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International Organizations and

Conflict Management: the


United Nations and the Mediation
of International Conflicts
Judith Fretter
Introduction
The United Nations (UN) is a unique actor in the field of international con-
flict management. The UN has been successful in utilizing its skills in sorne
of the most intense conflicts this century, and it does this without many of
the advantages enjoyed by other conflict managers. So, how does the UN
manage conflicts? The organization is without the leverage and resources
possessed by individual member states, making its success in the field of
international conflict management even more remarkable. When it enters
a conflict, it relies on its international status as a global organization, the
legitimacy it acquires from this status, its credibility as an international
actor, the cohesiveness of its members, and its mediators' experience
and persuasiveness. To what extent do the organization's characteristics
enhance or inhibit its success? With little resources of its own, the organi-
zatiQn is limited in its ability to offer inducements or threaten pen_alties.
The UN is reliant on its international status to give its resolutions the
mpetus to be taken seriously. Having no standing army of its own to
engage in conflict management strategies, the UN must rely solely on the
support of its members to give its resolutions credibility and its actions
strength. This chapter examines how the UN mediates; what it is expected
to do and what it achieves; the constraints under which it operates; the
mechanisms and tools it employs; the innovations it has made in the field;
and briefly summarizes the characteristics of the conflicts the UN seeks
to resolve.
The UN's role is a particularly important factor in the overall manage-
ment of international conflicts. The international community intervenes
in conflicts through multilateral channels provided by an internatio'nal
organization such as the UN,
UN and the Mediation of International Conflicts ingle state can act alone in pursuit of a resolution, on a unilateral basis.
An intervention can reflect the intensity of the international community's
reaction to events, and their commitment to resolve a perceived problem.
In its own right, the UN is an effective _conflict manager, but in the inte_r-
national arena it also performs a legitimizing function for unilateral conflict
management attempts undertaken by state actors or individuals {Riibin,
1992). Where the UN has not intervened itself, it has set sta-ndatds in the
engagement of international conflict management strategies, standards of
impartiality and fairness. The expectations of impartiality and fairness are
qualities disputants seek when enlisting the UN as a conflict manager.
On the international scene, the UN is one of severa! conflict management
actors trying to pre-empt protracted conflict and find solutions for states
already in the throes of conflict. Regional organizations such as the OAU,
Organization of American States (OAS) and The League of Arab States, have
had sorne success with interstate conflict resolution: the OAU in the conflict
between Tanzania and U ganda; the OAS in a Nicaraguan conflict; and the
Arab League, Islamic Conference and Algeria in the Iran-lraq war. Unilateral
attempts can also boast sorne successes: the United Kingdom in the
Rhodesian-Zimbabwe conflict; New Zealand in the Papua New Guinea con-
flict; the Contadora Group in Central America; and the United States in the
Middle East. Various NGOs have also achieved successes: the Vatican, medi-
ating between Chile and Argentina in the Beagle Channel conflict; the
Quakers, in numerous lower profile cases; and the mediation of The Carter
Center in the conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea (Evans, 1994). The EU
and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the
newer European mechanisms for conflict management, have both shown
considerable involvement in regional conflicts in the last decade as wit-
nessed by their efforts in the former Yugoslavia.
With the end of the Cold War, the UN is perceived as more impartial. After
the thaw of relations between the USA and the Soviet Union, the Security
Council is no longer hamstrung by the superpower rivalry that scarred
many of its earlier conflict management decisions. Increasingly, the UN
has been able to act more decisively, without vetoes regularly hindering the
implementation of its conflict management resolutions. In addition to this
substantial systemic change, the nature of international conflict has also
been transformed. Over the period from 1945 to 1989, international con-
flicts could generally be categorized as traditional interstate rivalries, aris-
ing from issues of territorial sovereignty, resource ownership and economic
rivalry (Bercovitch, 1996). Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in
1989, the global conflict landscape is very different. The UN has had to
adapt to this changing conflict environment. Its efforts now concentrate
on intrastate conflicts, those originating from ethnic and religious rivalries.
These types of conflicts are fuelled by a desire for ethnic independence and
equal secular representation. Fortunately, for the UN, intrastate conflicts
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100 The Range of Mediation Experience
are no longer exacerbated by superpower rivalry. However, the prolonged
nature and intensity of recent intrastate conflicts, such as those in Rwanda
and Yugoslavia, has seen the UN intervene more often than any other con-
flict manager. In this altering conflict environment, the UN's most fre-
quently utilized conflict management strategy is that of mediation.
UN mediation
Mediation is just one of the peaceful and diplomatic initiatives used by the
UN to facilitate rather than force a solution on the disputants. Responding
to international conflict, the UN can intervene using three different levels
of conflict management:
(1) violence and coercion which can extend to both physical and psy-
chological manifestations; (2) direct or indirect negotiation in its many
forms (bargaining between the disputants); (3) the binding (e.g. adjudi-
~ a t i o n ) or non-binding ( e.g. mediation) intervention of a third party.
(Bercovitch et al., 1991: 7)
All of these levels of conflict intervention are utilized by the UN, though
a response entailing a use of force is used only as a last resort, and coercive
measures are mainly exercized in the form of sanctions and blockades. The
more customary role of the UN as a third party can include: enforcing a
physical separation of the disputing parties; observing, monitoring and
maintaining ceasefire agreements between the parties; encouraging an
environment more conducive to achieving a settlement and a lasting reso-
lution (Bercovitch, 1985):
These third party activities, ranging from a passive to a more active
involvement, are traditionally described as fact finding or inquiry (provid-
ing an impartial determination of the facts in conflict), good offices ( acting
as a go-between, transmitting messages and information between the
protagonists), and mediation (aiding or influencing the adversaries to find
a solution). (Bercovitch, 1989: 285)
Mediation is selected on its appropriateness and its ability to achieve
certain objectives in the conflict environment. At an international level,
conflict management by a third party aims to achieve five main objectives:
to limit the spread or escalation of the conflict; to achieve an early resolu-
tion of the conflict; to minimize human suffering; to uphold international
laws; and to promote an environment for better future relations between
the disputants (Bercovitch, 1996). The UN is seen as the bastion of interna-
tional morality, and so has greater pressure placed on it to pursue these
objectives. Individual state actors, on the other hand, have less pressure on
UN and the Mediation of International Conflicts 101
them to pursue altruistic objectives and are usually only concerned with
managing conflicts that will affect them to sorne degree. The UN mediates
to limit the spread of conflict and pre-empt hostilities more often than
it engages in mediation on humanitarian grounds. Prolonged conflicts,
such as those in Angola, Somalia, Afghanistan and Cambodia, are just a
few instances where UN missions have gradually become more focused on
the pursuit of humanitarian objectives. All of these operations have involved
the UN in its mediation capacity, but these intense conflicts presented
sorne of the most difficult conflict conditions for the mediators.
Since 1945, the effectiveness of UN mediation has been observed closely.
In 1966, Holsti found that the UN and various regional organizations were
managing to forge agreements in 37 per cent of cases where they used more
active mediation strategies, proposing terms of agreement or initiating pro-
cedures of settlement. Interestingly, he concluded that although the UN's
intervention had often led 'toa stalemate between two countries or between
two warring factions within a country, such an arrangement may eventually
lead to 'passive' settlements or to formal agreements, while unilateral inter-
vention by outside powers usually has the purpose of gaining a clear victory
for one side' (Holsti, 1966: 288). A subsequent study by Levine identified
388 mediation attempts and revealed just how frequently mediation was
utilized in international conflicts between 1816 and 1960 (Levine, 1971).
'On average mediation attempts occurred about every 4.5 months over the
period' (Bercovitch, 1985: 741). Butterworth's assessment of Do Conflict
Managers Matter?, joined Holsti's 1966 study, in analysing institutionalized
conflict management (Butterworth, 1978). He reviewed 255 interstate con-
flict management attempts over a 29-year period, from 1945 to 1974. Of
these 255 attempts, the UN and regional organizations accounted for 71 per
cent (181 attempts) of all management efforts (Butterworth, 1978). These
studies highlight the role of international conflict managers and the need
for developing efficient methods of conflict management.
Over the period from 1945 to 1995, from a total count of 295 inter-
national conflicts, the UN has been involved in 86 conflicts in varying
capacities, a significant 29 per cent of the total number of international
conflicts. No other organization, regional or global, has attempted the
number of interventions, nor has been expected to achieve more resolu-
tions than the UN. To put the UN's attempts into a broader perspective, the
UN has performed approximately 23 per cent (615 attempts) of the total
recorded formal international mediation attempts (1,485 attempts) initi-
ated globally over a 50-year period. Mediation attempts by other conflict
managers over the period have been recorded, including: state mediators
47 per cent; regional organizations 11 per cent; mixed mediators 9 per cent;
non-governmental organizations 6 per cent; and individual mediators at
. 4 per cent. In Bercovitch's study the percentage of cases in which the UN
intervened indicates that it is a substantial conflict manager, over-shadowing
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102 The Range of Mediation Expelience
its regional competition in the field (Bercovitch, 1996). The figures pre-
sented here are drawn from Bercovitch's extensive data set of approximately
1,500 formal mediation attempts in the period 1945-95. Each of the media-
tion attempts were coded for particular contextua! factors and mediation
characteristics. Analysis of this data allows us to identify sorne of the char-
acteristics of UN conflict mediation and examine where, when, and how
effective UN interventions have been since 1945.
Engagement of UN mediation can occur because either one, or both, of
the disputants request the assistance of the UN or appeal to one of its organs,
the Security Council, the General Assembly or the Secretary-General. The
disputants may prefer to ha ve their dispute. aired in a more impartial UN
forum rather than have a particular state or regional organization intervene
(Touval, 1994). On occasion, the UN also initiates its own involvement by
offering to assist the disputants in restoring dialogue, though this is not
always accepted. The initial offer of assistance comes in the form of. an
offer to use the good offices of the Secretary-General. Mediation generally
occurs when an international conflict is long and drawn out, when the par-
ties have cometo an impasse, when the parties do not want to escalate the
conflict further, and when the parties are prepared to participate in dia-
logue to achieve a settlement (Bercovitch, 1989). The tasks befare the third
party can include efforts to: promote the conditions required for a settle-
ment; arrange meetings or maintain a distance between the disputants;
organize appropriate settings for talks; sustain ceasefire conditions; and
produce information required by the disputants for informed decision
making.
In addition to the facilitative role of the UN Secretary-General and the
provision of 'good offices', mediation is utilized to complement the strate-
gies of peacekeeping, peacebuilding, observer missions and preventive
diplomacy. The UN has utilized formal mediation as a free standing strategy
during all phases of the conflict cycle where it is perceived that a conducive
environment for mediation existed. The UN mediator's role ostensibly epit-
omizes the organizations' struggle as a conflict manager. Acting on behalf of
the organization, the UN mediator operates only with a semblance of lever-
age, leverage that is imbued on their position as a representative of the
international organization. Skill and expertise, honed by experience, are the
only 'swords' used by the mediator in a conflict. Often the mediator relies
on sheer moral persuasion and the reinforcement of internati:ai nonllS- m
reasnil W"ith -the disputants, as the organization itself has few resources of its
own to enhance the mediator's position.
The UN's 1eve1 of resources and organizational capabilities determine
whether or not it is able to apply a particular strategy. Limited resources
may govern many UN decisions. The UN is reliant on its member states
for logistical and financia! support, and for the experienced mediators
employed in its missions. The speed of intervention depends on the
UN and the Mediation of Intemational Conflicts 103
Security Council or Secretary-General's perception of the potentiality for
conflict escalation. With the lengthy periods of involvernent comrnonly
expected with the use of peacekeeping and conflict managernent strategies,
costs can amount to a substantial burden on contributing member states.
UN members are becoming reluctant to commit to an intrastate conflict,
because of the perceived complexity associated with intrastate conflicts.
Despite growing reluctance to becon1e involved in these types of intractable
conflicts, the frequency of UN mediation has increased in recent years,
though its involvement has been limited to fewer conflicts. In Table 6.1
data shows the lower frequency of conflicts and increased number of UN
mediation attempts indicate the changing nature of UN involvement in
intractable intrastate conflicts.
Interstate conflicts stem from conflicting interests between states and
may involve issues of military power, economic power, territory or resource
issues. 'Ideological tensions and misperceptions can exacerbate conflicts,
but seldorn cause thern. In intrastate conflicts, interests and instrumental
objectives also matter, but they are often intertwined with conflicting
identities' (Leatherman and Vayrynen, 1995: 56). The UN has often seen
the involvement in the more intractable intrastate conflicts as a necessary,
lesser of two evils. Intrastate conflicts have proved to be the most difficult
to manage. These conflicts are characteristically like the civil war conflicts
in Bosnia, Liberia, Cambodia, Somalia, Ethiopia, Zaire and Georgia, and the
former Yugoslavia. UN resolutions and actions dealing with these intrastate
conflicts were severely impeded by the complex nature of the conflicts
(Helman and Ratner, 1992). UN mediation has been used to enhance and
complement peacekeeping and peacebuilding activities and to assist in the
containment of these conflicts, rather than act in any preventive capacity.
Regardless of whether UN mediation complements another strategy or
stands alone in the conflict, it must still contend with several operational
constraints.
Table 6.1 Frequency of conflicts and UN mediation attempts, 1945-95
System Total no. No. of conflicts UN Frequency of
era of conflicts involving mediation attempts after
the UN attempts fatalities of 10,000+
1945-55 41 14 72 27
1956-65 69 25 75 43
1966-75 50 16 132 88
1976-85 73 17 135 125
1986-95 62 14 201 168
Total 295 conflicts 86 conflicts 615 attempts 451 attempts
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104 The Range of Mediation Experience
Operating under constraints
As an international third party, the UN operates under a number of con-
straints that affect its role as a mediator, more so than any other state actor,
regional organization or NGO. These constraints come partly from the
UN's composition as a truly international organization and partly from its
member states' level of commitment to its consensual and collective proce-
dures. The UN operates under certain limitations: the voluntary nature of
its membership; the diversity and level of cohesion amongst its members;
the reliance of the organization on its membership's funding and resources;
the binding principies of the organization, as set out in the UN Charter;
and the basic principies of state sovereignty and non-interference.
The most intrinsic element of the UN's operation is the fact that the
participation by states is voluntary. States can choose to participate or
refuse to participate. As there is no means by which the international orga-
1!-ization can force its members to participate, this voluntary element of the
organization presents the first major stumbling block for conflict manage-
ment efforts. Fluctuations in the state system have impacted on the devel-
opment of a conflict management role for the UN. The support and level
of agreement of the two major powers has been shown to be a factor affect-
ing the success of UN mediation attempts (Tunnicliff, 1984; Haas, 1986,
1987). An organization based principally on the cooperation of its mem-
bers can only reflect the nature of fluctuating relationships among its
membership. Adapting to cope with these fluctuations has proved both
challenging and costly for the organization's credibility.
Many of the criticisms of the UN lie not with the organization itself but
with the nature of its membership. 'It is commonly said that the UN is
nothing more than the sum of its members- those 185 sovereign states of
which it is composed' (Roberts and Kingsbury, 1988: 4). Often it is the level
of their commitment and their interactions in the decision-making process
which decrease the possible effectiveness of any conflict management inter-
vention. The use of the veto in the Security Council has been identified
as an indicator of the UN's resolve to deal" with conflicts. The impression
of organizational cohesiveness is important to enhance the basis of UN
leverage. Early on in its operation the UN had to contend with strategic
voting within the two voting bodies (Kim and Russett, 1996). Shifting
levels of cooperation and compromise in the Security Council and the
General Assembly, have proved to be the bane of decisive conflict manage-
ment leadership in the UN.
One of the basic problems facing the UN's mediators stems from a lack of
cohesion in its membership. From this comes the criticisms of budget allo-
cation, the non-committal attitude towards the escalating conflicts brought
before it, and the criticisms of the lack of democracy in decisions. Vague
objectives at the Secretariat level sometimes result in a lack of policy clarity
and insubstantially defined resolution goals.
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UN and the Mediation o( Intemational Conflicts 1 OS
With its haziness of outline, 'the UN' becomes an irresistible target for
blame when something goes wrong. Since the organization is, in a
sense, everybody, it is also always somebody else. . .. The UN has no
anthem to sing and although it does have a flag - a map of the world -
at its centre lies the North Pole, where no one lives'. (Hall, 1994: 20)
For mediation to have a chance of being effective the UN must be seen as
being representative of a global body, a cohesive entity or, at least,. an orga-
nization in one voice in its resolutions (Touval, 1994). The Secretary-
General, who is ultimately constrained by the will of the Security Council,
performs more successfully when he has the full support of the Security
Council (Tunnicliff, 1984).
The UN has a distinctly universal composition, with a complete member-
ship of 185 countries. Ironically, it is often the same universal nature of.
the UN's membership that can either enhance or diminish the organiza-
tion's level of legitimacy in the conduct of its mediation role. The support
of its membership is essential for the running of missions and for enhanc-
ing the perceived legitimacy of UN mandates. In recent times there has
been a growing reluctance by members to become committed to situations
that appear to be progressing to an increasingly intractable situation. In
mediation 'sorne of the UN leverage derives from its institutional standing
and the kind of norms it exemplifies, but beyond that UN mediation is
hampered considerably by lack of resources' (Bercovitch, 1996: 86). The
USA for example, is the UN's biggest financia! contributor as well as its
biggest debtor (Thakur, 1996: 19). As of September 1998, the USA owes the
UN $1.6 billion toward its regular running costs and peacekeeping budget.
The total running costs of the organization amounts to $2.5 billion in 1998
(UN, 1998a). Other members are also reluctant to provide their annual
financia! contributions and the military force and resources that give credi-
bility to the otherwise symbolic resolve of Security Council mandates. As
Russell pointed out in 1970, 'the United Nations financia! crisis is not pri-
marily a result of incapacity of the members to pay but a result of their
unwillingness to do so' (Bennett, 1988: 94). The UN manages to survive as
an organization with- relatively meager resources of its own. It operates
with a skeletal staff of approximately 52,280 globally, and this staff total
includes the Secretariat and twenty-nine other UN agencies (UN, 1998b).
So, without the resource commitment and support from its members for
mandated actions, the UN's ability to implement decisions and its credibil-
ity are seriously compromised.
Despite the possible consequences of abandoning this international
safety-valve for global conflict, the UN's membership appears reluctant to
finance its conflict management efforts in a carte blanche fashion any longer.
Calls for budget constraints and a general pruning of what sorne depict as a
bloated bureaucracy are but more of the problems facing the organization
in the 1990's. The USA has been a particularly vocal advocate of UN
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106 The Range of M ediation Experience
reforms. The cost of long-term peacekeeping missions, sorne $1.3 billion in
1997, seems a lot but it only equates to 0.2 per cent of global military
spending (UN, 1998b). A withdrawal from the facilities available through
the UN, a reluctance to fund the organization, and a general diminished
level of confidence in the UN, has led toa growth in an alternative avenue
of international conflict management; that of multilateralism.
The nature of the international system, with the sovereignty of the nation-
state an unwritten but binding convention, often sees conflicts becoming
well-entrenched befare international assistance is sought or internationally
condoned. The recognition of sovereignty and the conventions of interna-
tional interaction can actas a major impediment to earlier intervention by
an international organization. It is obvious that the early detection of a
potential conflict has not necessarily meant that early intervention in the
conflict was equally as possible. More accurately though, Evans points out
that the UN's indecision over intervention in Bosnia, Hait, Somalia and
Rwand. was mainly due to a lack of political will in the Security Council
rather than any systemic constraints (Evans, 1994: 8).
The UN's recent troubles have not just been caused by the difficulties
associated with intervening in intrastate conflicts. Ij!n.drances to more rapid
interventions have been exacerbated by membership commitment levels,
budget blowouts, the organization's bureaucratic process, and a general
reluctance from UN membership to become involved in already entrenched
conflicts. Slow reaction, low commitment, poor early recognition of a
potential conflict, and the difficulty in pin-pointing a moment of 'ripeness'
for an intervention, all contribute to the ineffectiveness of an intervention.
Knowing when mediation is able to achieve a quicker, inexpensive res-
olution would definitely prove worthwhile for the UN and the parties
in conflict. Developing sorne criteria for the appropriate engagement of
UN mediation may increase its overall effectiveness and prevent member
states from selectively engaging mediation based on their state-centric
motiva tions.
Multilateral and unilateral action, conducted under the auspices of the
UN, can lead to a conflict of interest for member states in the UN. The
possible prioritizing of state issues, protecting national interests over partici-
pation in a UN directive, merely highlights the awkward nature of the
UN as an organization. So far the UN Security Council has approved several
multilateral actions conducted by member states. Multilateral military
operations after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, and efforts in Somalia, Rwanda
and Hait have all received endorsement from the Security Council (UN,
1998b). A growing UN reliance on multilateral operations though can seri-
ously undermine the organization's international credibility. 'If the majar
powers employ international organizations chiefly as public relations vehi-
cles and fail to supply them with the means to get the job done, then ~ h e
credibility of those organizations, and that of collective norms and
UN and the Mediation of Intemational Conflicts 107
decisions, Will suffer' (Luck, 1992: 148). The credibility of the UN is essen-
tial to maintain its leverage as a mediator in international conflicts.
Constraints and contextua! problems have prompted the UN to be innov- ,
ative and flexible in its approach to conflict management. There are six rec-
ognizable operational constraints that the UN contends with on a regular
basis in its mediation role:
l. The commitment level of its membership: Membership commitment affects
the level of financia! support, and personnel and equipment availability;
The perceived level of commitment aids the perception of UN strength
and leverage in mediation situations. The UN generally lacks resources
of its own and so gains credibility for its actions through the support of
its members.
2. The level of cooperation and consensus of its membership: Disagreement can
promote inaction, ineffectual actions being too late to have the desired
impact. A lack of consensus can be viewed as disunity within the organi-
zation and can work against a mediator who is assigned to represent the
organization as a mouthpiece, a spokesperson who acts in accordance
with the full backing of the world body. The mediator's position can
be undermined if the weight of the organization's support is not seen to
be fully behind the mediation effort. UN cohesion enhances the lever-
age position of the UN mediator.
3. The constraints of operating within an international system: The principies
of state sovereignty, the presence of state interests and motivations and
state alignments.
4. The voluntary nature of UN participation: A state only participa tes as much
as it is willing.
5. The explicit operating principies set out in the UN Charter: The Charter's
binding prescriptions and procedures denote the UN's international
position and primary responsibility. The Charter sets out restrictions on
the UN's use of force and expresses its obligation to use peaceful means
of conflict settlement, where possible, befare forceful measures are
engaged.-
6. The decision-making procedures of the organization: The UN system is based
on consensual decision-making. Achieving the required vote approval
and just the general bureaucratic process can hinder a quick response in
a crisis situation.
In summary, it is clear that the UN is as equally enhanced by its interna-
tional status as it is impaired. Considering these operational constraints
with the nature of the mediation attempt itself, the equation for successful
mediation becomes even more complex. The process of the mediation
effort; the perception of mediator impartiality and experience; the rank of
the mediator; the mediation strategy used; and the perception of mediator
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108 The Range of Mediation Experience
leverage, all affect the UN's ability to mediate successfully. With opera-
tional constraints and procedural factors impinging on the mediation
attempt itself, it is natural to ask how the UN mediates successfully at all?
How does it engage in mediation? Who mediates and what techniques are
used by the mediator? The UN mechanisms of mediation, the Security
. Council, the General Assembly and the offices of the Secretary-General,
accentuate the need for adaptability, flexibility and innovation, as they
also operate under considerable organizational constraints of their own.
Mechanisms of UN mediation
The UN Security Council and the General Assembly
The Security Council determines 'the existence of any threat to the peace,
breach of the peace, or act of aggression' (Article 39) and must then decide
what measures to take to maintain or restore international peace and secu-
rity (Articles 41 and 42). The Security Council, under Article 34, has the
mandate 'to investigate any conflict or any situation which may lead to
international friction or give rise to a conflict, in order to determine
whether the continuance of the conflict or situation is likely to endanger
the maintenance of international peace and security' (Article 34). Indeed,
the achievement of the Charter's aims and the organization's progression
in the area of conflict management has been consistently hampered by
global circumstances the UN could not hope to control.
Traditionally, any intervention or interference in the interna! domestic
affairs or externa! affairs of another state is deemed a violation of that
state's independence and sovereignty, and is considered to be a breach of
internationallaw:
A state may justify an act of intervention where it has a treaty right to
interfere in the external affairs of one of its protected states; where it
interferes to protect one of its citizens; where it invades in self-defence;
where it joins with other members of the United Nations to restrain a
state which disturbs world peace by resorting to war; and in certain
other cases. (Elliot and Summerskill, 1964: 185)
Such definitions can assist in the process of international legitimation
where intervention is concerned, but the unwritten norrns of behavior in
the international political system still apply. Dithering reactions in recent
conflicts in Bosnia, Haiti, Somalia and Rwanda do not reflect the organiza-
tion's inability to determine or agree on issues of internationallaw, nor on
the constraints posed by any binding law, but more it reflects the organi-
zation's lack of decisive will in the Security Council to follow through with
the resources for such ventures (Evans, 1994).
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UN and the Mediation of International Conflicts 109
Like the Security Council, the General Assembly provides disputants with
a forum in which to air their grievances. Although the General Assembly
has no mechanism for mediation, it often requests that the Security
Council or the Secretary-General initiate a process of mediation either
through the Secretary-General's good offices, or by establishing a special-
ized mission. The General Assembly can also authorize further action in a
conflict if the Security Council has become deadlocked on the matter. The
main role of the General Assembly in the UN's management of conflicts is
its legitimization function (Riggs and Plano, 1989). Hearing a conflict in
this forum gives the conflict international recognition and legitimizes the
concerns of the disputants. Sometimes the mere airing of a conflict in this
international forum, or in the Security Council as a referral, is sufficient to
create the desired effect of prompting the disputants to resume dialogue
and resolve their conflict without further international concern.
The UN is not a typical bureaucracy or organization, being more akin
to a parliamentary voting style system in its decision-making processes.
Asan international governmental organization, the UN 'operates ata level
of consent, recommendation, and cooperation rather than through com-
pulsion or enforcement' (Bennett, 1988: 2-3). Willetts identifies the UN as
a poli ti cal sub-system, where applying a 'bureaucratic politics approach to.
the UN shows that states cannot be considered to be coherent actors in the
system. The consideration of how delegates work shows that there are
many pressures upon them, in addition to those from their home coun-
try .... ' (Willetts, 1988: 35-6). It is evident that much like a parliamentary
style system, the voting behavior of the member states takes on sorne pat-
tern of alignment within the voting body. The General Assembly reflected
this shift in the distribution of voting power. 'Voting patterns in the
General Assembly help to illuminate the influences on state alignment in
other UN bodies, most notably in the Security Council' (Kim and Russett,
1996: 649). Non-alignment, Third World development and regionalization
have exerted a major impact on the voting patterns within the UN organs,
especially during the Cold War years.
Clearly, occasions of greater cooperation within the Security Council
have existed between 1964 and 1975. Evidence of this can be seen in
the consensual authorization of the UN peacekeeping mission to Cyprus
(UNICYP) in 19-64, the UNEF II mission (Emergency Force supervising a
cease-fire between Egyptian and Israeli forces) in 1973, and the joint
endorsement of UNDOF (a Disengagement Observer Force stationed in the
Syrian Golan Heights) in 1974. (Vayrynen, 1985: 157-8) The shaky founda-
tions of the dtente relationship were already doubted by the US govern-
ment as early as 1973, when conditions in the Middle East deteriorated
due to the Soviet failure to control Arab allies within its influence. Over
this period of dtente, the Security Council facilitated a number of summit
meetings under the auspices of the UN. This may ha ve assisted la ter
110 The Range of Mediation Experience
UN-initiated summit discussions on conflict issues, in that the initiation of
top-level meetings at the UN headquarters in New York and Geneva was a
familiar process in international relations.
The Secretary-General and the use of good offices
The Secretary-General personally conducted a total of 103 mediation efforts
between 1945 and 1995, accounting for 17 per cent of all UN mediation
attempts. The position of the Secretary-General has provided a useful
medium for mediation, in the use of 'good offices', but has varied in its effec-
tiveness over the years. The inconsistency in this role depends a lot on the
person who holds the office. lt relies a great deal on the disputants' percep-
tion of the Secretary-General, both as a representative of the organization and
the reputation of the individual (Tunnicliff, 1984; Skjelsbaek, 1991). Skill in
this position as a mediator definitely contributes to success, but a number of
other factors also have an impact such as: experience; flexibility; the media-
tor's previous relations with the disputant; diplomatic skill; the credibility of
the official position and the individual; the knowledge of the conflict and dis-
putants; the level of impartiality; and well-developed personable skills which
help to establish a level of trust and confidence in their involvement (Young,
1967, 1972; Ott, 1972; Wehr, 1979; Touval and Zartman, 1985; Bercovitch,
1986; Bercovitch et al., 1991; Brouillet, 1988; Carnevale et al., 1989; Touval,
1995). A mediator's experience has been seen as a large determinant of medi-
ation success (Kolb, 1983, 1985; Camevale and Pegnetter, 1985).
In the case of the Secretary-General, many critics argue the effectiveness
of the role has declined. The Secretary-General's organizational position is a
political role, involving administrative responsibility as well as diplomacy.
According to Tunnicliff (1984) and Skjelsbaek (1991), the dual responsibili-
ties of the position have hindered the performance of the Secretary-
General's mediation duties. It requires more skill balancing the pressures of
administration, financia! constraints and organizational bureaucracy and
allows less time to be spent conducting mediation and performing the tasks
involved with good offices, a function that requires visible involvement.
An increased lack of consensus has also been seen asan impediment to the
successful employment of good offices:
The potential scope of mediation by the Secretary-General depends very
much on what he is permitted to do by the majar powers .... The main
weakness of the Secretary-General is that he cannot apply sanctions, but
the members of the Security Council can strengthen his position by
endorsing his endeavors and by exerting bilateral pressure on the parties
to a conflict'. (Skjelsbaek and Fermann, 1996: 99)
As a figurehead of the organization, the Secretary-General's position is
supposed to epitomize the unified voice of the organization it represents.
UN and the Mediation o( Intemational Conflicts 111
Kolb points out that where sorne mediator's authority is derived referen-
tially, others derive theirs from expertise, and sorne even use themselves
and their reputation as recommendation for the role (Kolb, 1985). The
Secretary-General's position carries with it the aura of legitimacy, the sup-
port and authority of the UN organization and usually sorne recognition of
the personal attributes and diplomatic expertise of the appointed Secretary-
General. Unfortunately, any lack of consensus about the Secretary-General's
involvement severely undermines the perceived legitimacy of the position
(Tunnicliff, 1984). Indecision on the part of the Security Council or even
the semblance of disunity appears to filter into the perceptions of the dis-
putants in the mediation process. When the Security Council or General
Assembly prefers to leave a conflict off the main UN agenda, the Secretary-
General can work at a discretionary level alone, using good offices and
appointing a representative (Skjelsbaek and Fermann, 1996).
The use of the good offices is one of the methods of diplomatic conflict
management. Good offices is a passive form of mediation. It does not allow
the mediator to employ the full range of active mediation techniques such
as persuasion, pressing, and directive strategies that can be used to induce
the disputants to a resolution. Though not listed in Article 33 of the Charter,
with the other seven methods of conflict management, good offices is
another traditional and frequently used strategy. In this technique the third
party offers to facilitate a channel of communications, supplies information
or arranges facilities for the disputants. By strict definition, the use of good
offices does not allow the third party to offer suggestions for the terms of
settlement. 'By providing a neutral ground for the negotiation or by offering
to carry messages between the disputants, the third party displays a friendly
desire to promote a settlement without getting involved in the issues at
stake' (Bennett, 1988: 102).
U sually a strategy employed by the Secretary-General, good offices
involves the third party as a facilitator or go-between and can be utilized
in conjunction with all of the other non-binding diplomatic strategies.
Fetherston describes this possible exchange and flexibility between strate-
gies as a potential of complementarity (Fetherston, 1994). There is a great
potential for complementarity between these passive and active mediation
roles and other methods of conflict management. This UN role has all of
the characteristics of good old-fashioned diplomacy in definition, however,
roles can and do merge occasionally, and it would not be unusual for a UN
good offices role to expand into the wider techniques and broader media-
tion role for subsequent attempts. In fact, the most frequently. utilized
strategy by the Secretary-General and the other UN mediators is that of
communication-facilitation.
Communication-facilitation describes a strategy involving the mediator in
a facilitation role, promoting a resumption of dialog between the dis-
putants by supplying information and acting as a go-between. This role is
112 The Range of Mediation Experience
the most passive of the mediator's functions in comparison to procedural
and directive strategies. Procedural strategies entrust much of the logistical
arrangements of the meeting to the mediator's care. This role sees the
mediator in an organizational role, appointing the size and seating of
the meeting, preparing agendas, ensuring that the disputants have the infor-
mation they need and the resources they require. The last of these strate-
gies is the most active role for the UN mediator. A directive strategy allows
the mediator to apply more leverage in meetings, pressing the disputants
with penalties ('sticks') or inducements ('carrots') (Bercovitch and Houston,
1996). During the mediation attempt a mediator tries to build up a rapport
with the disputants and often this has worked best for the Secretary-
General's Special Envoys. For instance, Alioune Blondin returned to med-
ate in Angola on 23 occasions; Diego Cordovez mediated nineteen times in
Afghanistan; and in Yugoslavia, Cyrus Vanee and Thorvald Stoltenberg
mediated 46 times between them. Each of these mediators had the chance
to build rapport with the disputants over successive contacts and were
subsequently able to develop the disputants' trust and confidence in their
continued involvement.
Crisis situations often require quick thinking, initiative, flexibility and
adaptability from the UN representatives. Rigidity of roles, within the con-
finement of strict definitions, may work well in sorne circumstances and not
in others. A mediator's initiative and adaptability is imperative considering
the evolving nature of a conflict. The use of good offices can be an effective
means of intervention and is often a stepping stone in the foundations for
further talks and mediation attempts. The use of the Secretary-General's
good offices as a mediating strategy is more recognized because of its
visibility as the highest level interaction between state officials and the UN.
The Secretary-General performs a valuable function within the organiza-
tion itself, acting as a bridge between the Security Council, the General
Assembly an.d the disputants. The position provides for a flexible interme-
diary, one able to act independently from the Security Council and the
General Assembly, and one that can readily meet with the disputants on
their own turf. The capability of acting independently of other executive
organs, makes intervention by the Secretary-General more affable to the
disputants. As well, there are benefits from the position, being more logisti-
cally accessible to the disputants during the course of the conflict. The
Secretary-General can initiate mediation after receiving an appeal from
one of the parties, a request from the Security Council or the General
Assembly, or he can initiate an intermediary action based on his own
assessment of the situation (Article 98). The Secretary-General's efforts in
the Falkland Islands and Kashmir for instance, occurred befare Security
Council resolutions were even passed (Merrills, 1991). Being able to med-
ate in a conflict using his own initiative has distinct advantages and allows
the Secretary-General the freedom to act on a situation without delay.
1
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t
UN and the Mediation of International Conflicts 113
Where the Secretary-General does not personally mediate in a conflict,
he may appoint a Special Envoy or Personal Representative to assist the dis-
putants in reaching a peaceful settlement. The functions of the Secretary-
General's Special Envoy can range from the mere reporting of events in the
conflict, to the arrangement of meetings between the disputants, and to
the direct mediation of the conflict. Special Envoys were appointed by the
Secretary-General in 30 conflicts, over the course of the 86 UN-mediated
conflicts. Often the Envoy's task was to establish a clear line of dialog
between the disputants and maintain a UN presence during the disputants'
meetings. Olof Palme's mediation efforts during the conflict between Iraq
and Iran (1980-89), helped to maintain an open line of communication
between the disputants and paved the way for later successful mediation
efforts conducted by the Secretary-General. In El Salvador, Special Envoy
Alvaro de Soto mediated successfully on four occasions, achieving a cease-
fire and several partial agreemen ts on certain issues between the dis-
putants. Whether the Envoy's involvement is passive, passing information
on to the disputants, or active, pressing for a settlement, the most impor-
tant function of the Envoy is to bridge the gap between the disputants and
the Secretary-General. The supply of information to the Secretary-General
is vital for the formulation of UN policy and the Secretary-General makes
recommendations to the Security Council based on these field reports.
Overall, the Special Envoys mediated on 206 occasions over this time,
amounting to 34 per cent of all UN mediation attempts made from 1945
to 1995. The constraints on the application of mediation techniques are
much the same for both the Secretary-General and his appointed represen-
tatives (Merrills, 1991). The main differences lie in the Secretary-General's
experience, rank and international status, attributes that enhance. his over-
alllegitimacy.
Rank and leverage
Much of the leverage a UN mediator possesses is derived from the organi-
zation's power and preparedness to act. Leverage is an important asset
that can enhance a mediator's position. Looking at mediation in general,
Zartman and Touval recognized three sources of leverage. Firstly, leverage
emanates from the disputants' desire for the mediator to come up with an
acceptable solution to their problems. The second point of leverage comes
from the disputants' susceptibility to 'pressing' strategies employed by the
mediator. The third source of leverage really relies on the resources the
mediator commands for it depends on the disputants' interest in bargain-
ing for incentive offers and concessions (' carrots') or the withholding
of such incentives if the disputants are unwilling to coopera te (' sticks')
(Zartman and Touval, 1985). The use of the third strategy weighs even
more heavily on the attractiveness of a proposal and the added resource
1
114 The Range of Mediation Experience
incentives the mediator can offer with the proposal. A UN mediator's lever-
age is limited by the fact that they can offer very little.
Unlike its members, the UN organization has no 'carrots' of its own and
has no 'sticks' to wield. The UN derives its leverage from its universality
and from its membership's support and cohesiveness. UN mediators derive
leverage from their position as an official organizational representative and
from their experience. In the case of the UN mediator, rank, position and
status in the organization enhance the disputants' perceptions of the medi-
ator, and subsequently the level of mediation success. High-ranking media-
tors may be preceded by a reputation. They can exude an air of confidence
in their approach, an aura of experience and can knowledgeably make offers
or exert political influence to the decision-making process with an element
of credibility. Whereas, lower ranking mediators, coming to the table with
a less visible position and possibly without a recognized diplomatic reputa-
tion, can be perceived by the disputants as carrying less authority and
weight in the mediation attempt.
To what extent does the mediator's authority, rank and position, affect the
outcome of the mediation attempt? Kolb proffers that 'what authority medi-
ators do have emanates from their person, their behavior and skill, and the
parties' ongoing assessment of them during a case' (Kolb, 1985: 11). Previous
studies have shown that the high rank mediator has a better chance of
achieving a successful outcome (Bercovitch, 1986). The high ranking media-
tors are those who have the greater prestige, accessibility to leverage 'carrots'
and organizational backing to add weight to their involvement and to their
'sticks'. The high ranking UN mediators experience a similar result, even
though they do not have direct access to the 'carrot and stick' tactics avail-
able to state mediators.
Rank is an important aspect of any mediator's level of credibility and can
indirectly affect the outcome. 'Much of their influence stems from the
expressive management of their expertise, their rapport with the parties,
and the parties' perceptions of their contributions to progress and settle-
ment in the current case and in others external to it' (Kolb, 1985: 23). The
rank of the mediator is considered by the disputants to equate, toa degree,
to the mediator's level of experience:
Kessler asserts that an experienced mediator is likely to facilitate a settle-
ment between the disputants than is an inexperienced mediator. Her
argument is that experienced mediators tend to be perceived as credible
and to instil trust. (Zubek et al., 1992: 551)
The disputants' perceptions of the mediator's experience and authority
are all important in the acceptance and credibility of the mediator's
efforts.
UN and the Mediation of International Conflicts 115
In this study, UN mediators have been identified according to their posi-.
tion and rank in nine categories:
l. Organization mediator: This mediator was identified as a UN mediator
but the details of identity and rank remained unspecified.
2. Secretary-General of the organization: The executive position of authority
in the Secretariat of the United Nations. The Secretary-General's media-
tion can be requested by the Security Council or the General Assembly
or equally can be offered by the Secretary-General himself.
3. Security Council of the organization: Mediation by the Security Council is
usually made in the form of a referral, by one or both of the disputants.
The referral places the disputants' issue on the international agenda and
poses the possibility of international intervention.
4. Organization's structural committee or body: These committees are s p e c i ~ i
cally tasked to deal with the pacific settlement of conflict, e.g. Good
Offices Committee.
5. Commission or special miss ion or task force: The Special Mission can be
established by the Security Council to manage this particular conflict.
The Secretary-General is usually kept informed of the Mission's progress
and reports are made to the Security Council on the Mission's progress
in the field.
6. Special Envoy or Special Representative ofthe Secretary-General: Appointed by
the Secretary-General, this representative usually represents the Secretary-
General when the situation is too controversia! for the Secretary-General
to mediate personally.
7. Field Commander/high rank military mediator: This category relates to
high-ranking military personnel stationed in the field, generally the
Head or Commander of a UN mission or task force.
8. Appointed high-ranking mediator: Formerly a high-ranking official, diplo-
mat or dignitary of a member nation, this mediator has been selected to
represent the UN and mediate individually or in a group of representa-
tives.
9. Appointed low-ranking mediator: This UN mediator can be categorized
as a low ranking representative or official, with no former diplomatic
experience stipulated.
The performance of the Secretary-General and the Secretary-General's
Special Envoy outflanked by the success of the Field Commander/high rank
military mediator, the high rank/ex-diplomat mediator and the Security
Council. By far, most mediation attempts were conducted by a Special
Representative of the Secretary-General or Special Envoy of the Secretary-
General, sorne 206 (33 per cent) attempts in all. The relative rate of success,
considering the percentage of successful attempts against the overall
1

