Engagement with armed actors

The overwhelming majority of the current global humanitarian response addresses the needs of people affected by conflicts involving one or more armed groups. To understand the context, to maintain safe operations, to protect people affected by crisis and, most essentially, to reach them, it is necessary to engage with a wide range of different armed groups. Humanitarian action possesses no armed force to defend its interventions, and must base its operations on the acceptance by state and non-state armed groups (and, increasingly, armed criminal groups as well). This engagement also includes the promotion of respect for IHL and the protection of civilians.

Two members of an armed group standing in the back of a pickup truck with machine guns

Photo: mojomogwai

Key actors

Maintains dialogue with all arms bearers, including irregular forces and non-State armed groups, as well as governments, in order ensure compliance with international law and a safe working environment

Organization focused on promoting respect for international humanitarian norms by non-State armed groups in armed conflict and other situations of violence

A joint initiative of the ICRC, WFP, UNHCR, MSF, and HD to facilitate peer exchange and learning among frontline negotiators

Undertakes conflict mediation and dialogue activities between governments and non-State armed groups

Organizes the Humanitarian Negotiations Program focusing on policy guidance and trainings to prepare humanitarians to conduct humanitarian negotiations

All In Diary

Key references

Guidance for humanitarian negotiators, including the framing elements of negotiations and factors contributing to success

Research paper on engaging non-State armed groups for humanitarian purposes, for conflict mediation, and for improving respect for international humanitarian law

Analysis of the kinds of acceptance tactics and strategies that may be the most effective and those that may pose unintended risks

PHAP certifications

Engagement with armed actors is covered by the Understanding the Humanitarian Ecosystem (UHE) certification (competency statement 2.7).

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