1 | The Frontline Negotiator

Objective of this Section

The objective of the Manual is to provide a comprehensive pathway to plan effective negotiation processes for humanitarian professionals on the frontlines. This section focuses primarily on the specific tasks assigned to humanitarian negotiators, including context analysis, tactical planning, and transaction with the counterparts. These tasks assume the support of the negotiation team accompanying the planning and review of the negotiation process (see Section 2 YELLOW); and the framing and guidance of the mandator based on the institutional policies of the organization (see Section 3 RED).

In this context, specific attention should be devoted to setting up a conducive environment for relationship building with counterparts in terms of:

1) Gathering information on the situation and analyzing the political and social environment in which the process will be conducted;

2) Developing tactical tools and plans to adapt the objectives of the organization to the specific environment and actors of the negotiation; and,

3) Engaging in fruitful transactions in order to produce benefits on all sides.

This section provides critical tools to assist frontline humanitarian negotiators in the elaboration of their negotiation approach across these three steps.

The success of a humanitarian negotiation is contingent on the ability of humanitarian negotiators to build trust as part of ongoing relationships with the counterparts, to identify shared objectives, and to have the capacity to leverage influence through the use of networks of stakeholders.

As described in the Naivasha Grid, frontline negotiators have a central role to play in a negotiation process as they represent the organization in a personal relationship with the counterparts. Building on the empirical analysis of negotiation practices produced by the CCHN and research conducted by Harvard’s Advanced Training Program on Humanitarian Action (ATHA), one can observe that:

1) Humanitarian professionals operating on the frontlines have primary responsibility for establishing and maintaining the relationships with the counterparts on which agencies hope to build the necessary trust and predictability required by their operations;

2) These relationships should be understood as social constructs subject to the political, cultural, and social environments in which agencies operate; and,

3) Understanding the context is therefore a critical step to preparing a humanitarian negotiation and engaging with the counterparts regarding access to the population in need, delivery of assistance, monitoring and protection activities, and enhancing the safety and security of staff, beneficiaries, and premises.

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