Perspectives on Access: Engaging with Non-State Armed Groups

Release Date: 
Thursday, October 22, 2015

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Gaining and maintaining access and proximity to beneficiaries is crucial to humanitarian assistance. In order to ensure the safety and protection of civilians, particularly in non-international armed conflicts, the international legal and humanitarian communities have attempted to apply humanitarian rules developed for armed conflicts between states to internal conflicts with armed groups. Yet in many of today’s operating environments, reliable humanitarian access is increasingly difficult to create and maintain due to the complex legal and political tensions. Humanitarian organizations working in these spaces must therefore overcome immense challenges in order to negotiate an operational space for engagement with armed groups that is in line with the humanitarian principles.

In conversations with key experts and practitioners in the field, this podcast will explore perspectives on humanitarian engagement with non-state armed groups with a focus on challenges of access. Using contemporary examples such as Afghanistan and Yemen, the panelists will discuss key dilemmas of access faced by humanitarian aid workers in the field and reflect on practical and policy solutions that may be developed in order to ensure proximity to civilian populations in need. This podcast will also examine also explore how non-state armed groups perceive humanitarian actors, and the consequences of such perceptions for agency engagement.

Through discussions with high-level practitioners and experts in this field, the podcast will address the following questions:

  • What are the key dilemmas involved in humanitarian engagement with non-state armed groups around access?
  • How do non-state armed groups perceive humanitarian actors, and what are the consequences of such perceptions for humanitarian access in complex environments?
  • What lessons can be drawn from humanitarian practitioners’ experiences in obtaining and maintaining access through engagement with non-state armed groups?

This podcast features expert commentary from: 

  • Ashley Jackson, Research Associate, Overseas Development Institute (ODI) 
  • Michaël Neuman, Director of Studies, MSF-Crash
  • Jonathan Somer, Founder, Personal Grata Consulting
  • Eva Svoboda, Research Fellow, Humanitarian Policy Group

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