Humanitarians operate on the frontlines of today’s armed conflicts, where they regularly negotiate to provide assistance and to protect vulnerable civilians. This book explores this unique and under-researched field of humanitarian negotiation. It details the challenges faced by humanitarians negotiating with armed groups in Yemen, Myanmar, and elsewhere, arguing that humanitarians typically negotiate from a position of weakness. It also explores some of the tactics and strategies they use to overcome this power asymmetry to reach more favorable agreements.
The author applies these findings to broader negotiation scholarship and investigates the implications of this research for the field and practice of humanitarianism. This book also demonstrates how non-state actors – both humanitarians and armed groups – have become increasingly potent diplomatic actors. It challenges traditional state-centric approaches to diplomacy and argues that non-state actors constitute an increasingly crucial vector through which international relations are replicated and reconstituted during contemporary armed conflict. Only by accepting these changes to the nature of diplomacy itself can the causes, symptoms, and solutions to armed conflict be better managed.
This book will be of interest to scholars concerned with conflict resolution, negotiation, and mediation, as well as to humanitarian practitioners themselves.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Negotiating on the Frontlines
Conceptualizing humanitarian negotiation
The emergent practice of humanitarian negotiation
The approach of this study
1. The Negotiator’s Weak Hand
Sources of power asymmetry
Power, politics, and principles
2. Yemen: The Houti Ascendance
3. Myanmar: A Return to Arms in Kachinland
4. Overcoming Power Asymmetry
Tactical options for the weak
Deploying humanitarian levers
The promise of humanitarian diplomacy
5. Advancing the Frontlines of Humanitarian Negotiation
Implications for theory and practice
Next steps: A research agenda
Ashley Jonathan Clements is a consultant and researcher from New Zealand. He has spent more than 15 years working in the humanitarian sector with the UN and NGOs, predominantly in the Middle East and Southeast Asia. Ashley’s research focuses on negotiation, contemporary armed conflict, and non-state armed actors. He continues to research and advise on frontline humanitarian negotiations and conducts negotiation training for a range of audiences.