GW Law Hosts DoD Officials for Roundtable on Civilian Harm Mitigation and Response Action Plan

December 12, 2022
Sasha Baker and Elizabeth Phu talking at the DoD roundtable

GW Law's Associate Dean for National Security, Cybersecurity, and Foreign Relations Law, Lisa M. Schenck, hosted a roundtable discussion on armed conflict and civilian protection with Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Sasha Baker, senior Department of Defense (DoD) officials, and other leading experts. The roundtable focused on implementing the Civilian Harm Mitigation and Response Action Plan (CHMR-AP), which provides a series of actions that the DoD will implement to mitigate and respond to civilian harm caused by U.S. military operations.

Participants included Dan E. Stigall, who currently serves as the Director for Counterterrorism Policy at DoD and is the Distinguished Professorial Lecturer in National Security Law at GW Law, along with other experts from the DoD, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Center for Civilians in Conflict, InterAction, Reprieve, the Center for Naval Analysis, and the Zomia Center.

The CHMR-AP, released on August 25, 2022, and developed at the direction of the Secretary of Defense, creates new institutions and a mutually reinforcing framework to improve strategic outcomes, optimize military operations, and strengthen DoD's ability to mitigate civilian harm caused by U.S. military operations. Actions identified in the plan will facilitate continued training and understanding throughout DoD, enhance DoD's approach to assessments and investigations, and improve DoD's ability to effectively respond when civilian harm occurs.

Deputy Undersecretary of Defense Baker emphasized the strategic and moral imperative of civilian harm mitigation, noting the importance of the successful implementation of the action plan. Participants discussed the need to understand the civilian environment during armed conflict as well as the importance of transparency, accountability, and accessibility of mechanisms to respond to civilian harm. They also discussed the need to ensure the CHMR-AP is scalable and relevant across the full spectrum of military operations.

GW Law faculty members, including Professor Laura A. Dickinson and Distinguished Professorial Lecturer Stigall, have authored numerous articles related to mitigating civilian harm during armed conflict and have supported the development of the action plan since the early stages.