The frontlines of diplomacy

Humanitarian negotiations with armed groups

Humanitarians operate on the frontlines of today’s armed conflicts, where they regularly negotiate to provide assistance and to protect vulnerable civilians. This can be understood as humanitarians actively engaging in humanitarian diplomacy. Compared to traditional forms of diplomacy by state-diplomats, particularly the frontline humanitarians typically negotiate from a position of weakness.

What kind of challenges do humanitarians face at the frontlines of diplomacy with armed groups? Then, what strategies and tactics are available for humanitarians to overcome the power asymmetric?

To address these issues, in this combined in-person seminar and webinar Ashley Jonathan Clements discusses his book exploring this under-researched area in the context of Myanmar, Yemen and elsewhere.

Marte Nilsen from the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) then provides further thematic focus in the context of Myanmar and by Salla Turunen from Chr. Michelsen Institute (CMI) reflects on the relatively new term, yet an old practice, of humanitarian diplomacy.

Ashley Jonathan Clements is a consultant and researcher from New Zealand, currently based in Sri Lanka. He has more than 15 years of experience 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 groups. He also advises frontline humanitarian negotiators and conducts negotiation training to a range of audiences.

Marte Nilsen is a senior researcher at PRIO, Norway. Her research focus is on the ethnicity-religion-nationbuilding nexus of political and violent conflicts in Southeast Asia, with a particular focus on Myanmar and Thailand. Marte’s research interests include, among others, civil society movements in peacebuilding and democratisation, societal transformation in conflict settings and the Rohingya crisis.

Salla Turunen is a doctoral researcher at CMI and the Department of Comparative Politics at University of Bergen, Norway. Having a background as a practitioner with the UN, her research investigates the articulation of humanitarian diplomacy and negotiations in complex emergencies with the aim of informing both academic debates and humanitarian practitioners themselves. Salla’s current work is a part of research project “Humanitarian Diplomacy: Assessing Policies, Practices and Impact of New Forms of Humanitarian Action and Foreign Policy”, funded by the Research Council of Norway.

This event was funded by the NCHS and jointly organised by the NCHS and Bergen Global.