Negotiating Humanitarian Access: Guidance for Humanitarian Negotiators

from Conflict Dynamics
Published on 12 Jul 2017

1. Introduction

The effectiveness of humanitarian action hinges on access: access by humanitarians to people in need, and by people in need to essential goods and services. Negotiation is one of the most important enablers of access, particularly in situations of armed conflict. Humanitarian practitioners participating in Conflict Dynamics International-supported access and negotiation workshops since 2014 have identified “negotiation and relationship-building” as the key to enabling humanitarian access more often than any other factor. Yet humanitarians frequently approach negotiations—even front-line negotiations with influential actors—in an ad hoc and unstructured way, often without adequate guidance, policies, training, or support.

This Access Brief provides guidance for humanitarian negotiators based on Conflict Dynamics’ Model for Humanitarian Negotiations. The recently updated model draws on more than a decade of experience in conducting, researching, and providing training on humanitarian negotiations. The brief is targeted to humanitarian practitioners who are engaged or intend to engage in negotiations, especially direct negotiations, with those who control or influence access. Its objective is to assist humanitarians in maximizing their potential to secure and sustain humanitarian access through negotiations. This brief does not explore the characteristics of crisis environments nor the internal dynamics of humanitarian organizations that create both opportunities and challenges for humanitarian negotiations; a growing body of research is increasingly analyzing such factors, particularly those that constrain negotiations.3 Rather, this brief presents methodological guidance that humanitarians can use in their efforts to negotiate access and ultimately help meet peoples’ needs.