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The consequences of counterterrorism laws and policies on humanitarian action have been widely debated and discussed. Indeed, in recent years, members of the humanitarian community have become increasingly aware of the real, perceived, and potential impact of such measures on the delivery of principled humanitarian assistance. Yet, humanitarian organizations continue to experience the effect of counterterrorism measures on their work, often causing a "chilling effect" on humanitarian assistance.

On 12 May, Jessica S. Burniske and Naz K. Modirzadeh presented their recently published pilot empirical study on the impact of counterterrorism laws on humanitarian action as part of the Counterterrorism and Humanitarian Engagement (CHE) Project at the Harvard Law School (HLS) Program on International Law and Armed Conflict (PILAC). The event explored the key findings of this survey-based study, providing a policy analysis of the results, and followed by an opportunity for questions from the audience.

For those interested in exploring this topic further, PHAP is organizing a Thematic Workshop on Terrorism and Counter-terrorism: Implications for Humanitarian Action in Brussels, 6-7 July 2017.


Jessica Burniske Jessica Burniske Law and Policy Associate at the Harvard Law School Program on International Law and Armed Conflict (PILAC). She carries out legal research and policy work, focusing on the intersection between international humanitarian law, counterterrorism law, and humanitarian action. She has worked at the Counterterrorism and Humanitarian Engagement (CHE) Project at the Harvard Law School-Brookings Project on Law and Security. Her previous work experience also includes the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Department of State, and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
Naz Modirzadeh Naz Modirzadeh Founding Director of the Harvard Law School Program on International Law and Armed Conflict (PILAC). She regularly advises and briefs international humanitarian organizations, UN agencies, and governments on issues related to international humanitarian law, human rights, and counterterrorism regulations relating to humanitarian assistance. For more than a decade, she has carried out legal research and policy work concerning a number of armed conflict situations. Her scholarship and research focus on intersections between the fields of international humanitarian law, international human rights law, and Islamic law.


Angharad Laing Angharad Laing Executive Director, PHAP


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Session objectives

  • Familiarity with the main concepts related to counterterrorism law that can have an effect on principled humanitarian action
  • Awareness of the existing challenges and risks faced by humanitarian organizations with relation to counterterrorism measures
  • Awareness of the policy implications that counterterrorism laws and regulations can have on humanitarian policy frameworks

Target audience and event access

The event targeted legal practitioners as well as humanitarian practitioners in the PHAP membership seeking a more advanced understanding of laws and policies related to or affecting humanitarian assistance and the protection of civilians in armed conflict.

Upcoming courses:

16-20 September:

7-11 October:

10-14 November:
Amman/Dead Sea