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UN manual for humanitarian workers on armed groups

UN produces manual for humanitarian workers on negotiating with armed groups

Humanitarian groups in conflict zones trying to provide civilians with food, protection, or safe passage are faced with the daily possibility that they may have to negotiate with armed groups and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) is releasing a handbook to tell them how.

Ahead of the official launching tomorrow of the first ever comprehensive UN “Manual on Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups,” UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland said: “I strongly urge all those engaged in negotiations with non-state armed groups to consult the manual in order to prepare and conduct the dialogue with these groups carefully.”

“We envision that the manual and the companion set of guidelines will become essential guides for humanitarian practitioners in the field,” he added.

After research, extensive consultations with key UN units and non-UN humanitarian partners and several field visits, all supported by the Swiss Government, OCHA has produced the manual and guidelines, as well as a CD-ROM version that includes background papers.

The project responds to resolutions passed in the General Assembly and the Security Council, OCHA said.

In approaching negotiations, the publication says, humanitarian organizations should build a profile of the armed group’s motivations, structure, principles of action, interests, constituency, needs, ethno-cultural dimensions and control of population and territory.

At all stages, humanitarian organizations must ensure that the talks are conducted in accordance with relevant security procedures, it cautions.

Humanitarian organizations must also bear in mind that armed groups may sometimes use their ability to exert force against civilian populations as a bargaining tool, or misuse the negotiations to enhance their position in political talks or to support their claims of legitimacy.

In that regard, an important framework for negotiations is provided by international humanitarian law, international human rights law, and international criminal law, in addition to fundamental humanitarian principles, the manual says.

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