There are a combination of factors peculiar to humanitarian negotiations with armed non-state actors (ANSAs). Talks often take place in extreme, high-stake environments with little common negotiating culture between parties. In addition, staff need to negotiate in practice what is not negotiable in principle under both organisational and legal frameworks, which are far-removed from reality on the ground (a recent HPG Policy brief described how ‘senior managers are often unaware of how ground-level staff obtain access’). Aid workers are often negotiating from a position of relative weakness – little leverage and few alternative negotiating tables present themselves, and there is a strong possibility of second-best options being the only achievement. Are organisations and their staff members ready and equipped with the necessary tools for these types of complex negotiations?
The Future of Humanitarian Security in Fragile Contexts: An analysis of transformational factors affecting humanitarian action in the coming decade stems from a recognition that the humanitarian landscape has changed dramatically in the past decade.
Amid convulsive politics, the northeast of Nigeria has reached a critical security situation yet once again. Communal violence is adding to the growing humanitarian response gap, with Boko Haram not the only threat to the country’s security. Last weekend alone, at least 100 people were killed and 2,000 were displaced after 40 gunmen stormed villages in central northern Kaduna state. Despite Nigeria’s booming economy, inequality is rampant in the country, and the deteriorating security situation in northern states may further destabilise a country of 170 million that seems to be struggling to stay united. How the government deals with the ever-growing Islamist threat, inter-communal violence, and their humanitarian consequences will be important factors in determining the outcome of 2015 elections.
Aid agencies operate in many conflict-affected contexts that are considered by Western powers as threats to international peace and security. Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs or drones) controversially used to respond to these threats, have already changed the contexts in which aid workers find themselves in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Now, the potential introduction of LARs (Lethal Autonomous Robotics- weapons systems that can select and engage targets without intervention by a human operator), could further change the humanitarian operational context, as well as the types of threats aid workers are exposed to in the field.
The last couple of weeks have seen a rise of political conflict with potential security ramifications to NGO`s operating in Thailand and Venezuela.
Some analysts looked at the 2012 elections in Somalia as a possible turning point for the country, and the first months afterwards saw a renewed sense of optimism. Unfortunately, that possibility has yet to materialise and the country continues to be plagued by security concerns. In fact, the UN has warned that a food crisis similar to that witnessed in 2011 is possible if current aid funding is not increased significantly. Operational difficulties are evident; in August 2013, MSF decided to pull out of Somalia due to safety reasons. Since then, the security situation has continued to deteriorate.
In January 2014, Bangladesh held elections surrounded by chaos and clashes. The ruling Awami League won one of the most violent elections in history, and the situation in the country remains tense. Protests and political gatherings in Dhaka have been taking place for the last weeks in Gulshan-2, where not only the main opposition party but also foreign aid agencies and INGOs have their country offices. Political instability in the past has impeded humanitarian and development work, forcing agencies to halt cash-based transfers and undermining disaster preparedness efforts.
On February 2nd, protests broke out in Rakhine state, an area of constant instability in Myanmar. Some 3,000 people gathered in Sittwe to demand more weaponry and powers for local police. According to different sources, protesters were also “calling for INGOs to leave the locality within a week.” Referencing the longstanding clashes between Muslims and Buddhists, which were particularly violent in 2012 and 2013, protesters carried banners stating “do not accept the countries who bias toward Bengali”, and “don't want UN organisations that bias toward Bengali”.