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116 The Range of Mediation Experience
number of attempts by the specific mediator, shows the success of the
Good Offices Committee (7 S per cent) as the most successful, though it
intervenes in only a small percentage of attempts (see Table 6.2).
The comparative success of the Field Commander and the Security
Council are important in that the two positions have a differing level of
proximity to the conflict. Where the Field Commander is immersed in the
day to day disputant interactions, the Security Council involvement is
quite detached from the actual situation. UN mediation can result in vary-
ing disputant responses, ranging from complete disagreement to the more
successful results where the parties agree to further talks, reach a partial
settlement or a ceasefire, or ultimately reach a full settlement. The higher
Table 6.2 Characteristics of mediator rank and performance
UN Mediator Frequency Most utilized No. of Raw success
rank of attempts strategy successful rate
attempts
U nspecified 69 Procedural 36 36/69 (52%)
UN mediator 23
Secretary-General 103 Communication- 29 29/103
facilita tion (28%)
36
Security Council 74 Security 23 23/74 (31o/o)
Council
referral
47
UN Good 4 Communication- 3 3/4 (75o/o)
Offices facilitation
Committee 2
UN Commission so Communication- 13 13/50 (26o/o)
or special facilitation
Mission 17
Secretary -General 206 Communication- 58 58/206
Special facilitation (28o/o)
Representa ti ve 89
Field 40 Communication- 23 23/40 (580/o)
Commander or
high military 16
rank
High rank UN SS Communication- 20 20/55 (36o/o)
mediator facilitation
21
Low rank UN 14 Communication- 3 3/14 (21 o/o)
mediator facilitation
8
Total 615 (100o/o) 208 (33.8o/o)
1
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UN and the Mediation of International Conflicts 117
ranked mediators have achieved the most success overall considering how
many mediation attempts they were engaged in. The Field Commanders
and high ranked military officers in the field appear to have the best
success rate overall considering that the UN no longer engages the use of
a Good _ Offices Committee. The Good Offices Committee was an early
_ mode of operations in the field for the UN and only intervened in the
Netherlands/lndonesia Conflict, 1945-49. Subsequent mediation commit-
tees have engaged in other strategies other than the use of 'good offices'.
UN mediation often operates in conjunction with a number of other
strategies, though the Secretary-General can mediate alone at any time.
The whole process of attaining a peaceful settlement is an incremental
process involving one or more mediation attempts in succession, or a com-
bination of mediation and other UN conflict management strategies, to
achieve a successful result. The complementarity of mediation to other
strategies of peacekeeping, observing, and inquiry, often sees mediation
used in different phases of a conflict.
UN innovations in the peaceful settlement of conflict
The UN has been instrumental in the development of sorne significant
practices in international conflict mediation. The UN utilizes the flexible
position of the Secretary-General, the leverage of the Security Council and
expertise of 'in-the-field' representatives to engage the parties in mediation.
But, the UN has had to be innovative in its methods of conflict manage-
ment, developing new theories and practices in the field, etching newer
roles for the peacekeeper and the Secretary-General's facilitative use of
'good.:.offices'. A new approach in the field of international conflict man-
agement puts a greater emphasis on a preventive measures. The UN often
sustains harsh criticism for its inconsistency in early recognition of con-
flicts, despite the fact that the involvement of UN mediation is often a last-
ditched method of conflict management. Yet, if the current emphasis on
preventive methods and early intervention are to become more effective,
offering mediation in earlier conflict phases becomes crucial.
Mediation is more an incremental process of attaining a long-term reso-
lution and often involves multiple mediation attempts. It is inappropriate
to view a single mediation effort in isolation, without the perspective of
previous attempts. When the initial strategy has failed to bring about
resolution, there remains a residual effect on which subsequent conflict
management attempts must compete. A mediator can achieve a degree of
c h ~ n g e in the disputants perceptions in basically three ways: 'by supplying
information (factual or normative); by transferring information among the
disputants and by altering procedures of the negotiation process, includ-
ing the physical environment in which negotiation takes place' (Kaufman
and Duncan, 1992: 690). The progressive nature of these processes, the
118 The Range of Mediation Experience
incremental nature of mediation attempts and the dependence on the
evolution of conflict conditions make the actual timing of the mediation
attempt crucial (Hiltrop, 1985). Unfortunately, for UN mediators, they start
off at a disadvantage in most conflicts; being called upon to engage in
mediation efforts when the conflict is intense and the relationship between
the disputants has already reached its lowest ebb.
Much of the UN mediator's function is to facilitate discussion or bring
about a resumption of dialogue between the disputants. The Security Council
though often uses directive strategies, in the form of referrals, in its
mediation role. The use of referrals by the UN is an interesting mediation
technique. Referrals have had an amazing success rate after their appli-
cation considering what they entail. Of the total number of referrals to
international, regional or independent mediators from 295 conflicts, the
UN has had 47 (70 per cent) referrals out of the 67 total. The success of
referrals as a method of conflict management is interesting because the
disputing parties are not compelled to engage in a face-to-face negotiating
situation.
A referral brings the conflict to the Security Council's attention and
places it on the agenda as a matter of international importance. Referrals
here are treated as another mediation strategy. It falls within the spectrum
of techniques available to mediators which ranges from the ostensibly pas-
sive role, such as acting as a go-between, to the more active role, where
mediators can impart persuasive techniques and offer settlement incentives
to disputants (Bercovitch, 1996). From the data, successful referrals account
for 27 per cent of the 47 referrals initiated. Referrals are the most common
method of conflict management over the earlier stages of the conflict.
Attempts in the early phases of the conflict, during the first six months,
; total 94, of these referrals 30 were successful. It is evident that the timing
of a referral is best suited to early intervention and this is when it is most
frequently utilized and- most successful. However, most UN mediation
attempts are undertaken in the la ter stages of conflict when hostilities are-
well entrenched. With a total of 7 4 attempts, the Security Council achieved
success in 23 of its attempts (31 per cent). The earlier timing of this inter-
vention strategy appears to correspond with the level of success it achieves.
It appears that mediators do not apply strategies in an ad hoc fashion, but
instead weigh up the situation, consider the issues in conflict, the dis-
putants and the resources at their disposal when intervening: 'Mediator
behavior is less reactive and more pro-active and systematic than popularly
thought ... mediators are skilled practitioners of a learned craft - not
innately intuitive artists' (Shapiro et al., 1985: 101). The rational evaluation
done by the mediator involves a great deal of psychological processing, but
we can assume that the mediator is a rational actor, balancing the costs
and benefits of various strategies in their selection process. Bercovitch and
Wells also made this connection saying that 'it seems reasonable to suggest
UN and the Mediation of International Conflicts 119
that, in any one conflict, their choice of a strategy, or mode of behavior,
depends on (a) the kind of actors they are and (b) the kind of conflict they
intervene in' (1993: 4). The rational choice of a mediation strategy is based
on objective factors that are contingent on the nature of the conflict, the
disputants, and a consideration of the mediator's previous relationship
with the parties. The UN mediator's choice is restricted by the availability
of resources and by the mediator's rank and level of experience, but
frequently the choice is also limited by the disputants' level of cooperation
during the mediation process, and the contextua! characteristics of the
conflict itself.
Contextua! factors affecting UN mediation success
The conflict conditions in which the UN mediator operates also make their
experience different from that of other international conflict mediators.
Beyond their reliance on experience, leverage and organizational legiti-
macy, the UN mediator intervenes in the most intense conflict situations.
Frequently, UN mediation is employed far too late in the process, long after
the hostilities have already increased antagonism and distrust between the
parties to such an extent that they disregard meetings or dialogas a means
to achieving their objectives. In addition to the incidence of these contex-
tua! factors, the data shows that the UN made 401 (65 per cent) mediation
attempts after 36 months of hostilities had already elapsed. It is evident
that the UN intervenes in the most complex of intrastate conflicts, the
majority of which have a high degree of active hostilities, substantial
counts of human loss, and a record of prolonged conflict. A total of 451
mediation attempts were made after fatality levels exceeded 10,000. Indeed,
the UN generally acts when the parties have reached a stalemate in their
own efforts.
The UN relies on the support of its most powerful member states to give
weight to its resolutions. Large states wield the most powerful carrots and
sticks through their political influence and resource capabilities. Conse-
quently, UN mediation relies not only on legitimization from the general
membership but on the power conferred on the UN's involvement by the
superpowers (Rubin, 1992). The UN cannot offer rewards or threaten coer-
cive measures but the level of superpower commitment to resolving a
conflict acts as an important motivator to the disputants. A UN mediator's
authority is given more credibility by the agreement of the superpowers
(Tunnicliff, 1984).
Beyond the influences of credibility and leverage, a UN mediation effort
is not isolated or immune to the context in which it occurs (Zartman and
Touval, 1985). The dynamics of this contextua! environment are described
in Figure 6.1. The mediator's role is dependent on the evolution of the dis-
putant relationship and the conditions of the conflict, making a mediator's
120 The Range of Mediation Experience
Figure 6.1 Contextua! factors affecting UN mediation success
flexibility, adaptability and intuition for the developing situation essential
attributes. The conflicts that typify the situations in which the UN has pre-
dominantly mediated can be summarized by looking at the frequency of
many of the preconditions of the conflict and the contextua! factors of the
nature of the conflict:
l. The majority of mediation attempts occur between disputants that have
had no pre-recorded conflict between them. (N= 382; 62 per cent.)
2. The disputants have already engaged in hostilities prior to the UN inter-
vention and hostilities are, more than likely, ongoing during the course
of the intervention. (N= 409; 67 per cent.)
3. The majority of the issues at the heart of the conflict are of an intangible
nature. (N= 367; 60 per cent.)
UN and the Mediation of International Conflicts 121
4. An overwhelming number of UN mediation attempts occur after fatali-
ties have already risen over 10000. (N =451; 73 per cent.)
S. The UN has generally mediated in conflicts which ha ve exceeded
36 months duration, ample time for hostilities and antagonisms to
become socially entrenched and make the conflicts more difficult to
settle. (N= 416, 68 per cent.)
The nature of the issues involved, the presence of ongoing hostilities
between the disputants, the number of fatalities and the duration of the
conflict all have an impact on the success rate of UN mediation attempts.
The most significant findings in these results are seen in the success rate of
mediation attempts during conflicts where a high rate of fatalities has
occurred, where the issues involved are intangible and where the duration
of the conflict has long surpassed a 36-month period of hostilities.
Over different system eras the frequency of UN mediation has increased
even though the number of conflicts involving the UN has fallen. This
increase is indicative of the growing recognition given to mediation as an
effective method of preventive conflict management and the UN's heavier
involvement in serious intrastate conflicts. 'Since 1948, the UN has carried
out more than 40 peacekeeping operations - 30 of them since 1988'
(UN, 1998: 2). The nature of international conflicts emerging has also
had a fundamental impact on the level of UN mediation. Encountering
more intractable conflicts, those with a higher intensity and fatality level,
has become commonplace. For example, in 1994, 25 out of 42 interna-
tional conflicts could be considered majar armed conflicts (Wallensteen
and Sollenberg, 1995). Since its involvement in the earlier eras 1945-55
and 1956-65, the UN has mediated mqre frequently and its involvement
has concentrated on fewer conflicts after 1986. With the complexity of
intractable conflict, the UN has engaged more frequently in mediation
attempts than ever befare and expectations of its success are also higher.
Pressure to perform successfully in the rising number of protracted
intrastate conflicts severely challenges the UN's credibility because these
types of conflicts are usually the most difficult to resolve. The conflicts
of an ethnic, religious or ideological ilk are on the increase in a global
conflict profile. 'Of 33 majar conflicts that occurred in 1992, only one was
an interstate conflict, and all the 34 tnajor conflicts that occurred in 1993
were intrastate conflicts' (Bercovitch, 1996: 75). Under the strains of
resource availability and budget allocation, the UN is expected to intervene
in intrastate conflicts yet little credit is given to the successful completion
of its mandates. Lt General Sir Michael Rose, former UN military comman-
der in Bosnia, points out that:
amidst all the distortion and misunderstanding surrounding the UN
mission in Bosnia, it is often forgotten that its mandate is simply to sus-
tain the people of that country in the midst of civil war, and to try and
122 The Range of Mediation Experience
bring about the conditions necessary for a peaceful resolution of that
war ... that manda te by the end of 1994 had, by and large, been fulfilled.
(Rose, 1996: 170)
Indeed, judgement of the organization's performance as an international
conflict mediator needs to be viewed in the wider context and sorne
consideration given to the organization's original objectives befare final
criticism is cast.
Conclusion
The UN's role as a mediator has been critically described as largely ineffec-
tual. As Touval puts it, fleeting earlier successes have led to expectations
above and beyond the UN's current capabilities. He cites many of the orga-
nizational characteristics of the UN as inherent constraints on its ability to
perform as an effective mediator (Touval, 1994). Based on this summary
one could assume that the UN has little going for it as an international
mediator. Admittedly, there are a number of constraints that lower the con-
sistency of UN mediation success, but as an international organization its
continued success in the field, though less dramatic after the demise of the
Cold War era, is solid evidence of its capablities in mediation. The UN, as
Touval concludes: 'should draw lessons from its more successful mediating
efforts to develop mechanisms for an efficient division of labor between
member states and the organization, allowing each to contribute what it
does best' (Touval, 1994: 55). Touval's summation expresses many of the
concerns we ourselves have for this international organization.
For the organization to operate fluidly in the international system, coop-
eration between its members is not essential as such but definitely benefi-
cia!. The perception of legitimacy for UN actions is essential and with this
perception comes sorne leverage and power from its status as an inter-
national organization, so long as the action is condoned and supported
by its membership. Sorne of the success of UN mediation attempts can be
attributed, in part, to the position of the international organization and.
its international backing. What is clear is that UN objectives must be laid
out plainly and coherently in order to enable intervention using the
most appropriate intervention strategy. Touval suggests that 'decentralizing
mediation efforts by making greatet use of regional organizations might ,
ease the plight of the overburdened UN Security Council and Secretariat',
and ponders a reversal of roles where the UN encourages or charges a state
with the responsibility to mediate in an associated conflict (Touval, 1994).
The systemic development, bloc alignments and disagreement have had
a direct impact on the development of UN conflict management responses.
Mediation on an international level relles heavily on the leverage. _Qf _the
third party and its ability to persuade the disputants to come to sorne
UN and the Mediation of Intemational Conflicts 123
co_mpromis.e or settlement. When any collective action has been imple-
m_e:q.ted __ Qy the UN this leverage comes into play, thus allowing th_e UN
a strong position for bargaining amongst the disputants. Unfortunately
though, any collective action that is still in dispute by sorne of the member
states tends to lower the organization's initial position of leverage. Early in
its development 'the permanent members of the Security Council had to
sanction ~ 1 1 action; their failure to agree meant inaction' (Haas, 1986: S-6).
Inaction caused by interna! disagreement has been equally as costly to the
UN's leverage in conflict management as it has to its reputation as an inef-
fective conflict manager. Due to continuing dissension between the two
voting bodies and between the leading members of the Security Council
itself, the UN is seen to have 'failed, or rather the nations composing it have
failed, to create a framework of international security' (Howard, 1988: 44).
High expectations of this truly international organization and its media-
tors, should first be grounded by the realities of its operating environment,
the constraints, the resource limitations, and the increased intensity of
recent conflicts. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali emphasized the
need to pre-empt conflict situations before they escalate to an intractable
'phase' (Boutros-Ghali, 1993). With the increasing emphasis on preventive
UN strategies, there are higher expectations being placed on the organiza-
tion's mediators than ever before. UN mediation has the flexibility to be
applied during all phases of a conflict, the accessibility to be the perfect
complement to other diplomatic initiatives, and enough perceived impar-
tiality to be accepted by the disputants. It relies heavily on the voluntary
support, participation and resources of its members. The UN's mediation
efforts are only enhanced by the organization's cohesiveness, decisiveness
and preparedness to act, all of which in turn bolster its mediator's credibility.
In the mediation attempt itself, the UN mediator relies on the perception
of legitimacy conferred on their position, on their expertise and experience,
on their raw powers of persuasion, and ultimately, on the disputants'
determination to resolve the conflict.
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Bercovitch, J. and Houston, A. (1996) 'The Study of International Mediation:
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Bercovitch, ]., Anagnoson, J. T. and Wille, D. L. (1991) 'Sorne Conceptual Issues and
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Bercovitch, J. and Wells, R. (1993) 'Evaluating Mediation Strategies - a Theoretical
and Emprica! Analysis', Peace & Change, 18: 1: 3-25.
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Blue Helmets, Empty Guns', The New York Times, Late Edition,
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Conflict Resolution, 16: 51-65.
Zartman, l. W. and Touval, S. (1985) 'lnternational Mediation: Conflict Resolution
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United Nations
Guidelines on
Humanitarian Negotiations
with Armed Groups
Guidelines on
Humanitarian Negotiations
with Armed Groups
[ blank page keep for double-sided copies ]
Guidelines on
Humanitarian Negotiations
with Armed Groups
Gerard Mc Hugh Manuel Bessler
United Nations
January 2006
Produced by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
in collaboration with members of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC).
Gerard Mc Hugh and Manuel Bessler
For more information, contact:
Manuel Bessler
Policy Development and Studies Branch (PDSB)
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
United Nations
New York, NY 10017, USA
Phone: +1 (212) 963-1249
Fax: +1 (917) 367-5274
Email: bessler@un.org
New York, 2006 2006 United Nations. All rights reserved.
Guidelines on Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
iii
Contents
1 ObjectivesandApplicationoftheseGuidelines. 1
2 HumanitarianNegotiations:MotivationsandPartners. 2
3 FramingtheNegotiations. 6
4 WorkingTowardsMoreEffectiveNegotiations. 7
5 NegotiatingonSpecificIssues. 10
6 SoYou'reNegotiating...NowWhat?. 12
ANNEXIWorksheetforMappingCharacteristicsofArmedGroups . 14
[ blank page keep for double-sided copies ]
Guidelines on Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
1
1 Objectives and Application of these Guidelines
Partner to manual:
Humanitarian
Negotiations with
Armed Groups
This. set. of. guidelines. is. intended. to. provide. concise. advice. and.
guidance. to. humanitarian. practitioners. on. how. to. prepare. for. and.
conduct.humanitarian.negotiations.with.non-Statearmedgroups
This.booklet.summarizes.the.essential.guidance.presented.in.the.more.
comprehensive.partner.publication.titled,.Humanitarian Negotiations
with Armed Groups: A Manual for Practitioners...
The.six.sections.of.this.set.of.guidelines.follow.closely.the.sequence.
and. content. of. the. chapters. in. the. partner. manual. In. addition. to.
the. guidance. presented. here,. the. manual. provides. comprehensive.
information. on. the. important. framing. and. contextual. elements. for.
undertaking. humanitarian. negotiations. with. armed. groups. The.
manual. also. contains. short. case. studies. and. examples. of. practical.
experiences.of.humanitarian.negotiations.with.armed.groups.
Throughout. this. set. of. Guidelines. references. are. provided. to. the.
corresponding. sections. of. the. partner. manual. that. provide. more.
detailed.information.on.a.particular.topic
1
.
Non-State
armed groups:
working definition
(Negotiations manual
Section 1.1)
WorkingDefinitionofNon-StateArmedGroups
Groups that: have the potential to employ arms in the use of force to achieve
political, ideological or economic objectives; are not within the formal military
structures of States, State-alliances or intergovernmental organizations; and
are not under the control of the State(s) in which they operate.
Objectives
(Negotiations manual
Section 1.3)
Negotiation does not
confer legitimacy
Security
considerations
(Negotiations manual
Section 1.5)
The.primary.objectives.of.humanitarian.negotiations.are.to:.(i).ensure.
the.provision.of.humanitarian.assistance.and.protection.to.vulnerable.
populations;.(ii).preserve.humanitarian.space;.and.(iii).promote.better.
respect.for.international.law.
Because. of. their. exclusively. humanitarian. character,. humanitarian.
negotiations.do.not.in.any.way.confer.legitimacy.or.recognition.upon.
armed.groups
The.guidance.presented.here.and.in.the.partner.manual.does.not.supplant.
or.circumvent.existing.security.policies.and.guidelines.Operational.aspects.
of.humanitarian.negotiations.with.armed.groups.must.be.conducted.in.
accordance.with.the.relevant.security.procedures
1
..References. to. the. corresponding. sections. of. the. partner. publication,. Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed
Groups: A Manual for Practitioners, are.provided.to.the.left.of.the.text.in.this.booklet..
Guidelines on Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
2
2 Humanitarian Negotiations: Motivations and Partners
Motivations for Entering into Humanitarian Negotiations
To facilitate and
enhance humanitarian
action (Negotiations
manual Section 2.2)
. .The.overall.objective.of.humanitarian.negotiations.is.to.secure.
the.cooperation.of.an.armed.group.in.reaching.an.agreed.outcome.
or. understanding. that. will. facilitate. or. enhance. humanitarian.
action
. .Process-related.motivations.for.humanitarian.negotiations.with.
armed. groups. may. include:. (i). building. trust. and. confdence.
between.the.parties,.and.(ii).the.process.of.negotiation.can.have.
a.multiplier.effect.in.terms.of.involving.armed.groups.in.a.wider.
dialogue.that.may.bring.additional.benefts
Substantive Areas for Negotiation
Humanitarian access
Ground Rules
Protection of civilians
Humanitarian security
Special protection
areas/periods
(Negotiations manual
Section 2.2.1)
. To.securehumanitarianaccess.to.reach.populations.in.need;
. .To. seek. agreement with an armed group on a basic
operationalframeworkconsisting.of.humanitarian.principles,.
operating.guidelines.and.commitments.of.both.partiesto.ensure.
the.safe.and.effcient.provision.of.humanitarian.assistance.and.
protection.(often.referred.to.asGroundRules.agreements).
For.example,.the.Ground.Rules.agreement.concluded.between.
the. Sudan. Peoples. Liberation. Movement/Army. (SPLM). and.
Operation.Lifeline.Sudan.(OLS)
. .To.seek.agreement.on.behaviour.of.belligerents.that.will.improve.
the protection of civilians. in. areas. under. the. control. or.
infuence.of.armed.groups;
. .To.safeguard.humanitarian.security;.
. .To.secure.agreement.on.special.protection.areas.or.periods;.For.
example,. agreement. to. facilitate. immunization. campaigns. or.
food.distribution.at.specifc.times;
. .To. secure. the. release. of. persons. being. held. by. armed. groups.
against.their.will
Guidelines on Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
3
Knowing When to Adopt a More Cautious Approach to Negotiations
Impact on
humanitarian
conditions
Possible manipulation
of humanitarian
negotiations
(Negotiations manual
Section 2.2.2)
. .When. there. is. the. likelihood. that. negotiations. themselves.
could.negatively.impact.humanitarian.conditions,.constrain.the.
delivery.of.humanitarian.assistance.and.protection.or.jeopardize.
the.security.of.the.benefciaries
. .When.armed.groups.attempt.to.use.humanitarian.negotiations.
to. enhance. their. perceived. legitimacy. and/or. to. promote. their.
political.agendas/objectives.
. .When. armed. groups. are. believed. to. be. playing. several.
humanitarian.actors.off.against.each.other.for.their.own.gain
. .When. the. negotiations. put. the. lives. of. the. armed. group.
interlocutors.at.risk
. .When. the. armed. group. attaches. conditions. for. the.
implementation.of.an.agreement.that.could.adversely.affect.the.
civilian.population
Characteristics of Armed Groups
Key features
(Negotiations manual
Section 2.3)
. .Table.1.(page.4).presents.some.of.the.key.features.of.non-State.
armed. groups,. and. what. these. features. mean. for. humanitarian.
negotiations.with.these.groups..
. .Consideration.of.the.following.characteristics.of.armed.groups.can.
increase. the. effciency. of. the. negotiations. as. well. as. the. desired.
outcomes:. (a). motivations;. (b). structure;. (c). principles. of. action;.
(d).interests;.(e).constituency;.(f).needs;.(g).ethno-cultural.dimen-
sions;.(h).control.of.population.and.territory.(See.AnnexI)
Humanitarian Partners in Negotiations
Identify one or more
lead negotiators
(Negotiations manual
Section 2.5)
Keeping
humanitarian and
political negotiations
separate
. .The. humanitarian. actors. in. a. specifc. context/region. should.
identify. one. or. more. lead. negotiators,. who. should. act. as. the.
primary. representative(s). of. humanitarian. agencies. (country.
team,.humanitarian.community.in.a.specifc.context/region).
. .The. humanitarian. negotiations. and. their. underlying. human-
itarian. objectives. should. remain. strictly. distinct. from. political.
and/or.other.negotiations
. .Humanitarian.agencies.should.agree.on.the.process.and.intended.
outcomes.of.the.negotiation
Guidelines on Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
4
Table 1
Key features of non-State armed groups
Keyfeaturesofarmedgroups:
They
What humanitarian negotiators need to be aware of
basedonthesefeatures:
have.the.potential.to.employ.
arms.in.the.use.of.force.for.
political,.ideological,..
or.economic.objectives;
Humanitarian. negotiations. do. not. infer. any. legal.
status,.legitimacy.or.recognition.of.the.armed.group;
Humanitarian.negotiators.should.explore.the.driving.
motivations.and.interests.behind.the.actions.of.the.
armed.group.(see.below);
Humanitarian.negotiations.do.not.in.any.way.dilute.
the. accountability. of. the. armed. group. for. past/
current/future.actions;
have.a.group.identity,.and.act.
in.pursuit.of.their.objectives.as.
a.group;
Individual. members. of. an. armed. group. will. always.
have. their. own. agendas,. however. an. armed. group.
(different.from.a.group.of.armed.individuals).shares.
some. common. history,. aspirations,. objectives,. or.
needs.that.are.attributes.of.the.group;
Members. of. an. armed. group. will. be. strongly.
infuenced. by. group. conformity. pressures. such.
as. depersonalization. of. victims;. perceptions. of.
impunity;. moral. disengagement. and. obedience. to.
group.authority;
are.not.within.the.formal.
military.structures.of.
States,.State-alliances.
or.intergovernmental.
organizations;
This. characteristic. of. non-State. armed. groups. has.
important. implications. for. enforcing. accountability.
for. the. actions. of. members. of. the. group. The.
extra-State. status. of. armed. groups. means. that. the.
applicable.legal.provisions.relating.to.the.duties.and.
obligations. of. these. groups. under. international. law.
may.differ.from.the.duties.and.obligations.of.States,.
and.for.certain.provisions,.there.remains.some.legal.
uncertainly. as. to. the. extent. that. those. provisions.
apply.to.armed.groups;
Guidelines on Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
5
Keyfeaturesofarmedgroups:
They
What humanitarian negotiators need to be aware of
basedonthesefeatures:
are.not.under.the.command.or.
control.of.the.State(s).in.which.
they.operate;
Armed. groups. may. not. be. under. the. command. or.
control. of. the. State(s). in. which. they. operate,. but.
they.may.receive.direct/indirect.support.of.the.host.
government.or.other.States;.
Humanitarian. negotiators. need. to. be. aware. of. the.
potential.for.infuencing.parties.that.support.armed.
groups;.
are.subject.to.a.chain.of.
command.(formal.or.informal)
This. is. an. important. attribute. of. armed. groups,.
because. it. means. (at. least. in. theory). that. there. is.
some. degree. of. centralized. command. and. control,.
however.limited,.over.the.actions.of.group.members.
When. this. centralized. command. structure. breaks.
down,.it.can.no.longer.be.considered.to.be.one.armed.
group,. and. humanitarian. negotiators. may. have. to.
identify. interlocutors. within. several. factions. of. the.
original.group;.
When. a. chain. of. command. (however. limited). is.
functioning,. it. increases. the. likelihood. that. lower-
ranking. members. of. the. group. will. respect. the.
undertakings.and.agreed.outcomes.negotiated.by.and.
with.their.leaders;.
In.implementing.an.outcome.agreed.with.the.leaders.
of. an. armed. group,. humanitarian. workers. should.
attempt. to. identify. the. local. chain. of. command. to.
increase. the. likelihood. that. any. agreed. outcome.
will.be.respected.and.implemented.by.lower-ranking.
members.of.the.group;
Table 1 (continued)
Guidelines on Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
6
3 Framing the Negotiations
. .Humanitarian.principles,.policies.and.international.law.provide.a.
framework.and.source.of.guidance.for.humanitarian.negotiations.
with.armed.groups
Humanitarian Principles
Core humanitarian
principles
Using principles to
guide negotiations
(Negotiations manual
Section 3.2)
. .Three.core.humanitarian.principles.of.Humanity,.Neutrality.and.
Impartiality;.Additional.principles:.Dignity;.Respect.for.Culture.
and. Custom;. Do. No/Less. Harm;. Independence;. Sustainability;.
Participation;.Accountability;.Transparency;.and.Prevention
. .These.principles.guide.humanitarian.negotiations.by:.(1).providing.
a. source. of. direction. for. humanitarian. negotiators. on. how.
negotiations.should.be.undertaken;.(2).defning.boundaries.within.
which. to. seek. agreement;. and. (3). providing. a. set. of. criteria. for.
developing.options.for.consideration.by.the.negotiating.parties
International Law Relevant To Humanitarian Negotiations
IHL, IHRL and
International Criminal
Law
Defining boundaries
and framing
obligations
(Negotiations manual
Section 3.3)
. .Three.bodies.of.international.lawInternational.Humanitarian.
Law. (IHL),. International. Human. Rights. Law. (IHRL). and.
International. Criminal. Law. (especially. The. Rome. Statute. of.
the.International.Criminal.Court)provide.important.framing.
elements.for.undertaking.humanitarian.negotiations
. .International. law. guides. humanitarian. negotiations. by:.
(1).defning. boundaries. within. which. to. seek. agreement;.
(2).framing.the.legal.obligations.of.armed.groups;.(3).identifying.
the. substantive. issues. for. negotiation;. providing. an. entry. point.
for.discussion.on.these.issues;.(4).providing.reference.benchmarks.
for. evaluation. of. options. and. monitoring. implementation;. and.
(5).providing.incentives.to.armed.groups.to.negotiate
Humanitarian Policies
Operationalizing
the humanitarian
principles
(Negotiations manual
Section 3.4)
. .Humanitarian. policies. assist. in. translating. and. implementing.
humanitarian.principles.and.legal.provisions.into.an.operational.
setting,.generally.focusing.on.a.particular.aspect.of.humanitarian.
action.(eg.guidelines.on.civil-military.relations,.IDPs)
. .Humanitarian. policies. can. guide. humanitarian. negotiations. by.
broadening.the.range.of.options.that.parties.to.the.negotiations.
can.consider.as.a.basis.for.agreement
Guidelines on Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
7
4 Working Towards More Effective Negotiations
Nine steps
Three phase:
PREPARATION,
SEEKING AGREEMENT,
IMPLEMENTATION
(Negotiations manual
Section 4.2)
This. section. presents. nine. steps. for. humanitarian. negotiations.
with.armed.groups.that.provide.a.generic.framework,.which.can.
be.applied.to.humanitarian.negotiations.on.a.range.of.issues.
The. nine. steps. are. presented. in. three. phases. of. negotiation:.
PREPARATION;. SEEKING. AGREEMENT. and. IMPLEM-.
ENTATION.
This.step-by-step.approach.is.summarized.in.Figure.1,.page.8
Phase I
PREPARATION >>
Coordinate Approach, Decide on Strategy, and Gather
Information
1: Coordinate Approach With Humanitarian Partners
2: Decide on Objectives and Strategy
3: Learn About, Analyze Your Negotiating Partner
Phase II
SEEKING AGREEMENT >>
Process, Issues, Options, Outcomes
The.next.four.steps.in.the.process.of.negotiation.are.undertaken.during.the.actual.face-to-
face.interactions.with.the.armed.group
4: Build Consensus on the Process of Negotiations
5: Identify the Issues
6: Develop Options
7: Work to Seek Agreement on the Option(s) that Best Meet
Humanitarian Objectives
Phase III
IMPLEMENTATION >>
Define Criteria for Implementation, Follow-up
8: Define Criteria for Implementation
9: Follow-up: Monitoring and Relationship Building
Guidelines on Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
8
Figure 1Summary of 3 phases, 9 steps in humanitarian negotiations
START HERE
See Section 2.5
See Section 2.2
See Sections 2.3, 2.4
and Annex I
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See Sections 3.2, 3.4
See Sections 6.3, 6.4
CONSIDER ALTERNATIVES TO
NEGOTIATION:
Advocacy
[Indirectly] gather political support;
humanitarian diplomacy
Consider humanitarian mediation
Gather support within humanitarian
community and re-approach
Negotiate indirectly via
humanitarian actor with previous
negotiating experience with
armed group
YES
AGREE
NO
(Note that section references in this flowchart refer to sections of the Manual on Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups)
Guidelines on Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
9
What to do if Negotiations Fail to Converge or Break Down
(Negotiations manual
Section 4.5)
. .Review.Strategy,.Confrm.Issues.and.Develop.more.Options
. .Keep.Open.Alternatives.on.SUBSTANCE
. .Try.Building.on.the.Existing.Process
. .Explore.Alternatives.to.PROCESS
. .Dont.Burn.Bridges
. .Reinforce.Lines.of.Communication
Guidelines on Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
10
5 Negotiating on Specific Issues
Negotiating Ground Rules for Humanitarian Action
Purpose and scope of
Ground Rules
Agreement does not
accord legitimacy to
armed group
(Negotiations manual
Section 5.3)
. .Humanitarian. negotiators. should. be. clear. about. the. purpose.
and.scope.of.any Ground Rules agreements.to.be.agreed.with.an.
armed.group
. .Any. Ground Rules. framework. agreement. should. be. based. on.
principles.of.humanitarian.action.recognized.by.the.participating.
humanitarian.organizations
. .Agreement. on. the. humanitarian. principles,. operating. guidelines.
and. commitments. of. both. parties. (humanitarian. agencies. and.
the. armed. group(s)). that. collectively. constitute. a. Ground Rules.
agreement.does.not.infer.or.accord.legitimacy.to.the.armed.group
. .Based.on.existing.guidance,.humanitarian.negotiators.can.draft.
an.outline.of.the.Ground Rules.agreement.(ie.a.template.of.the.
ground. rules. document. for. discussion. with. the. armed. group).
prior.to.negotiations
Negotiating Humanitarian Access
Access as
precondition for
humanitarian action
Working principles of
access
. .Humanitarian.negotiators.should.present.the.issue.of.access.as.
a. precondition. for. any. humanitarian. action. in. order. to. meet.
the.humanitarian.needs.of.a.population,.rather.than.access.to.a.
particular.territory
. .Humanitarian. organizations. should. approach. the. negotiations.
with.a.set.of.working.principles.of.humanitarian.access.agreed.
upon.among.the.humanitariansfor.example,.sustainability.of.
humanitarian.accessto.guide.the.dialogue.on.the.details.of.the.
access.arrangements.(ie.how.access.will.function.in.practice)
. .Humanitarian. negotiators. should. make. it. clear. to. the. armed.
group.and.to.parties.external.to.the.negotiations,.that.the.access.
negotiations. do. not. confer. recognition. by. the. humanitarian.
organization.of.the.armed.group,.its.political.or.economic.agenda,.
or.its.control/infuence.over.a.population.or.territory
Guidelines on Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
11
Initial steps in
negotiating access
(Negotiations manual
Section 5.4)
. .The. early. stages. of. the. negotiations. could. usefully. focus. on.
securing. access. for. the. purposes. of. conducting. a. baseline.
humanitarian.needs.assessment.mission,.as.an.initial.step.towards.
negotiations.on.humanitarian.access.more.broadly.
. .Access.negotiations.should.include.consideration.of:.(i).logistics.
(how. will. access. actually. work:. frequency. of. convoys,. etc);.
(ii). liaison. arrangements. (. between. humanitarian. organi-
zations.and.the.armed.group(s));.(iii).the.need.to.communicate.
agreed.access.procedures.within.organizations
Protection of Civilians in Accordance with International Law
Awareness of need
for protection
Protections not
negotiable
Generate options for
enhanced protection
(Negotiations manual
Section 5.5)
. .Humanitarian.negotiators.should.raise.awareness.among.members.
of.the.armed.group.on.the.need.of.civilians.to.be.protected.in.
armed.conficts
. .Protection.of.civilians.in.armed.confict.per.se.is.not.negotiable.
Humanitarian.negotiators.should.attempt.to.demonstrate.(using.
a.persuasive.approach.to.negotiation).to.the.armed.group.that.it.
is.also.in.their.interest.to.ensure.the.protection.of.civilians
. .Humanitarian. negotiators. should. generate. options. for.
consideration.that.can.lead.to.enhanced.protection.of.civilians.
In. the. case. of. recruitment. of. child. soldiers,. options. could.
include. registration/demobilization. of. child. soldiers,. education.
and. training. schemes. for. demobilized. child. soldiers,. and/or.
agreement,.arrangements.for.care.of.orphaned.children.in.areas.
controlled.by.the.armed.group;
. .Even.though.the.armed.group.is.not.a.party.to.the.international.
human. rights. treaties,. human. rights. themselves. can. provide. a.
basis.for.discussion.with.armed.groups.on.the.type.and.scope.of.
protections.that.need.to.be.afforded.to.civilians
Guidelines on Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
12
6 So Youre Negotiating Now What?
Possible Negative Implications of Humanitarian Negotiations
Perceptions regarding
neutrality
Humanitarian security
Third-party influence
(Negotiations manual
Section 6.2)
. .Changes.in.perceived.neutrality.and.impartiality.of.humani-
tarian.actors.engaged.in.negotiations
TO MITIGATE:. (A). clearly. communicate. the. objectives.
and. the. scope. of. the. negotiations. with. armed. groups;. (B).
communicate. and. negotiate. with. all. parties. to. a. given.
confict..
. .Impacts.on.humanitarian.security.
TO MITIGATE:. (A). meet. with. the. armed. group. in. a.
neutral.location/venue;.(B).request.security.guarantees.from.
the. armed. group. prior. to. negotiations;. (C). ensure. that. the.
necessary.parties.(eg.host.government).are.informed.of.the.
humanitarian.negotiations
. .Third-party.influence.and.sanctions.on.humanitarian.negotiators.
TO MITIGATE:. (A). engage. in. parallel. advocacy. efforts.
and.bilateral.humanitarian.diplomacy.to.gain.support.for.the.
humanitarian. negotiations;. (B). ensure. that. the. objectives.
and. process. of. humanitarian. negotiations. with. the. armed.
group. are. effectively. communicated. to. those. that. may. seek.
to. exert. pressure. to. constrain. the. negotiations;. (C). build.
consensus,. support. for. negotiations. across. humanitarian.
organizations
Commitment to the Agreement, Enforcement and Dispute Resolution
Commitment
(Negotiations manual
Section 6.3)
Enforcement
(Negotiations manual
Section 6.4)
. .Secure/enhance. commitment. by:. (1). ensuring. buy. in. and.
ownership;. (2). clear. statement. of. roles. and. responsibilities.
for. implementation;. (3). emphasizing. accountability;. and.
(4).including.all.parties.in.monitoring.of.implementation
. .Enforcement:. By. incentives. or. coercion. (carrot. and. stick);.
other. actors. may. be. better. placed. to. apply. diplomatic/other.
pressure.to.armed.group
. . Humanitarian.organizations.can.continue.negotiating.on.issues.
of. enforcement,. attempt. to. persuade. armed. group,. focusing. on.
accountability.of.armed.group
Guidelines on Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
13
Dispute resolution
(Negotiations manual
Section 6.4.2)
. .Three.possible.dispute.resolution.mechanisms.for.consideration:.
(1).Establishment.of.an.implementation.monitoring.commission;.
(2).Referral.of.disputed.provisions.to.an.independent.non-binding.
arbitration.mechanism;.(3).Appointment.of.a.neutral.mediator.
to.assist.the.parties.in.resolving.disputes
Dealing with Non-Compliance
Engage external
actors
Suspension of
activities as last
resort
(Negotiations manual
Section 6.4.3)
. .Enter.into.further.negotiations.with.the.armed.group.to.arrive.
at. an. agreed. outcome. which. may. resolve. the. issues. of. non-
compliance.with.the.original.agreement
. .Identify.third.party.States,.regional.organizations.or.other.actors.
(civil. society,. churches,. notabilities). and. engage,. directly. or.
indirectly,.in.advocacy.and.humanitarian.diplomacy.to.get.these.
actors.to.apply.pressure.(diplomatic,.other).to.the.armed.group.to.
comply.with.the.agreement
. .If. non-compliance. with. the. agreed. results. in. an. operating.
environment. which. compromises. humanitarian. security;.
consider,. as. a. last. resort,. suspension. of. humanitarian. activities.
until. a. conducive. humanitarian. operating. environment. is. re-
established
Guidelines on Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
14
Annex I - Worksheet for Mapping Characteristics of Armed Groups
This.worksheet.is.intended.to.capture,.in.a.concise.manner,.the.main.characteristics.of.an.armed.
group.Humanitarian.negotiators.can.use.this.worksheet:.(i).to.take.notes.on.the.characteristics.of.a.
particular.armed.group.during.the.PREPARATION.phase,.(ii).as.a.summary.reminder.of.the.main.
characteristics.of.an.armed.group.during.the.SEEKING.AGREEMENT.phase;.and.(iii).as.a.means.
of.capturing.new.information.about.the.armed.group.during.and.following.the.negotiations...
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Guidelines on Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
15
Notes
Guidelines on Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
16
Notes
These Guidelines and the companion Manual provide a structured, easy-
to-follow approach to humanitarian negotiations with armed groups. The
publications fll a need which has long been recognized by operational
humanitarian agencies.
The necessity for a more structured approach to humanitarian negotia-
tion has been refected in statements and resolutions of the UN Security
Council and the UN General Assembly. Noting the obstacles posed by the
lack of structured interaction with non-State actors, the Security Council,
in particular, has expressed its encouragement for
the ongoing work by United Nations agencies to prepare a man-
ual of feld practices of negotiations with armed groups to better
assist coordination and to facilitate more effective negotiations.
(S/PRST/2002/41)
By providing that structured approach, these Guidelines and the compan-
ion Manual will assist humanitarian workers in achieving better humanitar-
ian outcomes in situations that require negotiation with armed groups.
OCHA Offce for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
United Nations
S-3600
New York, NY 10017
United States of America
Tel.: +1 212 963-1234
Fax: +1 212 963-1312
E-mail: ochany@un.org
Web: ochaonline.un.org
Designed by the Outreach Division
United Nations Department of Public Information
62014January 20061,000
Photo credits: UN Photo (Luke Powell, Astrid-Helene Meister, Martine Perret, Ky Chung, Evan Schneider), and IRIN
Humanitarian Negotiations
with Armed Groups
Humanitarian Negotiations
with Armed Groups
A Manual for Practitioners
United Nations
[ blank page keep for double-sided copies ]
Humanitarian
Negotiations with
Armed Groups
A Manual for Practitioners
Gerard Mc Hugh Manuel Bessler
United Nations
January 2006
Produced by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
in collaboration with members of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC).
Gerard Mc Hugh and Manuel Bessler
For more information, contact:
Manuel Bessler
Policy Development and Studies Branch (PDSB)
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
United Nations
New York, NY 10017, USA
Phone: +1 (212) 963-1249
Fax: +1 (917) 367-5274
Email: bessler@un.org
New York, 2006 2006 United Nations. All rights reserved.
Humanitarian negotiation with armed groups

