MHR Student Researches New Techniques for Unarmed Civilian Protection

Paige McLain Interns with Human Rights Lab to create a report for Nonviolent Peaceforce

Paige McLain (MHR '21) is a third year Master of Human Rights student with a concentration in conflict and international security. Over the summer, Paige worked as a fellow for the Human Rights Lab where she had the opportunity to create a report for Nonviolent Peaceforce focused on unarmed civilian protection. We recently caught-up with Paige about her summer experience in the short interview below.

Human Rights Program (HRP): Please describe your summer internship or project and the work that you did during this time.

Paige McLain (PM): This summer, I worked as a fellow at the Human Rights Lab to create a report for an organization called, Nonviolent Peaceforce. Nonviolent Peaceforce trains teams to go to areas of conflict to do unarmed civilian protection (UCP) in order to protect civilians without the use of force in order to create more sustainable spaces for peace. My project focused on developing a deeper understanding of the good practices of unarmed civilian protection through an in-depth literature review and interviews with practitioners from around the globe with a wide variety of experiences in UCP.

HRP: What made you choose this internship specifically? How does the work you were doing this summer relate to your area of study at UMN?

PM: Conflict in recent years has had a greater and greater impact on civilians as armed groups use violence against civilians as a weapon of war, yet solutions to reduce violence against civilians are not keeping up. Unarmed civilian protection is working to step up to face this challenge. This is what sparked my interest in this fellowship opportunity.

HRP: What are some of your key takeaways from this experience?

PM: Armed protection solutions do not adequately consider civilians in their solutions. Unarmed civilian protection shifts the focus from the armed groups to civilians to more adequately protect civilians as well as incorporate civilians into the solutions to build peace.

HRP: What skills or personal growth have you gained through doing this work?

PM: I have previously done quantitative and qualitative research projects, but this project has allowed me to expand on these skills and lead my own project with a team. It has combined my research experiences and project management experiences into one project. It has challenged me to combine all of these skills into one project, while leading a research team which was a new and exciting experience.

HRP: How will this experience help or inform your career path or professional interests?

PM: Given the role the United States plays in the global arena, this project has highlighted where U.S. policy can improve conditions for civilians and where it can deteriorate conditions for civilians. This has made clear to me the interest I have in work in U.S. foreign policy.


Paige McLain

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