From the Spanish civil war to Afghanistan: Historical and contemporary reflections on humanitarian engagement with non-state armed groups

Research reports and studies
May 2014
Ashley Jackson and Eleanor Davey
For aid workers, talking to armed groups is vital to reaching civilians in need of help and to promote protection and acceptance of international humanitarian law. However, historically, as now, engagement with armed groups, including their political wings, has been extremely delicate and often shrouded in secrecy.

But the dilemmas of  negotiating with armed groups are as old as humanitarian action itself. What can we learn from history?

This Working Paper reflects on the history of humanitarian negotiations with armed groups to shed light on current challenges facing aid agencies in armed conflicts.

An accompanying interactive timeline seeks to highlight key moments in the history of humanitarian negotiations, from the Spanish Civil War to the ongoing conflict in Syria.