to ensure provision of assistance and protection to vulnerable groups;

to safeguard humanitarian space; and

to improve respect for international law


can often be a humanitarian necessity!
Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
iii
Preface
For humanitarian workers, the ability to negotiate with all actors in situations of crisis or confict
is essential to effective and timely provision of humanitarian assistance and protection. Indeed,
where the humanitarian imperative dictates, negotiation conducted in an independent,
impartial and neutral manner can sometimes be a humanitarian necessity!
Every day, humanitarian workers are faced with situations that require some form of negotiation,
from seeking agreement on how best to access those in need, to reaching an understanding
with other actors of how best to protect civilians in times of armed confict. This often involves
interaction with non-state armed groups.
The absence to date of a structured approach to humanitarian negotiations with armed groups
resulted in these interactions having been undertaken in an ad hoc manner, sometimes with
less than optimal outcomes.
For that reason I am delighted to present this Manual on Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed
Groups, which provides a much-needed structured approach to humanitarian negotiations in a
clear and user-friendly manner. I am confdent that this Manual and the accompanying set of
Guidelines will become essential guides for humanitarian practitioners in the feld.
The project to develop these negotiation tools was made possible through the generous support
of the Government of Switzerland, the primary sponsor of this project, and of UNICEF and
UNDP. The project also benefted immensely from the active participation of several IASC
members as well as academic reviewers and feld colleagues in a number of organizations.
Finally, I would like to commend the authors for their excellent work; they have managed to
combine new negotiation techniques with lessons drawn from feld experiences to provide us
with a structured, easy-to-follow approach to humanitarian negotiations with armed groups.
Jan Egeland
Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and
Emergency Relief Coordinator
[ blank page keep for double-sided copies ]
Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
v
Contents
Summary and Quick Reference . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
1 Introduction and Objectives . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
1.1 Humanitarian Engagement and Negotiation with Armed Groups . . . . . . . . . . . 5
1.2 Changing Operating Environment for Humanitarian Agencies . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
1.3 Background and Objectives . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
1.4 Organization of this Manual . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
1.5 Humanitarian Negotiations and Staff Security Policies, Procedures . . . . . . . . 10
2 Humanitarian Negotiations: Motivations and Partners . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
2.1 Overview . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
2.2 Being Clear About Reasons for Negotiating . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
2.3 Characteristics of Armed Groups . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
2.4 Learning About the Armed Group(s) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17
2.5 Humanitarian Partners in Negotiations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21
3 Framing the Negotiations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25
3.1 Overview . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25
3.2 Humanitarian Principles Underlying Negotiations with Armed Groups . . . . . 25
3.3 Elements of International Law Relevant to Humanitarian Negotiations . . . . . 30
3.4 Translating Principles into Practice: Humanitarian Policies. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40
4 Working Towards More Effective Negotiations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45
4.1 Overview . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45
4.2 Three Phases of Humanitarian Negotiation: A Step-by-Step Guide . . . . . . . . 45
4.3 Different Modes of Negotiation: Oral, Written, Direct, Indirect . . . . . . . . . . 50
4.4 The Role of Culture in Humanitarian Negotiations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 53
4.5 What to do if Negotiations Fail to Converge or if They Break Down . . . . . . . 54
4.6 Linkages Across Different Levels of Negotiation with Armed Groups . . . . . . 56
Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
vi
5 Negotiating on Specific Issues . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 61
5.1 Overview . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 61
5.2 Negotiation and the Two Dimensions of Humanitarian Action . . . . . . . . . . . 61
5.3 Negotiating Ground Rules for Humanitarian Action . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 63
5.4 Negotiating Humanitarian Access . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 65
5.5 Protection of Civilians in Accordance with International Law . . . . . . . . . . . . 67
6 So You're Negotiating . . . Now What? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 71
6.1 Overview . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 71
6.2 Possible Implications of Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups . . . 71
6.3 After Negotiations: Commitment to the Agreement . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 73
6.4 Enforcement and Dealing with Non-Compliance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 74
6.5 Measuring Effectiveness of Humanitarian Negotiations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 75
6.6 Conclusion: The Elements of Humanitarian Negotiation in Practice . . . . . . 76
ANNEX I Worksheet for Mapping Characteristics of Armed Groups . . . . . . . . . 83
ANNEX II Additional Resources for Negotiation with Armed Groups . . . . . . . . 85
ANNEX III Glossary of Key Terms . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 87
Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
1
Summary and Quick Reference
Chapter 1 Introduction and Objectives
Section 1.1
Section 1.5
Humanitarian negotiations are those negotiations undertaken by civilians
engaged in managing, coordinating and providing humanitarian assistance
and protection for the purposes of: (i) ensuring the provision of protection
and humanitarian assistance to vulnerable populations; (ii) preserving
humanitarian space; and (iii) promoting better respect for international
law.
This manual provides guidance on humanitarian negotiations with non-
State armed groups and is intended for use by humanitarian, development
and human rights organizations and by humanitarian personnel tasked
with conducting these negotiations. Humanitarian negotiations do not in
any way confer legitimacy or recognition on armed groups, nor do they
mean that the humanitarian negotiators support the views of an armed
group.
The guidance presented here is not intended to supplant or circumvent
existing security policies and procedures. At all stages of negotiations,
humanitarian organizations must consult with designated security ofcials
and must ensure that the operational aspects of the negotiations are
conducted in accordance with the relevant security procedures.
Chapter 2 Humanitarian Negotiations: Motivations and Partners
Section 2.2 The overall objective of humanitarian negotiations should be to secure
the cooperation of an armed group in reaching an agreed outcome or
understanding that will facilitate or enhance humanitarian action. Once it
is clear that the intended objective of negotiation justies the interaction,
the actual process itself can provide additional, collateral reasons for
negotiation.
There are certain situations when humanitarian organizations may need
to adopt a more cautious approach to negotiations, including: when the
negotiations could negatively impact humanitarian conditions; when
armed groups attempt to use the negotiations to enhance their perceived
legitimacy; and when armed groups are believed to be playing humanitarian
actors off against each other for their own gain.
Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
2
Chapter 2 Humanitarian Negotiations: Motivations and Partners
Sections
2.3, 2.4 &
Annex I
Section 2.5
In approaching the negotiations, humanitarian organizations should
learn as much as possible about the armed group, building a prole of the
groups: (a) motivations; (b) structure; (c) principles of action; (d) interests;
(e) constituency; (f) needs; (g) ethno-cultural dimensions; (h) control of
population and territory.
Humanitarian organizations must be cognizant of the motivations, needs
and interests of other humanitarian partners that are active in the same
context, and should aim towards collective humanitarian negotiations on
behalf of all humanitarian partners in that context. For such collective
or coordinated humanitarian negotiations, one or more lead negotiators
should be identied. Humanitarian negotiations should remain distinct
from political negotiations, and humanitarian agencies must agree on the
process and intended outcomes of the negotiations.
Chapter 3 Framing the Negotiations
Section 3.2
Section 3.3
Section 3.4
Humanitarian negotiations are a tool to enable, facilitate and sustain
humanitarian action, and therefore they must be undertaken in accordance
with the three core principles of humanity, neutrality and impartiality that
underpin all humanitarian action.
In addition to fundamental humanitarian principles, the provisions of
international lawincluding International Humanitarian Law (IHL),
International Human Rights Law (IHRL), and International Criminal Law
(especially The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC))
provide important framing elements for humanitarian negotiations.
International law helps to guide humanitarian negotiations by: (1)
dening boundaries within which to seek agreement; (2) framing the
legal obligations of armed groups; (3) identifying the substantive issues
for negotiation, and providing an entry point for discussion on these
issues; (4) providing reference benchmarks for evaluation of options and
monitoring implementation; and (5) providing incentives to armed groups
to negotiate.
Humanitarian policies assist in translating and implementing humanitarian
principles and legal provisions into an operational setting, and hence can
provide a source of options for humanitarian negotiators to consider in
undertaking negotiations with armed groups.
Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
3
Chapter 4 Working Towards More Effective Negotiations
Section 4.2
See Figure 1
Section 4.5
The approach to humanitarian negotiations with armed groups presented in
this manual consists of nine steps, spanning three phases of negotiation:
Phase I - PREPARATION >>
1. Coordinate Approach With Humanitarian Partners
2. Decide on Objectives and Strategy
3. Learn About Your Negotiating Partner
Phase II - SEEKING AGREEMENT >>
4. Build Consensus on the Process of Negotiations
5. Identify the Issues
6. Develop Options
7. Work to Seek Agreement on the Option(s) that Best Meet the Humani-
tarian Objectives
Phase III - IMPLEMENTATION >>
8. Dene Criteria for Implementation
9. Follow-up: Monitoring and Relationship Building
When humanitarian negotiations fail to converge on a shared perspective
or agreed outcome, humanitarian negotiators can consider some or all of
the following actions: (i) review strategy, conrm issues and develop more
options; (ii) keep open alternatives on substance; (iii) try building on the
process; (iv) explore alternative approaches to engagement; (v) dont burn
bridges; and (vi) reinforce lines of communication.
Chapter 5 Negotiating on Specific Issues
Section 5.2
Sections 5.3,
5.4 & 5.5
Humanitarian negotiations frequently involve several humanitarian
issues in the same round of negotiations. The various substantive areas
for negotiation (some of which were listed previously in Section 2.2) span
the two inter-related dimensions of humanitarian action: assistance and
protection.
The specic areas for humanitarian negotiation addressed in Chapter 5 are:
(i) ground rules for humanitarian action; (ii) securing humanitarian access;
(iii) rules and behaviour of belligerents that will improve the protection of
civilians, in accordance with international law.
Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
4
Chapter 6 So Youre Negotiating Now What?
Section 6.2
Section 6.3
Section 6.4
In addition to their intended positive humanitarian impacts, humanitarian
negotiations can have unintended or unanticipated consequences for
humanitarian organizations; the armed groups; and third-party stakeholders,
including: (i) changes in perceived neutrality and impartiality of humanitarian
actors engaged in negotiations; (ii) impacts on humanitarian security; and
(iii) third-party inuence and sanctions on humanitarian negotiators.
Commitment to implementation of an agreed outcome can be secured or
enhanced through: (1) ensuring buy in and ownership; (2) clear statement
of implementation roles; (3) emphasizing accountability; and (4) including
all parties in monitoring of implementation.
To help ensure successful implementation of an agreed outcome,
mechanisms to resolve disputes associated with implementation should be
identied by the humanitarian organization(s) and the armed group during
the negotiations. These mechanisms could include: (a) establishment of
an implementation monitoring commission; (b) appointment of a neutral
mediator to assist the parties in resolving disputes; or (c) referral of disputed
provisions to an independent, non-binding arbitration mechanism.
Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
5
1 Introduction and Objectives
1.1 Humanitarian Engagement and Negotiation with Armed Groups
To effectively undertake their work, United Nations humanitarian, development and human
rights practitioners must interact with a diverse range of stakeholdersincluding national
governments, inter-governmental institutions (e.g. EU, ECOWAS), and non-State actors such
as non-governmental organizations (NGOs), rebel groups, and private entities. Depending on
the context and intended outcomes, engagement with these different actors can take several
forms, including: advocacy, negotiation, mediation and liaison interactions. These different
types of engagement generally share some common elements of process and objectives.
As one form of engagement, negotiation
is dened as a process of communication
and relationship building undertaken
with the objective of arriving at an agreed
outcome around a particular set of issues,
in situations where the parties are not in
complete accord on those issues to begin
with.
Negotiation therefore seeks to reconcile differences in perspectives, positions and/or interests to
reach outcomes that no individual party could achieve independently. Successful negotiations
result in outcomes that all parties agree to abide by or implement. Such an agreed outcome can
be informal (e.g. verbal agreement to facilitate access) or formal (e.g. a written agreement such
as a Memorandum of Understanding).
Moreover, negotiation is sometimes described as a process of inuencing individuals or groups
through joint decision-making. It requires the consent of all parties to participate in the process
and to accept and respect the agreed outcome.
Humanitarian negotiations are dened here as negotiations undertaken by civilians engaged
in managing, coordinating and providing humanitarian assistance and protection for the
purposes of: (i) ensuring the provision of humanitarian assistance and protection to vulnerable
populations; (ii) preserving humanitarian space; and (iii) promoting better respect for
international law.
1
As a means of achieving these objectives, negotiation at times becomes a
humanitarian necessity!
1
The term humanitarian space is defined to mean a conducive humanitarian operating environment. See: UN
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Glossary of Humanitarian Terms in Relation to
the Protection Of Civilians In Armed Conflict (New York: United Nations, 2003). Another definition is given
as: scope for neutral and impartial humanitarian action in the midst of conflict. See: Meinrad Studer, The ICRC
and Civil-Military Relations in Armed Conflict, International Review of the Red Cross 83 No. 842 (June 2001):
367-391.
Purposes of Humanitarian
Negotiations:
to ensure provision of protection and
assistance to vulnerable groups;
to preserve humanitarian space;
to promote respect for international law.
Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
6
This manual provides guidance on humanitarian negotiations with non-State armed groups
(referred to throughout this manual simply as armed groups), dened as groups that: have the
potential to employ arms in the use of force to achieve political, ideological or economic objectives;
are not within the formal military structures of States, State-alliances or intergovernmental
organizations; and are not under the control of the State(s) in which they operate.
2,3
A more
detailed characterization of armed groups is provided in Section 2.3 of this manual.
The guidance contained in this manual is applicable to humanitarian negotiations with
all armed groups, including armed groups that
employ terror tactics.
Because of their exclusively humanitarian
character, humanitarian negotiations do not in
any way confer legitimacy or recognition upon
armed groups, nor do they mean that the humanitarian negotiators support or agree with the
views or perspectives of an armed group.
Humanitarian negotiations with armed groups stand apart from other types of negotiation
(such as negotiation between two private corporations) for several reasons:
1. the stakes are high: in many cases, a successfully-negotiated outcome can result directly
in lives saved;
2. there exists a de facto power imbalance between the negotiating parties, for example
in terms of ability to employ coercive armed force to exert control;
3. the motivations, objectives and operational cultures of the parties contrast sharply;
4. ensuring commitment to and implementation of an agreed outcome may be
difcult because of the less formal organizational and command structures of many
armed groups; potential limitations in the capacity of an armed group to ensure
implementation; and/or the fact that some armed groups may consider themselves
immune from accountability for their actions;
5. the operating environment for humanitarian agencies generally imposes acute time
and communication constraints on negotiations with armed groups.
The unique characteristics of humanitarian negotiations necessitate a targeted and nuanced
approach to these types of negotiations. This manual prepares the reader for such an approach.
2
This working definition of armed group draws on that defined in the OCHA Glossary of Humanitarian Terms
(2003): Armed Group: An armed non-State actor engaged in conflict and distinct from a governmental force, whose
structure may range from that of a militia to rebel bandits.
3
The use of force by some armed groups may extend beyond that which actually requires weapons (e.g. sexual
violence), however, the difference (by definition) between an armed group and another type of unarmed group
is the ability of the former to employ weapons in their use of force.
Humanitarian negotiations do not in
any way confer legitimacy or recogni-
tion upon armed groups.
Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
7
1.2 Changing Operating Environment for Humanitarian Agencies
Since the early 1990s, humanitarian agencies have experienced increased exposure to situations
in which they must negotiate with armed groups. This is due primarily to the changing nature
of the operating environment in which humanitarian action is undertaken. Some aspects of
the changing operating environment that are relevant to humanitarian negotiations with
armed groups include the following:
First, contemporary conicts take place predominantly within States rather than between them,
with the result that one or more parties to a conict are now more likely to be armed groups.
4

Humanitarian agencies responding to complex emergencies resulting from these conicts (or
other underlying conditions) are thus more likely to encounter armed groups in their work.
5
Second, an evolving body of military doctrine on Peace and Peace Support Operations
being developed by key military forces (individual States, State-alliances such as NATO,
and UN peacekeeping operations), and the involvement of military forces in operations
other than war including relief operations has increased the complexities of
interactions between humanitarian and military actors. The engagement of military forces
in relief operations and so-called hearts and minds operations to win local support
blurs the distinction between military and humanitarian actors, thereby contributing to
the erosion and constricting of humanitarian space. This fading distinction has placed
increased emphasis on the need for humanitarian organizations to (i) negotiate for a safe
and secure operating environment for humanitarian action, and (ii) maintain a distinct
identity, separate from military actors.
Third, in light of experiences during the 1990s, there has been a move towards a more
integrated approach to UN peace operations, which has seen the roles and work of UN
humanitarian agencies included or integrated (to varying degrees depending on the mission)
under the overall administrative and decision-making structure of a UN mission (e.g. UN
missions in Liberia, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burundi).
6
The issue of integrated
UN peacekeeping missions is the subject of ongoing debate, but clearly these types of missions
impose new opportunities and challenges for humanitarian agencies as they try to maintain
4
In the twelve-year period from 1990 to 2001, there were 57 major armed conflicts (exhibiting at least 1,000
battle-related deaths per year) in the world, of which all but three were internal. Source: Mikael Eriksson, Ed.
States in Armed Conflict 2001 (Uppsala: Department of Peace and Conflict Resolution, Uppsala University,
2002).
5
A complex emergency, as defined by the IASC, is: A humanitarian crisis in a country, region or society where
there is total or considerable breakdown of authority resulting from internal or external conflict and which requires
an international response that goes beyond the mandate or capacity of any single agency and/or the ongoing United
Nations country program.
6
This move towards a more integrated approach to mission planning and execution within the UN system has
its origins in the Report of the Panel on United Nations Peace Operations (The Brahimi Report) (A/55/305) of
21 August 2000, and in subsequent reports of the UN Secretary-General on implementation of the Reports
findings and recommendations (for example, Report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of the Report
of the Panel on United Nations Peace Operations, UN Doc. Ref. A/55/502, 20 October 2000).
Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups

their impartial and neutral working environment to carry out their mandate. In integrated
missions, humanitarian, military and/or political negotiations should still remain distinct from
each other, but may be ongoing in parallel.
Ensuring coherence across these different negotiations poses a particular challenge that must
be addressed because all of the negotiations will have an impact on the success or failure of the
mission. Section 2.5 presents guidance for coordination of negotiations among humanitarian
actors and for dealing with UN political and humanitarian negotiations.
Fourth, in recent years there has been a trend towards the direct targeting of humanitarian
and development workers in confict zones and in some situations of post-confict
transition. For example, in Afghanistan there was an average of 13 armed attacks on aid
workers per month for the frst fve months of 2004, compared to an average of 8.8 attacks
per month over the frst fve months of the preceding year.

In this environment, there


is an increased need to negotiate with all parties to a confict (including armed groups)
to ensure the safety and security of humanitarian operations and staff, as well as the
civilians they assist.
1.3 BackgroundandObjectives
The increased need for humanitarian agencies to negotiate with armed groups has been
refected in successive reports of the UN Secretary-General on the protection of civilians in
armed confict since 1999. These reports have highlighted the importance of negotiations
with parties to a confict to ensure access to, and protection of, vulnerable groups.
8
For UN
humanitarian agencies, the UN General Assembly has also recognized the need to enter into
negotiations with all parties to a confict to facilitate humanitarian action (specifcally to secure
humanitarian access).
9
In particular, the 2001 Report of the Secretary-General on the Protection of Civilians in Armed
Confict identifed the need for a structured, consistent approach to humanitarian negotiations
with armed groups. In that report, the UN Secretary-General stated that he had requested the
Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) to,
develop a manual for access negotiations and strategies, including benchmarks for
the engagement and disengagement of aid agencies, demands of conditionality, clearance

