People who are not members of the military, police or other belligerent group are called civilians. Often they live in the territories of a party to an armed conflict and are entitled to certain protections under international humanitarian law. Civilian is a broad term and includes many groups of people with diverse backgrounds, views and responsibilities.
Unlike soldiers, who are guaranteed a job for as long as they are active members of the military, civilians do not have this luxury and can lose their jobs with little or no notice. This makes it incredibly important to be prepared for the transition from a career in the military to the civilian world. Civilians should be aware of the differences in culture, language and expectations between the two.
One of the most important differences is that civilians are expected to maintain a healthy lifestyle outside of work. This means balancing bills, paying taxes, finding a home and maintaining a steady income. The military has a lot to offer to help maintain this balance, including health care, housing allowances and opportunities for education. Many civilians find that this is a huge adjustment and have to make adjustments in their daily lives.
The transition from military to civilian life can also be difficult in terms of relationships. Military members are surrounded by like-minded individuals and experience a sense of brotherhood or sisterhood that can be hard to replicate in the civilian world. This can lead to feelings of loneliness when returning to civilian life.
Another big difference is that civilians are expected to have a more flexible schedule and do not receive the same benefits as military personnel, such as free housing or healthcare. This can make it challenging to balance a family, career and social life. Depending on the field, civilians may also be expected to travel more frequently for their work than would be typical in the military.
As a result, civilians are often exposed to increased levels of harm caused by military actions. At PAX, we believe that protecting civilians is a legal, moral and military-strategic imperative. We strive to enable states and armed forces to better understand and mitigate civilian harm, from immediate casualties to damage to physical infrastructure, basic services and mental health. Our research and advocacy helps to ensure that these priorities are fully integrated into military planning and practice. For more information on our civilian harm research and advocacy, see our Civilian Harm in Practice project. These examples are automatically selected from various online sources and may not reflect the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors.