bystanders are in harm’s way in conflicts around the world. Protecting civilians from human rights violations is as much a military task as defeating the enemy.

“This new Centre of Excellence will build on the amazing work already being done by the UK, from our Human Security courses launched last year to the training we provide peacekeepers on preventing and responding to sexual violence in conflict.”

The Centre of Excellence will build on the success of the Human Security Advisers course and deliver expanded training on Women, Peace and Security, Children and Armed Conflict, Human Trafficking, Protection of Civilians, Sexual Exploitation and Abuse and Cultural Property Protection.

As we see actors in conflicts around the world using women and children as merely an extension of the battlefield, it is essential that the world’s militaries know how to combat this to protect vulnerable bystanders. The UK is the first military in the world to have a dedicated national defence policy on Human Security.

The Armed Forces have done vital work to protect non-combatants, deploying Military Human Security Advisers to UN peacekeeping missions in the Democratic Republic of Congo since 2014 and providing training for peacekeepers in Kenya, Malawi and Nigeria on preventing and responding to sexual violence in conflict.

This new centre is the next step to ensuring militaries from around the world better integrate UN Security Council Resolutions linked to human security into military planning and conduct of operations. The Centre of Excellence will be funded from a new Human Security budget. Running costs will be around £2m a year.