Source: Afghan NGO Security Office (ANSO) and British Agencies Afghanistan Group (BAAG) Monthly
Update, June 2004. Quoted in: Gerard Mc Hugh and Lola Gostelow, Provincial Reconstruction Teams and
Humanitarian-Military Relations in Afghanistan (London: Save the Children UK, 2004).
8
Reports of the Secretary General on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict were published in 1999
(UN document reference S/1999/95), 2001 (S/2001/331), 2002 (S/2002/1300), 2004 (S/2004/431), and 2005
(S/2005/40). Reports available at: http://ochaonline.un.org.
9
See UN General Assembly resolution 46/182, Strengthening of the Coordination of Humanitarian Emergency
Assistance of the United Nations, 19 December 1991. UN Document ref A/RES/46/182. Paragraph 35(d).
Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
9
procedures, needs assessments, and other principles outlined in the present report [on the
Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict].
10
In response to the request of the Secretary-General, the IASC set up an Informal Working
Group consisting of OCHA, OHCHR, UNHCR, UNICEF, UNDP, WHO and WFP
to oversee the development of a manual on humanitarian negotiations, and initial
research and consultations began in 2002. This manual builds on that prior research and
process of consultation, and also on eld experiences of UN agencies and non-governmental
organizations, to provide a practical tool for humanitarian, development and human rights
workers to guide and enhance their negotiations with non-State armed groups. It is envisaged
that more consistent and effective negotiations will assist in securing agreed outcomes that
improve humanitarian conditions of those in need.
This manual is intended for use by humanitarian, development and human rights organizations
for example, during pre-deployment training sessions and also by individuals tasked with
conducting humanitarian negotiations with armed
groups. A set of concise Guidelines for Humanitarian
Negotiation with Armed Groups accompanies this
manual and provides a distilled, eld-ready version
of the guidance provided in this manual.
In addition to the guidance provided in this manual
and the companion set of guidelines, individuals
undertaking humanitarian negotiations must be provided with the necessary training and
organizational support to effectively conduct these negotiations.
The process of drafting this manual was coordinated by OCHAs Policy Development and
Studies Branch (New York), working in close collaboration with members of the IASC. The
project was funded by contributions from the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs,
OCHA and UNICEFs Ofce of Emergency Programmes (EMOPS).
OCHAs Policy Development and Studies Branch acts as a focal point for provision of
support and advice on humanitarian negotiation with armed groups for particular inquiries
or contexts, as and when requested. The relevant contact information is provided on the
inside front cover of this manual.
1.4 Organization of this Manual
The following chapters address ve key aspects of humanitarian negotiations with armed groups.
Chapter 2 examines the motivations and partners for humanitarian negotiations the why
and who of these negotiations. Chapter 3 describes how humanitarian principles and policies
10
Source: United Nations Security Council, Report of the Secretary-General to the Security Council on the Protection of
Civilians in Armed Conflict, UN Doc. S/2001/331 (New York: United Nations, 30 March 2001) : Paragraph 26.
Objective of this manual:
To provide a practical guide for
UN humanitarian, development
and human rights workers to
enhance their negotiations with
non-State armed groups.
Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
10
can frame the negotiations for humanitarian actors,
and how they can guide the process of negotiation.
Chapter 4 provides practical guidance for those
tasked with undertaking humanitarian negotiations
across three phases of negotiation: Phase I
Preparation; Phase II Seeking Agreement; and
Phase III Implementation. Chapter 5 explores additional considerations related to negotiation
on specic issues. The body of the manual concludes with the implications of negotiation and
follow-up to negotiation in Chapter 6. Examples from eld experiences are included as short case
studies throughout the manual.
Supplemental material is provided in three annexes to this manual: Annex I provides a
worksheet to map the characteristics of armed groups; Annex II provides a summary listing
of reference resources on humanitarian negotiations with armed groups; Annex III provides a
glossary of key terms used in the manual.
1.5 Humanitarian Negotiations and Staff Security Policies, Procedures
As with any type of humanitarian activity which increases the exposure of humanitarian,
development and human rights personnel to armed groups, humanitarian negotiations must be
carried out within the framework of existing institutional security policies and procedures.
The guidance provided in this manual is not intended to supplant or circumvent existing
security policies and guidelines. At all stages of humanitarian negotiations, humanitarian
organizations must consult with designated security ofcials (UN/other) and must ensure that
the operational aspects of the negotiations (e.g. travel to meet with members of an armed
group) are conducted in accordance with the relevant security procedures.
In situations where security procedures require interaction with a party to a conict (for
example, requesting passage through territory controlled by the host government to reach an
area controlled by an armed group), these interactions should be undertaken in a transparent
and open manner. They will then be less likely to foster perceptions among armed groups of
bias and lack of impartiality on the part of humanitarian organizations.
Three phases of negotiation:
Phase I Preparation
Phase II Seeking Agreement
Phase III Implementation
Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
11
2 Humanitarian Negotiations: Motivations and Partners
2.1 Overview
This chapter addresses the why and who of humanitarian negotiation with armed groups:
the why of humanitarian negotiations involves being clear about the reasons for negotiating,
and how these motivations impact the process of negotiation.
Building on the working definition of armed groups presented in the introduction to this
manual (Section 1.1), this chapter looks in more detail at the characteristics of these groups
(the who), how those characteristics can shape the approach to negotiation, and the type of
information that humanitarian workers should know about armed groups before they enter into
negotiations with them.
2.2 Being Clear About Reasons for Negotiating
Since negotiation is but one form of engagement with armed groups (see Section 1.1),
humanitarian organizations need to be clear about why they are entering into negotiations
with these groups. It may be that some other type of interaction (perhaps an advocacy or liaison
relationship) may in some cases be more appropriate.
For humanitarian actors, the overall objective of humanitarian negotiations should be to
secure the cooperation of an armed group in reaching an agreed outcome or understanding
that will facilitate or enhance humanitarian action.
Once it is clear that the intended objective of negotiation justies the interaction, the actual
process itself can provide additional, collateral reasons for negotiation:
The process of negotiation can build trust and condence between the parties, which
can in turn result in humanitarian benets separate from the actual substance of the
negotiations.
The process of negotiation can have a multiplier effect in terms of involving armed groups
in a wider dialogue that may bring additional benets (for example, the humanitarian
negotiations may assist in resolving the underlying causes of the conict). However,
humanitarian negotiations must never be used as a substitute for political negotiations.
In some cases, the process of negotiation can take on a life of its own, overshadowing the
purpose of the negotiations. For humanitarian negotiations it is crucial to keep the objectives
of the negotiations clearly in sight, while ensuring that the process of negotiation stands the
best chance of achieving those objectives.
Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
12
2.2.1 The Substance of the Negotiations
The provision of humanitarian assistance to those in need and the provision and promotion
of protection for vulnerable groups represent two interconnected dimensions of humanitarian
action.
11
Humanitarian negotiations can be undertaken in pursuit of a number of goals
spanning these two dimensions of humanitarian action:
To secure humanitarian access to reach those in need;
To seek agreement on ground rules for activities and behaviour of humanitarian
actors and armed groups;
To secure agreement on operational mechanisms to facilitate direct provision of
assistance to those in need (especially in areas under the control or inuence of armed
groups);
To agree on rules and behaviour of belligerents that will improve the protection of
civilians in areas under the control or inuence of armed groups, in accordance with
international humanitarian law and international human rights law;
To safeguard humanitarian security a term used here to encapsulate the various
aspects of physical and psychological safety of both humanitarian staff and the
beneciaries of humanitarian action;
To secure the release of persons being held by armed groups against their will,
including humanitarian workers held hostage and civilian detainees;
To secure agreement on special protection areas or periods (for example, to secure
agreement on conducting immunizations over a particular period of days).
Examples of humanitarian negotiations undertaken on some of these issues, and the different
approaches to negotiation they may involve, are provided in Chapter 5.
2.2.2 Knowing When to Adopt a More Cautious Approach to Negotiation
In all cases of negotiation with armed groups, humanitarian, development and human rights
organizations must carefully balance the expected outcomes against the possible consequences
of negotiation (described in Section 6.2). In certain cases, conditions may dictate that
humanitarian staff should approach negotiations more cautiously, or perhaps should not
negotiate at all with certain armed groups.
The circumstances in which humanitarian organizations may need to take a more cautious
approach to negotiations with armed groups include the following:
11
A growing consensus has emerged within the humanitarian community on the need to better integrate protec-
tion and assistance as two dimensions of humanitarian action. For example, in its Policy Paper on Protection of
Internally Displaced Persons, the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) recognized the need to integrate
protection features into operational response and remedial action. See: Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC),
Protection of Internally Displaced Persons, IASC Policy Paper (New York: IASC, 1999).
Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
13
When there is a likelihood that negotiations could negatively impact humanitarian conditions
or jeopardize the security of the beneficiaries: Armed groups may sometimes use their
ability to exert force against civilian populations as a bargaining tool during negotiations.
Humanitarian negotiators must be aware of this potential from the outset. In addition,
negotiations that are undertaken poorly, especially multi-party negotiations, can in some
cases actually exacerbate disputes between opposing armed groups, and may therefore lead
to a worsening of humanitarian and security conditions.
When the humanitarian negotiations can put the lives of the armed group interlocutors at risk:
Identication of the armed groups negotiators can in some instances place them at risk of
being targeted (physically or by indirect sanctions on a particular population group, e.g. the
village home to the armed group representative(s)) by the groups adversaries. Targeting of
armed group interlocutors as a result of their participation in humanitarian negotiations
can in turn result in increased security risks for the humanitarian negotiators themselves,
and possible termination of the negotiations.
Case Study: Impact of the Process of Humanitarian Negotiations on
Armed Groups Engagement in Political Dialogue
In July 2004 the UK NGO Conciliation Resources hosted a workshop on Engaging Armed
Groups in Peace Processes, which included participants from armed groups, ofcial and
unofcial mediators in peace processes, donor governments and academics.
One theme of the discussion focused on the impact of engagement on humanitarian
issues on the broader process of engagement in political dialogue. Some of the main
points captured in that discussion were:
12
humanitarian negotiation can shed light on a groups willingness and ability to
negotiate more generally and can serve as a condence-building measure;
investment in the success of negotiated humanitarian outcomes might give an armed
group a greater stake in not returning to conict;
engagement on humanitarian questions potentially creates the political cover for
talks to spill over into more political issues, thus easing the armed groups into the
peace process.
intermediaries and armed groups should think proactively about the possible
positive impact humanitarian engagement could have in the process of political
engagement.
However, notwithstanding the perspectives on humanitarian negotiations being used as
political cover captured in these discussions, humanitarian negotiations must remain
separate from political negotiations; must retain a distinct humanitarian purpose and
identity; and must not be used as a substitute for political negotiations.
12
Source: Conciliation Resources, Engaging Armed Groups in Peace Processes. Joint analysis workshop report
(London: Conciliation Resources Accord Programme, July 2004).
Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
14
When armed groups attempt to use humanitarian negotiations to enhance their perceived
legitimacy: Armed groups may seek to use humanitarian negotiations to enhance
their positioning in other interactions (e.g. with political actors), and to misuse these
negotiations as a vehicle for supporting their claims of legitimacy. In case of doubts in this
regard, humanitarian negotiators should request a demonstration of commitment from the
armed group before or during negotiations.
When armed groups are believed to be playing several humanitarian actors off against each
other for their own gain: Armed groups may attempt to enter into separate negotiations
with different humanitarian agencies, in an effort to leverage their position and fragment
the humanitarian community. This reinforces the need for humanitarian agencies to adopt
a coordinated or collective approach to humanitarian negotiations (see Section 2.5).
When the armed group attaches conditions for the implementation of an agreement that
could adversely affect the civilian population: Humanitarian negotiators should not enter
into negotiations or agreements with armed groups when there are conditions attached
that may adversely affect the humanitarian circumstances of others.
2.3 Characteristics of Armed Groups
A working definition of non-State armed groups was provided in Section 1.1 of this manual.
Table 1 elaborates on the key characteristics of armed groups captured in that denition, and
identies what those characteristics mean for humanitarian negotiations with such groups.
Table 1
Characteristics of armed groups and what they mean for
humanitarian negotiators
Characteristics of Armed
groups: They
What humanitarian negotiators need to be aware of
based on these characteristics:
Have the potential to
employ arms in the use
of force for political,
ideological, or economic
objectives;
Humanitarian negotiations do not infer any legal status,
legitimacy or recognition of the armed group;
Humanitarian negotiators should explore the driving
motivations and interests behind the actions of the
armed group (See Section 2.4);
Humanitarian negotiations do not in any way dilute
the accountability of the armed group for past/current/
future actions, especially in cases where armed groups act
outside the norms of international law (Section 3.3);
Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
15
Characteristics of Armed
groups: They
What humanitarian negotiators need to be aware of
based on these characteristics:
Have a group identity,
and act in pursuit of their
objectives as a group;
Individual members of an armed group will always have
their own agendas, however an armed group (different
from a group of armed individuals) shares some common
history, aspirations, objectives, or needs that are attributes
of the group;
Members of an armed group will be strongly inuenced
by group conformity pressures such as depersonalization
of victims; perceptions of impunity; moral disengagement
and obedience to group authority;
13
Are not within the formal
military structures of
States, State-alliances
or intergovernmental
organizations;
This characteristic of non-State armed groups has
important implications for enforcing accountability for
the actions of members of the group. The extra-State
status of armed groups means that the applicable legal
provisions relating to the duties and obligations of
these groups under international law may differ from
the duties and obligations of States, and for certain
provisions there remains some legal uncertainty as to
the extent that those provisions apply to armed groups;
(see Section 3.3 below)
Are not under the
command or control of
the State(s) in which they
operate;
Armed groups may not be under the command or control
of the State(s) in which they operate, but they may
receive direct/indirect support of the host government
or other States, or may be provided with a safe haven in
certain countries;
Humanitarian negotiators need to be aware of the
potential for inuencing parties that support armed
groups. Hence there may be other counterparts for
humanitarian engagement (including negotiation)
beyond the initial targeted armed group;
13
For more information on group conformity and the actions of combatants, see: Daniel Munoz-Rojas and
Jean-Jacques Frsard, The Roots of Behaviour in War: Understanding and Preventing IHL Violations (Geneva:
International Committee of the Red Cross, October 2004).
Table 1 (continued)
Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
16
Characteristics of Armed
groups: They
What humanitarian negotiators need to be aware of
based on these characteristics:
Are subject to a chain
of command (formal or
informal).
This is an important attribute of armed groups, because
it means (at least in theory) that there is some degree of
centralized command and control, however limited, over
the actions of group members. When this centralized
command structure breaks down, it can no longer be
considered to be one armed group, and humanitarian
negotiators may have to identify interlocutors within
several factions of the original group;
When a chain of command (however limited) is
functioning, it increases the likelihood that lower-ranking
members of the group will respect the undertakings and
agreed outcomes negotiated by and with their leaders;
In implementing an outcome agreed with the leaders of
an armed group, humanitarian workers should attempt
to identify the local chain of command to increase the
likelihood that any agreed outcome will be respected and
implemented by lower-ranking members of the group;
Humanitarian negotiators should communicate their
expectations that an agreed outcome will be respected
by all members of the armed group.
Case Study: Encouraging communicating through chain of command
In Sierra Leone during 1999/2000 the UN World Food Programme (WFP) found that in many
cases it could not be taken for granted that armed group leaders had communicated the
existence, scope or objectives of any negotiated agreement to local-level commanders
and members of the group. One approach used to bridge this communication gap
was sensitization of members of the group on the ground by inuential armed group
commanders:
As a way to reduce the lack of communication between ofcial leaders of armed groups
and their local commanders, and ensure that access would be given on the ground, major
international food distributions led by WFP were preceded by a sensitization of the forces
on the ground carried out by inuential RUF commanders.
14
14
Source: World Food Programme (WFP), Review of WFP Experience in Securing Humanitarian Access:
Compilation of Past Practice, 2000.
Table 1 (continued)
Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
17
2.4 Learning About the Armed Group(s)
In a negotiation setting, each party is a partner in the process. Humanitarian practitioners
may not wish to consider representatives from armed groups as partners, per se, but since
the objective of the negotiation is to arrive at an outcome that no one party could achieve
independently, each party must view the other as having a shared role and responsibility in
reaching such an agreed outcome.
Finding out as much as possible about the motivations, interests and needs of the other party
can greatly assist negotiators in securing better outcomes. Each armed group is different, but
consideration of the following characteristics of armed groups can increase the efciency of the
negotiations as well as the desired outcomes and means for implementing/monitoring them:
(a) motivations; (b) structure; (c) principles of action; (d) interests; (e) constituency; (f) needs;
(g) ethno-cultural dimensions; (h) control of population and territory.
These characteristics of armed groups are presented in a Worksheet provided in Annex I
to this manual. This worksheet can be used by humanitarian negotiators to prepare for their
interactions with an armed group. In addition, the following observations and questions can
assist humanitarian negotiators in nding out more about their negotiating partners.
Motivations
What was the original motivation for the formation, behaviour and
conduct of the armed group, and for using armed force (rather than
pursuing other means)?
In terms of founding motivations, armed groups generally fall into three
categories: they can be reactionary (reacting to some situation, or something
that members of the groups experienced or with which they identify); they
can be opportunistic, meaning that they seized on a political or economic
opportunity to enhance their own power or positions; or they founded to
further ideological objectives.
The motivations underlying the formation and activities of the armed group
may in some cases be carried over into the armed groups negotiating strategy.
Knowing more about these driving motivations can help humanitarian
negotiators prepare for negotiation and anticipate the choices and decisions
that the armed group may make prior to, during or following negotiations.
What are the current motivations of the armed group?
It may be possible to identify current motivations of the group from
statements / interviews by the groups leader(s) or representatives. The groups
motivations and objectives may have changed over time. Humanitarian
negotiators should not assume that the groups stated motivations are shared
among all group members.
Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
18
Structure What is the organizational and leadership structure of the armed group?
Does it have a single leader; a group of leaders; changing membership?
The organizations leadership structure has implications for the ability to
secure commitment and implementation from the leadership to any agreed
outcome of negotiations. Is the structure of the armed group hierarchical or
at? Armed groups with several layers in their organizational structure may
require that proposals developed during negotiations be elevated through
successive levels for a decision. The stability of the leadership (have there
been recent changes in leadership?) will also have implications for the
sustainability and implementation of any agreed outcome of negotiations.
What is the power structure of the armed group? Are there coalitions and
alliances between and within groups?
Identifying the locus of power within the armed group will assist in identifying
the appropriate interlocutors with whom to negotiate, and the extent to
which the armed group interlocutors can deliver on their commitments.
What is the level of autonomy among regional/local sub-commanders? Is
there a regional command structure, or is it cell-like?
If regional- or local-level eld commanders of the armed group act with high
levels of autonomy, these commanders may decide not to honor the outcome
agreed with the groups leadership, or may indeed seek to negotiate further
for local implementation. Humanitarian negotiators may need to enter into
these additional local-level negotiations to ensure local implementation.
Principles of
Action
Just as humanitarian negotiators are guided by core principles (see
Section 3.2), so too will armed groups be guided to some degree by their
own principles of action.
The principles of action of armed groups will most likely be very different
from the humanitarian principles guiding humanitarian actors: armed
groups may be guided by principles of guerrilla warfare; religious, ideological,
political or cultural principles; or purely economic objectives. For example,
the Lords Resistance Army (LRA) armed group operating in Northern
Uganda is guided by the vision of the groups leader, Joseph Kony, to establish
a government based on the biblical Ten Commandments.
Humanitarian negotiators dont have to agree with the principles of action of
the armed group, but learning more about, and understanding, these guiding
principles can improve the likelihood of a successful negotiation.
Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
19
Interests What are the groups interests in general, and in the context of a specific
negotiation?
To learn more about the interests of an armed group, humanitarian negotiators
should, rst and foremost, ask! Too often, humanitarian negotiators enter
the interaction with pre-conceived notions of the groups interests.
At the same time, humanitarian negotiators need to be aware of the potential
for armed groups to mis-state their interests as part of their negotiation
strategy. In all cases, time invested in preparing for the negotiations will
enhance understanding of the groups interests.
In humanitarian negotiations, the interests of the armed group and the
interests of the humanitarian organization may in some cases be divergent.
For example, the humanitarian organizations interests include alleviating
human suffering; the armed groups interests may center on defeating
an adversary, expanding control of territory, which may cause civilian
suffering.
Nevertheless, humanitarian negotiators should seek to highlight areas of
shared interest where they exist, and should seek to inuence the armed
groups interests in situations where the respective interests diverge, through
persuasive negotiation based on principles of humanitarian action and
international law (See Section 3.3).
15
Constituency
Does the armed group claim a legitimate constituency?
Armed groups may profess to act on behalf of a particular group (e.g. ethnic
group, tribe), when in many cases the group has no basis for claiming a
mandate from the purported constituents.
Humanitarian negotiators should be aware of the potential for the armed
group to use the process of negotiations as a means of exerting further
control over their stated constituency. Humanitarian negotiators should
therefore establish and maintain separate lines of communication with bona
de community and civil society leaders from within the population that
may be under the control of the armed group (e.g. tribal elders; womens
committees; religious leaders).
15
Focusing on areas of shared interest is one of the key elements of the interest-based approach to negotia-
tion pioneered by Professor Roger Fisher and colleagues. See: Roger Fisher et al. Getting to Yes: Negotiating
Agreement Without Giving In. Second Ed. (New York: Penguin Books, 1991).
Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
20
Needs What are the needs of the armed groups?
Needs are not the same as interests. An armed group may express an interest
in achieving a certain outcome, but it will also have organizational, resource-
and identity-related needs to satisfy throughout the negotiation process and
beyond. In some cases, these needs may be reduced to the needs of the person
negotiating on behalf of the armed group. Is he/she using the negotiations
purely to bolster his/her position within the organization?
Humanitarian negotiators must be attuned to the potential for the existential
or functional needs (e.g. nancial needs) of the armed group to inuence the
negotiation strategy of the group.
Cultural
and Ethnic
Dimensions
Are there certain cultural, religious or ethnic characteristics of the armed
group that may influence the armed groups strategy/approach?
Humanitarian negotiators should consider how cultural, religious or ethnic
characteristics of an armed group might inuence the groups strategy,
commitment to implementation and/or conduct.
In this regard, knowledge of the local culture and the population from which
the armed group is drawn can be invaluable. There may be traditional
warrior or hunter identications with being a member of an armed group,
or the group may state that it is acting legitimately in accordance with the
religious beliefs/traditions of its members.
Control of
Population
and
Territory
What is the extent of control exerted by the armed group over a given
population or territory?
Armed groups may claim more extensive control over populations or
territories than is actually the case. In the case of negotiations related to
protection of civilians in a particular area or delivery of assistance to a
particular population group, humanitarian negotiators should attempt to
assess the actual level of control exerted by the armed group prior to entering
into negotiations.
Once again, humanitarian negotiators must make it clear to their counterparts
during the negotiations that any discussion of de facto population/territorial
control does not represent recognition or legitimization of that authority.
In addition to these characteristics of the armed group, the negotiating history of the group
can provide valuable information on the groups strategy, objectives and commitment to the
negotiations. Hence, humanitarian negotiators should review previous negotiations with the
Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
21
group. The easiest way to do this may be to gain the perspectives of previous interlocutors (even
if they were observers and not negotiators) with the armed group.
2.5 Humanitarian Partners in Negotiations
In addition to learning more about the armed group(s) participating in the negotiations,
humanitarian agencies must be cognizant of the motivations, needs and interests of other
humanitarian partners that operate in the same context or region. This is especially true when
humanitarian negotiators come from different organizations. Each humanitarian negotiator
brings a different perspective to the table and therefore it is critical for humanitarian negotiators
to arrive at a common understanding of motivations, desired outcomes and alternatives to
negotiation before entering into the process with the armed group.
The following points should be taken into consideration in multi-agency negotiations with
armed groups:
Among the humanitarian parties to the negotiations, one or more lead negotiators should
be identied who should act as the primary representative(s) of humanitarian agencies,
to ensure that the humanitarian community in a specic context speaks with one voice.
In addition to a lead negotiator, it is useful to identify an alternate person to lead the
interactions to ensure continuity and consistency throughout the negotiation process.
In situations where humanitarian negotiations are undertaken by a civilian representative
whose areas of responsibility extend beyond purely humanitarian issues (for example, if
a United Nations Special Representative with overall authority over an integrated UN
mission were also to lead humanitarian negotiations), the humanitarian negotiations
and their underlying humanitarian objectives should remain distinct from political and
other negotiations. Political negotiations should not incorporate humanitarian provisions
that are contingent on political actions or agreements. In this regard, the negotiating
party should include a prominent member from the humanitarian community such that
the humanitarian nature and objectives of the negotiations can be demonstrated and
maintained (e.g. UN Humanitarian Coordinator, or head of a humanitarian country
programme).
Before entering into collective negotiations with an armed group, humanitarian agencies
