Saving the Innocents

Civilians around the world are suffering immeasurably. Whether it’s Palestinians dying in Gaza, Haitians threatened by gangs, Rohingya Muslims facing death in Myanmar, violence in Chad, or Sudanese starving, they are all civilians, and the international community barely seems to be able to do much about it. It’s 2024, aren’t we civilized enough to be able to prevent tragedies on such a scale? Many countries are affected by fragility, conflict, and violence (FCV), and we must find a way to do something about it.

In the UK, Rishi Sunak and his government can and should take steps to enhance Britain’s role in alleviating the suffering of civilians around the world. The Biden administration in the US should also find ways to join the UK in combating civilian suffering across the globe. Other major western powers such as Germany, Spain, France, and Italy should join such a coalition with the US and UK and together come up with a solution.

Luckily, there is research on countries affected by FCV and how wealthier western countries can assist.

According to the World Bank, “By 2030, an estimated 59 percent of the world’s extreme poor will live in countries impacted by FCV.”

According to the UN, in 2024, nearly 300 million people will need humanitarian assistance and protection. The UN and Partner Organizations aim to assist 181 million people most in need across 72 countries, which will require $46.4 billion.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) asserted in Dec. 2023 that “East and Southern Africa have the highest number of people in need.”

OCHA also says that in 2024, “74.1 million people will need humanitarian assistance. The crisis in the Sudan accounts for almost 40 per cent of this total.”

According to the OCHA, “the number of people in need has increased by over 12 million people in 2023, to a staggering 28 million people in 2024.”

And according to The New Humanitarian, “Haiti is a brewing humanitarian catastrophe which no one seems to know how to address.”

In addition, the Sahel in Africa is “one of the fastest-growing crises in the world. More than 33 million people in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Mali, and northern Nigeria are in need of lifesaving assistance – a 25% jump in the past five years.”

With this dismal information in mind, there is a lot the world can do to change reality. Some of the ways in which these wealthy western countries can help civilians in violence-torn countries include:

Direct financial assistance
Policing and reinforcements on the ground
Political and diplomatic consulting and advice
Military and police force training
Education assistance

On the first point, by offering financial assistance, these countries could provide a much-needed cash influx for cash-strapped nations that require extra help. The US is currently providing humanitarian relief by sending in food aid to Palestinians in Gaza. If successful, this effort could be replicated in other countries where civilians need humanitarian aid.

Western countries could send police reinforcements or peacekeeping forces to assist local police and national guard troops in managing violence and low-level rioting, while working to protect civilians.

The UN has tried to do this, with many successes but many failures as well.

Notably, The New Humanitarian notes that “peacekeeping operations face crises of legitimacy and confidence that look set to reach tipping points in 2023. From the Democratic Republic of Congo to Mali to Central African Republic, humanitarian crises risk being made worse because local populations and/or host states have lost faith in UN peacekeeping missions, paving the way for rebel gains, mercenary deployments, or security vacuums.”

Countries could also provide political or diplomatic advice on how to deal with the many moving parts required to run a country. Often, citizens are caught up in violence between political rivals and an outside party could prove useful in resolving differences.

One of the ways to help countries manage internal security is to send a delegation there or invite a delegation to study tactics, theory, psychology, and similar methods of maintaining peace and security. This could also include weapons training and riot control tactics. With knowledge gained from experience, other countries could assist in providing valuable information to governments seeking to control internal dissent, rioting, or even coup attempts.

Lastly, youth in second- or third-world countries are often pulled in at a young age to gangs and violent groups where they are quickly brainwashed, turned into soldiers, or initiated into an organized criminal or terror framework where they are taught to inflict damage and even kill.

Perhaps most importantly, by establishing a robust educational network, western countries could help create a new system that sees youth gaining an education and not falling into gang traps and a criminal way of life. By reducing the overall pool of civilians from which gangs draw their members, countries could slowly facilitate the growth of its educated class while reducing the size of gangs and number of criminals and bad actors.

There is no solution that can solve a problem in one day. But wise investment in security and education over a prolonged period of time can and will result in positive change and ultimately a better future for civilians in violence-torn countries.

Chloe Atkinson is a climate change activist and consultant on global climate affairs.