Definition of a Civilian

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The word civilian has several definitions, one of which is a non-military person. This meaning is relatively recent, dating from the early 19th century. Previously, the word civilian referred to non-military law codes and meant a judge or other expert in this area. The word civilian is a French word, so it should be spelled with a single “l.”

Currently, civilians are anyone not in the armed forces. This includes members of the opposition to a military conflict. While it may seem clear that those members of armed opposition groups are not civilians, there is still some uncertainty. In Colombia, the military manual defines civilians as “non-combatants” but largely uses this definition negatively with regard to combatants. Other countries’ military manuals are silent on this issue. In the United States, the term “citizen” refers to all people not participating in armed conflict.

The Security Council’s role in protecting civilians varies from nation to nation. In general, the Council carries out activities to reinforce general protection norms and influence parties to conflict to adhere to them. It also works to prevent armed conflicts by mediation. However, the level of involvement of armed forces differs greatly from country to country. Some have no active military, while others do not have any. In the United States, civilians cannot be assigned to a military unit, but they must be present on the base where conflict is taking place.