Norwegian version of this page

The Use of Force to Stop Violence: Understanding the Role of the Military in Enhancing Human Security

The project investigates military officers’ perceptions of justness when they witness violence against civilians in armed conflicts and their decisions whether or not to stop such violence.

Image may contain: Art, Graffiti, Architecture, Font, Painting.

Section of Guernica, one of Picasso's best-know works. Regarded by many as the most moving and powerful anti-war painting in history. Photo: Papamanila (CC BY-SA 3.0).

About the project

Judging whether or not to intervene when violent aggressors harm civilians in an armed conflict can be extraordinary difficult. For international soldiers, dilemmas often arise when they witness physical aggression. Even in wars, not all violence is equally dramatic or involves the same risks to life. Furthermore, operational realities force international soldiers to rank among plural violence and multiple tasks. They must choose to confront some forms of violence while ignoring others.

Civilians and organizations alike expect that soldiers sent to protect civilians will act as forceful shields between perpetrators and those they harm. Yet, we know that international soldiers rarely use force to stop the violence they encounter, even when authorized to do so under mandates that voice the protection of civilians.


The purpose of this research project is to understand how soldiers react and respond to violence against civilians.  This is done by exploring how military officers interpret and classify the violence they have seen, where they believe the lines between civil and military responses should be drawn, and how they justify their responses to the violence they witness.


The project is qualitative and based on interviews among Norwegian officers who have served in international operations.

Project period

The project runs from 2019 to 2024.


The project is financed by the Norwegian Defence University College and the Norwegian Ministry of Defence.

Image may contain: Clothing, Smile, Joint, Outerwear, Arm.
Sine Vorland Holen. Photo: UiO/Ystehede.
Published June 14, 2022 1:10 PM - Last modified June 14, 2022 1:59 PM


Sine Vorland Holen

Holen is PhD candidate at the Department of Criminology and Sociology of Law (IKRS) and is based at The Norwegian Defence University College.