(especially those within the UN system) should agree on the process and intended
outcomes of the negotiation. They should agree also to abide by any outcome negotiated
by a designated representative of the humanitarian community.
Getting early buy in from a broad range of humanitarian agencies will assist in securing
commitment from these agencies to any agreed outcome with the armed group.
Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
22
Case Study: Confusion, but then clarification, of UN political and
humanitarian roles in Angola
There was no clear strategy for negotiating humanitarian access in Angola in the months
immediately following the resumption of ghting between UNITA and government forces
in September 1992. This renewed ghting followed rejection by UNITA of the September
1992 election outcome.
In response to worsening humanitarian conditions, the UN Security Council passed
resolution 811 (12 March 1993) which called on parties to the conict to allow unimpeded
access to those in need, and mandated the SRSG to coordinate humanitarian assistance
with the resources at her disposal. This resolution provided the mandate for the SRSG
to conduct humanitarian negotiations, at a time when she was also facilitating political
negotiations. Concerns about this linkage between political and humanitarian negotiations
lead the Department of Humanitarian Affairs to set up a Humanitarian Assistance
Coordination Unit (UCAH) in April 1993.
UCAHs mandate included negotiation of humanitarian access and protection of
humanitarian space. The UN Humanitarian Coordinator directing UCAH drew up an
Emergency Relief Plan (ERP) for humanitarian assistance, to which both parties to the
conict subsequently agreed, if only in principle.
By establishing itself as a distinct humanitarian entity, thereby severing the linkages between
political and humanitarian negotiations, UCAH played a central role in negotiations with
the Government of Angola and UNITA on humanitarian issues, and worked to maintain a
neutral and impartial posture by referring issues of a political nature to the SRSG.
16
16
This case study is drawn from: Anna Richardson, Negotiation Humanitarian Access in Angola: 19902000, New
Issues in Refugee Research, #18 (Geneva: UNHCR, June 2000).
Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
23
Points to Remember Humanitarian Negotiations: Motivations and Partners
MOTIVATIONS
For humanitarian actors, the overall objective of humanitarian negotiations should
be to secure the cooperation of an armed group in reaching an agreed outcome or
understanding that will facilitate or enhance humanitarian action.
Collateral process-related motivations: (i) building trust and condence between
the parties, and (ii) the process of negotiation can have a multiplier effect in terms
of involving armed groups in a wider dialogue that may bring additional benets.
SUBSTANTIVE AREAS FOR NEGOTIATION
To secure humanitarian access to reach those in need;
To seek agreement on ground rules;
To agree on rules and behaviour of belligerents that will improve the protection of
civilians in areas under the control or inuence of armed groups;
To safeguard humanitarian security;
To secure the release of persons being held by armed groups against their will;
To secure agreement on special protection areas or periods.
KNOWING WHEN TO ADOPT A MORE CAUTIOUS APPROACH TO
NEGOTIATIONS
When there is a likelihood that negotiations could negatively impact human-
itarian conditions or jeopardize the security of the beneficiaries.
When the negotiations put the lives of the armed group interlocutors at risk.
When armed groups attempt to use humanitarian negotiations to enhance their
perceived legitimacy.
When armed groups are believed to be playing several humanitarian actors off
against each other for their own gain.
When the armed group attaches conditions for the implementation of an agree-
ment that could adversely affect the civilian population.
CHARACTERISTICS OF ARMED GROUPS
They: (1) have the potential to employ arms in the use of force for political,
ideological, or economic objectives; (2) have a group identity, and act in pursuit
of their objectives as a group; (3) are not within the formal military structures of
States, State-alliances or intergovernmental organizations; (4) are not under the
command or control of the State(s) in which they operate; and (5) are subject to a
chain of command (formal or informal).
Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
24
Consideration of the following characteristics of armed groups can increase the
efciency of the negotiations as well as the desired outcomes: (a) motivations;
(b) structure; (c) principles of action; (d) interests; (e) constituency; (f) needs;
(g) ethno-cultural dimensions; (h) control of population and territory (Annex I).
HUMANITARIAN PARTNERS IN NEGOTIATIONS
One or more lead negotiators should be identified who should act as the primary
representative(s) of humanitarian agencies.
The humanitarian negotiations and their underlying humanitarian objectives
should remain distinct from political and other negotiations.
Humanitarian agencies (especially those within the UN system) should agree on
the process and intended outcome of the negotiations.
Points to Remember (continued)
Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
25
3 Framing the Negotiations
3.1 Overview
Humanitarian principles, humanitarian policies and international law provide a framework
and source of guidance for humanitarian negotiations with armed groups. They can be potent
tools for humanitarian negotiators to: (i) dene boundaries within which to seek agreement;
(ii) assist in generating options for consideration during negotiations; (iii) provide reference
benchmarks for evaluation of options and monitoring implementation; (iv) frame the legal
obligations of armed groups; and (v) provide incentives for armed groups to negotiate.
This chapter briey reviews humanitarian principles, humanitarian policies, and relevant
provisions of international law, and suggests practical ways in which they can guide humanitarian
negotiations with armed groups.
3.2 Humanitarian Principles Underlying Negotiations With Armed Groups
Humanitarian negotiations are a tool to enable, facilitate and sustain humanitarian action, and
therefore they must be undertaken in accordance with the three core principles of humanity,
neutrality and impartiality that underpin all humanitarian action (Box 1).
17
Box 1 - Fundamental principles of humanitarian action
Humanity: Human suffering must be addressed wherever it is found, with particular
attention to the most vulnerable in the population, such as children, women and the
elderly. The dignity and rights of all victims must be respected and protected.
Neutrality: Humanitarian assistance must be provided without engaging in hostilities
or taking sides in controversies of a political, religious or ideological nature.
Impartiality: Humanitarian assistance must be provided without discriminating as
to ethnic origin, gender, nationality, political opinions, race or religion. Relief of the
suffering must be guided solely by needs and priority must be given to the most urgent
cases of distress.
These three fundamental principles have their origins in operational humanitarian practice,
and are reected to varying degrees in the Charter of the United Nations, International
Humanitarian Law, and International Human Rights Law. These principles have also been
17
The guiding principles of humanity, neutrality and impartiality were adopted by the United Nations General
Assembly in resolution 46/182 (19 December 1991).
Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
26
incorporated into voluntary codes of conduct and organizational mission statements guiding
humanitarian agencies and donors.
18
Additional principles complementing these three core tenets of humanitarian action include:
Dignity; Respect for Culture and Custom; Do No/Less Harm; Operational Independence;
Sustainability; Participation; Accountability; Transparency; and Prevention.
19
3.2.1 Using Humanitarian Principles to Frame Humanitarian Negotiations
Humanitarian principles help to frame humanitarian negotiations in three ways:
1. by providing a source of guidance for humanitarian negotiators on how negotiations
should be undertaken;
2. by dening boundaries within which to seek agreement (they set limits to what
humanitarian actors can commit to during negotiations); and
3. by providing a set of criteria for developing options for consideration by the negotiating
parties.
Based on these three modalities, Table 2 suggests ways in which the humanitarian principles
mentioned above can be used to guide the actions of humanitarian negotiators.
Table 2
Humanitarian principles and what they mean for humanitarian negotiations
Humanitarian
principle
What the principle means for humanitarian negotiations
Core Humanitarian Principles
Humanity
Humanitarian negotiators should clearly communicate to the armed
group the paramount interest of their organization(s) as being to
alleviate human suffering;
Armed groups that have limited or no knowledge of the motivations
and objectives driving humanitarian action may be suspicious of the
motives of humanitarian actors. They may believe that assistance is
being provided to opposing groups, or that all the assistance should
go to their group, rather than to civilians that are most in need;
18
See, for example: International Red Cross Movement and NGOs, The Code of Conduct of the International Red
Cross Movement and Non-Governmental Organisations in Disaster Relief (1994). Available through the Steering
Committee for Humanitarian Response (SCHR).
19
These principles are drawn from: The Code of Conduct of the International Red Cross Movement and Non-
Governmental Organisations in Disaster Relief (1999) and OCHA documents on principles and policies for
humanitarian engagement.
Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
27
Humanitarian
principle
What the principle means for humanitarian negotiations
Neutrality Humanitarian negotiations should never endorse, or be perceived to
endorse, a particular political aspiration or objective of the armed group;
Negotiation does not mean acceptance, and humanitarian negotiators
must make clear that by entering into negotiations they are not endorsing
or according any recognition to the armed group;
Impartiality Humanitarian negotiators must not enter into an agreement with the
armed group that would constrain humanitarian action such that it
is no longer delivered on the basis of need alone;
Humanitarian negotiators cannot accept conditions that the armed
group may wish to impose restricting beneciaries of assistance and
protection to those within certain ethnic, political or religious groups;
Additional Principles of Humanitarian Action
Operational
independence
Humanitarian negotiators must ensure that humanitarian actors
retain operational control and direction of humanitarian activities in
any agreed outcome (for example, on issues such as decision-making
regarding beneciaries; modes of assistance etc.);
Participation Wherever possible, the perspectives of the beneciary population
should be incorporated into the substance and process of
negotiation;
In many cases, representatives of groups that humanitarian
organizations seek to assist may be unable to participate directly
in the negotiations, due to logistical constraints; difculties in
identifying legitimate representatives; and security concerns (e.g.
possible reprisals by armed group);
Accountability Humanitarian negotiators and their parent organizations are
accountableto those they seek to assist, to their governing bodies
as well as to their donorsfor any outcomes to which they may agree
in the course of negotiations;
Transparency Humanitarian negotiations should be undertaken in a transparent
manner, with honesty, openness and clarity about the purposes and
objectives of the negotiations. By conducting negotiations in this
way, humanitarians will be less likely to be perceived as being partial
to a particular group.
Table 2 (continued)
Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
28
Humanitarian
principle
What the principle means for humanitarian negotiations
Additional Principles of Humanitarian Action (continued)
Do No/Less
Harm
Humanitarian negotiators should strive to do no harm or to minimize
the harm that may be inadvertently done simply by humanitarians
being present and providing assistance (e.g. where aid is used as an
instrument of war by denying access or attacking convoys).
Humanitarian negotiations, and any agreed outcome between
humanitarian organizations and armed groups, should at a minimum
not cause harm or result in reduced protection of civilians.
Respect for
culture and
custom
Humanitarian negotiators should strive to understand local customs
and traditions to ensure that humanitarian work can be conducted
with respect for local values to the extent that they do not conict
with internationally recognized human rights (e.g. some interventions
require particular sensitivity to local customs, such as dealing with
victims of rape). (See Section 4.4).
Case Study: Two dimensions of impartiality
REDUCTION IN PERCEIVED IMPARTIALITY OF WFP IN ANGOLA: In Angola
during 1993/1994, constraints on access by WFP assessment teams to UNITA-
controlled areas resulted in a greater percentage of food aid being delivered to
government-controlled areas (where WFP had more access). WFP subsequently
faced accusations of impartial delivery of assistance in favor of the government-
controlled areas. UNITA asserted that these areas were better able to withstand
UNITA advances due to the food aid, and this resulted in tensions between UNITA
and WFP, which at times manifested itself in blockage of road convoys and inci-
dents of shooting at aid aircraft.
20
ARMED GROUP PERCEPTION OF IMPARTIALITY: In Colombia, the Autodefensas
Unidas de Colombia (AUC) armed group has expressed criteria for accepting
contacts with humanitarian organizations, which include impartiality, neutrality
and confidentiality. This represents a rather unique example of an armed group
that is well informed of humanitarian principles and monitors the actions of
humanitarian organizations that may wish to engage with the armed group.
21
20
Source: World Food Programme (WFP), Review of WFP Experience in Securing Humanitarian Access:
Compilation of Past Practice (Rome: World Food Program, 22 November 2000).
21
Source: Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (CHD), Humanitarian Engagement with Armed Groups: Colombian
Paramilitary (Geneva: Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, October 2002).
Table 2 (continued)
Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
29
By providing limits beyond which humanitarian negotiators cannot compromise (No Pass
limits), humanitarian principles can actually strengthen the position of the humanitarian
negotiator, enabling him/her to use the principles to set clear limits to the other parties
demands. For this purpose, humanitarian negotiators can invoke the fundamental principles,
and could argue, for example:
Our organization cannot agree to distribute food only to camps under your control,
because, as you know, we provide assistance wherever there is a need
When using humanitarian principles and policies as No Pass limits beyond which humani-
tarian agencies cannot trespass, it is important that humanitarian negotiators communicate
these limits in non-threatening language and tone, and clearly communicate the reasons why
the organization cannot agree to operate outside these principles.
In addition to establishing No Pass limits to negotiations, humanitarian principles provide a
basis for developing options to be considered by parties to the negotiations. Continuing with
the example above, an option for agreement could be presented as follows:
Our organization cannot agree to distribute food only to camps under your control,
because, as you know, we provide assistance wherever there is a need [USE PRINCIPLE
TO DEFINE BOUNDARY]. What we can do, however, is to include the civilians in
those camps in our needs assessment and that will ensure that those most in need in
the camps also can be helped. [USE PRINCIPLE TO GUIDE OPTIONS]
Case Study: Communicating Humanitarian Principles
Regarding Burundi, during a first meeting called by the Henry Dunant Center
in Geneva in 1999, gathering representatives of the Burundian army, opposi-
tion forces and the humanitarian community, it became clear that in order to
gain greater access to populations caught up in conflict zones, humanitarian
agencies should first explain their roles and mandates. Until then, none of the
[warring] parties understood clearly the role or the activities of the humanitar-
ian community or the UN in Burundi. The Burundian army accused the UN of
feeding the rebels, while the opposition forces accused the UN of being too
close to the government and for distributing aid only where the government
dictated. The opportunity to explain the programmes and assert the neutrality
of the international humanitarian community was a key breakthrough in this
meeting.
22
22
Source: World Food Programme (WFP), Review of WFP Experience in Securing Humanitarian Access:
Compilation of Past Practice, 2000.
Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
30
3.3 Elements of International Law Relevant to Humanitarian
Negotiations
In addition to fundamental humanitarian principles, the provisions of international law
including International Humanitarian Law (IHL), International Human Rights Law (IHRL),
and International Criminal Law (especially The Rome Statute of the International Criminal
Court) provide important framing elements for undertaking humanitarian negotiations.
23
This section briey reviews select elements of international law that are most relevant to
humanitarian negotiations with armed groups, and suggests ways in which these legal provisions
can guide humanitarian negotiations.
3.3.1 International Humanitarian Law (IHL)
International Humanitarian Law is a set of rules, codied in legal instruments and/or expressed
in customary norms, that seeks to restrict the means and methods of armed conict, and to
protect civilians and others who are not, or are no longer, participating in hostilities from the
effects of armed conict.
24
International Humanitarian Law applies to situations of international
armed conict (between two or more States) and non-international armed conict (within a
State, and involving non-State armed groups) and binds all parties to an armed conict. It does
not apply in situations of internal disturbance or tension short of armed conict. Moreover,
IHL contains rules that apply to State actors and rules that apply to non-State actors.
International Humanitarian Law consists of treaty-based law and customary international
humanitarian law.
Treaty-based International Humanitarian Law
The legal instruments that make up this body of law include (among others): the Hague
Conventions of 1907; the four Geneva Conventions of 1949; and the two Protocols Additional
to the Geneva Conventions (1977). Treaty-based IHL is based on agreements between States.
The provisions of treaty-based IHL that are most relevant to armed groups (as opposed to
States) engaged in armed conict are Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions of 1949
(see Box 2), and Additional Protocol II of 1977.
25
23
For a practical primer on elements of international law, see: Inter-Agency Standing Committee Task Force
on Humanitarian Action and Human Rights, Frequently Asked Questions on International Humanitarian,
Human Rights and Refugee Law in the Context of Armed Conflict (Geneva: IASC, 2004). Available at:
http://www.humanitarianinfo.org/iasc/.
24
For more information, see: International Committee of the Red Cross, What is International Humanitarian
Law? (ICRC, Geneva, July 2004). Available at: http://www.icrc.org.
25
For more information on the applicability of IHL to armed groups, see: Marco Sassoli, Possible Legal
Mechanisms to Improve Compliance by Armed Groups with International Humanitarian Law and International
Human Rights Law. Paper submitted at the Armed Groups Conference, Vancouver, 13-15 November
2003; Liesbeth Zegveld, Accountability of Armed Opposition Groups in International Law (Cambridge, UK:
Cambridge University Press, 2002).
Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
31
Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions species a number of minimum provisions that each
party to the (non-international) armed conict, including an armed group, is required to uphold.
Common Article 3(2) also includes a provision for special agreements between parties to a non-
international armed conict to bring into effect other provisions of the four Geneva Conventions.
26
The special agreements referred to in this article are bilateral agreements between the parties (e.g.
between an armed group engaged in conict with a State), which could include, for example,
agreements on provision of humanitarian relief to those not or no longer taking part in the conict.
Additional Protocol II (1977) to the Geneva Conventions develops and supplements the
provisions of Common Article 3, and applies to armed conicts which,
take place in the territory of a [state signatory to the Protocol] between its armed forces
and dissident armed forces or other organized armed groups which, under responsible
command, exercise such control over a part of its territory
Additional Protocol II contains provisions relating to humane treatment of those not taking
part in hostilities; care of the sick and wounded; and protection of the civilian population.
Common Article 3 and Additional Protocol II therefore dene criteria for regulating the means
of armed conict and for protecting civilians in relation to non-State armed groups.
Box 2 - Common Article 3 of the Four Geneva Conventions of 1949
In the case of armed conflict not of an international character occurring in the territory
of one of the [Parties to the Four Geneva Conventions] each party to the conflict shall
be bound to apply, as a minimum, the following provisions:
(1) Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces
who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness,
wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated
humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, color, religion or faith,
sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria.
To this end, the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any
place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons:
(a) violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel
treatment and torture;
(b) taking of hostages;
(c) outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading
treatment;
(d) the passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous
judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court, affording all the judicial
guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.
26
For a discussion on the special agreements provision of Common Article 3, see the Commentary to
Convention (IV) relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War. Geneva, 12 August 1949.
Available at: http://www.icrc.org.
Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
32
(2) The wounded and sick shall be collected and cared for.
An impartial humanitarian body, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross,
may offer its services to the Parties to the conflict.
The Parties to the conflict should further endeavour to bring into force, by means of
special agreements, all or part of the other provisions of the present Convention.
The application of the preceding provisions shall not affect the legal status of the
Parties to the conflict.
Customary International Humanitarian Law
Customary international law is the body of rules and norms that emanate from established
practice and the widely-held belief that such practice is warranted as a matter of law.
For example, even if a State is not a signatory to some of the treaties governing conduct of
hostilities in international humanitarian law, the established practice of that State may dictate
that it does not deliberately target infrastructure essential to survival of civilians (e.g. water
treatment plants). Another example of international customary law is the practice of protecting
religious and cultural objects during armed conict.
One of the most salient provisions of customary international humanitarian law as it relates
to situations of armed conict is the so-called Martens Clause, which appeared in earlier
international law treaties and is included in the preamble of Additional Protocol II to the
Geneva Conventions of 1949.
27
This Clause states that:
in cases not covered by the law in force, the human person remains under the protec-
tion of the principles of humanity and the dictates of the public conscience
The implication of this clause and other provisions of customary international humanitarian
law is that the actions of armed groups in times of conicteven if not governed explicitly
by the more formal treaty laware constrained by norms of established practice regarding
protection of those not or no longer engaged in hostilities.
In March 2005, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) published a study of
customary international humanitarian law which aims to overcome some of the challenges
associated with the application of treaty-based international humanitarian law.
28
The study
identies 161 rules of customary international humanitarian law clustered in six subject
areas: (i) principle of distinction; (ii) specically protected persons and objects; (iii) specic
Box 2 continued
27
For more information on the origins, legal interpretation and scope of application of the Martens Clause,
see: Rupert Ticehurst, The Martens Clause and the Laws of Armed Conflict, International Review of the Red
Cross 317 (April 1997) 125--134. Available at: http://www.icrc.org.
28
Source: Jean-Marie Henckaerts and Louise Doswald-Beck, Eds. Customary International Humanitarian Law
[Volumes I & II]. International Committee of the Red Cross (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005).
Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
33
methods of warfare; (iv) weapons; (v) treatment of civilians and persons hors de combat; and
(vi) implementation.
29
The rules are identied as applicable to situations of international armed
conict and/or non-international armed conict.
3.3.2 International Human Rights Law (IHRL)
International human rights law is a body of international law made up of international treaties,
declarations and covenants that dene the universal, interdependent and indivisible entitlements
of individuals. These instrumentsincluding (among others) the Universal Declaration of
Human Rights (1948) and the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights (1966)
and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966)dene obligations of (primarily) States
towards individuals in upholding, fullling and ensuring respect for those rights.
As in the case of international humanitarian law, the treaties and covenants that constitute
international human rights law are signed and ratied by States. While States hold primary
responsibility for safeguarding the human rights of populations within their territories, the
rights themselves are accorded to individuals. An armed group cannot be a party to the
existing human rights treaties/covenants, although individual members of the group can be
held accountable for breaches of human rights norms, either under national law, or under
international law, especially when such breaches also constitute crimes against humanity (see
section on International Criminal Law below).
International human rights law applies both in peacetime and in times of conict, although
States parties to some human rights treaties may exceptionally derogate from certain civil
and political rights under strictly dened circumstances (in a state of public emergency, for
example). There are nevertheless certain rights that can never be suspendednot even in war.
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) provides that the following
rights may never be derogated from:
Right to life (art. 6),
Prohibition of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment punishment (art. 7),
Prohibition of slavery (art. 8, paras. 1 and 2),
Prohibition of imprisonment because of inability to full a contractual obligation
(art. 11),
Prohibition of retroactive application of criminal law (ar t. 15),
Right to recognition as a person before the law (art. 16), and
Freedom of thought, conscience and religion (art. 18).
29
The 161 rules of customary international humanitarian law are listed as an Annex in the following article:
Jean-Marie Henckaerts, Study on Customary International Humanitarian Law: A Contribution to the
Understanding and Respect for the Rule of Law in Armed Conflict, International Review of the Red Cross 87
No. 857 (March 2005).
Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
34
Most human rights treaties, among them the International Covenant on Economic, Social and
Cultural Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its two Optional Protocols
on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography and on the involvement of
children in armed conicts, do not provide for the possibility of derogation at all.
In addition, certain provisions of international human rights law constitute customary law (as
discussed above). Consequently, the norms listed below are considered to be binding on all
States, regardless of whether the State has explicitly consented to be bound by a certain treaty.
These include:
freedom from slavery;
freedom from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment;
freedom from arbitrary deprivation of life;
freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention;
freedom of thought, conscience and religion;
presumption of innocence;
prohibition of executing pregnant women or children;
prohibition of advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred;
prohibition of denial to persons of marriageable age the right to marry; and
prohibition of denial to minorities of the right to enjoy their own culture, profess
their own religion, or use their own language.
3.3.3 International Criminal Law Focus on The Rome Statute of the
International Criminal Court (ICC)
International criminal law is a body of law derived from general principles of international
law, agreements between States on particular aspects of criminal activity, and criminal law
commonly recognized by nation States. It is considered by many as encompassing the interface
between criminal law aspects of international law, and the international or transnational
aspects of national (domestic) criminal law.
Treaty-based international criminal law is codied in agreements such as, The Rome Statute
of the International Criminal Court (1998), The United Nations Convention against
Transnational Organized Crime (2000), and The Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish
Trafcking in Persons, Especially Women and Children (2000). This section focuses on the
Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court as one international criminal law treaty
which has direct and signicant relevance for the conduct and accountability of non-State
armed groups and hence to humanitarian negotiations with these groups.
Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
35
The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court
The International Criminal Court (ICC) is the rst, permanent, international court established
to promote the rule of law and to exercise its jurisdiction over persons for the most serious crimes
of international concern.
30
The Court was established by the Rome Statute of the International
Criminal Court on 17 July 1998, which entered into force on 1 July 2002.
The Rome Statute sets out the Courts jurisdiction, structure and functions. The Statute
contains provisions that apply in peacetime and times of armed conict (e.g. those pertaining to
crimes against humanity), as well as provisions that apply only in situations of international or
non-international armed conicts (e.g. taking of hostages and other war crimes). In situations
of non-international armed conict, the Statute also applies to conicts between armed groups.
Moreover, for armed conicts, the Statute expands on the protections afforded to those not
participating in hostilities under the four Geneva Conventions of 1949.
The Rome Statute and the International Criminal Court are highly relevant to armed groups
participating in conicts, because:
The Rome Statute establishes jurisdiction of the ICC over individual members of
an armed group in situations of non-international armed conict; [Rome Statute,
Articles 1, 8(2)(c)-(f)]
In the context of non-international armed conicts, The Rome Statute denes war crimes
to include, serious violations of Article 3 common to the four Geneva Conventions of
12 August 1949 [Rome Statute, Article 8(2)(c)] and twelve other specic types of actions;
31

