International humanitarian law (IHL) establishes a number of provisions designed to enhance protections for civilians in armed conflict. The provision of humanitarian assistance, and securing the requisite humanitarian access to do so, are critical to addressing the suffering of the civilian population. IHL provides a legal basis for humanitarian actors to engage with parties to the conflict. It presents a common set of concepts, principles, and terminology that can inform negotiations as well as policy and operational decisions. Understanding what IHL says – and does not say – in terms of humanitarian access is critical for humanitarians. This event introduced the concept of humanitarian access and highlight the relevant IHL terminology and rules and presented some of the key challenges to this concept.


Elizabeth Holland Elizabeth Holland Consulting Expert on International Humanitarian Law, International Association of Professionals in Humanitarian Assistance and Protection (PHAP)


Angharad Laing Angharad Laing Executive Director, International Association of Professionals in Humanitarian Assistance and Protection (PHAP)


Recording (YouTube - faster loading time)

Recording (Adobe Connect - higher quality)

Session recording (downloadable audio podcast)

Prerequisite knowledge

Recommended sessions:

1. Introduction to IHL and its relevance for humanitarian actors

Recommended reading

For those who would like to prepare for the session, we recommend the following resources:

For further reading, we recommend the following resource:

Learning objectives

  • Familiarity with the relevant IHL principles and rules regulating humanitarian access.
  • Understanding of the main legal questions for a practitioner to consider when assessing issues related to access.
  • Knowledge of the different stakeholders involved in humanitarian access and a familiarity with the different rights and obligations under IHL.
  • Awareness of the key debates and challenges found within the legal framework of access, including the issue of state consent.


PHAP members will have the possibility to undergo a two-part assessment after the session as part of the PHAP Continuous Learning Credits framework.

Part 1: Comprehension check

Part 2: Written reflection

To encourage peer learning among members, selected essay responses will also be published on the website, if approved by the writer. As a member, you can comment on the responses and read other members' comments.

Read the written reflections

PHAP Credentialing Program

PHAP Credentialing Program

International Legal Frameworks for Humanitarian Action

This event will help you prepare for the PHAP Credentialing Program certification in International Legal Frameworks for Humanitarian Action.

In particular, the event will address segment 3.7 of the certification assessment outline.

Read more about the PHAP Credentialing Program

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