In most crisis response contexts, multiple protection actors are seeking to access affected populations. As humanitarian actors are interdependent, with the actions of one affecting all other actors in a response context, they often face situations where there are coordination challenges related to access and protection.
On 25 June, PHAP, NRC, and the GPC organized the fourth session of the webinar series on access and protection, which focused on issues related to coordinated negotiations and approaches to access – including the use of armed escorts, civil-military coordination, and coordination with peacekeeping missions – and how these relate to protection.
We were joined by a panel of experts who discussed some of the types of situations that practitioners face, including:
- Authorities try to divide humanitarian agencies: The authorities insist on negotiating with individual agencies in order to find the agencies that will accept conditioned access (restricted beneficiaries, searches, only assistance), which undermines shared strategies.
- Agencies have different protection priorities: Different agencies have different red lines and different prioritization of protection concerns leading to difficulties to agree on common positions.
- Access risked by programming or advocacy of partner agency: We are coordinating our access approach with other agencies. Another agency behaves in a way which is risking all agencies’ access (issues a report on sensitive protection issues, etc.).
- Access risked by poor behavior of staff of partner agency: A partner agency is operating in a way that is having a negative impact on perceptions of all humanitarian actors (poor procedures, abusive staff behavior, etc.)
- Advocacy the only common negotiation position possible: We have difficulties to agree among agencies on negotiation points regarding protection – increased advocacy is the only thing that can be agreed on, not stronger protection programming.
- Coordinating which programming gets priority when access is limited: For example, in COVID-19 times, only a minimum of staff should have access – how can we coordinate to make the best use of limited access?
Use of armed escorts and civ-mil coordination
- Poor security situation requiring armed escorts: The security situation is so bad that we need to have military escorts in order to access communities.
- Armed escorts required by government or armed group: The government or armed group is requiring an escort to allow access, threatening the neutrality of the actor. Alternatively, the government requires government staff to be present at all times.
- Limited physical access requires use of military equipment: The physical access is limited and only the military has the needed equipment to reach it (e.g. chopper needed to reach community when there are no roads)
Registrants were encouraged to share examples of these types of situations in advance in order to ensure that the discussions were as relevant as possible to their work.