[Article 8(2)(e)]
The Rome Statute applies to armed conicts that take place in the territory of a
State where there is protracted conict between either governmental authorities and
organized armed groups or between such groups; [Rome Statute, Article 8(2)(f)]
The ICC can exercise its jurisdiction when either (i) the State on the territory of which
the conduct occurred is a party to the Rome Statute; OR (ii) the State of which the
accused person is a national is a party to the Statute; [Rome Statute, Article 12(2)]
The ICC can also exercise its jurisdiction in situations where the crime of genocide,
crimes against humanity, war crimes or the crime of aggression appear to have been
30
Article 1 of the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. For more information on the
International Criminal Court, see: http://www.icc-cpi.int/.
31
The twelve categories of action covered by Article 8(2)(e) include: (i) attacks against the civilian population;
(ii) attacks against buildings etc, using the distinctive emblems of the Geneva Conventions; (iii) attacks
against humanitarian and peacekeeping personnel/resources; (iv) attacks against religious, charitable and
other types of building; (v) pillaging a town/place; (vi) acts of sexual violence; (vii) conscripting/enlisting
children (< 15 years) in armed groups; (viii) forced displacement of civilians; (ix) Killing or wounding treach-
erously a combatant adversary; (x) declaring that no quarter will be given; (xi) subjecting detainees to physi-
cal mutilation or medical/scientific experiments; (xii) destroying of seizing the property of the adversary.
Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
36
committed in a situation referred to the ICC by the UN Security Council (acting
under Chapter VII of the UN Charter);
32
[Rome Statute, Article 13(b)]
The Rome Statute provides for individual criminal responsibility for members of armed
groups for acts that constitute crimes under the Statute; [Rome Statute, Article 25]
The Rome Statute establishes criminal responsibility of armed group military
commanders for acts dened as crimes under the Statute committed by their
subordinates within the jurisdiction of the ICC [Rome Statute, Article 28].
The Rome Statute and the International Criminal Court can have a powerful deterrent effect
on members of an armed group as they can now be held individually accountable for acts they
commit that constitute crimes under the provisions of the Statute, and within the jurisdiction
of the Court.
However, humanitarian negotiators should be careful not to use, or be seen to use, the
International Criminal Court as a threat to armed groups to advance humanitarian negotiations.
Humanitarian negotiators need to strike a delicate balance between identifying actions of the
armed group that may constitute crimes under the Rome Statute, and being seen to act as
agents of the ICC.
3.3.4 Additional Legal Provisions Relevant to Armed Groups
In addition to the provisions of IHL, IHRL and international criminal law, there are additional
legal provisions and judicial entities of which humanitarian negotiators should be aware in
terms of their relevance to the conduct and accountability of armed groups. Some of these
provisions/entities are summarized in Table 3 on the opposite page .
3.3.5 Using International Law to Frame Humanitarian Negotiations
International law helps to guide humanitarian negotiations by:
1. Dening boundaries within which to seek agreement;
2. Framing the legal obligations of armed groups concerning the conduct of hostilities
and the protection of civilians;
3. Identifying the substantive issues for negotiation, and providing an entry point for
discussion on these issues;
4. Providing reference benchmarks for evaluation of options and monitoring
implementation;
5. Providing incentives to armed groups to negotiate.
32
For example, in its resolution 1593 (2005) the UN Security Council, acting under Chapter VII of the Charter
of the United Nations, referred the situation in Darfur to the Prosecutor of the ICC.
Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
37
Table 3
Summary of additional legal provisions and entities that are relevant to the
conduct and accountability of armed groups
Legal provision/entity Observations/What humanitarian negotiators
should be aware of
Accountability of individual
members of armed group for their
behaviour
It is established legal practice that individual
members of armed groups can be held
accountable for war crimes, crimes against
humanity and genocide;
War crimes, crimes against
humanity and genocide must be
excluded from amnesty provisions
and amnesty legislation, regard-
less of the perpetrator
UN Peace Agreements are not permitted to
include amnesty provisions for core international
crimes. Those who commit or support the
commission of war crimes, crimes against
humanity or genocide must be held accountable,
whether nationally or internationally;
International Criminal Tribunals
of Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and
Rwanda (ICTR)
These Tribunals have helped to clarify aspects of
international law pertaining to the accountability
of armed groups, including the criminal liability
of those aiding and abetting serious violations
of IHL; responsibility of a superior for actions
of subordinates; consideration of acts of terror
as crimes against humanity; and the concept of
territorial occupation in IHL;
33

Non-judicial reconciliation
commissions and quasi-judicial
traditional dispute resolution
mechanisms
Truth Commissions or Truth and Re-
conciliation Commissions have been used
as non-judicial fora for perpetrators of large-
scale violence to acknowledge their actions
and for victims to be recognized (e.g. South
Africa). Similarly, traditional dispute resolution
processes may also be relied on for this purpose
(e.g. quasi-judicial Rwandan gacaca);
33
These clarifications to aspects of international law are described in detail in: United Nations Economic and Social
Council, Commission on Human Rights, Promotion and Protection of Human Rights: Fundamental Standards of
Humanity, (Report of the Secretary-General), UN Document ref. E/CN.4/2004/90 25 February 2004.
Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
38
1. Defining boundaries within which to seek agreement
International law helps to set the boundaries within which humanitarian negotiators
can work to seek agreement with armed groups. The process and any outcome of
humanitarian negotiations must be in coherence with IHL, IHRL and international
criminal law.
Even though armed groups cannot be parties to many of the treaty-based elements of
international law, humanitarian negotiations should seek to secure agreement on
recognition and/or support by the armed group for the principles and spirit underlying
international law.
Case Study: Support for International Law in Agreement with SPLM
on Ground Rules
The agreement on Ground Rules for delivery of humanitarian assistance and
protection of civilians agreed between Operation Lifeline Sudan and the Sudan
Peoples Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) in 1995 included in the preamble
an explicit expression of support for elements of international humanitarian law
and international human rights law:
34
In signing this agreement, we [OLS and SPLM/A] express our support for the
following international conventions and their principles, namely:
i. Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989.
ii. Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the 1977 Protocols additional to the Geneva
Conventions.
2. Framing the legal obligations of armed groups concerning their conduct of hostilities
and the protection of civilians
The provisions of international humanitarian law that relate to the actions of armed
groups in times of non-international armed conict constitute the legal basis for
holding these groups accountable in cases where they fail to fulll their duties and
obligations under international law.
To the extent that some of these rules of customary international humanitarian law
pertaining to situations of non-international armed conict (for example, as listed in
the ICRC study on customary international humanitarian law) extend into areas not
explicitly covered in treaty-based international law, they can also assist in framing the
obligations of armed groups.
34
For more information on the OLS-SPLM/A Ground Rules Agreement, and the text of the Agreement itself,
see: Mark Bradbury, Nicholas Leader and Kate Mackintosh, The Agreement on Ground Rules in South Sudan
Study 3 in: The Politics of Principle: the principles of humanitarian action in practice] HPG Report 4 (London:
Overseas Development Institute-HPG, March 2000).
Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
39
Humanitarian negotiators should ensure that armed groups are aware of their duties
and obligations under international law. In communicating the responsibilities of the
armed groups, humanitarian negotiators should take care that this is not perceived by
the armed group as a threat. Nonetheless, humanitarian negotiators should not give
the impression that by entering into negotiations the group members will be absolved
or exempt from being held accountable for past, ongoing or future abuses of human
rights and breaches of international humanitarian law.
Humanitarian negotiators frequently feel that they are the weak party in negotiations
with armed groups. However, the provisions of international law and the demonstrated
willingness of the UN Security Council, international legal courts and tribunals to hold
armed groups accountable for their actions can strengthen the position of humanitarian
actors during negotiations.
3. Identifying the substantive issues for negotiation, and providing an entry point for
discussion on these issues
International law can provide a basis for identifying the issues upon which the
humanitarian negotiations will focus. For example, the humanitarian negotiators could
draw on Common Article 3 and Additional Protocol II of the Four Geneva Conventions
of 1949 and customary rules of international law to catalogue issues upon which to secure
agreement, including: humanitarian access; protection of those not taking part in conict;
care of wounded and sick, etc.
Depending on the particular context, certain provisions of international law can provide
an entry point for negotiations with an armed group. There may be particular issues on
which the armed group may be more willing to negotiate. For example, negotiations
on protection of children from induction into the armed group may provide a starting
point for discussion on a range of other issues (e.g. prevention of sexual exploitation of
girls). This does not in any way suggest a hierarchy of provisions of international law,
but rather seeks to assist in building a foundation for ongoing negotiations.
4. Providing reference benchmarks for evaluation of options and monitoring implementation
International law provides a set of criteriaindependent from both parties to the
negotiationsagainst which to evaluate options for agreement and implementation
of any negotiated outcome. For example, the Convention on the Rights of the Child
(CRC, 1989) denes the special protections afforded to children over and above those
contained in other human rights treaties. These rights, and measures of the degree
to which they are being fullled (such as the UN Common Country Assessment
Indicator Framework), provide reference benchmarks for monitoring implementation
of an agreement, for example to facilitate humanitarian access for the purposes of
immunizing children in a given area.
Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
40
5. Providing incentives to armed groups to negotiate
Some armed groups may have aspirations to pursue political approaches to achieving
their objectives (whether in parallel with or following an approach based on the use
of force). In these cases, armed groups may be more sensitive to the perception of
the group among national and international actors. If an armed group is ghting
for territorial autonomy with a view to establishing a State in the future, the group
may be more attuned to the need to respect international human rights law (even
though they are not a party to any international human rights treaty). For example,
in dealing with international aid agencies, the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) always
portrayed themselves as freedom ghters or liberators. In anticipation of the post-
war phase, the KLA was actively working to cultivate a positive image of the group
among members of the international community, and therefore had a strong incentive
to facilitate humanitarian assistance and abide by international human rights norms.
Armed groups may perceive compliance with international legal norms as enhancing
their credibility and their own perceived legitimacy with internal or external audiences,
including their own diasporas.
Armed groups may fear reduction in economic and/or military support if they are found
to be acting in breach of international law.
In using elements of international law to frame negotiations with armed groups, humanitarian
organizations should be aware that the issue of whether a State of armed conict exists may be
contested or subject to interpretation. A State may argue that the situation in its territory does
not constitute an armed conict, but rather an internal disturbance, leading to the assertion
that the relevant provisions of IHL are not applicable. Moreover, a State may claim or declare
a state of emergency, which would permit it to derogate from certain human rights (albeit in
certain limited circumstances; See Section 3.3.2).
In these cases, humanitarian organizations should develop a clear understanding of the
provisions of IHL and IHRL that apply in the particular context, drawing on legal expertise as
required, prior to entering into the negotiations.
3.4 Translating Principles into Practice: Humanitarian Policies
Humanitarian policies assist in translating humanitarian principles and legal provisions
into an operational setting, generally focusing on a particular area of humanitarian action.
Humanitarian policies contextualize the core principles mentioned above, and elaborate
options for humanitarian action that adhere to those principles. Two examples of humanitarian
policies in particular areas are:
On the issue of civil-military relations: IASC Reference Paper on Civil-Military
Relationship in Complex Emergencies (28 June 2004);
Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
41
On the issue of internally-displaced persons: IASC Document: Implementing
the Collaborative Response to Situations of Internal Displacement: Guidance for UN
Humanitarian and/or Resident Coordinators and Country Teams (2004); and OCHA
Handbook for Applying the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement (1999);
In general these types of policy documents define the scope of humanitarian opera-
tions in a particular area.
3.4.1 Using Humanitarian Policies to Frame Humanitarian Negotiations
While many of the existing humanitarian policy documents do not relate specically to actions
of armed groups, they nonetheless provide a source of options for humanitarian negotiators
to consider in undertaking negotiations with armed groups. For example, elements of the
guidelines on civil-military relations that generally relate to ofcial military forces can also
provide useful insight into the limits of interaction with armed groups (as another type of
military actor).
Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
42
Points to RememberFraming the Negotiations
Humanitarian principles, policies and international law provide a framework and
source of guidance for humanitarian negotiations with armed groups.
HUMANITARIAN PRINCIPLES
Three core humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality and impartiality;
Additional principles: Dignity; Respect for Culture and Custom; Do No/Less
Harm; Independence; Sustainability; Participation; Accountability; Transparency;
and Prevention.
These principles guide humanitarian negotiations by: (1) providing a source of
guidance for humanitarian negotiators on how negotiations should be undertaken;
(2) defining boundaries within which to seek agreement; and (3) providing a set of
criteria for developing options for consideration by the negotiating parties.
INTERNATIONAL LAW RELEVANT TO HUMANITARIAN NEGOTIATIONS
International Humanitarian Law (IHL) applies to situations of armed conflict
(international and non-international); includes treaty-based and customary inter-
national humanitarian law.
Armed groups are not party to international humanitarian law treaties, however,
IHL binds all parties to an armed conflict, State and non-State actors. Common
Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 specifies a number of minimum
provisions that the parties to an internal armed conflict, including armed groups,
are required to uphold (see Box 2).
Customary international humanitarian law is the body of rules and norms that
emanate from established State practice and the widely-held belief that such
practice is warranted as a matter of law.
International human rights law (IHRL) applies in peacetime as well as in conflict;
Defines rights of individuals and duties and obligations of States (primarily) to
safeguard and fulfill those rights; International human rights treaties are adopted
by States.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) is the first international court estab-
lished to promote the rule of law and to exercise its jurisdiction over persons for
the most serious crimes. The Court was established by the Rome Statute of the
ICC in July 1998.
The Rome Statute establishes jurisdiction of the ICC over individual members of
an armed group; It defines war crimes to include, serious violations of Article 3
common to the four Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and provides for
Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
43
Points to remember (continued)
individual criminal responsibility for members of armed groups for acts that consti-
tute crimes under the Statute.
The ICC can exercise its jurisdiction when either (a) the State on the territory of
which the conduct occurred is a party to the Rome Statute; OR (b) the State of
which the accused person is a national is a party to the Statute.
International law guides humanitarian negotiations by: (1) defining boundaries
within which to seek agreement; (2) framing the legal obligations of armed groups;
(3) identifying the substantive issues for negotiation; providing an entry point for
discussion on these issues; (4) providing reference benchmarks for evaluation of
options and monitoring implementation; and (5) providing incentives to armed
groups to negotiate.
HUMANITARIAN POLICIES
Humanitarian policies assist in translating and implementing humanitarian princi-
ples and legal provisions into an operational setting, generally focusing on a particu-
lar area of humanitarian action (e.g. guidelines on civil-military relations, IDPs).
Humanitarian policies can guide humanitarian negotiations by broadening the range
of options that parties to the negotiations can consider as a basis for agreement.
[ blank page keep for double-sided copies ]
Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
45
4 Working Towards More Effective Negotiations
4.1 Overview
When humanitarian negotiations with armed groups are planned and carried out in an
unstructured or ad hoc manner they increase the risk that:
1. these groups will attempt to play off humanitarian actors against each other;
2. the negotiations will result in sub-optimal agreements;
3. the armed group may be less willing to enter into negotiations and reach agreement in
the future; and,
4. delivery of humanitarian protection and assistance to those in need will face increased
constraints because of the factors listed above.
This chapter suggests practical steps for humanitarian organizations to guide and enhance
their negotiations with armed groups. The guidelines presented here constitute a framework
or template for a more structured, consistent approach to negotiations with armed groups.
Humanitarian organizations can adapt this template to the particular negotiation or operational
setting.
Moreover, the guidance presented here aims to increase the effectiveness of humanitarian
negotiations with armed groups. More effective negotiations are those that achieve better
humanitarian outcomes, optimize the time spent negotiating with armed groups, and build
long-term relationships with armed groups.
These guidelines are presented across three phases of negotiation: preparation, seeking
agreement and implementation. This chapter also briey explores issues concerning the
different modes of negotiation (direct, indirect, written, oral) and inter-cultural aspects of
negotiation, concluding with suggested actions to be considered if the negotiations break
down.
4.2 Three Phases of Humanitarian Negotiation: A Step-by-Step Guide
The approach to humanitarian negotiations with armed groups presented here consists
of nine steps, spanning three phases of negotiation: preparation; seeking agreement and
implementation. The rst preparatory phase is undertaken by the humanitarian negotiators,
while the second and third phases of negotiation require the participation of both the
humanitarian and armed group parties to the negotiations.
Before presenting the three phases of humanitarian negotiation, this section provides some
observations and guidance on making contact with the armed group.
Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
46
4.2.1 Making Contact with the Armed Group and the Role of
Intermediaries
During or following the preparation phase of negotiations, humanitarian organizations will
need to initiate contact with the armed group. If contact has already been established for
some other type of engagement, the organization can use existing modes of communication to
express its interest in entering into a dialogue with the armed group on certain issues.
When there has not been prior contact with the armed group, initial contact is often best
facilitated by intermediaries, especially if the humanitarian organization(s) seeking negotiations
are not known to the armed group, or if they do not have a history of operational activities in the
country/region. Intermediaries can include church representatives/groups, other humanitarian
organizations with existing contacts with the group, community or tribal leaders, or business
persons.
The use of intermediaries to initiate contact with armed groups as a precursor to humanitarian
negotiations should be guided by the following considerations:
It is important to establish the history and extent of the intermediarys interactions
with the armed group, and (where possible) the perception of the intermediary in the
eyes of the armed group;
Ideally, the role of the intermediary at this early stage should be to facilitate the process
of the negotiations, and not to begin discussions on the substance of the negotiations;
Case Study: Exploring Options for Initiating Contact with LRA in
Northern Uganda on a Range of Humanitarian Issues
Excerpt from interview with UN Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs,
Jan Egeland in November 2003:
35
Q: Do you think that the Lords Resistance Army (LRA) can be positively engaged
in a process that could bring the conflict to a peaceful and permanent conclu-
sion? If LRA leader Joseph Kony is unwilling to negotiate, what then?
A: There have been a number of initiatives in recent years and they have not
borne fruition, for a variety of reasons, and certainly it is not within my mandate
to suggest or initiate new political initiatives. However, through our humanitar-
ian staff, we will try to reach out on humanitarian issues, such as humanitarian
access, security for humanitarian operations and convoys, protection of civilian
populations, and demobilization and reintegration of child soldiers. And it remains
to be seen which channels we can use to send these messages to the LRA. We
are already in full contact with the government. But as for the LRA, it is more dif-
ficult. However, we have been speaking to community leaders and others who
have regular contact with them.
35
UN Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN) interview with UN Under-Secretary General Jan
Egeland in Nairobi, 12 November 2003. http://www.irinnews.org.
Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
47
Intermediate church or community groups from the same religious or ethnic group
as the armed group, or from the same region, can often more easily facilitate contact
through shared afnities or mutual connections;
Intermediaries that have had prior interactions with an armed group can be an
extremely useful source of knowledge on the armed group and its negotiators.
4.2.2 Nine Steps for Humanitarian Negotiations
The nine steps presented here provide a generic framework which can be applied to humani-
tarian negotiations on a range of issues. This step-by-step approach is summarized in Figure 1
(see page 51).
Phase I
PREPARATION >>
Coordinate Approach, Decide on Strategy, and Gather
Information
1: Coordinate Approach With Humanitarian Partners
Coordinate and liaise with humanitarian partners on overall approach to humani-
tarian negotiations with the armed group(s), including, for example, by pooling the
negotiating interests of various agencies consistent with their mandates, or agreeing
on mutually complementary sectoral negotiations.
36
[Section 2.5, Humanitarian
Partners in Negotiations]
From the outset, coordination of the approach to humanitarian negotiations should
involve a humanitarian security advisor to ensure that the intended negotiation
process is developed in accordance with the relevant security guidelines. [Section 1.5,
Humanitarian Negotiations and Staff Security Policies, Procedures]
Identify by consensus a senior-level, experienced lead negotiator. This will depend
also on the approach to be taken (lead negotiating agency, pooling of agency interests,
sectoral approach, etc.)
2: Decide on Objectives and Strategy
Clearly identify the reasons for entering into negotiations and the desired outcome(s);
Identify whether there are ways, other than through negotiation, to achieve the same
outcomes. [Section 2.2, Being Clear About Reasons for Negotiating]
Use humanitarian principles, policies and elements of international law outlined in
Chapter 3 (Framing the Negotiations) as the basis for identifying a bottom line
36
These suggestions for a coordinated approach to humanitarian negotiations are drawn from the 2001 Report
of the UN Secretary-General on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict. United Nations Security Council,
Report of the Secretary-General to the Security Council on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict,
UN Document ref. S/2001/331 (New York: United Nations, 30 March 2001).
Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
48
the least favorable option which humanitarian negotiators can still agree to, or the
furthest extent of compromise possible for reaching agreement;
Ensure that the various humanitarian, development and human rights agencies have
achieved consensus on the objectives of the negotiation.
Consider possible alternatives to a negotiated agreement that could be pursued in the
event that the negotiations are unsuccessful.
3: Learn About, Analyze Your Negotiating Partner
Identify the main representatives/interlocutors from the armed group; If not a
member of the senior leadership of the armed group, the designated interlocutor
should be a representative of the armed group. Opportunistic local commanders
may attempt to leverage their position within the armed group by promoting
themselves as representing the senior leadership.
Learn about the armed groups motivations; structure; principles of action; interests;
constituency; needs; cultural and ethnic inuences. Assess the level of control exerted
by the armed group over a given population/territory. [Section 2.4, Learning About
the Armed Groups]
Use the worksheet included as an Annex to this manual to summarize the characteristics
of the armed group. [Annex I Worksheet for Mapping Characteristics of Armed
Groups].
Do not assume that the good assessment of the armed group that you have done
in one place is automatically valid in another place, even just 40 or 50 kilometers
away. Personalities, agendas and the balance of power within the armed group may
change dramatically even over short distances.
(Quote from interview with UNICEF staff member)
Case Study: When Lack of a Common Position Among Humanitarian
Agencies can be Detrimental
In dealing with the warring parties, humanitarian officials in Bosnia often failed to
present a united front. On the contrary, they often undermined and contradicted
each other. Approaches taken by different staff depended largely on which side
of the front line they were based. For example, those based in Bosnian Serb
areas were often far more sympathetic to the Serb positions than those in Bosnian
government areas. Unfortunately, differing points of view on the way in which the
humanitarian operation should be conducted were not reconciled. This led to
inconsistency at the negotiating table and was invariably exploited by the war-
ring parties.
Source: Based on interviews with UNHCR staff members.
Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
49
Phase II
SEEKING AGREEMENT >>
Process, Issues, Options, Outcomes
The next four steps in the process of negotiation are undertaken during the actual face-to-
face interactions with the armed group.
4: Build Consensus on the Process of Negotiations
As a precursor to discussing issues of substance, work to build consensus among all
parties to the negotiation on how the process of negotiation should unfold. This could
include, for example, agreement on the primary and alternate representatives from
each party, the location to be used for the negotiations, the number of meetings to be
held, enabling conditions for the negotiations (what each party will do to provide an
environment conducive for negotiations).
Agree on procedures for revising the process during the negotiations.
5: Identify the Issues
Once there is agreement between the parties on the process of negotiation, work to
identify the substantive issues to be discussed. Different parties may see the issues
very differently. For example, in negotiations to facilitate better participation of girls
in the post-primary education system, humanitarian and human rights organizations
may view the issue as one of fullling the human rights of the girls, while a particular
armed group may view it purely as a cultural or religious issue.
Focus on the issues to be negotiated without casting judgment on the armed groups
perspectives on the issue.
6: Develop Options
Once the issues to be negotiated are agreed upon, develop options as the basis for
possible agreement. Use humanitarian principles, international law and humanitarian
policies both to assist in developing options and as criteria for evaluating the available
options [Chapter 3, Framing the Negotiations].
Humanitarian and armed group negotiators can develop options jointly by
brainstorming ideas and identifying possible outcomes acceptable to both parties.
Keep in mind that the options being developed should all be betterin terms of
fullling the humanitarian objectives of the negotiationsthan the alternatives
considered in advance of the negotiations.
37

