Q&A: How to handle humanitarian negotiations in politicized environments

ICRC president Peter Maurer during a three-day mission in Syria. Photo by: Ibrahim Malla / ICRC / CC BY-NC-ND

CANBERRA — For humanitarian actors and frontline negotiators, navigating the minefield of politics to maintain neutrality is a confusing but all-too-common challenge.

In a high-level panel hosted by the International Committee of the Red Cross and Centre of Competence on Humanitarian Negotiation in Geneva on Dec. 5, Médecins Sans Frontières, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the World Food Programme and the U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura discussed with 120 of the best humanitarian frontline negotiators this challenge and new approaches to maintaining impartiality while leveraging the better elements of political methodologies.

Following the panel, Devex spoke to ICRC President Peter Maurer to dig deeper into the issues, and understand how the Centre of Competence on Humanitarian Negotiation improves approaches and practices. Here is the interview, edited for length and clarity.

Can you discuss the Centre of Competence on Humanitarian Negotiation and this panel discussion — why is it important to have this discussion and what are the key issue humanitarian negotiators face?

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This article was last updated on 19 December 2017

About the author

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    Lisa Cornish

    Lisa Cornish is a Devex Reporter based in Canberra, where she focuses on the Australian aid community. Lisa formerly worked with News Corp Australia as a data journalist for the national network and was published throughout Australia in major metropolitan and regional newspapers, including the Daily Telegraph in Melbourne, Herald Sun in Melbourne, Courier-Mail in Brisbane, and online through news.com.au. Lisa additionally consults with Australian government providing data analytics, reporting and visualization services. Lisa was awarded the 2014 Journalist of the Year by the New South Wales Institute of Surveyors.