A panel discussion with Ashley Jackson, Research Associate with the Humanitarian Policy Group, Overseas Development Institute; Stig Jarle Hansen, Research Fellow, International Security Program; Abdi Ismail Isse, Master's in Public Administration Candidate, Harvard Kennedy School.

Moderated by Claude Bruderlein, Director, Program on Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research, Co-Director of the Master's Program in Global Health, Harvard School of Public Health.

Please RSVP here (requested, but not required).

Gaining and maintaining access and proximity to beneficiaries is crucial to humanitarian assistance. In many of today’s frontline humanitarian environments, access is increasingly difficult to obtain and maintain, and continued engagement with non-state armed actors is an integral aspect of ensuring assistance and protection activities and advocating for compliance with international legal standards. Humanitarian professionals working in these spaces must navigate myriad challenges and dilemmas in order to negotiate an operational space for engagement with armed groups, including balancing engagement with both state and non-state actors, undersatnding and managing perceptions armed actors have of humanitarian agencies, and bridging the divide between armed groups’ interests and fundamental humanitarian principles and objectives.

This panel will explore and address specific challenges and dilemmas that humanitarian workers face when negotiating with non-state armed groups, and discuss practical tools and methods that would strengthen humanitarian operations and negotiation capacity in complex environments. Through discussions with experts and practitioners, the conversation will focus on field perspectives and practices in negotiating with non-state armed groups, perceptions of non-state actors of humanitarian agencies, and the complexities of understanding the structures and interests of armed groups.

Co-sponsored by the Program on Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research, Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (HSPH).


Claude Bruderlein, is Adjunct Lecturer on Global Health and Senior Researcher at the Program on Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research. He also holds a faculty appointment at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, where he teaches strategic planning in humanitarian protection. In his research, Mr. Bruderlein focuses particularly on humanitarian negotiation,  the development of humanitarian law, the promotion of human security strategies, as well as the role of information technologies in emergency response.

He is currently serving as Strategic Advisor to the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Geneva, focusing on strategic relationships, communities of practice and institutional development. In 2010, he co-founded the International Association of Professionals in Humanitarian Assistance and Protection and serves as its first President of the Board until 2012. Mr. Bruderlein is also Head of the ICRC Humanitarian Negotiation Exchange Platform (HNx), an initiative introduced by the ICRC to enhance informal exchanges and peer learning among professionals engaged in negotiations and mediations in situations of armed conflict and other situations of violence.

Before joining Harvard University, Mr. Bruderlein served as Special Adviser to the UN Secretary General on Humanitarian Affairs, focusing particularly on issues related to the negotiation of humanitarian access and the targeting of sanctions. He worked on negotiation of access in Afghanistan and North Korea. He also served as an independent expert to the UN Security Council on the humanitarian impact of sanctions in Sudan, Burundi, and Sierra Leone. He has previously worked with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) as a field delegate in Iran, Israel and the Occupied Territories, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Yemen.


Ms. Ashley Jackson is a Research Associate with the Humanitarian Policy Group at ODI, with a decade of experience working on the ground in humanitarian crises and on policy issues. Most recently, Ashley was a Research Fellow at ODI, where she led a multiyear project on humanitarian dialogue with armed groups and conducted extensive research on protection, civil-military relations, governance in fragile states and displacement. Additionally, she served as an advisor to the UK Parliament on Afghanistan. Prior to this, she spent several years working in Afghanistan with the UN and Oxfam as well on disaster recovery and response for the Red Cross in Southeast Asia. Ashley’s work has been published and quoted in various academic and media outlets, including Foreign Policy, Al Jazeera, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and others. She holds holds a BA from Sarah Lawrence College and a MSc in Gender and Development from the London School of Economics.

Dr. Stig Jarle Hansen is internationally recognized as an expert on security policy and organized crime in the area. His reputation resulted in appearance as expert in global media outlets as CNN, Al Jazeera, BBC, Daily Mail, Reuters and Chinese Channel 4, as well as regional newspapers such as Addis Zamen (Ethiopia), The Standard, KTN (Kenya), Hiran and Hatuf (Somalia/Somaliland Times). His experience with risk assessment extends to Yemen, Kenya, Tanzania, Djibouti, Eritrea and Ethiopia. He worked previously as an analyst for NATO, European Union, U.S. State Department, the FBI, the German Foreign Ministry, the Russian Foreign Ministry, and the Danish and Norwegian Foreign Ministries. He published the book Al-Shabab in Somalia: The History and Ideology of a Militant Islamist Group, 2005-2012 (Oxford University Press) and the Economist described the book as "essential reading" to understand militant Islam in Somalia. Dr. Hansen holds a PhD in International Relations from Aberystwyth, University of Wales. In addition, he received a master’s in Political Science at the University of Oslo / UC Berkeley and a master degree in History at the University of Oslo. He is currently a research fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University. There he conducts research on fields of organized crime (especially piracy) and religion and politics (including religious terror).