37
The work of Roger Fisher and colleagues identifies the concept of a BATNA or Best Alternative to a
Negotiated Agreement. If a negotiators BATNA is better than any of the options on the negotiating table,
then the best route may be for the negotiator to turn to his/her BATNA. See: Roger Fisher and William Ury,
Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In 2nd Edition (New York: Penguin Books, 1991).
Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
50
7: Work to Seek Agreement on the Option(s) that Best Meet Humanitarian
Objectives
Humanitarian negotiations differ from many other types of negotiations because the
parties to the negotiations have different core interests: armed groups want to achieve
certain political, economic or military objectives and humanitarian agencies want to
protect and assist those in need. Some approaches to negotiation focus on solutions
that maximize the interests of both parties. However, for humanitarian negotiators, the
primary objective of the negotiations must be to arrive at the best humanitarian outcome,
not necessarily to reach an outcome which best serves the interests of both parties.
Humanitarian negotiators should evaluate options under consideration during the
negotiations using criteria for determining likely humanitarian impact (for example,
the indicators used to evaluate humanitarian program impact).
Phase III
IMPLEMENTATION >>
Define Criteria for Implementation, Follow-up
8: Define Criteria for Implementation
Once an outcome or solution has been agreed upon by the humanitarian negotiators
and the armed group, negotiations should focus on dening criteria for implementation
of the outcome. Such criteria include: specication of roles and timeframe (who does
what, when); reference benchmarks against which to measure implementation;
safeguards for the safety and security of humanitarian workers; and procedures for
resolution of disputes arising during the implementation (described in more detail in
Section 6.4).
9: Follow-up: Monitoring and Relationship Building
Identify mechanisms to facilitate joint monitoring of implementation.
Identify process-related actions that will help to maintain communications with
the armed group, such as regular meetings to review implementation. These actions
should aim to build on the relationship developed throughout negotiation.
4.3 Different Modes of Negotiation: Oral, Written, Direct, Indirect
Each instance of humanitarian negotiations requires consideration of the best approach
(direct or indirect) and medium (oral or written) given the particular context. In many cases,
a combination of approaches and media may be required.
To assist in deciding how best to employ these approaches and media, humanitarian negotiators
should consider the following points.
Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
51
START HERE
See Section 2.5
See Section 2.2
See Sections 2.3, 2.4
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CONSIDER ALTERNATIVES TO
NEGOTIATION:
Advocacy
[Indirectly] gather political support;
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community and re-approach
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Figure 1Summary of 3 phases, 9 steps in humanitarian negotiations
Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
52
4.3.1 Direct versus Indirect Negotiation
Direct negotiation with the armed group helps to foster personal relationships that can
assist in building consensus and securing agreement. Direct negotiation can help to build
trust and respect between negotiating parties, and a strong relationship can bring personal
commitment to ensuring implementation of an agreed outcome. In many instances, strong
personal relationships can overcome differences on substantive issues.
Indirect negotiations using an intermediary can leverage the negotiating experience and
contacts of that intermediate organization, and can free up resources (such as personnel,
logistics, time) within a delegating humanitarian organization to enable it to focus on other
aspects of its humanitarian work.
In using an intermediate negotiator (often called an agent), humanitarian organizations
must ensure that the intermediary shares the humanitarian motivations, ethos and
interests of the delegating organization. Intermediate agents bring their own interests to
the negotiations, and the delegating agency must ensure that its interests are adequately
represented in the negotiations.
Building a relationship with the armed group and maintaining direct control of the
negotiating strategy are two factors that suggest direct negotiations with armed groups
are preferable to indirect negotiations. However, humanitarian organizations may wish
to consider entering into indirect humanitarian negotiations when: (1) political or
security concerns favor indirect negotiations with the armed group; (2) the intermediary
humanitarian organization has ongoing negotiations/contacts with the armed groups
and can effectively represent the organizations interests; and (3) the intermediary has
experienced negotiators available to lead the process.
Case Study: Personal Relationships Can be a Double-Edged Sword
Personal relationships developed between humanitarian negotiators and their
armed group counterparts can bring both advantages and disadvantages.
In Bosnia, some UN humanitarian agencies invested considerable time and
energy in building relationships with local authorities and other groups. Because
of the friendships that developed as a result of these interactions, in some cases
humanitarian organizations became reluctant to challenge the authorities/groups
as they otherwise might have; The value of future interactions shaped the extent
to which the humanitarian agency would push achieve a particular outcome.
(Source: Based on example provided by UNHCR.)
4.3.2 Oral and Written Communications
Humanitarian negotiators can employ a combination of oral and written communications
in advance of, during and following humanitarian negotiations. While written statements
of negotiating process for example, statements of intent (to negotiate)may be useful
Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
53
tools to keep the process of negotiations on track, the benets of such agreements need
to be balanced with the time investment required to jointly develop them, and to secure
agreement on them with the armed group.
Written communications bring signicant added value when it comes to concluding an
agreement. Many armed groups will be reluctant to sign on to any written agreement.
However, a written agreement has the potential to capture unambiguously the scope
and objectives of the agreement; the obligations of each party; and mechanisms for
implementation, dispute resolution and enforcement.
Written agreements can also assist in communicating the substance of the agreed outcome
to members of the armed group, to other armed groups and to other humanitarian
partners.
When drafting a written agreement two options present themselves: negotiators can
either use a single text method, or can compile a document working from two draft
agreements that are developed separately by the parties. Using the single text approach,
the negotiating parties work together on a single text and include inputs and concerns
simultaneously or sequentially. The benet of a single text method is that it gathers the
concerns/provisions of both parties in a single document, and allows for quick review of
the provisions suggested by the other party.
Case Study: Benefits of Written Agreement in Somalia
Although Somali is basically not a written language, and the drafting and sign-
ing of agreements is not part of the tradition of the Somali people, humanitarian
negotiators did manage in a few cases to have faction leaders sign up to writ-
ten documents. Referring to those was very useful, particularly concerning the
demand for taxes which kept coming back over and over again.
(Source: UNICEF.)
4.4 The Role of Culture in Humanitarian Negotiations
In the context of humanitarian negotiations, culture has been dened as the socially transmitted
values, beliefs and symbols that are more or less shared by members of a social group.
38
These values,
beliefs and symbols, and their expression or utilization, can be powerful inuencing factors in
humanitarian negotiations.
Some of the facets of culture that can inuence humanitarian negotiations with armed groups
include:
Differences in cultural norms regarding social and formal communications and conduct
of meetings;
38
Avruch, Kevin, Culture as Context, Culture as Communication: Considerations for Humanitarian
Negotiators, Harvard Negotiation Law Review 391 (Spring 2004).
Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
54
Differences in cultural perspectives on substantive issues being considered;
Cultural precepts that may shape the behaviour of negotiating parties (bargaining;
honor; commitment to an agreement, etc.);
Cultural views of authority, gender and social standing;
Disparities between cultural beliefs, customary law and international law.
To mitigate the potential for cultural inuences and considerations to complicate humanitarian
negotiations with armed groups, humanitarian negotiators should:
1. Learn about the cultural background of the armed group and armed group negotiator.
Dont assume a particular cultural stereotype, as most parties come to the table with
a variety of cultural inuences, not only the most widely perceived or expected ones.
Dont assume that the armed group knows your organizations cultural inuences, either;
exchange and share this type of information, rather than assuming it;
2. Be aware of cultural sensitivities associated with the process of negotiation. Dont expect
the armed group to approach the process of negotiating with the same cultural viewpoint;
3. Identify possible areas of cultural differences that may impact on the substance of the
negotiations. These differences may include, for example, cultural views on the role of
women and children in society;
4. Be respectful of the other partys cultural perspectives without diminishing your
humanitarian argument during the negotiation. Respecting the other partys perspective
does not mean that the humanitarian negotiator has to agree with it, or let it override
the humanitarian objectives of the negotiations;
5. Identify cultural similarities as a foundation for bridging cultural differences.
4.5 What to do if Negotiations Fail to Converge or if They Break Down
Clearly not all negotiations lead to an agreed outcome. Humanitarian negotiations may fail
to converge on a shared perspective or agreed outcome, or may break down completely. This
section provides guidance for humanitarian negotiators in such situations.
The Taliban are in fact the children of the Afghan countryside. A lot of their cultural and
behavioural reflexestheir behaviour vis--vis women and children, for instanceare
in fact archaic elements of a culture very deeply rooted in the society, and this was often
overlooked by the Western negotiators.
(Quote from interview with UNICEF staff member)
Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
55
Review Strategy, Confirm Issues and Develop More Options
When the negotiations fail to converge, humanitarian negotiators should re-assess the strategy
being used. Perhaps a different line of argument or a more forceful expression of the legal
obligations of the armed group is required. Humanitarian negotiators should also conrm with
the armed group that the issues have not changed during the negotiations. Development of
more options for both parties to consider may also provide new space for agreement.
Case Study: Persistence by Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS) in humani-
tarian negotiations pays off.
In September 1997, for the first time in the history of OLS, both the Government
of Sudan and the SPLA agreed, in principle, to allow OLS to access rebel-con-
trolled areas of the Nuba Mountains. However, negotiations on access modalities
halted in November. Despite this setback, OLS continued to push both sides to
reach agreement on a means for OLS to assess the needs of the populations in
the area. The UN was finally able to send an inter-agency assessment team in the
Nuba mountains mid-2000.
(Source: WFP.)
Keep Open Alternatives on Substance
Even before entering into negotiations, humanitarian actors should consider what alternatives
are available to their organization in the event that the negotiations are unsuccessful in
fullling the desired objectives, or collapse completely. These may not be good alternatives, but
they must be considered.
Try Building on the Process
If the negotiations reach an impasse on the substantive issues being discussed, humanitarian
negotiators can suggest changes in the negotiation process that may provide some space for
additional consideration of the substance by the armed group. Continuing with the process provides
additional opportunities for dialogue during which the substantive issues might be resolved.
Explore Alternative Approaches to Negotiations and Engagement
In the event that negotiations with the armed groups collapse, humanitarian negotiators
should consider alternative approaches to achieve the desired humanitarian outcome, or to
bring about an environment more conducive to successful humanitarian negotiations. These
process alternatives include:
Working indirectly through UN political representatives to gather political support
in the country, and externallyfor the humanitarian negotiations;
Indirect negotiation through an intermediary with previous or ongoing contacts with
the armed group;
Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
56
Making renewed approaches to more senior leaders in the armed group;
Gathering broader support for humanitarian negotiations within the humanitarian
community in the country/region, and conducting negotiations through a coalition of
humanitarian organizations; and
Engaging in public and/or private advocacy efforts to inuence the armed group and
its supporters.
Dont Burn Bridges
When negotiations fail to converge or if they break down completely, it is important that
humanitarian negotiators do not make any statements or take actions that could preclude
future negotiations or interactions with the armed group.
Reinforce Lines of Communication
Even if negotiations threaten to break down completely, humanitarian negotiators should keep
open and indeed reinforce lines of communication between the parties. It is precisely when
negotiations are not going well, that lines of communication need to be maintained.
4.6 Linkages Across Different Levels of Negotiation with Armed Groups
Humanitarian negotiations with armed groups can take place at global, regional, national and
local levels. The guidance provided in this chapter is applicable to all these levels of negotiation.
However, humanitarian negotiators should be aware of the opportunities to leverage ongoing
negotiations and existing agreements at other levels, or in other contexts, to assist in securing
an agreed outcome.
A good example of the potential for leveraging the linkages between global and local level
negotiations/agreements lies in the Deed of Commitment for Adherence to a Total Ban on Anti-
Personnel Mines and For Cooperation in Mine Action.
39
The Deed of Commitment is a mechanism
developed by the NGO Geneva Call to engage armed groups in an agreement to prohibit
them from using, manufacturing, stockpiling, or transferring anti-personnel landmines. As of
December 2004, 26 armed groups had signed the Deed of Commitment. This instrument,
once signed by an armed group, is deposited with the Government of the Canton of Geneva.
It includes in its preamble:
Accepting that international humanitarian law and human rights apply to and oblige all
parties to armed conflicts;
Reaffirming our determination to protect the civilian population from the effects or
dangers of military actions, and to respect their rights to life, to human dignity, and to
development;
39
Geneva Call, Deed of Commitment Under Geneva Call for Adherence to a Total Ban on Anti-Personnel Mines and
for Cooperation in Mine Action (Geneva: Geneva Call [undated]) Available at: http://www.genevacall.org.
Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
57
Armed groups that have signed the Deed of Commitment have therefore recognized the
relevant provisions of international humanitarian and human rights law. Knowledge of this
type of recognition can assist humanitarian organizations in approaching the armed group for
negotiations on other humanitarian issues.
Moreover, issue-specic agreements such as the Deed of Commitment can provide a basis for
negotiating similar agreements with the armed group. Once armed groups have been engaged
in the process of entering into an agreement, and have developed a sense of ownership of the
agreement and the process, it is more likely that they will enter into negotiations on other
humanitarian issues, potentially using similar mechanisms or processes.
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58
Points to RememberWorking Towards More Effective Negotiations
NINE STEPS ACROSS THREE PHASES OF NEGOTIATION (Figure 1)
PREPARATION >>
1. Coordinate Approach With Humanitarian Partners
2. Decide on Objectives and Strategy
3. Learn About, Analyze Your Negotiating Partner
SEEKING AGREEMENT >>
4. Build Consensus on the Process of Negotiations
5. Identify the Issues
6. Develop Options
7. Work to Seek Agreement on the Option(s) that Best Meet the Humanitarian
Objectives
IMPLEMENTATION >>
8. Define Criteria for Implementation
9. Follow-up: Monitoring and Relationship Building
MODES OF NEGOTIATION: DIRECT, INDIRECT
Direct negotiation with the armed group helps to foster personal relationships
between negotiators that can assist in building consensus and securing agree-
ment; can bring personal commitment to ensuring implementation of an agreed
outcome.
Indirect negotiations using an intermediary can leverage the negotiating experi-
ences and contacts of that intermediate organization, and can free up resources
(personnel, logistics, time) within a delegating humanitarian organization to
enable it to focus on other aspects of its humanitarian work.
Considerations of whether and when to enter into indirect negotiations should
include: (1) political or security concerns dictate indirect negotiations with
the armed group; (2) the intermediary humanitarian organization has ongoing
negotiations/contacts with the armed groups and can effectively represent the
organizations interests; and (3) the intermediary organization has experienced
negotiators available to lead the process.
WHAT TO DO IF NEGOTIATIONS FAIL TO CONVERGE OR BREAK DOWN
Review Strategy, Confirm Issues and Develop More Options
Keep Open Alternatives on SUBSTANCE
Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
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Points to Remember (continued)
Try Building on the Existing Process
Explore Alternatives to PROCESS
Dont Burn Bridges
Reinforce Lines of Communication
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5 Negotiating on Specific Issues
5.1 Overview
Humanitarian negotiations frequently involve several humanitarian issues in the same round
of negotiations. For example, securing humanitarian access, ensuring respect for international
law, and establishing ground rules for provision of assistance and protection may all need to be
negotiated simultaneously with an armed group. The many substantive areas for negotiation
(some of which were listed previously in Section 2.2) span the two inter-related dimensions of
humanitarian action: assistance and protection.
This chapter identies some of the ways in which these two dimensions of humanitarian action
can inuence humanitarian negotiations. Guidance is also provided for three specic areas of
negotiation: (i) ground rules for humanitarian action; (ii) securing humanitarian access; and
(iii) protection of civilians in accordance with international law. This more specic guidance
supplements the generic guidance provided in Chapter 4.
Because humanitarian negotiations can feature several of these individual subject areas, the
guidance presented here should not be viewed in isolation. For a multi-faceted negotiation,
humanitarian negotiators will need to amalgamate the guidance provided for the individual
issues.
5.2 Negotiation and the Two Dimensions of Humanitarian Action
In recent years, the IASC and the United Nations have focused increased attention on the
duality of humanitarian assistance and protection, and the need to better integrate these two
complementary areas of humanitarian action.
40
The IASC has used the following working
denition of protection in its recent policy documents:
41
[encompassing] all activities aimed at obtaining full respect for the rights of the individual
in accordance with the letter and the spirit of the relevant bodies of law (i.e. international
human rights law, international humanitarian law, refugee law).
40
For example, in relation to Internally Displaced Persons, the IASC acknowledged the importance of an agreed,
comprehensive strategy for linking protection of, and assistance to internally displaced persons, and the IASC
identified strategic areas to integrate protection features into operations response. See: Inter-Agency Standing
Committee (IASC), Protection of Internally Displaced Persons, IASC Policy Paper (New York: Inter-Agency
Standing Committee, 1999). United Nations policy documents have also increasingly highlighted assistance
and protection as two dimensions of humanitarian action. See, for example: United Nations General Assembly,
Economic and Social Council, Strengthening the Coordination of Emergency Humanitarian Assistance of the United
Nations, UN Document Ref. A/58/89 (New York: United Nations, 3 June 2003) : para. 4.
41
See, for example: Inter-Agency Standing Committee, Implementing the Collaborative Response to Situations of
Internal Displacement. Guidance for UN Humanitarian and/or Resident Coordinators and Country Teams
(Geneva/New York: IASC, September 2004): Annex 3.
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62
While there is recognition of the need to integrate these two dimensions, there is also
recognition of the different characteristics of each element:
Provision of humanitarian assistance is viewed as act of substitution on behalf of the host-
country government or other authorities, the objective of which is to provide goods and
services to meet the core physical, psychological and socio-economic needs of the target
group;
Humanitarian activities focusing on protection aim to ensure that the rights of the
individual, as specied in international law, are fully respected by those in a position to
exert inuence or control over the individual (armed group, host government, etc.).
It is useful to keep these two dimensions of humanitarian actions in mind when approaching
humanitarian negotiations, as each of the two components will have implications for the
negotiations:
Protection focuses on ensuring respect for the rights of the individual in accordance with
international law; therefore, negotiations on issues of protection will revolve around securing
agreement with the armed group to ensure its behaviour is consistent with the groups
obligations under international law. In these situations, the humanitarian negotiators have
little scope to maneuver or compromise; the boundaries for negotiation are formed by
international law (outlined in Section 3.3);
In preparation for negotiations on issues of protection, therefore, humanitarian negotiators
should identify the elements of international law that relate most directly to the particular
context. For example, negotiations on protection of children from forced induction into
armed groups should take into consideration elements of international law relevant to that
specic issue. Humanitarian negotiators should be prepared to use these elements to frame
the negotiations (see Section 3.3);
In negotiations focusing on issues of provision of humanitarian assistance, operational issues
feature more prominently in the negotiations. Because the humanitarian organization will
be the party delivering the assistance, the objective of the negotiations will often be to
secure agreement from the armed group to permit, or at least not obstruct, the provision
of that assistance;
Depending on whether the primary focus of the negotiations is protection or assistance,
the role of the humanitarian and armed group parties in implementing any agreed outcome
will change. For negotiations on issues of protection there is often a positive obligation on
the armed group to take action. For assistance-related negotiations the primary provider
of assistance will be the humanitarian organization; the role of the armed group will be to
facilitate that assistance.
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63
Case Study: Protection Activities and Humanitarian Negotiations
In Bosnia during the early- to mid-1990s, in spite of the restrictions on freedom of
movement and limited access to vulnerable communities, UNHCR did manage
to provide numerous reports on ethnic cleansing, harassment of minorities, evic-
tions, expulsions and human rights abuses in general.
These reports provided vital information, particularly since journalists were barred
from large parts of Bosnian Serb territory for most of the war. These reports, as
well as public denunciations made by UNHCR officials against those committing
atrocities, naturally strained relations with the warring parties concerned, compli-
cating negotiations over access and potentially jeopardizing ongoing assistance
programmes. It was difficult for staff to cooperate with local authorities while at the
same time condemning them over human rights abuses.
(Source: Based on interviews with UNHCR staff.)
5.3 Negotiating Ground Rules for Humanitarian Action
The rst of the three specic areas for humanitarian negotiation is the development of
common operational guidelines for provision of humanitarian assistance and protection.
These common guidelines have been adopted for specic complex emergencies, and have
been codied in what are commonly referred to as Ground Rules documents. Ground Rules
agreements generally fall into two categories, depending on the intended target audience
for the guidelines:
I. Ground Rules for multiple humanitarian organizations themselves, or for
humanitarian organizations and host/third-party national governments. Examples
of these types of agreements, include: United Nations Principles of Engagement for
Emergency Humanitarian Assistance in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
(1998); United Nations Operational Criteria for the Implementation of Humanitarian
Assistance Programs in Angola (1999) and the previously proposed Memorandum of
Understanding between the United Nations and the Russian Government (concerning
the Republics of Chechyna, Dagestan and Ingushetia).
II. Ground Rules for humanitarian organizations and armed groups. An example of
this type of agreement is that between the Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement/Army
(SPLM) and Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS).
The rst category of Ground Rules agreements frequently includes statement of core
humanitarian principles and agreements between humanitarian actors. Some of these
agreements have also identied the parameters for entering into negotiations with armed
groups. In the past, the UN Ofce for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has
prepared this kind of guidance on behalf of the IASC to assist UN Country Teams in dening
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64
common ground rules for UN activities in specic countries, and to facilitate negotiations
with national and local authorities on acceptance of humanitarian principles.
42

