Center for Civilians in Conflict was founded as Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict (CIVIC) in 2003 by Marla Ruzicka, a young activist and humanitarian who realized the need for an organization focused on civilian victims in conflict.
After war broke out in 2001, Marla traveled to Afghanistan and Pakistan. She noted that no one, including the US military, was keeping count or helping civilians harmed. As a new war in Iraq unfolded, Marla moved to Baghdad and organized a door-to-door survey of the Iraqi people, bringing her results to Washington.
In 2003, Marla founded Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict to take on the work she was doing with the help solely of volunteers. Working with Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Marla helped create the first-ever US-funded aid programs dedicated specifically to helping rebuild the lives of civilians unintentionally harmed by US combat operations.
In April 2005, Marla was killed by a suicide bomb in Baghdad while advocating for civilian war victims. Her colleagues, friends and family knew that her organization held a unique place in the advocacy community that should not be left vacant. CIVIC began a new life built on Marla’s extraordinary legacy.
By early 2007, CIVIC had seen success in establishing smarter, more compassionate US policies for war victims. The organization decided that more civilians could be helped and CIVIC broadened its reach beyond Iraq and Afghanistan.
CIVIC also took on the ambitious goal of pressing all parties engaged in conflict—not only the US—to establish a new standard of behavior by providing recognition and help to civilians harmed by their bombs and bullets. This concept of making amends remains at the heart of the organization’s work, even as the scope increased to focusing on all civilians before, during, and after conflicts, not just the victims of harm. The goal of the work is to protect more civilians and to ensure warring parties do not walk away from those they have harmed.
In September 2012, in order to reflect the full scope of the organization’s work at all stages of armed conflict, CIVIC amended its name to the Center for Civilians in Conflict.
It’s been nearly a decade since Marla Ruzicka founded Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict to help victims in Afghanistan and Iraq get the help they needed after they were harmed. It was—and is—a groundbreaking idea and groundbreaking organization. As they grown over the years, they stayed a unique organization among those working on human rights, justice, and aid in war, a voice for civilians living in conflict.
Their mission is to improve protection for civilians caught in conflicts around the world. They call on and advise international organizations, governments, militaries, and armed non-state actors to adopt and implement policies to prevent civilian harm. When civilians are harmed they advocate the provision of amends and post-harm assistance. They bring the voices of civilians themselves to those making decisions affecting their lives.
The organization was founded as Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict (CIVIC) in 2003 by Marla Ruzicka, a courageous humanitarian killed by a suicide bomber in 2005 while advocating for Iraqi families.
A future where parties involved in conflict go above and beyond their legal obligations to minimize harm to civilians in conflict.
Civilian-focused: They believe all harm to civilians should be prevented to the greatest extent possible. Change should be rooted in the wants and needs of civilians caught in conflict. They bring their voices to those making decisions about conduct in conflict.
Pragmatic: They believe changes in the behavior of parties to a conflict will result from working directly with decision-makers, helping them understand the effects of their actions and providing them with practical policy solutions to limit and address civilian harm. By adopting a pragmatic approach based on policy rather than law, they are able to secure the cooperation of key actors and motivate them to adopt additional measures to ensure the safety of civilians.
Collaborative: They believe working in partnership to protect civilians is more effective than working alone. They work with civilians themselves as well as civil society, governments, military actors, international organizations, thought leaders, and the media as passionate advocates and pragmatic advisors.
Where is Center for Civilians in Conflict