Humanitarian Negotiation: Observations from Recent Experience

Daniel Toole
Published: 
Feb 2001

During the last twenty years, the United Nations, the Red Cross Movement and nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) have had to increasingly utilise negotiation to ensure access and the provision of humanitarian assistance to those in need. Current trends of increasing international and intrastate conflict are likely to continue and thus negotiated access will remain an important issue. After a number of years of experience with such negotiation it may now be time to take stock of the lessons learned. This review has been based on field experience of humanitarian negotiations and on a rapid review of relevant literature. It highlights areas where common principles and issues have become clear in the negotiation process and, as a result, where a common approach and practice have evolved. It then examines areas where constraints have been encountered requiring reflection and analysis and areas where improvements may be needed. The paper finally outlines initial steps to strengthen capacity for humanitarian negotiation in the future.