Webinar: Access and Humanitarian Protection: Lessons from restricted operational contexts and their application to the COVID-19 operational environment

Banner for the webinar Access and Humanitarian Protection: Lessons from restricted operational contexts and their application to the COVID-19 operational environment

Humanitarian protection is often the most needed in the very conflict zones where access is also the most restricted. Whether in areas controlled by armed groups or government forces, in situations when civilians have their basic rights and physical safety threatened, humanitarians carrying out protection work and advocacy are likely to face actors trying to restrict their access and ability to operate, or simply keep them out. 

In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to sudden changes in how protection actors can access populations of concern, with additional restrictions on how they are able to operate in the short and medium term. What can we learn from the experience of protection actors operating in hard-to-reach areas that we can apply to the new challenges of the current operational environment?

On 22 April, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), PHAP, and the Global Protection Cluster (GPC) organized the first of a series of webinars on access and humanitarian protection. The event provided an overview of the key terms, concepts, interlinkages, and dilemmas of protection and access in armed conflict, disaster, and health emergencies. What are the main protection concerns particular to hard-to-reach areas? What challenges do protection actors face in terms of access? Are maintaining access and protection priorities at cross purposes or can they help reinforce each other? This introduction was followed by a discussion with protection experts, exploring the ways in which existing lessons from protection programming in hard-to-reach areas can be applied to protection operations in the context of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Target audience and event access

All humanitarian practitioners working in or with hard-to-reach areas, in particular in the areas of protection, access negotiations, and remote management.

Accessibility and screen readers

The official guide for using assistive technologies in Adobe Connect is available at helpx.adobe.com/adobe-connect/using/accessibility-features.html

The event can run both in your browser and as a standalone desktop application. For use with screen readers, it is generally recommended to run the event as a standalone application, but some users report better compatibility with the browser version. You will be asked whether to use the application or the browser version when logging in.

A full guide for screen readers and Adobe Connect is available here: www.umassmed.edu/globalassets/it/documents/faculty-services/adobe-connect/vendordoc-visual-disabilities.pdf 

Resources recommended in the webinar

The following resources were recommended by speakers and participants during the webinar:

An overview of what protection means in practice:

The role of IHL in the COVID-19 pandemic: 

Guidance on civil-military coordination during COVID-19:

Report on the security of aid work and operations and COVID-19: 

Blog post on challenges for aid worker safety in the COVID-19 response:

Bulletin on social media rumors related to COVID-19:


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Yasin Abbas Yasin Abbas Protection Cluster Coordinator for the Whole of Syria
Maria Duncan Maria Duncan Humanitarian Access Advisor, NRC; Co-chair of the Humanitarian Access Working Group in Yemen
Jason Hepps Jason Hepps Deputy Representative, Athens, UNHCR
Pilar Gimeno Saciada Pilar Gimeno Sarciada Head of the Protection of Civilian Population Unit, ICRC
Sophie Solomon Sophie Solomon Global Access Adviser, OCHA


Angharad Laing Angharad Laing Executive Director, PHAP