Every day, humanitarian workers negotiate with different counterparts – from armed groups to government authorities, and from religious leaders to displaced communities – to deliver aid in crisis situations. To negotiate successfully, these professionals need to carefully analyse the situation, create a strategic plan, and manage very high pressure.
In “Frontline Negotiators: Stories from the Field”, CCHN’s Research Project Manager Sofia Mueller guides you through personal stories told by humanitarian professionals who negotiate to access, assist and protect people in need.
This podcast series is produced by the Centre of Competence on Humanitarian Negotiation. The first season was launched on the occasion of International Podcast Day, 30 September 2022, with a new episode released each Wednesday.
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1. Kiran’s story | Relying on negotiation tools to deal with armed groups
Kiran Kothari began his humanitarian career in the early 2000s, in the context of the Sri Lankan conflict, and has since then worked on several humanitarian missions internationally.
In this episode, Kiran shares about relying on the “Naivasha Grid”: a methodology developed by a group of humanitarians meeting in Kenya in 2014 and a handy tool to prepare for and carry out all humanitarian negotiations.
2. Ana’s story | The artistry of negotiation
Ana Daza, a former video-maker from Colombia, completely turned her life around when she took her first humanitarian job. She now works in challenging, high-pressure conflict situations amidst armed groups. She takes care of her mental health by cultivating her passion for art and relying on the support of her team.
3. Amro’s story | Negotiating with Confidence
Amro Tarrisi is a former English teacher from Syria who wished to support others who, like him, had to escape the conflict. In this episode, Amro shares how he built a humanitarian grassroots initiative from scratch and learned to confidently negotiate along the way.
4. Nana’s story | Preparing is Just as Important
Just like many of her colleagues, Nana Kharbedia – a humanitarian professional from Georgia – was often thrown into a negotiation without getting much preparation beforehand. In these situations, she had to make do by relying on her expertise and gut feeling.
From dealing with tribal leaders in South Sudan to ministers in Bosnia, Nana shares how she learned to prepare for a negotiation process in a strategic way.
5. Innocent’s story | Learning local customs to build trust in a negotiation
In 2016, Innocent Sauti left his home in Zimbabwe to take up a humanitarian mission in Myanmar. Originally a teacher, he had seen the positive impact of international aid on school attendance and had decided to switch careers to join the World Food Programme.
In this episode, Innocent shares what it meant for him to leave the African continent for the first time and to start anew in a very distant and unfamiliar part of the world.
6. Dariha’s story | When you identity shapes the negotiation outcome
Dariha Erketaeva is a humanitarian professional from Kyrgyzstan – a country that, she says, “very few people know about”. Throughout her career and many negotiations, she’s often found it challenging to be taken seriously as a young woman, as a person from a distant Asian country, or as a non-Arabic speaker.
In this episode, Dariha reflects on how the way one looks, acts, and is perceived by a counterpart can impact dramatically the outcome of a negotiation process, and how she found practical solutions to overcome the problems.
7. Apostolos’ story | From medical doctor to negotiator
Working in a European country in times of peace can be just as challenging as in any other crisis around the world.
In this episode, we hear the story of medical doctor Apostolos Veizis, who returned to his native Greece after many years spent on humanitarian missions abroad. He tells us about negotiating with people escaping disasters and conflict, but also – and most importantly – with his own self.
8. Igor’s story | From Toy Maker to Helping Refugees in Moldova
The Centre of Competence on Humanitarian Negotiation conducts research to better understand the challenges and dilemmas faced by humanitarian negotiators on the frontlines. Interviews are conducted with not only humanitarians but also academics, policymakers and civil society workers.
Currently, the CCHN is researching the response to the refugee crisis in Ukraine and surrounding countries. The Research team travelled to Moldova, where people are taking on new ‘professions’ overnight to support the displaced as best as they can. One of them is Igor Hincu, a social entrepreneur who is helping refugee children express and relieve negative emotions thanks to his toy-making business.
9. Mariana’s story | How language skills can help in negotiations
Mariana Ariestyawati, from Indonesia, tells us how she used her interpreting skills in a time of crisis and helped her team build trust with people they had to negotiate with.
In her career, she’s been an interpreter and teacher. She started out in Journalism, where she realised she was interested in humanitarian work.
Are you an interpreter or working with interpreters? Every month, the CCHN holds thematic group discussions on negotiating with interpreters. Read these insights on how to avoid the potential pitfalls of negotiating with interpreters.