The guidance provided in this manual can provide useful input for the sections of these ground
rules documents dealing with humanitarian negotiations with armed groups.
It is the second category of Ground Rules those negotiated and agreed between humanitarian
organizations and armed groups that is the focus of this section. Negotiating an agreed set of
ground rules with an armed group(s) can provide the basis for subsequent agreement on a range
of issues related to provision of humanitarian assistance and protection.
For negotiation of Ground Rules between humanitarian actors and armed groups, the following
points should be kept in mind:
1. Humanitarian negotiators should be clear about the purpose and scope of any Ground
Rules to be agreed with an armed group;
2. Any common Ground Rules should be based on principles agreed in advance by the
participating humanitarian organizations;
3. Agreement on Ground Rules does not infer or accord legitimacy to the armed group;
4. Based on existing guidance (e.g. OCHA guidance mentioned above), humanitarian
negotiators can draft an outline of the ground rules prior to negotiations (see below);
Humanitarian agencies should take care, however, not to present a completed set of
Ground Rules to the armed group as a fait accompli.
Previous agreements on ground rules agreed between humanitarian organizations and an armed
group point to a number of elements that should be included in these types of agreements,
which generally emerge as written agreements signed by two or more parties.
Elements of a ground rules agreement could include, for example:
Purpose and Scope: objective of the Ground Rules | listing of participants/signatories
| scope (what do the agreed rules cover?) and duration (are the rules time limited?) |
statement of mutual interests
Guiding Instruments: applicable elements of International Humanitarian Law (IHL),
International Human Rights Law (IHRL) | statement of recognition for these elements
of IHL, IHRL | obligations of parties to the agreement
Humanitarian Principles: statement and recognition of core humanitarian principles |
statement of relevant humanitarian policies
Definition of Operational Principles: operating guidelines for issues to be covered by
agreement, including some/all of: identication of humanitarian workers, vehicles and
property; free passage of humanitarian workers; tolls, rents and taxes;
42
See, for example: Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC), Guidance for the Development of Common UN
Ground Rules Based on Agreed Principles, paper prepared by OCHA for the XXXIVth meeting of the Inter-Agency
Standing Committee Working Group held in Geneva, 19 November 1998 (Geneva: IASC Secretariat, 1998).
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65
Implementation: criteria for evaluating and monitoring implementation | obligations
of both parties to ensure implementation | the process of implementation
Dispute Resolution: stipulation of dispute resolution mechanisms
5.4 Negotiating Humanitarian Access
One of the most common reasons for humanitarian organizations entering into negotiations
with armed groups is to secure access to provide assistance and protection to those in need.
Negotiations with armed groups on humanitarian access face additional challenges that may
not be present when humanitarian organizations negotiate with other actors (host governments,
for example) on the same issue. These challenges include the following:
Because armed groups generally do not have sovereign control over an internationally-
recognized territory, the regulation of access to populations or territory controlled
by these groups often represents an expression of authority by the group.
It may be difficult to identify, at the outset, the mechanisms of access (now many
convoys, locations, etc.) that will be required to meet humanitarian needs.
Negotiations with armed groups on issues of access may lead others to believe that the
humanitarian organization is recognizing the authority of the group in a certain territory.
Because the need for humanitarian access to those in need is often most acute when
conict is most intense, identification of armed group interlocutors and negotiation of
transit routes can prove very difficult and include security risks for all parties involved.
To assist in securing humanitarian access through negotiation with an armed group, and to overcome
the challenges outlined above, humanitarian organizations should keep in mind the following points:
1. When entering into humanitarian negotiations with the armed group, the
humanitarian organization should present the issue of access as one of access to meet
the humanitarian needs of a population, rather than access to a particular territory;
Access should be needs-driven, rather than territory-specic;
2. Humanitarian organizations should approach the negotiations with a set of working
principles of humanitarian access to guide the dialogue on the mechanics of
access. Suggested working principles of access, derived from the core principles of
humanitarian action and international law (Chapter 3), are presented in Table 4;
3. Humanitarian negotiators should make it clear to the armed group, and to external
parties, that the access negotiations do not confer recognition by the humanitarian
organization of the armed group or of its control over a population or territory;
4. In situations where the humanitarian needs of the population to be accessed are
not precisely known, the early stages of the negotiations could usefully focus on an
assessment mission to determine more precisely humanitarian needs;
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66
5. Access negotiations should include consideration of: (i) logistics associated with access
routes and convoys (when, where, how); (ii) liaison arrangements to ensure free
passage to reach the intended beneciaries (through roadblocks etc.); (iii) the need for
both parties to communicate agreed access procedures within their organizations.
Table 4
Suggested working principles of humanitarian access to guide
negotiations with armed groups
Working principle of
humanitarian access
Description
Humanity and
Impartiality
Humanitarian access is an essential prerequisite to and enabler
of humanitarian assistance;
For humanitarian organizations, humanitarian access serves
to identify and address essential needs of all the civilian
population, with particular attention to the most vulnerable
in the population;
Humanitarian access must be facilitated for the purposes of delivering
humanitarian assistance, protection in an impartial manner.
Obligation to ensure
humanitarian access
under international
law
43
Armed groups must allow and facilitate unimpeded passage of
humanitarian relief to civilians in need;
Where demonstrated humanitarian needs exist, armed
groups must facilitate the freedom of movement of authorized,
impartial humanitarian relief personnel;
Effectiveness
The effectiveness of humanitarian access is measured by the
degree to which access facilitates delivery of humanitarian
assistance;
Transparency A key aspect of this efciency is the use of clearly-dened and
traceable procedures and decision-making processes on the
part of the armed group and the humanitarian organization;
Sustainability
Humanitarian access must be facilitated with a view to
sustaining humanitarian assistance and protection activities
to address humanitarian needs for as long as they persist;
Accountability
Failure to ensure the passage of essential goods, services and
personnel, constitutes a breach of international law;
43
The two points relating to the obligation of armed groups to ensure humanitarian access are drawn from
customary international humanitarian law. See, for example, Rules 53-56 presented in the ICRC Study on
Customary International Humanitarian Law published in March 2005 (referenced in Section 3.3).
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67
5.5 Protection of Civilians in Accordance with International Law
The protection of civilians is enshrined in international humanitarian law (for international and
non-international armed conicts), customary international humanitarian law (international
and non-international armed conicts), international human rights law (applicable in times
of peace and conict); and humanitarian principles and policies. The relevant elements of
international law and humanitarian principles, polices are presented in Section 3.3.
In the context of humanitarian negotiations with armed groups, negotiations on the protection
of civilians focus on three inter-connected areas: (1) protection for those civilians under the
inuence or control of the armed group; (2) the armed groups obligations to protect those
civilians; and (3) the role of humanitarian organizations in ensuring protection of those
civilians. In addition to the armed group, other actors, including the State in which the civilians
are located, have obligations to protect the civilians.
It should be clear to the humanitarian negotiators that the protections afforded to civilians
cannot be negotiated; what can be negotiated are the approaches and strategies by which the
armed group and the humanitarian organization can work to ensure the protections afforded
to civilians are operationalized.
When negotiating with armed groups to ensure protection of civilians, humanitarian
negotiations should consider the following points:
1. Members of the armed group may not be aware of their obligations to protect civilians,
nor of the legal mechanisms that can hold them accountable for failure to protect
civilians or for causing harm to civilians. Part of the process of negotiation, therefore,
should focus on raising awareness among members of the armed group regarding the
need for civilians to be protected in armed conicts and the armed groups obligations
in this regard;
2. Since the actual protections themselves (legal provisions, etc.) cannot be negotiated,
humanitarian negotiators should attempt to demonstrate to the armed group,, using
a persuasive approach to negotiation that it is also in their interest to ensure the
protection of civilians;
3. Humanitarian negotiators should generate options (e.g. by brainstorming within their
own organizations, and with the armed group negotiators) for consideration that can lead
to enhanced protection of civilians. The options will depend on the particular context,
but could include, for example, agreement on procedures to register and arrange for
appropriate care of orphaned children in areas controlled by the armed group; agreement
by the armed group not to engage in abduction and sexual exploitation of girls;
4. Even though the armed group is not a party to the international human rights treaties,
the human rights themselves can provide a basis for discussion with armed groups on
the type and scope of protections that need to be afforded to civilians.
Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
68
Points to RememberNegotiating on Specific Issues
NEGOTIATION AND THE TWO DIMENSIONS OF HUMANITARIAN ACTION
Negotiations on issues of protection will revolve around securing agreement with
the armed group to ensure its behaviour is consistent with the groups obligations
under international law. In preparation for negotiations, humanitarian negotiators
should identify the elements of international law that relate most directly to the
particular context.
In negotiations focusing on issues of provision of humanitarian assistance, opera-
tional issues feature more prominently in the negotiations.
Depending on the primary focus of the negotiations (protection or assistance), the
roles of the parties in implementing any agreed outcome will change.
NEGOTIATING GROUND RULES FOR HUMANITARIAN ACTION
Humanitarian negotiators should be clear about the purpose and scope of any
ground rules to be agreed with an armed group.
Any common ground rules should be based on principles agreed in advance by the
participating humanitarian organizations.
Agreement on ground rules does not infer or accord legitimacy to the armed
group.
Based on existing guidance, humanitarian negotiators can draft an outline of the
ground rules prior to negotiations (See Table 4).
NEGOTIATING HUMANITARIAN ACCESS
Humanitarian negotiators should present the issue of access as one of access to meet
the humanitarian needs of a population, rather than access to a particular territory.
Humanitarian organizations should approach the negotiations with a set of working
principles of humanitarian access to guide the dialogue on the mechanics of access.
Humanitarian negotiators should make it clear to the armed group, and to parties
external to the negotiations, that the access negotiations do not confer recogni-
tion by the humanitarian organization of the armed group or its control over a
population or territory.
In situations where the humanitarian needs of the population to be accessed are
not precisely known, the early stages of the negotiations could usefully focus on an
assessment mission to determine more precisely humanitarian needs.
Access negotiations should include consideration of: (i) logistics; (ii) liaison
arrangements; (iii) need to communicate agreed access procedures within or-
ganizations.
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69
PROTECTION OF CIVILIANS IN ACCORDANCE WITH INTERNATIONAL
LAW
Humanitarian negotiators should raise awareness among members of the armed
group on the need of civilians to be protected in armed conflicts.
Since the actual protections themselves cannot be negotiated, humanitarian
negotiators should attempt to demonstrate (using a persuasive approach to nego-
tiation) to the armed group that it is also in their interest to ensure the protection
of civilians.
Humanitarian negotiators should generate options for consideration that can lead
to enhanced protection of civilians.
Even though the armed group is not a party to the international human rights
treaties, the human rights themselves can provide a basis for discussion with armed
groups on the type and scope of protections that need to be afforded to civilians.
Points to Remember (continued)
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6 So Youre Negotiating Now What?
6.1 Overview
Getting to the negotiation table and actually having an ongoing dialogue with armed groups
are sometimes wrongly viewed as the primary measures of successful negotiations, especially
because of the challenges involved in initiating the dialogue in the rst place.
Of course these steps are crucial, however, the primary objective of the negotiations should be:
to work, over time, towards an agreed outcome that will ensure provision of protection and
assistance to those in need; preserve humanitarian space; and promote respect for international
law. In pursuit of these objectives, the process of negotiation itself can have important spin
off effects in terms of building a relationship with the armed group which may help fulll
additional humanitarian objectives, separate from those being negotiated.
This chapter outlines some of the issues to be considered by humanitarian negotiators once
negotiations are underway or have concluded, including: the implications of humanitarian
negotiations with armed groups; commitment to, and enforcement of, any agreed outcome;
and dening measures of success.
6.2 Possible Implications of Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed
Groups
In addition to their intended positive humanitarian impacts, humanitarian negotiations can have
unintended or unanticipated consequences for humanitarian organizations; the armed groups;
and third-party stakeholders (for example, those the humanitarian actors seek to assist).
Some possible implications of humanitarian negotiations with armed groups, and suggestions
for how to mitigate these consequences, include:
1. Changes in perceived neutrality and impartiality of humanitarian actors engaged
in negotiations:
Humanitarian negotiations with armed groups can generate or reinforce a perception by
other armed groups, the host government, and/or other States that the humanitarian
organization is biased or lacking impartiality.
To mitigate this negative perception, humanitarian actors must clearly communicate the
objectives and the scope of the negotiations with armed groups, and must communicate
and negotiate with all parties to a given conict. Humanitarian agencies must make it
explicitly clear that the negotiations: (i) are focused solely on humanitarian issues; (ii) are
not a substitute for political negotiations; and (iii) do not confer legitimacy or recognition
on the armed group.
Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
72
2. Impacts on humanitarian security:
The very act of entering into negotiations with an armed group can have potentially serious
consequences for the security of the negotiators themselves, colleagues in the parent and/
or other humanitarian organizations, and the populations the humanitarian actors serve.
The security risks associated with humanitarian negotiations should be assessed prior
to entering into negotiations. Negotiators can draw on the experience of qualied eld
security ofcers and knowledge of the armed groups tactics and previous approaches to
negotiating with humanitarian organizations.
Physical security risks can be mitigated to some extent by meeting with the armed group
in a neutral location/venue; by requesting security guarantees from the armed group prior
to entering into negotiations; and by ensuring that all necessary parties are informed of
the humanitarian negotiations (e.g. the host country government should be informed of
humanitarian negotiations with armed groups).
3. Third-party influence and sanctions on humanitarian negotiators:
Parties external to the humanitarian negotiations may attempt to exert pressure on the
humanitarian organization to limit or cease contacts with armed groups, or may attempt
to inuence the humanitarian negotiations in pursuit of political objectives. Host country
governments, third-party States and regional organizations, among others, may seek to apply
pressure or otherwise sanction the humanitarian organization negotiating with an armed group.
Host country governments may see the contacts between humanitarian organizations and
armed groups as legitimizing the armed group, or as recognizing de facto territorial control
exerted by the armed group. When some armed groups are labeled as terrorist groups by
a State or States, there may be added pressure, including restrictions to funds or potentially
legal sanctions through national judicial courts, to refrain from negotiating with the armed
group.
44
Attempts to constrain or limit the scope of action of humanitarian organizations in
negotiations with armed groups can be mitigated to some degree by:
Engaging in parallel advocacy efforts and bilateral humanitarian diplomacy with
regional organizations, the host country government, and neighbouring States to
gain support for the humanitarian negotiations. These efforts may be best undertaken
by a political delegate representing the United Nations in the country (e.g. Special
Representative of the Secretary-General).
44
This point was highlighted in the 2004 Report of the UN Secretary-General on the Protection of Civilians in
Armed Conflict: The designation of certain non-State armed groups as terrorist organizations has had an adverse
impact on opportunities for humanitarian negotiations. The prohibition on dialogue with armed groups in Colombia, for
example, has resulted in severe restrictions on access to populations in need. See: United Nations Security Council,
Report of the Secretary-General to the Security Council on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict, UN
Document ref. S/2004/431 (New York: United Nations, 28 May 2004): Paragraph 41.
Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
73
Ensuring that the objectives and process of negotiating with the armed group are effectively
communicated to those actors that may seek to exert pressure to constrain the negotiations.
[For the host country government in particular] presenting the humanitarian
negotiations as a necessary component of humanitarian action. For UN agencies,
humanitarian negotiations with armed groups have been recognized by the UN
General Assembly as a legitimate and appropriate approach to securing humanitarian
outcomes. This role may need to be highlighted in interactions with the host country
government on the issue of humanitarian negotiations with armed groups.
45

Building consensus and support across humanitarian organizations active in the
country/region on the need for humanitarian negotiations with an armed group.
Finally, if negotiating with an armed group is deemed a humanitarian necessity, then the
designation of that group as a terrorist group by some States or institutions should not
automatically preclude negotiations with the group.
46
As with negotiations with all armed
groups, negotiations with those that employ terror tactics must focus solely on humanitarian
issues and not on the political demands or aspirations of the armed group.
6.3 After Negotiations: Commitment to the Agreement
When humanitarian negotiations lead to an agreed outcome (formal or informal) between the
humanitarian organization(s) and the armed group, it is imperative to secure the commitment
of the armed group to implement the agreement. The following points suggest ways in which
commitment to implementation of an agreed outcome can be secured or enhanced.
Ensuring Buy In and Ownership One of the best ways in which to secure commitment
to implementation of an agreed outcome is to ensure that all parties feel a sense of ownership
of the nal agreement. It is important to get the buy in of all stakeholders, including those
that may not be represented directly at the negotiating table. Even during the negotiations,
the negotiators should take the time to sell the process and potential agreed outcomes to
their organizations and constituencies.
Clear Statement of Implementation RolesAny agreement arising from the
humanitarian negotiations, be it oral or written, should include a clear statement of the
roles of each negotiating party, and other third parties, in implementing the agreement. An
armed group will be more likely to commit to an agreement if there is a clearly-identied set
of actions for the group in implementing the agreement.
Emphasizing AccountabilityHumanitarian negotiators should not shy away from
communicating the legal duties and obligations of the armed group, both during the
45
See, for example, UN General Assembly resolution 46/182 (19 December 1991): Paragraph 35.
46
Criteria for adopting a more cautions approach to humanitarian negotiations with particular groups are out-
lined in Section 2.2.
Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
74
negotiations and once/if an agreement has been reached. Armed groups may have more
commitment to implementing an agreement if they feel that by not doing so they may be
held accountable under the relevant legal regimes (See Section 3.3). For example, the written
Ground Rules Agreement reached between Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS) and SPLM/A
in 1995 included an explicit statement of support for the UN Convention on the Rights of
the Child (CRC, 1989) and the Geneva Conventions of 1949. This recognition of support for
the Conventions infers recognition of the duties and obligations of the armed group.
Including All Parties in Monitoring of Implementation Armed groups may feel more
committed to the implementation of an agreed outcome if they play a role in monitoring
the implementation of the agreement. Joint monitoring mechanisms can include, for
example: regular monitoring meetings between representatives of the armed group and
of the humanitarian organizations (at various levels within the respective organizations);
planned simultaneous (humanitarian organizationarmed group) visits to sites/access
routes features in the agreed outcome (e.g. an IDP camp; or a particular village within the
area controlled by the armed group).
6.4 Enforcement and Dealing with Non-Compliance
Any agreed outcome reached during humanitarian negotiations should include methods of
enforcement of the agreement and dispute resolution mechanisms. Moreover, humanitarian
negotiations should consider the options available to their organizations in the event of non-
compliance with the agreement on the part of the armed group.
6.4.1 Enforcement
Enforcing the provisions of an agreement reached between humanitarian actors and an
armed group can generally be undertaken by coercing or providing incentives to the armed
group. Humanitarian organizations are not well placed to apply coercive pressure to armed
groups to enforce the provisions of an agreement. However, other third party States, regional
organizations or UN peacekeeping/peace-enforcement troops can assist in applying graduated
diplomatic or other pressure to ensure that the agreement is enforced.
Through persuasion and persistence, humanitarian organizations can continue negotiating
with the armed group on issues related to enforcement of the agreement, highlighting the legal
obligations of the armed group, and the accountability mechanisms under international law
(See Section 3.3).
6.4.2 Dispute Resolution Mechanisms
Mechanisms to resolve disputes associated with implementation of an agreement should be
identied by the humanitarian organization and the armed group during the negotiations, and
Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
75
should be incorporated into the provisions of any oral or written agreement. As a starting point
for resolving disputes, the humanitarian organization(s) and armed group(s) should undertake
to document any disputed issues as a starting point for seeking resolution of the issue concerned.
Possible dispute resolution mechanisms could include, for example:
Establishment of an implementation monitoring commission to include representatives
from the armed group and humanitarian organizations which would consider, and
attempt to resolve by consensus, any disputed issues associated with implementation
of an agreement.
Appointment of a neutral mediator to assist the parties in resolving disputes.
Referral of disputed provisions to an independent, non-binding arbitration mechanism;
a neutral organization not participating in the negotiations could arbitrate on disputed
aspects of an agreement. For humanitarian organizations, it should be made clear that
any solution arising from arbitration would have to be in coherence with the intent of
the original agreement, and would further need to satisfy the humanitarian principles,
humanitarian policies and the relevant provisions of international law (See Chapter 3).
6.4.3 Dealing with Non-Compliance
When an armed group fails to comply with the provisions they agreed to implement, and when
enforcement actions fail, the humanitarian organization may need to consider one or more
courses of action:
Enter into a further series of negotiations with the armed group to arrive at an agreed
outcome which may resolve the issues of non-compliance arising from the original
agreement;
[As in the case of enforcement (see above)] Identify and engage (directly or indirectly)
third party States, regional organizations or UN/donor State political representatives,
in advocacy and humanitarian diplomacy to get these actors to apply pressure
(diplomatic, other) to the armed group to comply with the agreement.
If non-compliance with the agreement results in an operating environment which
compromises humanitarian security; consider, as a last resort, suspension of
humanitarian activities until such time as a conducive humanitarian operating
environment is re-established.
6.5 Measuring Effectiveness of Humanitarian Negotiations
By measuring the effectiveness of humanitarian negotiations, humanitarian actors can learn
from ongoing and past interactions with armed groups, and can better prepare for future
negotiations. Self-evaluation by the humanitarian negotiators themselves and their parent
Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
76
organization(s) can highlight what worked, what didnt work, and what could have been done
differently.
Case Study: Humanitarians Views of Factors Influencing Success/
Failure of Negotiations in Angola between 1998 and 2001
These factors were identified by humanitarians working in Angola through a
series of interviews in Luanda (November and December 2001).
47

Structural Factors (1) Existence of framework agreements; (2) level of national social
engagement and commitment to humanitarian values; (3) institutional (un)certainty;
(4) level of international political engagement;
Organizational Factors (1) institutional credibility; (2) organizational mandate;
(3) level of institutional autonomy; (4) organizational resources, technical exper-
tise and capacity;
Individual Factors (1) local/cultural knowledge; (2) extent of negotiation preparation;
(3) organizational seniority of humanitarian negotiators; (4) negotiating skill level.
Very often, humanitarian negotiators will not have the time available to undertake extensive lessons
learned studies in the eld. In such cases, the following guidance points may assist humanitarian
agencies in measuring the effectiveness and success of their negotiations with armed groups:
Humanitarian negotiators should debrief following each negotiation encounter to assess
progress towards achieving the humanitarian objectives that necessitated the negotiations
in the rst place. Negotiators should assess what approaches worked well, and what could be
done differently in future interactions. Is the dialogue converging (e.g. is there agreement
on the issues to be negotiated), or diverging?
Humanitarian negotiators should identify measures of effectiveness for evaluating the
humanitarian negotiators. These could include simple measures such as changes in
humanitarian access (area/population served) that resulted from the humanitarian
negotiations or changes in number of attacks on humanitarian workers that can be attributed
to agreements arrived at between humanitarian organizations and armed groups.
6.6 Conclusion: The Elements of Humanitarian Negotiation in Practice
The elements of humanitarian negotiations with armed groups presented in this manual
provide a template for humanitarian agencies to develop a negotiating strategy and approach
targeted to a particular country or thematic context. Every case of humanitarian negotiations
will be different, but the structured elements of the negotiations presented in this manual
provide the basis for more consistent and predictable negotiations with armed groups.
47
Source: This case study drawn from: Alex Costy, Managing the Compromise: Humanitarian Negotiations in
Angola, 1998-2001 (Geneva: Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, January 2002).
Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
77
The case study presented below captures some of UNICEFs experiences of negotiating with
the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) group in Sri Lanka, and serves to review elements
of humanitarian negotiation that have been presented in this manual. UNICEF experiences
are presented beside the relevant chapter/section headings of the manual.
Case Study: UNICEF Negotiations with LTTE
The UNICEF Country and Field Offices in Sri Lanka have engaged with the
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) because it is a significant group involved in
the 2 decade armed conflict with the Government of Sri Lanka and controlling parts
of the war-affected North Eastern provinces of the country. This case study cap-
tures aspects of UNICEFs experience of negotiating with the LTTE armed group.
Reasons for
negotiating
(Section 2.2)
Primacy of Humanitarian Mission:
UNICEF has made it clear to the LTTE that the organiza-
tions priority is the protection of children. UNICEF also
expressed its neutrality regarding its involvement with the
2 parties to the conflict.
Substantive Issues:
Ensuring that the LTTE does not recruit children in their
armed forces under the age of 17, as the LTTE committed
in 1998 to the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-
General on Children and Armed Conflict (SRSG-CAC).
Ensuring LTTE commitment not to recruit children under 18
years [as given to UNICEF in 2002].
LTTE signing of the Action Plan for Children affected by
War in 2003.
Access to populations in LTTE-controlled areas.
Negotiation of travel passes and general security issues.
Learning
about the
armed group
(Section 2.4)
The LTTE has a sophisticated structure, including a politi-
cal wing and a military wing; UNICEF has mainly interacted
with the political wing.
UNICEF experience highlights the fact that It is important
to be cognizant of the power politics that take place within
a group, and understand whether or not the person with
whom the humanitarian organization is engaging is in a
position to make commitments on behalf of the group as a
whole.
Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
78
Issue of
legitimacy
(Section 2.4)
The LTTE has been recognized by the government as a
group with which it must negotiate peace.
UNICEF has always engaged with the LTTE with full
knowledge of the Government of Sri Lanka, and with the
understanding that this engagement will not confer any
additional legitimacy to the group.
Humanitarian
partners in
negotiation
(Section 2.5)
In the LTTE-controlled area of Vanni, only UNICEF and
UNHCR engage regularly with LTTE from the UN system;
but there have also been some contacts between the LTTE
and other UN agencies.
Agency engagement with the LTTE is discussed both at
the level of the UN Country Team (monthly) and on a more
regular basis bilaterally.
Generally, each UN agency in Sri Lanka engages sepa-
rately based on its own agenda.
Framing the
negotiations
(Chapter 3)
Neutrality is essential if one is to influence the armed
group, as the perception may exist that the UN is on the
side of the government.
The human rights instruments of the UN Convention on the
Rights of the Child (CRC), the Optional Protocol on children
and armed conflict to the CRC and the commitments made
by the LTTE to the SRSG-CAC are the standards used by
UNICEF Sri Lanka in its negotiations with the LTTE.
Aggressive promotion of international law may generally
not be as successful as expected. Many armed groups
have not been sensitized to agree with these laws;
Three
phases of
negotiation
(Section 4.2)
Phase II: Seeking Agreement
UNICEF has worked to seek agreement with the LTTE
on a number of issues (identified above); Whilst many
agreements have been informal and verbal (see below), a
significant step forward was of the LTTE and GOSL both
signing the Action Plan in 2003, which included reintegra-
tion of child soldiers.
UNICEF representatives have worked with LTTE coun-
terparts to develop options for agreement on particular
issues.
Case Study (continued)
Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
79
Three
phases of
negotiation
(Section 4.2)
Phase III: Implementation
In 1998, the SRSG-CAC met with the LTTE and secured a
statement from the group that it would cease the recruit-
ment of children into their armed forces, allow freedom of
movement for the civilian population, and greater freedom
for women. UNICEF was responsible for follow-up on this.
No specific mechanism was put in place to monitor adher-
ence to the agreement at that time.
Consistent advocacy led to the development of the Action
Plan.
Regular and repeated engagement ensures that the group
understands not only UNICEFs priorities, but also that
UNICEF is working for the good of the communities in
areas under their control.
Direct vs.
Indirect
negotiation
(Section 4.3)
UNICEF has engaged with the LTTE at all levels of the
agency;
Direct engagement between the LTTE and the Sri Lanka
UNICEF Country Office has been through advocacy, lead-
ing to verbal commitments from the LTTE.
While most of the negotiations, agreements and exchanges
between UNICEF and LTTE have been purely verbal and
informal, UNICEF has documented some discussions and
provided this to the LTTE.
Written communication, whilst limited, has been significant
in later stages of negotiation.
UNICEF has never negotiated indirectly with the LTTE.
Possible
implications
of negotia-
tions (Section
6.2)
Third-party influences: Governments may express con-
cerns about anyone engaging with opposition armed
groups, especially the UN, but they can be persuaded that
it is in the best interest of affected communities.
Staff Security: National staff may have difficulties remaining
neutral, especially if they are members of one of the groups
in conflict. They may also be put in situations of insecurity
because of their engagement; Due to this concern, in Sri
Lanka, it has been found essential to have an international
staff presence at all levels.
UNICEFs negotiations with the LTTE have never preju-
diced its ability to engage with the government.
Case Study (continued)
Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
80
Ensuring
commitment
(Section 6.3)
UNICEFs experience highlights that even in situations
where an agreement is reached and commitments have
been made between high-level leaders in an armed group
and high-level UN personnel, there is never total guaran-
tee that these commitments will not be violated. However,
having a formal agreement has meant that the LTTE could
be held accountable for violations and gave strength to
UNICEFs advocacy.
Case Study (continued)
Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
81
Points to RememberSo Youre Negotiating Now What?
POSSIBLE IMPLICATIONS OF HUMANITARIAN NEGOTIATIONS
Changes in perceived neutrality and impartiality of humanitarian actors engaged
in negotiations;
TO MITIGATE: (A) clearly communicate the objectives and the scope of the negotia-
tions with armed groups; (B) communicate and negotiate with all parties to a given
conflict.
Impacts on humanitarian security;
TO MITIGATE: (A) meet with the armed group in a neutral location/venue; (B)
request security guarantees from the armed group prior to entering into negotiations;
(C) ensure that the necessary parties are informed of the humanitarian negotiations
(e.g. the host country government).
Third-party influence and sanctions on humanitarian negotiators;
TO MITIGATE: (A) engage in parallel advocacy efforts and bilateral humanitarian
diplomacy with regional organizations, the host country government and neighbour-
ing States to gain support for the humanitarian negotiations; (B) ensure that the
objectives and process of negotiating with the armed group are effectively commu-
nicated to those actors that may seek to exert pressure to constrain the negotiations;
(C) build consensus and support for humanitarian negotiations across humanitarian
organizations.
COMMITMENT TO THE AGREEMENT
Secure/enhance commitment by: (1) Ensuring Buy In and Ownership; (2) Clear
Statement of Implementation Roles; (3) Emphasizing Accountability; and (4)
Including All Parties in Monitoring of Implementation (Section 6.3).
ENFORCEMENT
By incentives or coercion (carrot and stick)
Other actors (States, regional organizations) better placed to apply diplomatic/
other pressure to armed group.
Humanitarian organizations can continue negotiating on issues of enforcement,
attempt to persuade armed group, focusing on accountability of armed group (See
Section 3.3).
Points to Remember continues on page 82
Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
82
DISPUTE RESOLUTION MECHANISMS
(1) Establishment of an implementation monitoring commission; (2) Referral
of disputed provisions to an independent non-binding arbitration mechanism;
(3) Appointment of a neutral mediator to assist the parties in resolving disputes.
DEALING WITH NON-COMPLIANCE
Enter into further negotiations with the armed group to arrive at an agreed out-
come which may resolve the issues of non-compliance with the original agree-
ment.
Identify third party States, regional organizations or other actors and engage,
directly or indirectly, in advocacy and humanitarian diplomacy to get these actors
to apply pressure (diplomatic, other) to the armed group to comply with the agree-
ment.
If non-compliance with the agreement results in an operating environment
which compromises humanitarian security; consider, as a last resort, suspension of
humanitarian activities until a conducive humanitarian operating environment is
re-established.
Points to Remember (continued)
Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
83
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[ blank page keep for double-sided copies ]
Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
85
Annex II - Additional Resources for Negotiation with Armed Groups
This manual includes a Compact Disk (CD-ROM), which provides additional resources to
guide humanitarian negotiations with armed groups. The CD-ROM includes resources in the
following categories:
Bibliography with Links to Reference Documents
Internet Resources with Information Relevant to Humanitarian Negotiations
Reference Documents on Humanitarian Principles and Policies
Humanitarian Principles
Select Humanitarian Policy Documents
Reference Documents on International Law Relevant to Armed Groups
International Humanitarian Law
International Human Rights Law
Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court
Negotiation Reference Documents
Negotiation in General
Negotiation on Particular Issues
Humanitarian Access
Protection of Civilians in Accordance with International Law
Collective Humanitarian Negotiations
Sample Ground Rules Agreements Between Humanitarian Organizations
Sample Written Agreements Between Humanitarian Organizations and Other Actors
Agreements between Humanitarian Organizations and Armed Groups
Agreements between Humanitarian Organizations and Governments
Listing of Documents on Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups by Country
Afghanistan
Angola
Bosnia
Burma/Myanmar
Burundi
Colombia
DPR Korea
Dem. Rep. of Congo
Liberia
Russian Federation
Sierra Leone
Sri Lanka
Sudan
Tajikistan
Turkmenistan
Uganda
Uzbekistn
[ blank page keep for double-sided copies ]
Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
87
Annex III - Glossary of Key Terms
Armed Groups groups that have the potential to employ arms in the use of
force to achieve political, ideological or economic objectives;
arenotwithintheformalmilitarystructuresofStates,State-
alliances or intergovernmental organizations; and are not
underthecontroloftheState(s)inwhichtheyoperate.
Complex Emergency a humanitarian crisis in a country, region, or society where
there is a total or considerable breakdown of authority
resultingfrominternalorexternalconfictandwhichrequires
an international response that goes beyond the mandate
or capacity of any single and/or the ongoing UN country
programme.[IASCdefnition]
Humanitarian Negotiations negotiations undertaken by civilians engaged in managing,
coordinating and providing humanitarian assistance and
protection for the purposes of: (i) ensuring the provision
of protection and humanitarian assistance to vulnerable
populations; (ii) preserving humanitarian space; and (iii)
promoting better respect for international humanitarian and
humanrightslaw.
Humanitarian Security physical and psychological safety of both humanitarian staff
andbenefciaries[workingdefnitionusedinthismanual].
Humanitarian Space a conducive humanitarian operating environment. [OCHA
defnition]
Negotiation Thedeliberationwhichtakesplacebetweentwoormoreparties
regarding a proposed agreement. In the context of armed
confict,negotiationsoftenrelatetopermittinghumanitarian
access,agreeinguponaceasefre,orestablishingpeacethrough
aframeworkagreementorpeaceaccord.[OCHAdefnition]
Protection [encompassing] all activities aimed at obtaining full respect
for the rights of the individual in accordance with the letter
andthespiritoftherelevantbodiesoflaw(i.e.international
humanrightslaw,internationalhumanitarianlaw,andrefugee
law).[workingdefnitionusedbyIASC]
Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups
88
Notes
This Manual and the companion set of Guidelines provide a structured,
easy-to-follow approach to humanitarian negotiations with armed groups.
The publications fll a need which has long been recognized by operational
humanitarian agencies.
The necessity for a more structured approach to humanitarian negotia-
tion has been refected in statements and resolutions of the UN Security
Council and the UN General Assembly. Noting the obstacles posed by the
lack of structured interaction with non-State actors, the Security Council,
in particular, has expressed its encouragement for
the ongoing work by United Nations agencies to prepare a man-
ual of feld practices of negotiations with armed groups to better
assist coordination and to facilitate more effective negotiations.
(S/PRST/2002/41)
By providing that structured approach, this Manual and the companion set
of Guidelines will assist humanitarian workers in achieving better humani-
tarian outcomes in situations that require negotiation with armed groups.
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