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Pursuing Accountability in Syria

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

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After over five years of war in Syria, civilians have not only been frequently caught in the crossfire, but have been intentionally targeted. According to an array of sources, homes, schools, hospitals, places of worship and cultural heritage have been destroyed - in particular during the recent siege of Aleppo - and civilians have been subjected to sexual violence, enslavement, terrorism, and other incidents. Additionally, acts undertaken by the Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham against the Yazidi people in northern Iraq and Syria have sparked particular outrage and a push for accountability....

Practitioner Profile | Pooya Rezai

Thursday, February 9, 2017

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Since the peak in refugee and migrant arrivals on the Greek islands last year, subsequent border closures and the EU-Turkey deal have led many migrants to become stranded in Greece. In this Practitioner Profile, we examine how the humanitarian response there has evolved as a consequence, and what challenges remain in the transition to more protracted displacement.

Joining us to discuss the evolution of the refugee response on the Mediterranean Sea and in the Greek islands is Pooya Rezai. Pooya has been working on refugee assistance, and search and rescue operations with the Emergency Response Centre International (ERCI) in Lesvos, Greece. As a former...

Practitioner Profile | Michiel Hofman

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

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Michiel Hofman worked for MSF in field missions between 1993 and 1998 as Emergency Co-ordinator and Head of Mission for MSF in Liberia, DRC, Bosnia, Burundi, Sri Lanka, Brazil, South Sudan and Kosovo, returning to his former career as freelance journalist in between missions. Between 1999 and 2001, Michiel co-founded The Antares Foundation, a Dutch non-profit organisation which supports local NGOs in providing psycho-social support for staff working in high-stress environments. Michiel returned to MSF in 2001 working as Country Director in Russia, Operations Director in Amsterdam, and Country Director for Afghanistan.

Since 2011 Michiel has worked as a senior humanitarian specialist for...

Humanitarian Negotiation Series: The Role of Laws and Norms

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

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What role do humanitarian law and norms play in humanitarian negotiations? Practitioners have diverse array of views: some field workers perceive that the law holds a high level of practical utility in their negotiations, while others have found it to be irrelevant to their work. Indeed, although international humanitarian law (IHL) constitutes a legal basis for humanitarian action during armed conflict, practitioners often find that rooting negotiations in an IHL discourse—as well as in other sources of international law, such as human rights or refugee law—can actually be counterproductive.

Rather than using an explicit IHL framework, frontline...

Humanitarian Negotiation Series: Negotiation with Non-State Armed Groups at the Frontlines

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

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In many of today’s frontline humanitarian environments, access is increasingly difficult to obtain and maintain, and continued engagement with non-state armed actors is an integral aspect of ensuring assistance and protection activities and advocating for compliance with international legal standards. Humanitarian professionals working in these spaces must navigate myriad challenges and dilemmas in order to negotiate an operational space for engagement with armed groups, including balancing...

Practitioner Profile | Jennifer Schirmer Part II

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

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On August 24, 2016 the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, commonly referred to as the FARC, signed a peace deal after 52 years of internal conflict. This peace deal marks a potential end to the over half century of violence that has killed over 220,000 Colombians and displaced more than six million.


Humanitarian Negotiation Series: Gender and Diversity

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

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Personal relationships and trust-building constitute critical dimensions of frontline humanitarian negotiations. In order to operate effectively, in many contexts, humanitarian organizations must first ensure that they are accepted by the parties to a conflict, and establish and maintain an ongoing relationship with counterparts. Moreover, frontline negotiations occur in contexts of armed conflict or other types of violence that often accentuate or exacerbate the relevancy of personal identities such as gender, culture, ethnicity, religion, and age. In response to this aspect of the field environment, negotiation teams have become increasingly diverse in recent years, in terms of not only...

Practitioner Profile | Roxanne Krystalli

Monday, November 7, 2016

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The Colombian government and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) recently signed peace accords bringing an end to 52 years of violent conflict. For his efforts to negotiate and conclude the peace deal, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos was awarded this year’s Nobel Peace Prize on October 7. Yet on October 2, Colombian voters rejected the deal by a narrow margin in a national referendum, putting the peace process back in limbo.

In this practitioner profile, ATHA discusses the situation in Colombia with Roxanne Krystalli, a researcher and humanitarian practitioner in the areas of gender, violence, and victim-centered transitional justice. Roxanne is a Program Manager at the...

Humanitarian Negotiation Series: Protection of Medical Personnel and Operations at the Frontlines

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

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Recent high-profile attacks on humanitarian professionals and operations in Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq, among others, call attention to the growing vulnerabilities of humanitarian staff and medical operations at the frontlines. These attacks endanger lives, violate international humanitarian law, and jeopardize the effective delivery of emergency relief to populations in need. In such contexts, humanitarian organizations face difficult legal and operational challenges in reaching populations, while ensuring protection of their own staff and local partners from targeted violence. National staff members are particularly vulnerable; yet tend to receive significantly less protection. In such volatile environments,...

Implications of Applying IHL to Low-Intensity Conflict: From Internal Disturbance to Armed Conflict

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

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Humanitarian actors increasingly find themselves in contexts where the application of the norms and concepts of international humanitarian law (IHL) is contested. In particular, those working in possible situations of non-international armed conflict are often faced with the fact that it can be far from clear whether or not there exists a situation of armed conflict, which is required for the application of IHL. Especially in cases of armed insurgencies, spill-over conflicts, riots, urban violence, or violence in fragile states, the application of IHL may be disputed, resulting in a lack of clarity as to the applicable norms, and the more...


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