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Humanitarian Negotiation Power: Bridging the Theory-Practice Gap
Keywords: humanitarian action, humanitarian negotiation, armed conflicts
Abstract: This paper analyzes the practice of humanitarian negotiation through the lens of negotiation scholarship. By doing so, this paper aims to take a step toward curing a persistent double blindness. On the one hand, many humanitarian practitioners—including actors engaged in relief and civilian protection activities for international non-governmental organizations, United Nations agencies, and the Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement—still do not acknowledge the importance of applying negotiation theory and learning to their work. On the other hand, many negotiation theorists overlook the value of examining humanitarian negotiation as an important avenue for further developing negotiation scholarship and questioning some of the deeply held views about negotiation success. Drawing on extensive semi-structured interviews conducted with 77 humanitarian workers about their negotiation experiences, this paper offers insights on how negotiation scholarship can inform humanitarian practice, and conversely, how the particular challenges and dilemmas of humanitarian work are important for further developing negotiation theories.