Access and Protection: Negotiating access for humanitarian protection

Humanitarian actors often need to negotiate to gain access to populations affected by conflicts and other crises. While negotiating for access for humanitarian assistance is often challenging in and of itself, practitioners and organizations face a distinct set of issues in access negotiations that relate to protection.

On 28 May, the second session of the webinar series on access and protection focused on challenges that practitioners face when trying to gain or maintain access for protection, whether negotiating directly for protection programming access or negotiating for humanitarian access in general while considering protection concerns.

We were joined by a panel of experts who discussed some of the situations that practitioners face, including:

  • Access is restricted if we introduce protection concerns: We have existing access for assistance, but we are worried that by introducing protection concerns as part of the parameters of the access negotiations, the authorities will restrict our access further
  • Needs assessments cannot include protection: We are unable to include protection in our needs assessments for fear of restricted access, so we do not understand the needs of vulnerable populations.
  • Authorities invite assistance but not protection: We are being actively invited by the authorities or gatekeepers to provide assistance, but not protection.
  • Restricted channels for access: We are allowed to provide assistance and protection, but only through the channels of the government or an armed group.
  • Restrictions on accessing vulnerable groups: We are allowed access, but we are not allowed to target vulnerable populations, only groups specified by the government/armed groups (or the population at large).
  • Restrictions on the types of activities: We have access for a specific type of service (e.g. healthcare) – how can we strengthen protection activities?
  • Reporting on protection concerns could limit access: We have access and have discovered protection issues. We now have to weigh reporting or advocacy on these issues versus having our access restricted.

We also encouraged registrants to share examples of these types of situations in order to ensure that the discussions were as relevant as possible to their work.