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Special presentation: Dual dilemmas for Syrian NGOs – IHL and humanitarian principles in Syria and in Geneva

As founder of the Syrian Legal Development Programme, Ibrahim Olabi has been involved in training Syrian NGO field staff on humanitarian engagement with armed non-state actors on IHL and humanitarian principles.

In the last round of Syria talks, these same humanitarian NGOs were invited to engage in a different type of negotiation process, this time in Geneva, where UN Special Envoy Staffan De Mistura has created an unprecedented space for Syrian civil society to bring forward ideas and demands. In this new context, they requested advice and legal training on engagement with state actors. Having designed and provided this training and served as an advisor in the Syrian Civil Society Room in the last round, Ibrahim will be returning to Geneva next week, as talks start again.

Although the themes of humanitarian engagement in these two contexts may be similar – focusing on humanitarian access, protection, conduct of hostilities, etc. – the approaches, arguments, and challenges are different. Furthermore, the act of engaging with IHL and humanitarian principles simultaneously at operational and policy levels itself reveals dilemmas, which could potentially lead to loss of access and protection if not dealt with sensitively.

On Wednesday, 20 April, Ibrahim shared observations from his work, outlining key legal, policy, and practical issues that Syrian NGOs are struggling with and the added challenge of engaging at multiple levels, with different actors.

NB: The views expressed in this event are those of the speakerand do not necessarily reflect the views of PHAP or the organisations with which these individuals are associated and do not necessarily reflect the views of PHAP or the organisations with which these individuals are associatedand do not necessarily reflect the views of PHAP or the organisations with which these individuals are associated.and do not necessarily reflect the views of PHAP or other organisations with which the speaker is associated. Participants are attending this informal event in their personal capacity.


Ibrahim Olabi is the founder of the Syrian Legal Development Programme (SLDP) and a Fellow at the Manchester International Law Centre. In his role at SLDP, Ibrahim has created and delivered a number of legal training courses in collaboration with UN OCHA and other international entities, both in the UK and in countries bordering Syria. In 2013, Ibrahim spent several months in Aleppo, Syria providing SLDP`s training seminars near the frontlines. He has presented on SLDP`s work in a variety of fora, including at University of Nottingham, University of Durham, University of Liverpool, University College London, Chatham House, and Amnesty International.

Geneva Humanitarian Connector

This event was made possible through the Geneva Humanitarian Connector, an initiative of PHAP supported by the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs.


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